Poisonous Lipsticks to die for – part 5


Many urban legends have popped up through the years on the Internet, claiming that the British parliament passed all sorts of Witchcraft Laws banning the use of lipstick on “fear of being burnt at the stake.” Yes, lipstick was frowned upon by men and prudes, and especially by the church who claimed it to be a tool of the devil but no country law was ever passed

Another peculiar legend arose around the so-called Hoops and Heels Act of 1770, which declared: “the use of makeup to deceive an Englishman into marriage is punishable as witchcraft.” The alleged act went as follows “Be it resolved that all women of whatever age, rank, profession or degree, whether virgin maids or widows, that after the passing of this Act impose upon and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty’s male subjects, by scents, paints, cosmetics, washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes or bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the laws now in force against witchcraft, sorcery and such like misdemeanours… and that the marriage, upon conviction, shall stand null and void.”

Such silliness. Any man who claims he was tricked into marriage by a woman wearing high heels is clearly delusional or is merely the victim of a fleeting foot fetish. Many misogynistic men did disdainfully write about women who painted their faces, such as Sir Matthew Hale who wrote “They make it their business to paint or patch their faces, to curl their locks, and to find out the newest and costliest fashions” and then basically went on to claim how lazy women were lolling about the house with no real responsibilities (because after all, kids raise themselves)

Another disgruntled gentleman wrote a letter which appeared in The Spectator, which was a daily publication which only lasted between 1711 and 1712, that “No man was as enamoured as I was of her fair forehead, neck and arms, as well as the bright jet of her hair… but to my great astonishment I found it were all the effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with this practice that when she first wakes in the morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the mother of the woman I married. I shall take the liberty to part with her at the first opportunity, unless her father will make her dowry suitable to her real looks”

Clearly he was upset by the deception caused by the use of make-up but not enough not to say that he would take additional money for him to stay with her. So what does this say about him? That being said, I guess many men have woken up from a one night stand and pondered the exact same thing

What is the moral of the story here for modern man? Don’t go to bed with a woman that looks like an Oompa Loompa whose lips are about to explode; and if one her false eyelashes is hanging perpendicular to the original one by 10:37pm, I suggest you be a gentleman and beat a hasty retreat

Countess of Coventry (1748). After Jean-Étienne Liotard

A notable death during this period of “lipstick and cosmetic mayhem” in the 1700’s was that of Maria Gunning, who became known as Maria, the Countess of Coventry. She was an exceptionally beautiful but somewhat tactless socialite during the reign of King George II who thought it highly amusing when she said that she “wished to see a royal funeral.” Ordinarily she might have lost her head but as she was painted up all pretty with her pouty little red lips, the king laughed, gave her some shiny baubles and made her his mistress

She was particularly known for lathering on the lead infused make-up including rouge and lipstick as that was the stylish thing to do but other women during this time kept their make-up for a heyday and not an every day. The older Maria got, the more make-up she wore and pretty much against her new husband’s wishes. She managed to snare the 6th Earl of Coventry when she was 19 and he 30, and on one occasion he was known to have used a serviette to wipe off her make-up when she arrived for dinner all done up like a tart

Irrespective of her husband’s wishes and the fact that she started getting all sorts of skin eruptions and furuncles brought on by the lead permeating her skin, she continued wearing it and in the end, her death at age 27 in 1760, was caused by severe blood poisoning

Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl [Joshua Reynolds]

Another notable death six year later, was that of famous courtesan Kitty Fisher, whose humble beginnings started as a hat maker. She was famous for being famous (pretty much like many of the people you see on E or in the People magazine). Her beauty was beyond compare and after her portrait called “Cleopatra dissolving the Pearl” was painted in 1759 by Joshua Reynolds, (who definitely had a thing for all his subjects), reprints of the image went viral and she sort of became the pin up girl of the century. Historians all claim her death at 26 in 1767, was brought on from lead poisoning

A tiny bit of animosity existed between these two beautiful women as one day in the park when their paths happened to cross, Lady Coventry asked the younger and more beautiful Kitty Fisher for the name of the dressmaker who had made her dress. And Kitty Fisher, without skipping a beat replied that Lady Coventry “had better ask Lord Coventry as he had given her the dress as a gift.”


End of Part 5





Witchcraft Act 1542 , repealed and then restored in 1562

Witchcraft Act 1563

Scottish Witchcraft Act 1563

Witchcraft Act 1604

Scottish Witchcraft Act 1649

Witchcraft Act 1735 – repealing existing Acts

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagrancy_Act_1824 under which fortune-telling, astrology and spiritualism became punishable offences

8 thoughts on “Poisonous Lipsticks to die for – part 5

      1. Ah, got it. Well, I will just have to retreat into one of the inner chambers of my Fortress of Solitude and sip a swanky adult beverage whilst I await the continuation of your saga, staring out the leaded-glass window and waiting for a messenger to appear on the tree-lined lane… 😉


  1. All fascinating stuff! A commentary too, I guess, on Georgian manners which prohibited any familiarity between the sexes prior to marriage. Men should never marry women for their looks or vice versa, but it must have been easy to become a foot fetishist when that was the only hint of an anatomy below the waist a man was ever likely to see. So if I woman is no more than a painted doll in society, one can understand the enthusiasm for paint.


    1. You are right. I thought a bit about it afterwards, hands were also seen (and still are in veiled communities) yet no fetishes really exist for hands. unless it can only be considered a fetish if its some something which should be kept secret especially as feet are not really considered sexy by any one. Unless its “lotus feet” and thats a whole other peculiar kettle of fish


  2. Something similar happened more recently. There was a man (I’m not sure where the couple are from, maybe the Middle East) who married a very beautiful young lady. He was enchanted by her beauty. After the two were wed and he woke up next to her the following day, once she had no makeup on and was au-natural. He decided that he had been decieved and divorced her. This was a true story that was in our news feeds.


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