On this day 1439:
17-year-old King Henry VI banned kissing as a precaution to prevent the spread of the deadly Bubonic plague more commonly known as the Black death which killed millions of people in England.
Beginning around 1348, the Bubonic plague swept through Asia, Europe and North Africa killing an estimated 50 million people. It’s generally accepted that the first quarantine occurred in 1377 as people became aware of the benefits of keeping your distance from the sick.
By the 15th century, it kept coming back in spontaneous outbreaks, spreading through fleas and rats across port cities in medieval Europe. However, unlike other parts of Europe, the Black Death never left England completely. It devastated small areas in virulent outbursts.
And by the Great Famine of 1438 when the malnourished populace had weaker immune systems one of the worst outbreaks commenced. Born in 1421, what King Henry VI ascended the throne when much of England had come to perceive the plague as a way of life.
In 15th-century Europe, kissing was a common type of greeting. In fact, it is still a part of Catholic tradition. Back then everyone kissed one another as casually as we shook hands before the COVID-19 pandemic. But the disease was not exclusive to any group of people.
It struck the lowly and the noble, no one was safe. There was no cure, other than fleeing infected areas. Special “plague doctors” with no medical training were authorised to beat patients with batons to “purify” them of sins they must have committed to earn the wrath of the divine creator.
Family members went unburied and died without the Last Rites because the devout clergy were already dead. And for Henry VI, his insights would often kiss him to pay him homage. But he had observed the tendency to become sick for those in contact with sick people.
So on July 16, 1439, as a way of keeping as many of his subjects as he can alive. Henry VI proclaimed; Here ye, here ye! No more smoothies! Unfortunately, and of course, enforcing the kissing ban was a tall order. For reasons we all know!