Thursday, December 1, 2011

Was Charlemagne a Redhead?

I've recently read on a few websites that the Emperor Charlemagne had red hair. So far I haven’t found a source text that confirms this, however whilst reading ‘The Life of Charlemagne’ by the Monk of Saint Gall I came across this odd tale concerning red hair;
“So he [a bishop] mounted the pulpit as though he were going to address the people. All the people ran together…except one poor red-headed fellow, who had his head covered with clouts, because he had no hat, and was foolishly ashamed of his red hair. Then the bishop [said] "Bring me that man in the hat who is standing there near the door of the church." The doorkeeper made haste to obey, seized the poor man and began to drag him towards the bishop. But he feared some heavy penalty for daring to stand in the house of God with covered head, and struggled with all his might to avoid being brought before the tribunal of the terrible judge. But the bishop, looking from his perch, now addressing his vassals and now chiding the poor knave, bawled out and preached as follows: -"Here with him! don't let him slip! Willy-nilly you've got to come." When at last force or fear brought him near, the bishop cried: "Come forward; nay you must come quite close." Then he snatched the head-covering from his captive and cried to the people: -- "Lo and behold all ye people; the boor is red-headed."”
This text was supposedly written in the 9th Century AD. I guess it shows that even in those days red hair was something of a curse.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Plea For Red Heads

I recently came across the following article titled, 'A Plea For Red Heads,' It appeared in the nineteenth century journal, ‘The Guardian,’ and follows on from a previous article it published about 'a red-headed minister,' which I referred to earlier - see 'A Red-Headed Minister.' The article basically offers a defence of red hair. I’ll reproduce some of it here.
"The Editor of the Guardian certainly knows one red-headed minister. And in our own mind we now hold at least three others who are in the same sacred office, one of whom is a very worthy D.D., whose hair is real, genuine red, and whose temperament is almost exclusively sanguine. Of other names to us, of the same sort, of course we cannot speak with the same certainty. This is, however, itself, enough to set aside the force of the ill-natured remark."
"One reason no doubt why there are not many red-headed ministers, is found in the very natural fact that the proportion of red-headed people is rather small in comparison with the sum total of all other colors. Then, too, there may be much in the fact that the sanguine temperament of which red-hair is an indication, may naturally seek exercise for its activities in some other calling than the ministry. The department of law and active business may be in many cases a more congenial sphere. Some of the most successful politicians and public speakers, and partizan leaders show the sanguine temperament predominant, and many of them had red hair. Aside from many in our times, such was Jefferson, the great father of American Democracy[.]"
"From what has already been said, and from the examples given, it may be inferred that there is nothing in the sanguine temperament, and especially nothing in the fact of a person having red hair, that prevents or excuses any one from manifesting a religious life - especially such as is required of the ministry. We make this remark with reference to the common notion, which is only fostered by such paragraphs as that extracted from the Phrenological Journal, that there is something in the nature of the case which prevents red haired people from being as good as others. Under such public sentiment many who have this mark upon them, are looked upon by others and so learn to look upon themselves, as beyond the reach of grace, and thus proper candidates for all ill favor and sin - such sentiments prevailing, no wonder if the natural consequences were just such fruits as are anticipated."
"Novel writers, whenever they want to picture a mean, low, cunning, abandoned, ill-favored character, generally in their charity give him an abundance of red hair. If they can make it fiery red, and bristling, all the better for their purpose. Just as if deep feeling, passionate emotion and impulsive zeal were always vicious. The tendency of such notions prevailing, has been to make the subject of this character believe that there is no hope for them ever to rise above the misery of their red-headed fate."
"One thing we think is plain. It is no sin per se, to have been born with a red head. If it be a disgrace, as many seem to think, the fault certainly is not with the red heads themselves, but rather it must be charged upon the decree of God's providence. As well might they be derided, sneered at and mocked, because they cannot add one cubit to their stature or turn one hair white or black. Having red hair is then certainly not the fault of those upon whom the Creator had put this work. And yet persons who allow themselves with complacency to ridicule red-headed people would not consider it any special work or evidence of wit and piety, to poke fun at the born cripple, or blind or unfortunate dwarf."
"Red headed women are the especial object of the satirical and splenetic remarks of those who imagine themselves more favored in having black heads, or brown heads or flax heads, and even grey heads. If they can run a rig "on red haired girls" by sagely proposing to make lamp posts of them, and thus light up the city without the expense of gas…[s]o, too, prejudice against hair of this color can be fostered, and risibilities wonderfully tickled and excited by picturing a red-haired woman with a broom-stick, administering summary vengeance upon some object of her wrath."
"It was our lot to be born with red hair. Without our consent or approbation this mark, this temperament and this life were fixed upon us. For this we are not accountable. For what we have made of it since we had the choice of free action, we must be considered as responsible. Whether it was fortunate or unfortunate, we could not for many years determine. God made it red, and red we have left it, though very often we were made to feel that somehow it was a circumstance of which we ought to be ashamed...[o]ur plea is for justice to a persecuted class, till a cause for blame is made out against them. We want no more slighty or cutting paragraphs about red heads, till it be shown that it is a sin to be one of them."
The article was published in 1857.

