I have a few questions about Royal Tasters. Being a Royal Taster doesn’t seem like a position people would be beating down your door to fill. How did one obtain the job? Was it considered an honor to possibly be poisoned to death for the potentate at the time? Or was it more like being drafted into the position?
When did the last recorded Royal Taster exist? How often did they die? What countries used them? Was a king/queen/prince/emperor ever saved from being poisoned because the Royal Taster exhibited symptoms of or died from being poisoned? How long after consuming the first few bites did the ruler wait before assuming his/her food wasn’t poisoned?
I’ve always wanted to know so have at it teeming millions!
I dunno, considering whom you’re probably being the taster for, the food’s probably really good (at least until the last bite).
As I understand it, the royal taster was one of the monarch’s most trusted and valued subjects, since, after all, this person would be last line of defense, and if (s)he wanted to poison the food, (s)he could. They got to live the high class life. I guess the food taster would just have to trust that his presence would be an effective deterrent, and no one would try to poison the king/queen since they would know that they’d just end up offing the food taster. (If they had something against the food taster, though…)
But you do bring up some interesting points. One would have to wait at least a day or so to see if the food taster is suffering any ill effects, and the monarch’s food would be cold by then. And the food taster would have to eat at least as much food as the monarch would to be certain that he is getting enough of whatever poison is in there. Geez, I dunno.
Best story I ever heard about circumventing the Royal Taster was how Nero’s hired poisoners eliminated his rival (stepbrother) Britannicus.
At a feast where both Nero and Britannicus were present, Britannicus was given a drink which the royal taster sipped and deemed to be OK (incidentally, I believe that most poisons in the time of royal tasters were relatively fast acting, thus obviating the need to wait a day, as Tzel suggests). Britannicus complained that the beverage was too hot, and (poisoned) water was added to cool the beverage down.
So much for one of Nero’s rivals.
Royal tasters? You mean they actually pay someone to lick Prince Charles? Ikkk.
Thanks for the replies. I hope others can shed more light on Royal Tasters, though.