My history teacher once told us about how several centuries ago people in Europe who were guests at fancy balls and masquerades used to urinate on curtains, under stairs and in dark corners of dimly lit halls, because it was too cold outside or simply because not many bothered to go to an outhouse, restroom or what had they at the time.

Teacher also told us that folks used to camouflage the stench with powerful colognes, which is more believable, considering not every person had enough time to bathe thoroughly so as to naturally smell nice, but I'm interested in the urination bit here, as I couldn't find much evidence to this on the net.

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    You will need to provide a source of some sort otherwise this question is likely to get closed for notability reasons, but your history teacher is not wrong and at Versailles, chamber pots were hidden behind curtains in the main hallways. However, this was largely due to it being what they had than any other reason.
    – rjzii
    Dec 11, 2013 at 23:07
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    I'm closing this because the claim isn't notable. It might just be your teacher, alone, was confused, or they explained what they meant in a confusing way. Trying to answer such claims is too difficult and not warranted. But! If other people have heard this, or we can find notable examples, we can reopen it and get it answered properly.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 12, 2013 at 1:06
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    When I visited Hampton Court Palace a few years ago I seem to remember hearing that there were crosses painted at floor level in corridors to dissuade people (guests or servants, I don't remember) from peeing there. My Googling skills, however, are turning up a blank.
    – Ken Y-N
    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:38
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    People didn't just randomly pee on a piece of carpet or curtains. They summoned a servant, who brought a chamber pot. Then they went somewhere secluded and used the chamber pot, and gave it back to the servant who emptied it. So they didn't go to a special room to pee, but they didn't just soil the furniture either. Dec 12, 2013 at 19:53
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    I heard that they used to piss in the back halls of the Palace of Versailles, but I can't remember who told me that... so perhaps not credible. The same claim is made on this link forum.marie-antoinette.org/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1919 Dec 12, 2013 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


It is clear that in the twenty first century, people, especially intoxicated people, occasionally urinate in inappropriate places. There's no reason to believe that people were any different a few hundred years ago.

However, several centuries ago it was not normal to urinate on curtains

The sanitary needs of Tudor courtiers at Hampton Court Palace were met in a variety of ways. The lodgings of the senior members of the court, such as those in Base Court, had their own garderobe shafts. Some used piss-pots, like the Tudor pot excavated and displayed at Hampton Court (still containing traces of Tudor urine). Lower-ranking members of the court would use the ‘common jakes’ in the south-west corner of the palace, later known as the Great House of Easement, where lavatories drained via the moat into the river. Fourteen people could be seated here simultaneously.

From Historic Royal Palaces

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Toilets on two levels over the river Skell at Fountains Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1132.

As for "not have time to bathe thoroughly" - probably nobody bathed in a way that would be considered thorough today. Not for lack of time but simply because it wasn't thought necessary.

everyone stank, no one noticed it or recorded it for history. Sensitive souls might bury their faces in nosegays or scented hankies when a long-unwashed regiment tramped past, but most of our forebears remained as blissfully unaware of their stench as we are of the growing foulness of our air.

From Coming Clean in Colonial America

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