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The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 ratings  ·  478 reviews
The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns, and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 12th 2018 by St. Martin's Press
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 ·  2,673 ratings  ·  478 reviews

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Update How they prevent the Queen from being poisoned. When all the dishes are plated up, one of the pages chooses a dish at random, and that is for the Queen. So either everyone is poisoned or no-one. I just saw that on tv and it fitted with this book.

The book hasn't lived up to it's original promise. This is how it feels like it has been written. A massive amount of research has been done. Each quote is on a separate piece of paper, each subject (like that king, or this pope) on anoth
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman is a 2018 St. Martin’s Press publication.

This book is so interesting and is so well researched I can’t help but recommend it, especially for history lovers. However, mystery and true crime readers might also find this book fascinating, because the author relies on past and current forensics to prove if well publicized accusations of ‘death by poisoning’ rumors were true or false.

Amy Imogene Reads
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who killed the king, the queen, and the page?

In The Royal Art of Poison, Herman explores the topics of European history that we didn't learn about in the history books—how did they die, and why?

Content: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Humor: Yes- dry wit and more, you need it when you're covering these absurd cases.
Graphic warnings: Oh nelly yes. Depictions, descriptions, and more. If you're a squeamish person, I'd pass on this one. We're talking about deaths, symptoms, autopsies, etc. (But not in this re
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Did you ever wish that you lived in times long gone? Did you ever think about how glorious it would have been being a king or queen or someone whose voice was heard down through the ages? Imagine dressing in those clothes, being in the regal company with leaders and those who influenced the times? Imagine that you are one of them? Well, perhaps the glory you have imagined is all an illusion!

4 fascinating stars

Eleanor Herman has written a truly intriguing book about the times in the past where p
Nenia ⭐️ Queen of Awkward ⭐️ Campbell

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Any romantically-inclined soul who waxes on about how much they'd adore going back in time to be a medieval princess or a Victorian lady should read this book. It will disabuse your idealistic preconceived notions so quickly, you'll feel as though you've been poisoned with cyanide (because it's the fastest-acting poison, you see).

I'm picky about nonfiction books - too light and frivolous, and they can cheapen the material. Too dry and pl
Valerity (Val)
I was invited to be part of the blog tour for this book by Clare and St. Martin's and this is the type of book I can sink my teeth into. I found it a fun if at times squeamish read, but I'm always up to learn new things from other times. I think I'm happy living in current times.

The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on
Kris - My Novelesque Life
June 12, 2018; St. Martin's Press

First, I saw the gorgeous cover and was ready to request this book, but then figured I should read the synopsis. I read the intriguing description and clicked on request!  I wasn't sure if this book would be to my liking as true crime books can be a hit or miss with me.  I don't like the scandalization of murders, but rather learn how it was solved and what we can do to prevent it in the future. Eleanor Herman was going to look into the "poisoning
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is a well-known fact that over the centuries, royals were in dire fear of being poisoned in one way or the other - usually by persons who wanted to take their throne. They employed people to taste test before they ate, not realizing that many times the poison would not take effect immediately anyway. Many who died suspiciously or suddenly gave rise to rumors of having been poisoned.

This book highlights the ways that people were unknowingly poisoning themselves, without the help of devious oth
Ross Blocher
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The past was gross. Hardly anyone bathed. Everyone lived in filth. Death came from lack of hygiene. People rubbed foul and toxic substances on their bodies. No one understood the microscopic world of plagues and parasites. And that's just the wealthy upper crust. In The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul, Eleanor Herman shares numerous stories of famous poisonings and notable deaths. In the process, she provides context of what, medically ...more
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
As it turns out, many famous cases of poisoning in medieval ages are attributable rather to filthy living conditions, unsanitary habits, and food, and especially meats being undercooked or prepared in filthy kitchens at a time when bathing or washing hands were literally considered as dangerous. Then there were the medical practices in pre-modern times, which would seem barbaric at best to any modern reader. Napoleon, in the 19th century was reputed to have remained in good health precisely beca ...more
Jill Hutchinson
It looked interesting but I soon found that it was so repetitive that I wondered how many times the author could tell us the same episodes over and over.

There is some good background on how women used mercury, lead, and arsenic to give their skin a glowing complexion which slowly poisoned them over the years. Queen Elizabeth the First's face was dazzling white which started a trend that lasted for years. But I only needed to read that fact once to get the idea.

I almost gave up on the first sec
Nikki "The Crazie Betty" V.
4.5 Stars

I really can’t put into words how much I truly enjoyed reading this book. From disgusting palace life, to doctors who do more harm than good, this book was right up my ally. This book could’ve also been titled “Death by Poison”, as it was about all ways that poisoning has killed people in history. But not by purposeful assassination. The majority of these deaths by poisoning were self-administered. Beauty products all contained elements of poison including mercury, arsenic, lead, and ev
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, arc-copy, ebooks, 4-stars, h
A special thank you goes out to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for allowing me to read an eARC of of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

tw: animal cruelty

This book was absolutely disgusting and I loved every minute of it. What a weird sentence, right? The medieval times were so disgusting and deadly. I literally had no idea just how much filth and disease that floated through the castles. My desire to live in one has diminished slightly. Sure, I knew that life expectancy during th
The Captain
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This be a pop history book that looks at the use of poisons. It was recommended to me by me matey Sionna @ booksinhereyes. I loved this one and read it in one day. A book of three parts, the first part discusses common poisons, the (lack of) hygiene, and how medicines and cosmetics were actually (inadvertently) poisons in disguise. The second part looks at specific deaths of historical figures and discusses how modern science helped determine the true cause of death. The Medici family, for examp ...more
wanderer (Para)
Once in a while, I'll take a break from fantasy and read a nonfiction book. This one in particular has caught my attention because I have read City of Lies a few months before - a fantasy book focused on poisons - and wanted to know more about how it worked in real life. I was not disappointed and ended up enjoying myself very much.

