By Chantal Roberts
Who hasn’t longed for the “good ole days” of yore?
Most notably when we want to visit the past it is as a noble. After all, the peasants lived in filth, right?
Except things weren’t as…um, hygienic for the nobles even in Versailles.
The Sun King did not have flushing toilets as we do today. Indeed, the Royal Family were blessed to have separate rooms called Gaderobes or Cabinets des Affaires, but other nobility had to deal with open chamber pots in their rooms. An open chamber pot with its contents was not an issue—getting rid of the contents was the issue. The servants would have to carry the pot to the nearest sewer, which might not be anywhere close.
There were public toilets, but even then, these did not live up to our standards. They were not often cleaned, and their contents spilled over and oozed down the walls. Versailles did have pipes to carry away the waste, but without running water, these often became clogged.
Naturally, the Royal Family and favorites had the biggest rooms and easiest access. Their servants also were kept close since they were on call at a moment’s notice. But everyone else had to make do. Even a century later Madame de Pompadour had to rearrange the residents of ten apartments because she wanted her friend to be next to her.
Courtiers would sometimes relieve themselves in a dark corner of the hallways and rooms. When the dauphin and dauphine resided off a major hallway, the area around their door was marked off to ensure people would not use the space to relieve their bodily functions!
All the refuse attracted rats that carried diseases. With the collation of power in Versailles, between 3,000-10,000 people were at the palace at any given time.
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