1 By comparison, somewhere between 16 percent and 17 percent of the population of the planet has blue eyes and 10 to 12 percent of the population is left-handed. Roughly 1 in 10 Caucasian men are born with some degree of color blindness, while 1.1 percent of all births worldwide are of twins. The incidence of albinoism, worldwide, is roughly 0.006 percent.

2 Bishop Cooper’s great work almost never saw the light of day at all. When it was half completed, Cooper’s wife (“a shrew,” according to that indefatigable chronicler John Aubrey), “irreconcileably angrie” with him for neglecting her in favor of his studies, broke into his study and threw his papers on the fire. Aubrey does not record if she was a redhead, too.

3 No one could write a book on redheads without a debt to Professor Rees and his research. I am very happy to record my gratitude to him for his early assistance and generous advice.

4 Saul Feinman and George W. Gill, “Sex Differences in Physical Attractiveness Preferences” The Journal of Social Psychology 105, no. 1 (June 1978): 43–52.

5 Metro newspaper, October 3, 2013.

Chapter 1

6 Accuracy over eons is of course a rather different matter from setting your alarm clock in the morning. Some paleontologists would push the appearance of the gene for red hair back to between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago.

7 As an example of both the danger and the isolation faced by our ancestors, the Toba Catastrophe, a supervolcanic eruption that occurred in Indonesia between 77,000 and 69,000 years ago, created a ten-year winter that could have reduced the entire population of the planet to something between 3,000 and 10,000 individuals and may have been one of the catalysts for that ancient migration from Africa in the first place.

8 To make matters worse, we are also the only version of our species, Hominidae, to exist. No other version of us has survived.

9 See

10 See

11 Other studies give the date as being between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago. One estimate is as recent as 100 generations, or a mere 2,500 years ago, although this is rather unconvincing. Had pale skin suddenly begun appearing among the native populations of the countries they had conquered, surely one of those indefatigable chroniclers of the Roman world (many of whom we will meet in the next chapter) would have made specific mention of it. Thanks to my colleague Kate Owen for this point.

Blue eye color, meanwhile, or rather the switching-off of the gene for brown eye color (although the genetics of eye color are so astonishingly complex as to admit almost any possibility) is thought to have come into being in what is now modern Romania, perhaps 18,000, perhaps 10,000 to 6,000, years ago.

12 In light of the association between red hair and successful childbirth, it’s intriguing that C. G. Leland records in his Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling (1891) the belief that for an easy birth, red hair should be sewn into a bag and worn next to the skin of the belly during pregnancy.

Chapter 2

13 Susan Walker, “Cleopatra in Pompeii?,” Papers of the British School at Rome 76, (2008): 35-46.

14 This would have been only smart. Caesarion himself was killed, probably by strangulation, on Augustus’s orders in 30 BC at the age of seventeen—eleven days after his mother’s famous suicide.

15 For the arguments that red was Ramesses’s hair color in life, see, and Bob Brier, Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1994), 153. The question is still open, however: recent research by Silvana Tridico suggests that hair decays after death and its color can alter as a result of fungal or bacterial growth upon it. See

16 Quoted in Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur: Effets et symboliques (Paris: Editions Pyramyd, 2009) 45.

17 Herodotus, The Histories. The full text is available on Project Gutenberg. See

18 Lionel Casson, “The Thracians,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin XXXV, no. 1 (Summer 1977) 3–6.

19 The site of Gelonus has been sought by archaeologists for some time; various ancient settlements have been put forward as candidates in the Ukraine or along the Volga River.

20 The magisterial study on the Tarim mummies is by J. P. Mallory and Victor Mair, The Tarim Mummies (London: Thames and Hudson, 2008). Their hair color is variously described as blond, fair, or red, but as far as I am aware, none of the mummies has as yet been specifically tested to see if they carry the MC1R gene.

21 Some of these remains were of women, but buried with the accoutrements of warriors, leading to the suggestion that Greek stories of Amazons came from their neighbors the Scythians.

22 Julia Valeva, The Painted Coffers of the Ostrusha Tomb (Sofia, Bulgaria: Bulgarski Houdozhnik, 2005). With grateful thanks to the author for providing me much information and a copy of her superbly detailed book.

