Lemons for What??

Several years ago, when I was in business and ran a successful clinic, I used to network with a group of other businesswomen in the area that I worked. They organised some brilliant speakers and one of them was Lesley Smith from Tutbury Castle. Lesley had a wonderful role of portraying the historical character of Mary Queen of Scots. Now growing up in England I didn't learn much about Queen Mary, but around the age of 14 my best friend Tessa mason gave me a book called "Mary the Captive Queen of Scots" by Jean Plaidy. I still have it on my bookcase today. It fascinated me, it enthralled me like no other thing that I had come across. At school history seemed to me to be dates and wars, and who was fighting who. Here was a book that explained the in and outs of court intrigue, back stabbing, and the political pawns that women were in Tudor/Stuart history.

One of the things that Lesley mentioned in her talk was 16th century contraception. In England contraception was considered unlawful and illegal. Similar to today there were herbs and plants that could be used as a "morning after pill". These herbs are known to aromatherapists today, but would not be used by any self-respecting aromatherapist that I know of.

What would have been available to some young women would have been sponges soaked in vinegar, having 2 main ways of interfering with conception. Firstly the sponge would be a barrier, and secondly the vinegar would act as a spermicide. How readily available that method would have been to the poorer of society I do not know.

There was a method that would have possibly been available to Mary and women of high social status, such as royalty, the aristocrats and the noble families of the time. That was the use of lemons. Lemons in the 16th century were not widely available in England, but Mary was brought up in France, having been sent there to escape the clutches of Henry VIII who wanted Mary's hand in marriage for his son, Edward. So Mary would have possibly learnt in France that lemons could be used as a barrier form of contraceptive. Her role in life as a member of royalty was to provide heirs for her country, but her gentlefolk who served her, she would prefer to keep by her side.

So how were they used? Well according to Lesley, they were cut in half, scooped out and inserted over the cervix much like a Dutch cap would have been used in the 20th century. She assured us that it cuold be done. She is that sort of person, someone who tries her stories out to see how feasible they are before she recants the story to others. That's how much she embodies the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Although last time I knew, Lesley's head was still attached to her neck.

I am now off to listen to Meatloaf's song "I'll do anything for love....but I won't Do THAT!"