The Portly Victorian Undertaker Who Launched the World’s First Low-Carb Craze
William Banting tried every 19th century weight-loss fad, from caustic laxatives to vapor shampoos. Polite society was shocked when he unveiled the method that finally worked.
In the fall of 1852, it seemed that all of London turned out in mourning dress for the funeral parade of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. The colossal procession, a long snake of black fabric, ostrich feathers and horseflesh, took four and a half hours to wind its way through the city streets, and no expense had been spared. Six thousand new gaslights were installed at St. Paul’s Cathedral for the occasion, and the body of the “Iron Duke” was carried on an ornate 10-ton funeral car studded with spears and streamers, his corpse nested in four coffins of pine, oak, lead and mahogany. Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington” sold like hotcakes for a shilling a copy, according to Cornelia D.J. Pearsall’s “Burying the Duke,” as a million people crowded roads and upper floors to catch a glimpse of the procession.
It was not just a funeral — it was an event. And it was all thanks to William Banting, a well-to-do London cabinetmaker and undert…
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