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After his death in battle at Nancy, Charles the Bold was found in a stream. He had been stripped of his armor, cloths, and jewels, and partially eaten by animals. His face was horribly mutilated and barely recognizable. His personal physician was chiefly able to identify him due to his hair color, long fingernails, and old battle scars.

Cursory googling suggests that while nail clippers are a fairly recent invention, nail trimming was nothing new.

Why did Charles the Bold carry such long fingernails that his stood out among those of his contemporaries?

To clarify the question, the latter link explains that since Antiquity is was common for nobility to exhibit long nails as a sign that they weren't working. My question is really about why his were so long that he stood out. Was it merely that he was one of the richest nobles in Europe at the time and made a point to have the longest (practical) fingernails around, or was there something else to it?

  • There existed a fashion, especially among nobility to grow long fingernails. The original motivation of this fashion was to show that a person has nothing no work to do with his own hands (all tasks are done by servants). The fashion persisted till 19th century among some noble people (or people who wanted to show their nobility). It still existed among women in some countries in 1960th. – Alex Aug 20 at 20:46
  • @Alex: Judging by female nail lengths today it is still a thing, but it seems more like a fashion thing. Or in the case of males, a lazy thing. Still, I'd agree to some extent based on the Tedium article I linked to. My question, though, is that even if we take that context as a given, why were they so long that they ended up being part of what set him apart enough to identify him. If it was only about setting oneself apart from lower classes, surely his noble peers had long nails too. Why were his legendarily long? – Denis de Bernardy Aug 20 at 21:07
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    Nobles need to perform daily weapons training, as part of their feudal duty; Sovereigns don't have to do this. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 20 at 21:20
  • @PieterGeerkens, I'd tend to believe your interpretation. So, at "lower" social status, non-"nobles" would show off long fingernails as demonstration that they had servants/slaves do everything. Then at a somewhat "higher" status, feudal nobles would indeed be required to (and thus idealized into "wanting" to) practice weapons and "arts of war". And, then at the "highest" status level, again the sovereign could demonstrate his yet-higher status... – paul garrett Aug 20 at 22:03
  • @PieterGeerkens: Might be. Though it's worth raising that he reputably loved warfare and that he was not mere on the battlefield but close enough to the melee action that he likely died of a halberd wound. If I'm not mistaking, it wasn't odd for high nobles to be full battle participants in the late middle ages. (Plus, he technically was a French vassal rather than a sovereign.) – Denis de Bernardy Aug 21 at 5:19

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