Monday, November 12, 2012

Question from Lenora - Perceptions of red hair

I have a questioning regarding red hair--I know that the Tudors were redheads and that red hair became a really popular color during Queen Elizabeth's reign (as she of course was a redhead.)

However, I recently read that redheads in the UK today are often discriminated against and disparaging called "gingers."

Also, the Puritans believed that red hair people were more likely to be witches.

How did red hair go from being a sign of royalty to something considered evil or undesirable?

Also, this is un-Tudor related but I was wondering if people in the UK really don't like "gingers" or if its some kind of odd joke. I read the whole "ginger prejudice" thing on wiki so I am unsure if its true.

Thanks for reading/answering my question!


  1. Interesting questions.

    My angle was Elizabeth in the Faerie Queene - she's represented as Belphoebe etc, but I couldn't find anything on Spenser's symbolism of red hair.

    Here's some tracing of the Tudor red hair inheritance (no references):

    "Ginger" is still used in England. It's derisory of anyone with fair to reddish hair, male or female, but I think starts with those in Scotland and northern Ireland - may be a nasty anagram (both G's are hard).

    No idea about the puritans.

  2. Hi Leanora!

    It is true that during Elizabeth's reign red hair became very popular, but in general red hair was associated with witchcraft, tempestuous personality, sin and even hell.

    If you were born with red hair back in the sixteen century Europe, it was not a good thing. At the height of the European witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many women were identified as witches and killed merely because they were redheads.

    'Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History' states that 'a high percentage of the women whom Puritan religious leaders branded as "witches" had red hair; most of them also were young and good looking.' (p. 152)

    If you are interested to learn more about the meaning of red hair through ages, I recommend 'The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair' by Marion Roach.

    Hope that helped.

  3. In Millais' "Christ in the House of His Parents", Jesus is depicted as an red haired boy. (This had been chriticized by Charles Dickens). I think, that this may be an allusion to the red haired Edward VI in another painting:


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