23 G. Kitov, “New Discoveries in the Thracian Tomb with Frescoes by Alexandrovo No 1,” Archaeologia Bulgarica, 9 (2005): 15-28. One should note that even after his death in 2008 Georgi Kitov is a controversial figure among the archaeologists and scholars of Thrace. A reconstruction of the tomb and its frescoes can be seen at

24 Bodies found in Scythian kurgans also sport elaborate tattoos, for example that of the famous Siberian Ice Maiden, discovered in 1993. See the article by Anna Liesowska in The Siberian Times, October 14, 2014:

25 In his vast Bibliotheca Historica Diodorus Siculus wrote, “The Gauls are tall of body, with rippling muscles, and white of skin. Their hair is blond, and not only naturally so, but they also make it their practice by artificial means to increase the color which nature has given it, for they are always washing their hair in lime-water, and they pull it back from the forehead and back to the nape of the neck, with the result that their appearance is like that of satyrs and Pans, since the treatment of their hair makes it so heavy and coarse that it differs in no respect from a horse’s mane.” In fact the hair of The Dying Galatian was recarved, perhaps with this description as a guide, in the seventeenth century.

26 See

Chapter 3

27 William Rufus, “hated by almost all his people and abhorrent to God,” according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, died on August 2, 1100, while hunting in the New Forest in Hampshire. A stag crossed his path, he shouted to his companion to shoot—and the man did. William’s body was left where it fell; a peasant found it and brought it to Winchester in his cart.

28 Eleanor Anderson, “There Are Some Things in Life You Can’t Choose …: An Investigation into Discrimination Against People with Red Hair,” Sociology Working Papers 28 (2002). Anderson’s thesis does a superb job of exploring prejudice against red hair as part of the overall landscape of discrimination and cultural stereotyping.

29 Which basically translates as “Judas-shit.” See Ruth Mellinkoff, op. cit., p. 168.

30 Paul Franklin Baum, “Judas’s Red Hair,” Journal of English and German Philology 21, no. 3 (July 1922): 520–29.

31 V. Liedke, “Die Münchner Tafelmalerei und Schnitzkunst der Spätgotik, II: Vom Pestjahr 1430 bis zum Tod Ulrich Neunhausers 1472”, Ars Bavarica, xxix/xxx (1982): 1–34.

32 Ruth Mellinkoff (op. cit.) points out that the tiny figure of Cain, a marginal illumination in the Mosan Park Bible of c. 1148, also has red hair. BL Add MS 14788, folio 6, verso.

33 Or as Bishop Jocelin puts it in William Golding’s The Spire (1964), on seeing Goody Pangall’s red hair, “It was as if the red hair, sprung so unexpectedly from the decent covering of the wimple, had wounded all the time before, or erased it.”

34 And as such, well into the nineteenth century, it stigmatizes Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831): “a huge head bristling with red hair … that little left eye obstructed with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow.” Sure enough, Quasimodo’s looks are taken as proof that he is “as wicked as he is ugly.” He even remains a redhead in the Disney version of 1996.

35 John Gross, Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).

36 In his defense, Dickens did tone down the anti-Semitism in later editions of the book, and in his public readings of the part, but by then, one might argue, the harm was done. It’s also intriguing if again deeply depressing to speculate how much the belief in the Jews as the exploiters of Gentile children might have influenced the creation of Fagin’s “gang” of child thieves and pickpockets, too.

37 For this and further detail on the evolution in European folklore of the undead, see Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988).

38 Montague Summers, The Vampire in Europe, reprinted Aquarian Press, 1980.

39 The last occurrence of his name is in 1466. The plague came to Provence in that year; Quarton, it is thought, may have been one of its victims.

40 This work has perhaps one of the most adventurous life stories of any medieval painting. Commissioned by the Medicis’ banker in Bruges, Angeleo Tani, it was being shipped to Italy by his successor, Tommaso Portinari (who may be the little figure in the left-hand bowl of St. Michael’s dreadful scales), when the vessel carrying it had the bad fortune to run into the hands of a Polish privateer, Paul Beneke. Clearly a man of taste, Beneke presented the painting to the Church of St. Mary in Gdansk, and there, despite lawsuits demanding its return, it remained until looted by Napoleon in 1807. After Napoleon’s fall, it found itself in 1817 in Berlin, from where St. Mary’s Church was able after some effort to reclaim it; after World War II it turned up in Leningrad, and was finally returned to Gdańsk in 1956. It is now in the National Museum.

41 The Maison Pfister in Colmar was in fact in a movie—it is the inspiration for Howl’s Moving Castle in the eponymous animation from Studio Ghibli (2004).

42 St. Francis of Assisi, who is sometimes cited as the male version of Mary Magdalene, shares the same kind of narrative arc to his life, and is another saint with now more than pan-European appeal.

43 There is a very similar meme in Indian culture, where the unloosing of the woman’s knot of hair presages the unloosening of the sari, too.