The book is roughly divided into three parts and mostly focused on the 1300-1800s. The first one doesn't only focus on a general overview of poisons and antidotes
Leona  Petrovic
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, books-i-own
I loved this one!
I wouldn't recommend to the faint of heart though....
This book is about how poison permeated every facet of life for historical royal figures. It was a highly entertaining read!

My favourite section of this book was Part 1: Poison, Poison, Everywhere where the author discusses the historical relevance of poison. The different chapters cover poison at the dinner table, cosmetic use, medicinal purposes and within the palace walls. The author takes the reader into the intimate lives of historical royals and their obsession with poison. The extent that
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting and comprehensive but at times the author sacrifices accuracy in favor of writing in a style that will appeal to the general reader. I can’t speak to other historical periods but I do know the sixteenth century rather well. A reference to Elizabeth the First wearing royal underpants may make readers smile, but it isn’t accurate. That garment wasn’t yet in use. A little later, in the account of the death of a Frenchman in England, the author says his mother “howled for an autopsy.” Th ...more
Jenny Winter
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very educational!!
Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)
A gossip column meets my high school AP European History textbook (McKay, I'll never forget you!) in this highly entertaining, if occasionally pedantic, read. Think that combination sounds fascinating? Horrifying? Impossibly bizarre? The Royal Art of Poison is all of the above, and you should keep reading.

Now, those who know me can attest to the fact that I read a little bit of everything, but this book was outside of even my usual territory, and that's saying something. It is precisely what its
Mercedes Rochelle
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Much to my surprise, this book immediately rose to the top of my pile; like sticky candy, I couldn't put it down. Yes I admit to a guilty curiosity about nasty murders and suspicious intrigues; this book satisfied my curiosity and much more. I was familiar with many of the historical victims, though I was not as familiar with the “true” story behind their deaths. For instance, I knew that King Edward VI died a pain ...more
A history of famous people being poisoned, sometimes on purpose but mostly by mistake. This is more of a history of medicine. It focuses on how oblivious doctors were in the past, and how they often just prescribed random treatments to their patients with the idea of "maybe this will work?"

It did get quite dry at times which most medical non-fiction books are to me. I did get some fun facts out of it.
Vfields Don't touch my happy!
I’m in search for my next Mary Roach read and this was very, very close. Oh no, it’s not insulting being compared to Mary Roach, it is indeed a compliment. I enjoyed the last two-thirds of the book very much. Particularly when Herman focused on characters in history I was familiar with. The best part were the modern autopsy results.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, history
You know the Mel Brooks line, "It's good to be the king."?

I used to think that was true until listening to this book. I don't know how royalty lived on the edge knowing that there was always someone out to get you. Eating must have been a cause for much anxiety. On the other hand, at least you were eating.

Of greater interest to me, was Part 2, where rumors of royal poisoning meets scientific analysis. Here the author gave the a brief life story of a person such as Mozart how the historical recor
Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard
So basically im gonna be paranoid now lol tons of interesting stories. I had never thought of doing modern autopsies and toxicology tests on centuries-old bones so thats prefty cool. I love that the "Modern Poisons" section was 95% Vladimir Putin being fucking crazy and 5% North Korea being crazy
I don't know about you, but I like my history with a healthy dose of murder. I also like my science with a healthy dose of history and murder (science goes down harder so it needs two spoonfuls of sugar.) Added bonus for all involved if there's also mystery and snark. If all of this is sounding intriguing, you must read The Royal Art of Poison.

It's not a silly book. The author really has done her homework. And she has pulled together lots of historical documents along with modern medical analysi
Angela H.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audible, didnotfinish
I was interested in the topic, but I do not like the execution of the fact presented in the book.

Here are the reason why I did not finish the book:

1. For a nonfiction book, it is written like a historical fiction for first portion where history behind the royal family and speculation on how he or she was poisoned. Then, the second portion focuses on post mortem examination with modern technology. The findings are presented as a nonfiction book.

2. I understood that arsenic/lead/fece/blood/othe
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing

I keep coming back to this book. I read this a while ago, and then I read it again. I’ve done it once via audiobook and once as a library loan, and I’ve loved it both times. I mean, it’s a book about poisoning. How could you possibly go wrong?

You should have a strong stomach before you read this book. Not because of all the gross deaths or whatever else you might assume, rather, from all the disgusting hygiene practices that are discussed. I had no idea,
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
No three words have made me shudder as much as: SULFURIC. ACID. ENEMA.
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Tampa Nerd Night ...: The Royal Art of Poison – December 2019 1 3 May 04, 2020 06:59PM  

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New York Times best-seller Eleanor Herman's new non-fiction book, The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul, is set to come out in June 2018. Think royal palaces were beautiful places to live? Think again!

Herman offers a rare combination of skills for a historian – her research is intensely scholarly, yet she writes the story in a colorful, wit

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