Fun Facts About Beards

One ancient king grew angry because another ruler sent him a beardless youth on an errand to the court. The young man reportedly told the king, “Had my master known that you set so much store upon a beard, he would have sent you a goat.” There’s no record of the king’s response.

Queen Elizabeth’s envoy to the court of Ivan the Terrible had a thick yellow beard 5 foot two inches long. The fearsome Ivan was so delighted, he played with his guest’s beard after lunch.

Beards were dangerous in hand-to-hand combat. Alexander the Great made all his soldiers shave before the battle of Ardela, though some let their hair grow long in back, to show they had no fear of being grabbed from behind.

Three hairs from a king’s beard stuck in a wax seal gave extraordinary solemnity to any royal document.

In the 1700s Peter the Great taxed Russian beards at the rate of 100 rubles per beard. The lower classes paid a kopek.

The beard of the tall German artist John Mayo swept the ground when he stood upright. Mayo kept it tied to his belt.

Beards have been regarded as emblems of wisdom: Philosophers were always bearded (Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian, Shakespeare). “Lose your beard,” it was said, “ and you lose your soul.”

Who would Jupiter, King of the Gods, be without a beard?
Beards hide the unhandsome looks of men with no chins, or the man who’s been kicked in the face by a horse.

In the Reign of Queen Anne, the wig came in fashion and the beard went out. Most of the 18th century, faces were clean-shaven. By the 19th century, small patches of hair began to appear beside men’s ears. Naval commanders in the War of 1812 wore sideburns.

Civil War era men who shaved their upper lips, like Abe Lincoln and John Greenleaf Whitter, the poet, did so for convenience in eating.

Beards are fire hazards for smokers, as there’s a danger of lighting one’s beard instead of the pipe.

–Much of this beard history comes from Concerning Beards by Edwin Valentine Mitchell, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1930


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