Cannibal aristocrats tried to stay healthy

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THE highest members of European aristocracy took part in cannibalism to find remedies for ailments up until the end of the 18th century, a new book reveals.

European royalty and eminent scholars took pride of place among those who swallowed parts of the human body as medicine, including flesh, blood and bones.

For more than 200 years, even as they denounced cannibals of the New World, Europeans applied, drank, or wore powdered Egyptian mummy, human fat, flesh, bone, blood and brains.

Dr Richard Sugg, a lecturer in Durham University’s English Department, said: “The human body has been widely used as a therapeutic agent with the most popular treatments involving flesh, bone or blood.

“Cannibalism was found not only in the New World, as often believed, but also in Europe.”

Like many other members of the landed classes, the Fairfax family of North Yorkshire made their own medicines and kept their own recipe book. One of their cures for wounds was made from skull-moss, human blood and earthworms.

Dr Sugg said: “The most famous Fairfaxes were Anne and Thomas – the famous Parliamentarian – who lived slap bang in the middle of the 17th century when these kind of medicinal cures were in their heyday.”

The book, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires, will be published on June 29.