I put this little ditty on my site back in 99 when it first came
out. Since then I have found out it is a hoax, sent as a joke
to a few million people by those who forward urban legends.
For the real story, check out:
and "Take Our
Word For It": I have left it here so any searches that
might be found for it would also show that it is a hoax. Makes
a nice read, but consider it a fairy tale.
Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare. She married at
the age of 26. This is really unusual for the time. Most people
married young, like at the age of 11 or 12. Life was not as romantic
as we may picture it. Here are some examples:
Anne Hathaway's home was a 3 bedroom house with a small parlor,
which was seldom used (only for company), kitchen, and no
Mother and Father shared a bedroom. Anne had a queen sized bed, but
did sleep alone. She also had 2 other sisters and they shared the
bed also with 6 servant girls (this is before she married).
They didn't sleep like we do lengthwise but all laid on the bed
At least they had a bed. The other bedroom was shared by her 6
brothers and 30 field workers. They didn't have a bed. Everyone just
wrapped up in their blanket and slept on the floor. They had no
indoor heating so all the extra bodies kept them warm.
They were also small people, the men only grew to be about 5'6" and
the women were 4'8". SO in their house they had 27 people living.
Most people got married in June. Why? They took their yearly bath in
May, so they were still smelling pretty good by June, although they
were starting to smell, so the brides would carry a bouquet of
flowers to hide their b.o.
Like I said, they took their yearly bath in May, but it was just a
big tub that they would fill with hot water. The man of the house
would get the privilege of the nice clean water. Then all the
other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of
all the babies. By then the water was pretty thick. Thus, the
saying, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water," it was so
dirty you could actually lose someone in it.
I'll describe their houses a little. You've heard of thatch roofs,
well that's all they were. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood
underneath. They were the only place for the little animals to get
So all the pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats,
bugs, all lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery so
sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the
saying, "it's raining cats and dogs." Since there was nothing to
stop things from falling into the house they would just try to clean
up a lot. But this posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs
and other droppings from animals could really mess up your nice
clean bed, so they found if they would make beds with big posts and
hang a sheet over the top it would prevent that problem. That's
where those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies came from.
When you came into the house you would notice most times that the
floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt,
that's where the saying "dirt poor" came from. The wealthy
would have slate floors. That was fine but in the winter they would
get slippery when they got wet. So they started to spread thresh on
the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they
would just keep adding it and adding it until when you opened the
door it would all start slipping outside. So they put a piece of
wood at the entry way, a "thresh hold". In the kitchen they
would cook over the fire, they had a fireplace in the
kitchen/parlor, that was seldom used and sometimes in the master
They had a big kettle that always hung over the fire and every day
they would light the fire and start adding things to the pot. Mostly
they ate vegetables, they didn't get much meat. They would eat the
stew for dinner then leave the leftovers in the pot to get cold
overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew would
have food in it that had been in there for a month! Thus the rhyme:
peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine
Sometimes they could get ahold of some pork. They really felt
special when that happened and when company came over they even had
a rack in the parlor where they would bring out some bacon and hang
it to show it off. That was a sign of wealth and that a man
"could really bring home the bacon." They would cut off a
little to share with guests and they would all sit around and "chew
If you had money your plates were made out of pewter. Sometimes some
of their food had a high acid content and some of the lead would
leach out into the food. They really noticed it happened with
tomatoes. So they stopped eating tomatoes, for 400 years.
Most people didn't have pewter plates though, they all had
trenchers, that was a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like
a bowl. They never washed their boards and a lot of times worms
would get into the wood. After eating off the trencher with worms
they would get "trench mouth."
If you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they
usually provided the bed but not the board.
The bread was divided according to status. The workers would get the
burnt bottom of the loaf, the family would get the middle and guests
would get the top, or the "upper crust".
They also had lead cups and when they would drink their ale or
whiskey the combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple
of days. They would be walking along the road and here would be
someone knocked out and they thought they were dead. So they would
pick them up and take them home and get them ready to bury. They
realized if they were too slow about it, the person would wake up.
Also, maybe not all of the people they were burying were dead. So
they would lay them out on the kitchen table for a couple of days,
the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if
they would wake up. That's where the custom of holding a
"wake" came from.
Since England is so old and small they started running out of places
to bury people. So they started digging up some coffins and would
take their bones to a house and re-use the grave. They started
opening these coffins and found some had scratch marks on the
inside. One out of 25 coffins were that way and they realized they
had still been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie
a string on their wrist and lead it through the coffin and up
through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit
out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. That is how
the saying "graveyard shift" was made. If the bell would ring they
would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead