There was a Tudor ideal of beauty and women like Elizabeth of York and Lettice Knollys were classic beauties, with their fair hair (blonde or strawberry blonde) and porcelain complexion. In Elizabethan times, ceruse, a white make-up made from powdered lead, was used to lighten the complexion and lips and cheeks were reddened with cochineal, all to make women fit the ideal of beauty from that time.

Anne Boleyn, with her dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin really didn't fit this idea of beauty!

Regarding self-inflicted illnesses, I've never read in the records of women suffering from eating disorders to try and fit the idea of beauty but obviously the use of lead in the make-up was very bad for their health. Giles Tremlett believes that Catherine of Aragon may have had an eating disorder but, if she did, this was due to her religious beliefs, her belief in fasting, rather than her trying to be thinner.


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