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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,528 ratings  ·  303 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, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by G DUCKWORTH (first published June 12th 2018)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,528 ratings  ·  303 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 po
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
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
Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ 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 plodding, and it feels like you're locked in a stuffy
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 "poi
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,
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, ebooks, 2018, arc-copy, 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/>tw:
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 ant
The Captain
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 example, was known f ...more
Mercedes Rochelle
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathryn Speckels
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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 med
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Anna Louise
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
This was sent to me in exchange for an honest review on Net Galley.

This was wonderful - but obviously only for those of a non-squeamish nature with an interest in the subject. Even I grimaced a time or two!
You can tell how incredibly detailed the author's research was and I just found it absolutely fascinating.

I will definitely be reading the author's other works as soon as possible.

This was set up in three parts:
Part 1 - was 5 chapters describing poisons used throughou
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, a word of warning: The Royal Art of Poison is not for people with weak stomachs! Herman offers excruciatingly disgusting facts about the horrors of being poisoned so that the reader knows every detail of the gross things that can happen to the human body after ingesting some mercury, lead, etc. There were a few times I actually felt sick to my stomach - which is probably just a credit to Herman's descriptiveness. I love this kind of non-fiction that's filled with just the interesting fact ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No three words have made me shudder as much as: SULFURIC. ACID. ENEMA.
☾ h a d e e r ☽
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
Do you know what my main takeaway from this was?

Medieval Europe was fucking wild. In so, so many ways. Forget the wildly unhygienic conditions, misguided physicians, and rampant poisons, it's a wonder people weren't dropping dead from STDs considering the copious amounts of sex they were having with so many different people.

In The Royal Art of Poison, historian Eleanor Herman, in a delightfully witty narrative voice, proceeds to disabuse you of the notion that medieval Europe was in any way romantic.
thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)
Did you know:
- Italy was the center of the poison trade in the 16th century and when someone believed to have been poisoned, it was said that, that person was "Italianated" - a new term coined in England.
- Narwhals tusks were called unicorn horns and were used as poison detectors.
- Mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony, gold and silver were toxic remedies used in curing illnesses.
- In 18th century, ceruse (pasty makeup consisting white lead ore, vinegar, arsenic, hydroxite, & carbona/>
Angela H.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
I adored this. This walks you through some interesting history along with the poisons. I was grossed out by only a small section on bugs. Lots of bugs, poo, rotting stuff, animal carcasses, all kinds of human waste from food, to body waste to actual bodies.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read. Interesting, gruesome and outright disgusting at some points.

If you have ever seen one of those videos on YT where people pop massive pimples and watched closely with horrified fascination and if you are also one of those people who know the kings and queens and princes and princesses of Europe by heart, „The Royal Art of Poison“ is definitely the book for you.

But even if you don‘t count yourself among those mentioned, this book will be an amazing collection of fun facts
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I got this book via #netgalley in exchange for my review. This was a fun, more lighthearted look at the use of poisons for assassination through the ages. The author looks at a number of reputed poisoning’s throughout history in an effort to determine if they were actually more related to poor hygiene, disease, or dubious medical practices of the age. Written in an engaging style, this was an enjoyable read into a tantalizing subject.
I picked this up on a whim because I needed an audiobook to listen to while waiting for others I had on hold, and I'm really glad I did! Who knew a book about poison, murder, absolutely abysmal hygiene (or lack thereof), and cringeworthy medical practices could be such a GOOD and GROSS time? (I did, which is why I picked it.) The writing was relatively straightforward with few frills, but very accessible and engaging. Plus I said to myself, "Hey! I learned this from Sawbones!" several times whil ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. The author includes a lot of information but organizes it in various chapters so that it’s not too overwhelming. I enjoyed reading all of the horrifying details of how disease, lack of hygiene, toxic cosmetics, and ignorant doctors all contributed to countless deaths. And then of course there are the murders committed using various poisons. I was fascinated, disgusted, and in the end truly grateful to have been born in the 80’s and not in the 16th century.
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating. There were two parts that started to feel more like a lecture and kind of lulled for a bit. Other than that I loved it. I learned way more about poison that I thought imaginable. And I, like the author, have absolutely no desire to go back in time.. especially as a female.
Andrea Zuvich
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In short, I found this book utterly disgusting and entertaining, and so certainly recommend it.
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TSCL rating: 4/5
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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 c
“To cure epilepsy, doctors concocted recipes of dried human heart or made a potion of wine, lily, lavender, and an entire adult brain, which weighed about three pounds. Human fat was used to treat consumption, rheumatism, and gout. Physicians recommended those suffering from hemorrhoids to stroke them with the amputated hand of a dead man—a strangely unpalatable image to ponder.” 0 likes
“Maimonides likewise recommended immediate vomiting after consuming suspect food and praised rooster dung as one of the most effective means to bring this about. “It is said that excrements of roosters have a specific property to eliminate every poison by vomiting,” he proclaimed.” 0 likes
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