• julianwatkins

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

And some kings were bigger than others. Confession: most of my historical knowledge comes from Horrible Histories. The kids are massive fans and that pretty much makes me a massive fan.

There’s a funny sketch where Henry VIII is selling his “Tudor Diet Plan”. Big H says: “You can have a body like mine. With your five a day – that’s five massive portions of meat. And it’s important to consume the right amount of vegetables: that’s none. Vegetables are for peasants!” Henry was riddled with diseases and dead at 55.

But how did those peasants fare on the veg plan? The average life expectancy was less than 40: not exactly stellar. But there are lies in statistics. If you take out childhood mortality (somewhere around 40% of people didn’t make it to adulthood), famine, plague, small pox, dysentery and comically bad medical care (bloodletting with leeches, anyone?) the peasants actually lived quite a long time.

If you dodged that list then 60, 70 or even 80 wasn’t uncommon. That’s impressive when you consider sewers were wishful thinking, water was so dirty in the cities people drank beer, malnutrition due to lack of food was ever-present and medicine was all but non-existent.

What was a peasant diet plan? Essentially, whatever you could lay your hands on cheaply. All basic. All unprocessed. Vegetables, grains, a little meat if you could get hold of it (wild stuff mostly and very different to modern meat), and local fruit if available.

It’s easy to live like Henry nowadays (with the almost inevitable diseases of affluence), but maybe we should be a little more peasant. Luckily, we can also have a king’s spice rack and 21st century (leech free) medicine.