I think it was Sir John Harrington who invented the flushing toilet in the 16th Century. He installed one of his new-fangled inventions at his manor in Kelston, Somerset.
In 1596 he built one for his godmother, Elizabeth I, and she loved it apparently. Remember that was the days when people used to just chuck their urinary and faecal waste out of the window.
Harrington joked that the installation of one of his water-closets ‘in the palace of Richmond, or Greenwich’
would be a deed worthy of his being rewarded with a place among Elizabeth I’s gentlemen of the Privy Chamber.
In the 17th century, the soldiers at the Tower of London were warned not ‘to ease themselves in any place than that appointed for that purpose, nor make water within six paces of the Guard, nor throw soile there or ashes, nor empty any pot, nor throw water out of any window’.
At Hampton Court Palace William III’s guards slept in the Guard Chamber of the king’s state apartments, and had more fortunately had the benefit of a ‘pissing cestorn’
installed for them in 1700.
King George II, the last British monarch to lead troops into battle, died on the toilet in 1760
One British monarch even died on the loo. In 1760, George II met his end in ‘the water closet’ at Kensington Palace: his ‘German valet de Chambre heard a noise, listened, heard something like a groan, ran in, and found the hero of [the battles of] Oudenarde and Dettingen, on the floor, with a gash on his right temple, by falling against the corner of a bureau’
George’s great-granddaughters had a flushing toilet in their closets at Kew Palace, but like Sir John Harrington’s toilet two hundred years before their cistern had to be filled and emptied manually before and after use.
Historic Royal Palaces > Home > Discover the palaces > History and stories > Life in the palaces > Toilets and bathrooms (external - login to view)