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In William’s guard chamber, King William III of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and in his mind, of France, (he was never the king of France but he spent his whole life fighting with King Louis for the Kingdom) in Hampton Court palace, stands a couple figures of his Yeomen standing on ceremony and on guard, he had sixty of them who were all thought to be uncommonly handsome; all over six foot with partisans for weapons. So, you could walk into his guard chamber to be surrounded by sixty very handsome men at a time when good looks were scarce in society. Even the king at the time was not a looker, William had a hooked nose and bad teeth and was several inches shorter than at five-foot six and he was thought to be a bore, his wife Mary who was 5 foot 11 and a half inches. But it was necessary for the King’s guard to be so good looking simply because they were going to be in processions and representing the very best of a King who was not great to look at.
During this time, the men wore wigs, all of them, this was in the 1700s and men were not allowed to attend court with their own hair, they had to shave it all off and purchase wigs. It is a fashion that came from France, and they were all human hair. A lot of fuss was made about this. The most expensive colour wig was white, because most people didn’t live long enough for their hair to change colour hence its rarity made it highly favoured and in demand. And this is where the most fascinating fact was learned, (it is a fact because it was delivered to me by a historian of the palace) but I am also sure that Google can set you straight but google sometimes will not compare when you have facts from someone who has studied it.
So having a wig made entirely of human hair was expensive, one had to take it to the wig maker every so often to have it curled and maintained and I would imagine human hair was a rarity, much less being able to afford and maintain white wig made entirely of human hair therefore the men decided that to afford these wigs that were rare and uncommon which cost a fortune and a whole lot of fuss, they would start powdering their wigs white and once this became the fashion there were little rooms fashioned in households to accommodate this practice and this is where the Powder Room was born! These little rooms would be available in parties and they could go in there for a touch up of the wig and who knows what else; maybe look at their calves because wouldn’t you know it, Men were the first high heel wearers, not women, they wanted to show their legs and calved off and they would go one step further to paint the heels red and put gold buckles on them to get the ladies attention! If they did not have shapely calves, it was a disaster so guess what they would do? PAD THEM!! It’s like wearing a butt pad but for the calves. Fascinating that this was the practise and today, the world seems to be regressing into something it was not.
I don’t care much for palaces because I find them to be problematic but on the rare occasion, I find myself in one, I would always opt for a tour because you learn such fascinating facts about the time from people who are only too happy to tell them. Historians are the true guards of our times, and I couldn’t be more thankful. The tour is the Kings Apartment tour, and I cannot recommend it enough so if you do get a chance, absolutely one hundred percent DO IT.