1439: Kissing Is Banned In England In Response To The Black Plague

|
(National Gallery/Wikimedia Commons)

Here ye, here ye: No more smoochies! That's what Henry VI proclaimed on July 16, 1439, not because he was a romance-hating monster; he just wanted to keep as many of his subjects alive as possible. During the 15th century, the bubonic plague ravaged Europe, and even before social distancing was a thing, Henry realized it was one of the best ways to keep people from getting sick. Obviously, kissing was right out. Henry's proclamation definitely saved a few lives, but it took more than a ban on kissing to pull society back from the brink of Black Death.

The Plague Crisis

Beginning around 1348, this little thing called the Plague tore through Europe. Initially appearing on England's south coast, the Plague worked its way inward until nearly half of the population perished from the illness. It burned itself out after a few years, but strains of the bacteria continued to ravage the country on a regular basis throughout the 1400s.

Born in 1421, what King Henry VI lacked in modern scientific knowledge, he made up for in experience. The Plague was simply a way of life by the time he came on the scene, so he clearly understood the threat the illness posed and how it appeared to be transmitted. It's generally accepted that the first quarantine occurred in 1377, and while news didn't travel as quickly in the Dark Ages as it does today, it's likely that Henry or his people were aware of the benefits of keeping your distance from someone who might be sick.