Red Hair in the Fledgling United States

Just read a book called ‘The Great Upheaval’ by Jay Winik. It’s a book about the French Revolution, the early United States and the Russia of Catherine the Great. There are a few mentions of red hair in it.

On Thomas Jefferson, page 156:
“He also had striking reddish hair and captivating cool green eyes, which, despite his often dishevelled dress and surprising impulsiveness, gave him an imposing presence; Abigail Adams once described him as having a look “not unlike God.””
On the French diplomat Edmond Genet, page 466:
“A dwarfish man with reddened cheeks and dark red hair, he had flashing eyes, undeniable good looks, and an even more undeniable vivacity.”
And then on the American Politician, Alexander Hamilton, page 477:
“Small, blue-eyed, with hair as red as Jefferson’s[.]”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Merovingians - Red Hair?

I've just came across this article about the Merovingians;-

It states that the Merovingians had "long red hair." I've heard this mentioned before online. Is it true? What's the source for it?

If it is true it would be really fascinating.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Denisovans Didn't Have Red Hair

Just read that the Denisovans, a recently discovered ancient species of human found in Siberia, did not have red hair.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Dislike of Red Hair in 19th Century England

The following quotes about red hair come from an article about hair dye that was published in 1866. The article was simply titled ‘Hair Dyeing’ and appeared in a publication called ‘The Spectator.’

This first quote talks of how the English vilified red hair;
"[T]he English horror of light hair in women was almost comical in its intensity, so deep as to affect literature and penetrate the opinions of the uncultivated mass. One shade of red, that false auburn which is red in the sun and brown under artificial light, was tolerated, chiefly, we imagine, because fashionable opinion is formed under chandeliers; but the true auburn, which has a golden flash in it under the sun and a red flash only by candle light, the auburn which the Italian painters loved three centuries ago, and Millais can paint now when he will let his imagination work as well as his eyes, was utterly condemned, all the more viciously perhaps because that is the shade in which hair is found most voluminous and silky."
"As to the different shades of red, the language was ransacked to find terms of abhorrence which should be sufficiently expressive, and while the costermonger asked somebody "to put out that 'ere bonnet, it must be burning by now," the peer summed up his dislike in the emphatic word "Carrots!" So deep was the disgust for this shade that it extended even to men's heads. Nobody ever suggested that men with fair hair could not be handsome, or denied that the highest Norman type, the tall, fair-haired, steel-eyed, light-complexioned man, was the ideal type of all, but everybody professed to abominate red. Hundreds of schoolboys have had their lives rendered miserable by a shade too much of the hated colour[.]”
I think this final quote is my favourite, though;
"Part of the objection to red hair no doubt arose from the ugly complexion, and freckles, and turned up nose by which it is often accompanied, but the aversion was felt and expressed even in cases where red hair was only the natural complement of very regular beauty."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Red-Headed Minister

Whilst searching Google Books I came across this short article in a monthly magazine tilted ‘The Guardian’ (published 1855).
The Phrenological Journal, in an article on temperament, says: "We have never seen or heard of a red-headed minister, or, rather, of a minister possessed of a pure sanguine temperament." We do not know whether the Journal is correct or not on this point; but it is stated that several years ago a minister being presented to the parish church of Crieff, in Scotland, the parishioners objected to receiving him, and when the case was tried before the Presbytery, it was found that their only objection to him was that his hair was red. The objection was insuperable.

Was Mary Queen of Scots a Redhead?

I recently came across this in a periodical called ‘Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc.’ It appears on page 251 of the 1882 July-December issue and concerns the hair colour of Mary Queen of Scots.
“The colour of the hair of Mary Queen of Scots has often been a disputed point, so many of her pictures having hair of quite different tones of colour; for this reason I looked with much interest at a miniature lent by the Queen some few years ago to one of the loan exhibitions of old masters at Burlington House. This was a square miniature on ivory, half length, and from the date and general appearance may have been the one sent by Mary to Elizabeth before the death of her husband Francis II., as there was one sent about that time, and after his death Mary would have been represented in her "white mourning." The age of this portrait seemed to agree with the date; the dress was pink velvet or satin with pearl ornaments; the hair was very fair, and more decidedly red than I have seen in any other picture - in fact, the same colour as in the early portraits of Elizabeth - and the colour of the whole very fresh.”
Another commenter then posits on the following page;
“I have a miniature of her in a gold setting (French) of her period, which represents her with blue eyes and red hair. I believe it is known that she wore wigs of different colours, for most of her portraits give her dark brown hair. We may, perhaps, conclude from this that her hair was really red, and, of course, her eyes blue, as few persons would choose red hair, but might prefer to appear with it dark.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This blog is about red hair. I've set it up with the aim of gathering together all the interesting bits of information about red hair I've come across. Over time I'll add to it any new information I collect. No doubt I'll sometimes stray into territory that isn't strictly red hair related, but hopefully it'll be related enough that things don't wander too far from the main focus.

Thanks for visiting.