Why Queen Elizabeth I and Other Royals Believed Bathing Was Dangerous

Queen Elizabeth II‘s late sister, Princess Margaret, had a specific morning routine that included breakfast in bed and listening to the radio for two hours while chain-smoking before jumping in the tub to soak for another hour.

The queen also has certain rules that her staffers must follow when she bathes even when she’s away from home. For example, operators of the Royal Train are alerted when the monarch is taking a bath on board and are mindful not to hit bumps so she can have a smooth bathing experience. But in the past bathing and washing up was the last thing other royals like Queen Elizabeth I wanted to do.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I | Imagno/Getty Images

Read on to find out why she and other monarchs believed bathing was dangerous.

How often Queen Elizabeth I bathed

Queen Elizabeth I, sometimes referred to as the Virgin Queen, was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Biography.com noted that she ascended the throne in 1558 and reigned until her death in 1603.

Something that has been widely reported about Queen Elizabeth I is that she wasn’t a fan of bathing and only did so once a month. However, she wasn’t the only monarch who refrained from doing so and they all had a reason for avoiding it.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England
Elizabeth I, Queen of England | Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Why many past monarchs thought taking a bath was dangerous

It wasn’t just Queen Elizabeth I but also her successor, James VI (later James I), who reportedly never bathed. And according to History.com and History Extra, France’s Louis XIV is said to have only taken three baths in his entire life and Queen Isabella of Spain made it known that she had only bathed twice in her life.

But why did these kings and queens steer clear from washing themselves?

A 16th-century book titled This is the Myrour or Glasse of Helth, advised: “Use not baths or stews, nor sweat too much, for all openeth the pores of a man’s body and maketh the venomous air to enter and for to infect the blood.”

So due to fear of getting a disease, many members of the upper class cut down their bathing habits to a few times per year; striking a balance between the risk of contracting a disease from the bath vs. body stench.

Today the British royals take their baths very seriously

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The royals’ feelings about bathing now certainly changed and today it’s preferred over taking a shower because “showers are for people who are rushing out the door to get to work.”

According to the Daily Mail‘s royal correspondent Brian Hoey, the current queen’s maid pays close attention when she prepares the monarch’s bath every morning. She must check that not only that the water isn’t too hot or too cold but also that the tub has just the right amount of water in it.

“Her maid will go into the adjoining bathroom to draw the bath, which has to be exactly the right temperature: tested with a wooden-cased thermometer, and no more than seven inches of water,” Hoey said.

Prince Charles also has specific rules for his daily baths. According to former butler Paul Burrell, baths are also drawn for the future king and if one thing isn’t done perfectly Charles will scold his entire staff.

In the documentary Serving the Royals: Inside the Firm, Burrell said: “His underwear is folded in a certain way and his bath towel has to be placed in a certain fashion. When it comes to bathing the bathplug has to be in a certain position, the water temperature has to be just tepid, and only half full.”