#TBT: The Bourdaloue

November 13, 2014

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, or rather, my version of it here on Romancing a Blog.  You may have seen the hashtag #tbt used on social media, and I thought, why not use it here to showcase some of the more interesting tidbits I find in researching my historical romance novels.  After all, historical tidbits is throwing it back, right?

So let’s start at the beginning with one of my favorites: the bourdaloue.

The Bourdaloue

Inevitably a DuchessInevitably a Duchess: A Spy Series Novella

“Have you taken to entertaining ladies in your bedchamber at an incredible frequency?” Jane said when she reached the room.
Richard looked up from where he was pouring tea in front of the fire.  His brow wrinkled as if in thought.
“Not that I can recall.  Unless you are thinking of making more regular visits,” he said as if it were an after thought.
Jane held up the bourdaloue.
“Then what is this doing in your dressing room?”
Richard did not hesitate as he replied, “Waiting for you to make use of it.”
Jane’s hand faltered slightly at his words, and the bourdaloue wobbled in her grip.
“You acquired this for me?”
Richard nodded, finishing with one tea cup before starting to fill another.
“I had heard that chamberpots could be awkward for ladies, and I didn’t want you to be inconvenienced.”  He finished filling the second cup and returned his gaze more directly to her.  “I thought you had dire need of such facilities.  Why are you standing there having this conversation with me?”
The hand holding the bourdaloue dropped completely, returning to its place at her side.
“That is the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me,” Jane said and was surprised to find her voice came out as a whisper.
Richard only looked at her.
“Getting you a pot to relieve yourself in is the nicest thing anyone has done for you?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.
Jane only nodded at first but finally managed a soft, “Yes.”
“Then it would appear I have low expectations to meet,” Richard said and then pointed to the dressing room door.  “Now go.  I’ll impress you further upon your return by offering you a cup of tea.”

The History

It’s exactly as it sounds.  The bourdaloue is essentially a porcelain vessel used by women to pee in.  It was believed that the bourdaloue was more carefully engineered for a women’s bodily make up and was, in fact, easier to use than a chamberpot.  For some great images of bourdaloues, visit our friends at Two Nerdy History Girls.

Wasn’t Richard quite the gentleman to procure such a vessel for Lady Jane?

Read On

Check out Katharine Ashenburg’s The Dirt on Clean for more on historical hygiene.

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