44 There is also a winningly eccentric painting of the Elevation of Mary Magdalene by Jan Polack (c. 1435/50–1519), supposedly showing her in the desert, clothed in her hair, but instead employing and drastically misunderstanding the “feathered tights” convention of costume in medieval drama to display her instead in a little furry cat-suit, with peekaboo cutouts for her breasts. The Magdalene’s hands are curved about them, in a gesture that pulls the eye toward the very thing that it pretends to hide. See

45 Lefebvre liked redheaded models, so far as one can judge. His other redheaded nudes include Diana (1879), Undine (1881), Pandora (1882), and the undated Fleurs des Champs. In 1870 he painted La Verité, a dark-haired model posed nude with one arm raised, who seems to have influenced Bartholdi’s pose of the Statue of Liberty. Jean-Jacques Henner (1829–1905) is another French painter, more or less contemporary with Lefebvre, who favors redheaded models, but depicting them with his characteristic chiaroscuro and with rather more dignity.

Chapter 4

46 The “Coronation portrait” of the queen can be seen today at the National Portrait Gallery in London, or on their excellent website, as NPG 5175. The painting is now thought to be a copy, made c. 1600, of a lost original of c. 1559. The cloth of gold Elizabeth wears in the portrait had also been worn by her half sister, Mary I. It’s not so far removed from the brocade in which Enguerrand Quarton dresses his Queen of Heaven for her Coronation.

47 The whole of Europe knew how the Spanish treated those they saw as heretics, and while it’s most unlikely anyone in England cared one way or the other how Spain dealt with its Jewish or Moorish conversos, let an honest Englishman find himself caught in the thralls of the Inquisition, as happened to one Robert Tomson in 1556, and the outrage was national. Tomson’s account (another Tudor best-seller) was republished in G. R. G Conway’s An Englishman and the Mexican Inquisition, 1556-1560, Sidewinder Studies in History and Sociology, 1997.

48 The portrait is part of the Royal Collection and hangs at Windsor Castle. See

49 Elizabeth’s use of wigs has prompted speculation that she lost her hair when she fell ill with smallpox in 1562. This seems to be based on an errant bit of historical supposition started by F. C. Chamberlain in 1922. Elizabeth did however go gray, if the evidence of the lock of her hair preserved at Wilton House is trusted. Redheads “go gray” just as much as any other hair color, but if you’re lucky, with red hair the unpigmented hairs are to an extent disguised, and simply look like fairer hair among the red.

50 Victoria Sherrow, Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006). It didn’t do to emulate the queen too successfully, however. Lettice Knollys had married another of Elizabeth’s favorites, Robert Dudley, in September 1578, without royal permission. To judge from her portrait of c. 1585 by George Gower, Lettice was as head-turning a redhead as Elizabeth (portraits of the two can be extremely difficult to tell apart), and she was ten years younger. Lettice was banished from court, never to return.

51 The portly Sir John died of apoplexy in December 1626, after what must have been an extremely good supper-party celebrating his appointment as Lord Chief Justice. He had been lobbying for the role for years. His wife, Dame Eleanor Davys, believed herself to be a prophetess, giving rise to the anagram Never so mad a ladye. But she foresaw the date of her husband’s death and wore mourning for the three years before it came to pass.

52 The 1558 Act of Supremacy finally established the Protestant faith as the official religion of the state and made the monarch, instead of the pope, head of the Church of England.

53 The Holinshed Project gives the text of both editions of this work, and just about every tool a researcher could ask for to search through them. See

54 Stanyhurst could give James Joyce a run for his money. Among other gems in the Chronicle, he comes up with the phrase “idle benchwhistlers” for the lazy and describes those who would take credit for another’s work as flies who fall in another man’s soup. Rather less likeably, he also describes the Irish language as “a ringworm.”

55 A View of the Present State of Ireland, 1596. This pamphlet is so unpleasant and so incendiary it was kept secret during Spenser’s lifetime. Spenser bought lands and an estate in Ireland; he was also present at the Smerwick Massacre of 1580, when a ridiculously small force of maybe five hundred Spanish and Italian troops first surrendered to and were then killed by English soldiers.

56 James inherited the Scottish throne, as the sixth king of that name, from his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. He was also a great-grandson of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret and inherited the English throne, as England’s first King James, from Elizabeth on her death.

57 Jeffrey Kahan, “Red Hair as a Sign of Jewry in Middleton’s Additions to Macbeth,” English Language Notes 40, no. 1 (September 2002).

58 Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (Oxford: Routledge, 2006).

