On the United Kingdom's lack of closets
"It's not a room type that we recognize anymore. We have freestanding pieces of furniture called wardrobes that might be used for storing clothes. But those little square, dark, walk-in rooms don't exist in the U.K. That's a little piece of history that you've got that we haven't."
On privacy in bedrooms
"It really flourishes in the Victorian age when the security and seclusion of your bedroom and bed linen becomes paramount. If you read Victorian manuals, they're crazy — the amount of attention they devote to the perfect making of the bed, the cleanliness of the bed, the hygiene of the bed."
On privacy in baths
"[Before the 19th century] people washed parts of their bodies wherever it happened to suit them. As part of the research for this book, for a week I went on a Tudor personal hygiene regimen. The rules were: no bath, no shower, no toothpaste, no deodorant. How did they do it? And I knew that they did just use a basin of water. They would wash all the parts of the body one after another. And they would do it wherever it happened to be nice and appropriate."
On Queen Elizabeth I's toilet
"She had a flushing toilet fitted in one of her palaces. She was aware of this technology, but she didn't use it because she didn't want to go to the loo — she wanted the loo to come to her. She wanted her servants to bring her a chamber pot whenever she wanted to."
On using old 17th-century methods to brush her teeth
"Most of them were quite unsuccessful. Burnt toast crumbs — completely rubbish. I was using a twig. What worked quite well was a mixture of rosemary and salt mixed together, rubbed on with a cloth, actually, followed by a gargle of vinegar. Best of all was a 17th-century ... recipe of cuttlefish. You know those white carcasses of fish? That ground up makes really excellent tooth powder."
On flushing toilets and Thomas Crapper
"The word 'crap' is actually another word that's very, very old. It was taken over from 17th century England by the pilgrim fathers, and Americans were talking about things being crap in the 17th and 18th centuries. What Sir Thomas Crapper — complete coincidence — does is not invent the flushing toilet, as many, many people believe, but was a great promoter for it. He ran a business marketing other people's products, and that's why his name was on them. When the American soldiers came over in the first world war, they all thought it was hilarious that it said 'crapper' on them."
On the royal family
"I think they're a very good thing indeed. As a piece of living history, it's brilliant to think that they're facing the same challenges that we can see coming up in so many of the royal characters that we see in our work as curators. So they're interesting from that point of view. They're terribly important to people's notions of Britain and Britishness, and they're a really big part of the tourist industry as well. All of those processions, the regalia, the crown jewels — they're essential to our conception of who we are over here. We know that people all over the world share this fascination and come to see them."