Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Mary, Queen of Scots was said to bathe in white wine. Source master1305 / Adobe Stock

Mary Queen of Scots Washed with White Wine


While Cleopatra is fabled to have bathed in sour donkey milk, Mary Queen of Scots is said to have washed with white wine to ensure a smooth complexion. A devout Catholic, throughout her life Mary found herself at the mercy of hostile power plays and the bitterness of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England.

Born in 1542 to James V of Scotland, Mary became the queen of Scotland at just six days old. She was soon sent to France to keep her safe from King Henry VIII, who obsessively pushed his so-called rough wooing policy to ensure Mary marry his son and unify England and Scotland once and for all.

Growing up within the French royal nursery, and referred to by the French King Henry II as his own daughter, the young Scottish queen was educated in the lap of luxury. Dubbed la plus parfait, meaning “the most perfect,” Mary Queen of Scots ascended to the French throne following her marriage to Francis II, whose short-lived reign came to an unexpected end when he died in 1560.

After years in France, the 18-year-old widowed Dowager Queen of France returned to Scotland. “Young, tall, graceful and vivacious,” in the words of History Today, life in Edinburgh was a far cry from the sophisticated lifestyle experienced in France.

The Rival Queens – Mary Queen of Scots Defying Queen Elizabeth in a 19th century print. (Public domain)

The Rival Queens – Mary Queen of Scots Defying Queen Elizabeth in a 19th century print. (Public domain)

Mary Queen of Scots has been remembered for her historic feud with her cousin and rival. The Protestant Elizabeth I became queen of England in 1558, the same year Mary was made queen consort of France. Mary was a direct threat, second in line to the English throne and seen by Catholics as the rightful heir. Meanwhile, Elizabeth was the bastard child of Henry VIII who had her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed and their marriage annulled.

They were polar opposites on paper. Over her 45-year reign, Elizabeth cultivated the image of a strong monarch and her refusal to marry earned her the epithet the Virgin Queen. In later years she is said to have applied thick white makeup to cover up scars created by smallpox.

Slender, athletic, tall (almost 6 feet), with long auburn hair and pale complexion, Mary was an undisputed beauty who after being widowed went on to marry twice more. History Today reported that she had an additional bathhouse built at Holyrood Palace, her home in Edinburgh, where she delighted in bathing in white wine. Some sources claim that the wine baths were for pain relief.

With vinotherapy including wine massages, facials and baths remaining popular today, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The Conversation highlighted a 16th century recipe called A far bella faccia (meaning “to make a beautiful face”) to create a cosmetic brew by boiling rosemary flowers in white wine. The Beautiful Chemistry Project has studied its effects on skin quality and discovered that the process released essential oils and chemicals with “antibacterial, moisture-binding, collagen-growth stimulating, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, brightening and soothing effects.”

Top image: Mary, Queen of Scots was said to bathe in white wine. Source master1305 / Adobe Stock

By Cecilia Bogaard



Correction: In the first sentence of the second paragraph below 'unable' seems to have been auto-corrected to read "able".

White wine infused with botanical oils could be quite a healthy bath option. However, was that the only reason Mary did it?

After all, most of her subjects would have been able to pay for such wine (no doubt of expensive French origin) for drinking, let alone to bathe in. Could it have partly been to show off?

It would be interesting to know what happened to it after she finished. Legend has it that some famous young female performers of the 19th century were inclined to bathe fully in champagne and to rebottle it so as to have it sold off afterwards. The origin of those bottles was not just fully disclosed, it was integral to the sales pitch and price.

Certainly, the image of a ruling queen was paramount and sexual tension was standard fare. Cousin Elizabeth used her "virgin" status to full effect. The truth of it is lost to history, quite possibly because it suited the Queen herself for it to be so.

Cecilia Bogaard's picture


Cecilia Bogaard is one of the editors, researchers and writers on Ancient Origins. With an MA in Social Anthropology, and degree in Visual Communication (Photography), Cecilia has a passion for research, content creation and editing, especially as related to the... Read More

Next article