59 In 1887, in the Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, you might read this: “Red hair is supposed to have a most malign influence, and has even passed into a proverb—‘Let not the eye of a red-haired woman rest upon you.’” Who is the writer? Some chauvinist Englishman? Some witch-hunting mittel-European cleric? No, it is Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, Irish mother of Oscar. More recently, in her thesis Sirens and Scapegoats: The Gendered Rhetoric of Red Hair, Emily Cameron Walker draws attention to the number of times the disgraced CEO of News International Rebekah Brooks was referred to in the English press as a red-haired witch during her trial in 2014. See

60 Quoted in C. Willet Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington, Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century (London: Faber, 1957): 1952–9.

61 Alf Hiltebeitel and Barbara D. Miller, Hair: Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures (New York: SUNY Press, 1998).

62 See

Chapter 5

63 Quoted in Margaret F. MacDonald and Patricia de Montfort, An American in London: Whistler and the Thames (London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd), 2013, which contains much useful information on Whistler and his relationship to Johanna Hiffernan or Heffernan, as she was also known.

64 Jennifer J. Lee, “Venus Imaginaria: Reflections on Alexa Wilding, Her Life, and Her Role as Muse in the Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti” (msaster’s thesis, University of Maryland, 2006).

65 Quoted in Henrietta Garnett, Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses (New York: Pan Macmillan, 2013).

66 Quoted in Leonard Shengold, If You Can’t Trust Your Mother, Who Can You Trust?: Soul Murder, Psychoanalysis, and Creativity (London: Karnac Books, 2013).

67 Quoted in Russell Ash, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995).

68 Quoted in Jennifer J. Lee, op. cit.

69 Béatrice Laurent, “Hidden Iconography in Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.” See

70 Anonymous review. Art Journal, June 1870, p. 164. Quoted in Linda Nead, “Representation, Sexuality and the Female Nude,” Art History 6, no. 2 (June 1983) 233–6.

71 To see The Knight Errant as it would originally have appeared, see the cunning reconstruction created by Martin Beek on flickr and displayed by

72 The same principle has been used in the cinema, too. There is the little girl in her red coat in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993); and the heroine, Lola, in Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1998), where her bright red head of hair becomes the pivot around which the film’s alternative scenarios rotate.

73 The name may also play on another meaning of the phrase in French, of an early spring moon before the last frosts had passed—deadly for young sprigs, just as Cora was to the young men she captivated, one of whom shot himself dead on her doorstep in despair. The character of Joséphine Karlsson in the French TV series Spiral—ruthless, manipulative, redhaired, and deadly—is another Lune Rousse.

74 Or, as the American humorist Mark Twain, a redhead himself, would put it in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889): “When red-headed people are above a certain social grade their hair is auburn.” Until the 1980s, red-haired Barbie dolls were also sold as “Titian.”

75 Hollywood was to create something of a meme around this in the 1920s with films such as The Cohens and the Kellys (1926) and Abie’s Irish Rose (1928).

76 See Ignatiev, op cit. Except of course that the word used wasn’t “black.”

77 The connection between the color red and the infernal is still being used today, in the Hell Boy comic book and film franchise, for example.

78 Anne was supposedly based on Evelyn Nesbit, a famous pin-up girl of the period, another onetime artists’ model, and the center, in 1906, of a world-famous scandal (dubbed the “Trial of the Century”) when her husband shot dead her lover, the renowned architect Stanford White, in Madison Square Garden. Notwithstanding, she was Montgomery’s inspiration.

79 A perfect example of why prejudice against red hair is so pernicious. Thanks to this business of there being no “cultural barriers,” no obvious visual difference between the victimizer and the victim, just as there are none between Rachel Lynde and Anne, it doesn’t look like the prejudice it is.

80 Following criticism of Barbie’s sexually mature face and figure, early versions of Midge were closer to the tomboy model, with freckles and a rounder face, in an attempt to make her (and Barbie) seem less adult. Midge today is rather more of a flame-haired siren than she was. The same freckles equals cute and wholesome theme is at work in the logo for the Wendy’s fast-food chain.

Chapter 6

81 Thanks to for this information, and many another fascinating insights into the history of scent.

82 Professor Sydney Brenner, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2002, created this hypothesis in 2011. In his words, “It forces you to keep going without losing your mind over mechanisms.” Metode, interview with Sydney Brenner,

83 Susan Irvine, The Perfume Guide (London: Haldane Mason, Ltd., 2000), 9. Opium, on me, for example, the notorious spice-bomb scent of the 1980s, smells like a cat that has just come back from the vet’s. If you want a scent created for redheads, and can find it, the Perfume Shrine blog recommends Patou’s “Adieu Sagesse,” created in 1925. It has a charming story and celebrates the throwing of caution to the winds in a love affair.

