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Publisher's Summary

The story of poison is the story of power....  

For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. 

Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots. Ironically, royals terrified of poison were unknowingly poisoning themselves daily with their cosmetics, medications and filthy living conditions. 

Women wore makeup made with lead. Physicians prescribed mercury enemas, arsenic skin cream, drinks of lead filings and potions of human fat and skull, fresh from the executioner. 

The Royal Art of Poison is a hugely entertaining work of popular history that traces the use of poison as a political - and cosmetic - tool in the royal courts of Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the Kremlin today. 

©2018 Eleanor Herman (P)2019 W. F. Howes Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A macabre and entertaining romp...Herman writes vividly and with great humor, combining detailed research with easy narrative, making her book both enthralling and sinister." (The Washington Times)

What listeners say about The Royal Art of Poison

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Informative & entertaining

If you have an interest in toxicology or medical history (or anything else) you'll thoroughly enjoy this book. Each poisoning case has been researched in-depth and beautifully written. The author touches on mediaeval kings, to well known poisoning cases in the present. Each case is concluded with a modern scientific review, including any archaeological discoveries. I was sad when it ended!

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First book I’ve exchanged

A topic that should have been interesting mostly sounded like someone reading out a looong list of ingredients. It might get better as it goes on but I really couldn’t persevere.

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  • Len
  • 16-07-2019

Well written in an unusual and interesting format

This book writes about poisoners by century, from the 12th to the 20th, discussing historical people who would be well known to many readers. The structure of the book kept me interested all the way through, the most enjoyable aspect is the writer discusses the doctor's opinions at the time of the deaths after the victims had been autopsied, and contrasts their findings with modern day doctor's interpretations. Detailed and excellent.

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  • miss Amanda.Christie
  • 15-11-2019

WOW!

Fascinating stuff and at times hilarious; can also be slightly nauseating too!!🤢🤢🤢. Don't miss this !!!. xxx

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  • james Moynihan
  • 20-06-2020

A really great book!

I absolutely loved this book! A big bravo to Joan Walker for not only writing an absolutely fascinating historical account of the various crazy ways people intentionally and unintentionally poisoned themselves and or others. but writes it in such a way that held my attention from beginning to end. She paints the picture of the past that is as crazy as it is interesting! and she does a fantastic job at pulling the shroud from any romantic idea modern people harbour about the past. A+! One of the things that blew my mind most was the truth regarding Royal Palace's, and what it was actually like to live in one of these places, I will refrain from spoilers, but damn. check this book out! it's an absolute historical Gem!

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  • Mrs. Virginia Chattaway
  • 03-02-2020

Gruesomely enjoyable

An enjoyably gruesome romp through this most cowardly of crimes, the author clearly has great relish for her grisly subject. I liked the format too, which starts with a general history, then moves on to a number of case studies. Whilst poison was often suspected, the wealthy were just as vulnerable to disease as the poor, and so the book covers that as well. In addition to murder, people tended to poison themselves over time with cosmetics and 'medicines'. Arsenic was used to sweeten wine and treat head lice. It's a wonder people survived at all, especially once the doctors got involved!! The subject is covered from medieval times right up to the present day, citing cases from Russia and North Korea. I enjoyed it immensely.

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  • Hana
  • 14-01-2020

narrator is awful

I've got the physical copy of this book but as I have chronic pain I wanted to listen to it. The narrator is unbearable to me (sorry) her voice is very mechanical and she emphasises words in a peculiar way. Will have to return it.

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  • IP
  • 30-10-2019

Fascinating history, beautifully narrated

I absolutely loved this book. Fascinating in its details, well structured and perfectly narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • anna k
  • 09-10-2020

Read the book first

This is a fantastic, fascinating book, but the overly-plummy voice of the narrator is very off putting.

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  • Black Friday
  • 03-10-2020

Interesting!

I was doubtful at the start, but this book was very informative and entertaining. I’d recommend it especially to anyone who enjoys dark history.

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  • Jill Desborough
  • 02-07-2020

Really interesting read

Really enjoyed this informative book, packed with stories that are sometimes grim, sad or bizarre. A canter through the changing history of poisons bringing us up to the present. If you enjoy history and maybe it's darker side, you should enjoy this book.

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  • Carrie-Anne Lavender
  • 31-05-2020

Generally good

I really enjoyed this romp through history. however I feel some of the alleged 'poison' deaths had been added in for sensation. As an avid tudor history fan I have never before heard that Prince Edward's death was a suspected poisoning case. Therefore it did make me wonder how many more historical deaths had been chucked in merely for entertainment purposes rather than actual historical evidence of poisoning claims. the narrator was Ok, but her extremely irritating over pronunciation of the 'sh' and 'ch' sound grated on me a lot. That said, it was a fascinating and entertaining listen and I would recommend it to history fans.

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  • MKMcD
  • 01-01-2020

Excellent

Loved it, the narrator was excellent and I was totally hooked from beginning to end.

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