Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Fat Could You Get in the Middle Ages?

In a long-ranging discussion over beer starting from the five acceptable sexual positions according to Albertus Magnus, we got into why "a tergo"* was acceptable -- because a more natural sexual position might be prevented by such problems as extreme obesity.

When I protested that I couldn't imagine being so fat that a tergo was the only possible position, my colleagues brought up images of morbidly obese people who had to be hauled out of their apartments in cranes, etc. To this I responded that I didn't think it was possible for people to get that fat in the Middle Ages. Even if you could afford an unlimited amount of rich foods, you still had to walk everywhere to get around.

This leads me to wonder -- how fat could you get in the Middle Ages? I tried figuring out fat Louis the Fat was, but I can't find anyone who might have figured out how much he weighed. Does anyone know how fat folks like Thomas Aquinas, Henry VIII, and Loius the Fat actually got? Also, as a bonus question, were they too fat for anything in the sack besides a tergo?


*Doggy-style, for those in the peanut gallery.

6 comments:

  1. It's a bit difficult to tell from the picture here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/2177024598/) but some armor belonging to Henry VIII is in the Metropolitan in NYC, and he was clearly shopping in the "Husky Monarchs" section. However, having been to the museum myself, I can't imagine that royal lance was limited to "a tergo" when he was tilting at Catherine Parr's quintain. Henry would no doubt have been imposingly broad-bellied, but not even close to requiring extraction by crane.

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  2. ... would 'a tergo' actually be a practical position if the male partner was exceedingly fat? I suspect seated would be by far the preferable position in that case (assuming that Albertus' preferred seated sexual position allows the woman to be on top - but if it does, why isn't regular ole woman-on-top acceptable to him?).

    But then, that all depends on how Albertus' hypothetical couple arranged themselves for rear entry in the first place. Some variants would be more convenient than others.

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  3. See the article "King size! Henry VIII's armour reveals he had a 52in girth" for a discussion of ole Hal's rounditude!

    URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1134222/King-size-Henry-VIIIs-armour-reveals-52in-girth--paid-terrible-price.html

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  4. Another factor against extreme overweight in the Middle Ages: almost no sugar. In fact, since most of the carbohydrates available were cereals, and therefore slow-burn, you'd really have had to not work to pile on the pounds. So real fat would have to come from, well, real fat...

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  5. William the Conqueror is reputed to have been quite obese late in life. There's a story that after he died, his body would not fit in the coffin. Although postmortem bloating may have had something to do with that.

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  6. Amazing post. Thanks a lot.

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