84 Many years ago I was propositioned by a colleague who was married to one redhead, in the midst of a torrid affair with another, and declared he had reserved a room at his club for the two of us. Even for me, this was redhead overload. Refusing his offer as graciously as I could, but nonetheless intrigued, I asked him what was this thing with him and redheads. He answered, somewhat sheepishly, “You smell different.”

85 From his collection of poems Les Fleurs du Mal (1857). Another poem from the same collection, “Delphine et Hippolyte,” was a part of the inspiration for Courbet’s The Sleepers.

86 The entirety can be found at

87 Briefly, your genotype is your genetic coding; your phenotype is a composite of that plus every other thing that acts on you to alter your observable characteristics.

88 A much-cited survey, conducted in 2006 by a Hamburg sex researcher, Dr. Werner Habermehl, appeared to suggest that redheaded women, at least in Germany, had a more active sex life than did those of other hair colors. Dr. Habermehl, however, confuses quantity with quality, which is a pretty startling error; for other issues with this survey see

89 William Hovgaard “The Norsemen in Greenland: Recent Discoveries at Herjolfsnes,” Geographical Review, 15, no. 4 (October 1925): 605–16.

90 A. W. C. Yuen and N. G. Jablonski, “Vitamin D in the Evolution of Human Skin Colour,” Medical Hypotheses, 74, no. 1 (January 2010): 39-44.

91 Intriguing in this context that redheaded men are reportedly much more likely than women to describe themselves with the mildly pejorative term “ginger.” Redheaded women are much more likely to describe themselves as “strawberry blonde.” See Eleanor Anderson, op. cit.

92 Margaret B. Takeda, Marilyn B. Helmo, and Natasha Romanova, “Hair Colour Stereotyping and CEO Selection in the UK,” Journal of Human Behaviour in the Social Environment, 13 (July 2006): 85-99.

93 Another anomaly of being a redhead: laser hair removal rarely works, if at all, on red hair on pale skin—the laser needs the dark color of eumelanin at the root of the hair in order to heat it and destroy it. Redheads are doomed to the lengthy and unpleasant process of electrolysis if they want permanent hair removal.

94 See

95 Thanks to Tim Wentel for this and many another point of information in this chapter.

96 Jonathan Rees and Thomas Ha, “Red Hair—A Desirable Mutation?,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 1, no. 2 (July 2002): 62–65.

97 Mutations on chromosomes 16 and 4 lead to brittle cornea syndrome 1 and 2, respectively. See

98 See

99 X. Gao, et al, “Genetic Determinants of Hair Color and Parkinson’s Disease Risk,” Annals of Neurology, 65, no. 1 (January 2009): 76–82; also C. Kennedy , et al., “Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) Gene Variants Are Associated with an Increased Risk for Cutaneous Melanoma Which Is Largely Independent of Skin Type and Hair Color,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 117, no. 2 (August 2001): 294–300.

100 G. Wyshak and R. E. Frisch, “Red Hair Color, Melanoma and Endometriosis: Suggestive Associations,” International Journal of Dermatology, 39, no. 10 (October 2000): 798.

101 Katy Sterling-Levis and Katrina Williams, “What Is the Connection between Red Hair and Tourette Syndrome?,” Medical Hypotheses, 73, no. 5 (November 2009): 849–853.

102 Quoted in Christopher Hollis, Eton: A History (London: Hollis and Carter, 1960), 291–2.

103 Leonard Shengold, op. cit., in his chapter on Swinburne makes a sympathetic and insightful case in his defense.

104 Wilde said of Swinburne that he was “a braggart in matters of vice, who had done everything he could to convince his fellow citizens of his homosexuality and bestiality without being in the slightest degree a homosexual or a bestialiser.”

105 See

106 Kerry R. Bolton, “Enigma of the Ngati Hotu,” Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology, 6, no. 2 (2010): 221–26.

107 Quoted in Kerry R. Bolton, op. cit.

Chapter 7

108 Vogue, “The Best Redheads,” July 2014. See

109 See

110 Fred E. Basten, Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012).

111 Barbara Leaming, If This Was Happiness (London: Sphere Books, 1990).

112 Quoted in Ruth Barton, op. cit.

113 Malcolm Gladwell, “True Colors,” The New Yorker, March 22, 1999. See

114 See Druann Maria Heckert and Amy Best, op. cit., for a more detailed discussion.

Chapter 8

115 Saul Feinman and George W. Gill, op. cit.

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