Friday, October 23, 2009

Question from Jacque - Drinking water in Tudor England

I understand that in Tudor England people mainly drank wine and ale, usually diluted with water, but did anyone ever drink just straight water? Or was it so bad that they couldn't, even if they were wealthy people? (I read somewhere that the wealthy did sometimes drink water, but I think it was an unreliable source, so I thought I'd check.) I know that Margaret Beaufort said Catherine of Aragon should get used to drinking wine since the water in England wasn't good for drinking, but I've also heard that Prince Arthur called for water the morning after his wedding night.

1 comment:

entspinster said...

A manual of dietary advice written during the mid-1500's recommended that if you insisted n watering your wine the water be either 1) boiled and strained, or 2) distilled with herbs. From our point of view the boiling (distilling includes boiling) would have killed the "germs " in the water. Fron the 16th century point of view it would have made the water less "cold" and "wet".

Queen Elizabeth was said to have always watered her wine (she was taking no chances on becoming even slightly less alert than usual). I would bet that she used boiled or distilled water. Usually, however, she drank beer, mead, or "health broth", all of which were made with boiling water.

Most people who drank water, however, were either too poor to afford anything else, or desperately thirsty (say in the heat of battle) with nothing else available. Such water might contain protozoa, ameobas, or bacteria, all of which could cause terminal diarrhea.

Water from isolated springs and freshly collected rain water were probably safe enough, but I don't know if anyone figured this out.
Mineral water from some "hot springs" had a reputation of being "good for you".