Book: British royalty ate human flesh

May 24, 2011 at 3:02 PM
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DURHAM, England, May 24 (UPI) -- British royalty ate human flesh as a medical treatment up until the end of the 18th century, says a book on medicinal cannibalism.

"Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires," a book by Richard Sugg of Durham University, says well-off and well-educated people in Britain and Europe swallowed parts of the human body, including flesh, blood and bones, as medicine, the Daily Mirror reported last week.

"Along with Charles II, eminent users or prescribers included Francis I, Elizabeth I's surgeon John Banister, Elizabeth Grey, countess of Kent, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, William III, and Queen Mary," Sugg said.

The history of medicinal cannibalism raised a number of ethical questions, he said.

"Quite apart from the question of cannibalism, the sourcing of body parts now looks highly unethical to us," he said. "In the heyday of medicinal cannibalism, bodies or bones were routinely taken from Egyptian tombs and European graveyards.

"Not only that, but some way into the 18th century one of the biggest imports from Ireland into Britain was human skulls. Whether or not all this was worse than the modern black market in human organs is difficult to say."

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