Tony Robinson’s interesting series ‘The Worst Jobs In History’ included a programme on the worst royal job in history. From cess pit cleaners and similarly nasty occupations to the whipping boys who took the punishments for young princes, there have been some pretty unpleasant roles in the royal households. Even the most powerful people at court often found themselves in a perilous position when their fate depended on the fluctuating whims of a monarch: Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More and Cardinal Wolsey to name but a few. Those who managed to retain the monarch’s favour were still prey to the occasional revolution or the jealousy of other members of the court and if the head that wore the crown was uneasy, life could be equally troubled for his devotees.
A few days ago, however, I discovered what might be viewed as one of the best royal jobs in history: The Royal Herb Strewer.
Twelve pounds a year must have been a considerable sum in the 17th century, and with a few yards of fine cloth included in the salary, it must have been a lucrative position. In the early days, there would undoubtedly have been a lot to do, trying to mask the stench of the insanitary royal palaces, but by the time of George IV, things must have been improving. All in all, it must have been a very pleasant job and one that wasn’t likely to provoke a great deal of rivalry.
Having recently begun to study and cultivate herbs, I am absolutely in awe of them. Their scents and texture are so beautiful and their healing and cleansing properties are positively amazing! At the moment I am in the very early stages of learning about them but the great herbalists of the past and present have worked some incredible ‘miracles’ using various concoctions of them. It is quite remarkable that they grow so freely and people pass them by on their way to doctors’ surgeries, unaware that Nature has provided a remedy for virtually every ailment and a natural way of dealing with many domestic situations such as preventing moths from coming indoors, repelling insects or cleansing pans and crockery. As a minor example, I was recently bitten a mass of midges and having read that basil is good for insect bites, I rubbed the leaves on my arms and the bites stopped itching instantly. The next time I walked among the midges, I rubbed lemon balm on my skin and came home with no bites at all.
The natural wisdom that comes from being close to nature seemed to have been temporarily lost with the industrial revolution. Happily nowadays many more people are rediscovering that ancient wisdom and I pray that the big pharmaceutical companies which are already seeking to suppress the use of alternative healing methods and several herbs, will realise that just as plants sprout through concrete and cracks in the pavement, you cannot suppress Nature.