The Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics Killed Her Highness Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland


Beauty has always been the greatest concern for women since ages. Women , all over the world did what not, to look pretty and presentable throughout the history of Human Civilization. And to address the need of looking flawlessly beautiful, the practice of using cosmetic or make-up came to the play. Women, sometimes, followed bizarre rituals to enhance their look, but sometimes, to their worst, the cosmetic turned out to be toxic and endangered their lives. To look beautiful it cost them a fatal price. Royalties and Elites were victims of the same death trap, including the Great Queen Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth: The Beginning

Elizabeth I was the fifth and last monarch of the House of Tudor. She was born in the Palace of Placentia on 7 September 1533 and was died on 24 March 1603 at the age of 69. Her father was Henry VIII and her mother was Anne Boleyn who was her father’s second wife. On 17 November 1558, she became the Queen of England and Ireland and ruled it for 44 years until her death. She was also called the Virgin Queen and Good Queen Bess. Elizabeth was third in line to become the monarch and she was not even destined to be queen. She was behind her half younger brother Edward VI and half elder sister Mary I. As her father Henry VIII died, on 28 January 1547, her younger brother Edward VI became the monarch at age nine and ruled for six years, dying at the age of 15 because of tuberculosis. After, Mary I became queen and ruled for five years, dying at age 42 on 17 November 1558. Finally, Elizabeth was the last child of Henry VIII to rule England and became the Queen of England, ruling for 44 years.

The Scars in Her Beauty : What Led Her to Toxic Cosmetics

During her 20’s the Queen got infected with smallpox. Though the young queen survived smallpox but the disease left scars and blemishes on her skin and in order to hide those she started using the makeup more vigorously.

Portrait of the Queen

Bizarre Beauty Standards

The cosmetics that were worn by women in the time of Queen Elizabeth are drastically different from those we wear today. Not only were the materials they used very different but the look they were trying to achieve was very different as well. Standards of beauty change all the time. To understand the cosmetics worn by Elizabethan women, it’s important to understand the effect they were trying to achieve—that “ideal” beauty they wanted to imitate. The ideal Elizabethan female had bright wide-set eyes, snow white skin, rosy cheeks, red lips and fair hair. Pale skin was a sign of nobility, wealth and delicacy was sought after by many. In a time where sunscreen was unheard of, skin problems and pox was a common thing smooth, unblemished skin was a rarity. The pale skin women (and men) wanted was achieved by a number of ways. The most popular being Venetian Ceruse (also known as Spirits of Saturn), a mixture of white lead and vinegar. This white foundation was applied to the face, neck and bosom. Naturally, smearing lead all over one’s skin caused some serious skin damage not only did it make the skin look “grey and shrivelled” there was lead poisoning, hair loss and if used over an extended period of time could cause death. They lined their eyes with black kohl to make them look darker and belladonna eyedrops (used to dilate women’s pupils, an effect considered to be attractive and seductive). Fashion required eyebrows to be thin and arched which would create a high forehead it was considered to be a sign of aristocracy. Rouged cheeks and red lips were very popular. This was obtained with plants and animal dyes.

Her Majesty’ s Royal Makeup

She used ingredients like lead and vinegar in her makeup which is called — “Venetian ceruse. It is said that she was the only monarch that always took a long time to get ready. She used multiple layers of lead and vinegar and applied a thick white mask to her face and neck. The white skin was not a part of racism but it depicted that a woman was of a higher class. she applied was from If you have seen a portrait of Queen Elizabeth you may have noticed that her lips are very red. The red colour cinnabar, a mercury. poisonous substance that contains She used to remove it with a mixture of elements like eggshells, alum, and mercury. Thus, this leads to another use of poison in her makeup. People at that time would say that her skin became soft after makeup re moval but basically, it was peeling one layer at a time. All these caused wrinkles, aging, and the deterioration of her health. And it is assumed by the historians, that continuous use of those deadly chemicals as Cosmetics, led to her death.

Cinematic Portrait of the Queen, played by actress Margot Robbie


The urge of looking beautiful , sometimes proves hard on women’s overall health. body and The obsession of being perfect, has killed many women, including such Royalties like Queen Elizabeth I. Even today, women are insure about their natural beauty and sometimes find it hard to accept body positivity. We should learn to feel confident in our skin first, and the glow then comes from within as our flaws make us Earthly and more humane.