Friday, April 27, 2012

Photo Friday: Loseley Park

Loseley Park, a Tudor manor completed in 1568. 

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Death for Beauty?

Today I was reading about the powerful Diane de Poitiers, favorite mistress of Henry II of France, and enemy of Catherine de Medici (but then again, who wasn't?). Diane was known for her stunning beauty and youthful looks. But did you know that she was 20 years older than her lover?

But how did she rise to such power, and have the ability to hold the attentions of a King so much younger than herself? Diane served several of King Francois I's Queens, and became a member of the King's inner circle. In 1525, Francois was captured by Charles V's troops. His ransom? A trade for his two sons, Henri and Francois. Upon leaving France for captivity in Spain, Henri was apparently kissed goodbye by the lovely Diane. In 1530, the two boys were finally returned to France. It is thought that Diane was appointed by Francois I to teach his son Henri courtly manners, as his education had greatly suffered during his captivity. In 1533, Henri married Catherine de Medici. However, around 1538 he took on a mistress; Diane.

Despite Catherine's great jealousy of Diane, the mistress tried to help. Henri wasn't very interested in his new bride, and much preferred spending his time with Diane. However, she insisted he pay proper respect (and time) to his wife. However, Catherine remained jealous. It is hard not to blame her for her jealousy. Diane was Queen in all but name. She oversaw the King's childrens' education, held the crown jewels, and, obviously, the King's great love and affection.

The love triangle continued until Henri's death in 1559. Catherine finally got her revenge by banishing Diane from the King's bedside, despite his pleading for her. Once he died, Diane was banished from court, though she lived in comfort on her estates for the rest of her life. Even upon her death at 66, spectators remarked on her strikingly youthful appearance.

Her secret? Drinking gold.

However, I don't recommend this remedy. Though she looked stunning until her death in 1566, her excessive gold consumption seems to have killed her. In 2009, her bones were identified and found to be extremely fragile and containing large amounts of gold. It does not make sense that her bones would be so fragile, as she lived an extremely healthy lifestyle (which probably contributed greatly to her youthful appearance, despite her love for gold drink). She was an avid hunter and, uncommon for a woman of her time, went for daily runs, swims, and baths. She also stuck to a strict diet, not indulging in the fine foods of court. This added up to keep her youthful appearance throughout her life. It was commented that, though 20 years older than the King, they looked the same age.

So why drink gold, if one is so healthy? Alchemy was all the rage in the Medieval and Renaissance world. Often times, alchemists would also serve as apothecaries. Henry VIII himself dappled in it, creating elixirs to rid his favorites (and himself) of ill humors. Gold was (and still is) considered the most valuable of metals. It was also, for the Kings of France, a symbolic link to the Sun. Thus, it is no surprise that the King's mistress, who would have had the very best of everything, would drink gold. It is highly likely that the King himself partook of gold elixirs. However, Diane seems to have taken it to the next level.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author Post and Giveaway

There is an author guest post by Robert Parry on his novel the Virgin and the Crab as well as a giveaway at The Tudor Book Blog! Be sure to check it out!
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Artifact Monday: Mary, Queen of Scots Embroidery

 This panel, depicting an elephant, is among several done by Mary, Queen of Scots and her attendants during her captivity in England. This panel dates from about 1570. It is currently held and the V&A.

Read more about it here.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Photo Friday: Fulham Palace

The former home of the Bishop of London, Fulham Palace is now a museum with an extensive Botanical Garden. The site dates back to the Middle Ages, and housed the Bishop of London until 1975.

Look closely; the brickwork is lovely!
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fashion or Flop? Elizabeth Brydges

Here we see Lady Elizabeth wearing an elegant black gown, covered in a silver damask pattern. Her dress is topped with a large lace ruff and accented with gold trim and jewelry. She couldn't decide which broach to wear, so wore three in her hair, one of her ruff, and three on her dress.

What think ye? An overkill flop or true fashion?
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Katherine of Aragon?

This portrait, mistakenly identified as Catherine Parr, is now said to be Katherine of Aragon. compared to other portraits of her, there are many similarities. What do you think of it compared to this well known portrait of Katherine?

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fashion or Flop? King James VI and I

It wouldn't be Stuart Week without deciding if King James was a trend setter or flopper. Here we see James in a simple white doublet and hoses, accented with black and silver trousers. He wears a large chain of estate, set off with gold and black jewels. He finishes his ensemble with a black, gold, and silver cloak and delicate black shoes, accented with silver and pearls. What think ye? Fashion or Flop?


How does he compare to his predecessor?
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Pocahontas: Indian Princess, English Lady

Pocahontas around 1616.
She is attired in English Garb.
Pocahontas has captured the minds of people from her initial "discovery" in the New World. She has been portrayed as a beautiful Indian Princess, in love with a captured English soldier, and later persuaded into marrying a different English gentlemen and living her days in England, far from her people and home.

But how true is this?

Pocahontas was originally named Matoaka, and was daughter to the powerful Chief of the Powhatans, Wahunsenachawh. She was born around 1595 and lived in Virginia.

The most famous story relating to her is that she rescued John Smith. Smith was an English sailor and soldier. He lead the Virginia Colony (including Jamestown) between 1608 and 1609.

In 1607, Smith was captured by the Powhatans and brought to Werowoconoco, the capital of the Powhatan tribe. There, he claimed to have been brought before the chief and nearly executed, but that "at the minute of my execution, [Pocahontas] hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown."
John Smith
This story has been debated for centuries. Many believe that Smith made the whole thing up. In his original account of his capture, he does not mention this event nor Pocahontas. Rather, he described the incident several years later when writing to Queen Anne. In the 19th Century, new stories were written showing a romantic link between Smith and Pocahontas. However, Smith never made such claims, nor did any appear in writings of the time.

What is true about the story is that Pocahontas did befriend Smith and helped save the Jamestown settlement. It was said that "every once in four or five days, Pocahontas with her attendants much provision that saved many of their lives that else for all this had starved with hunger."

In 1613, Pocahontas was captured by the settlers and held for ransom. By this time, Smith has left for England due to an injury. The Indians were told he was dead. War between the tribe and settlers had been going on for several years as the Indians felt their land was being encroached on. For a year, Pocahontas lived with the settlers. When she was finally allowed to return to her people, she refused and stayed with the English.

Pocahontas in "The New World."
During her captivity, Pocahontas met a tobacco farmer named John Rolfe. Rolfe was recently widowed, having lost his wife and child on the journey to Virginia. It is apparent that he deeply loved Pocahontas, though had scruples about marrying "a heathen." In a letter he claimed he was "motivated not by the unbridled desire of carnal affection...[but] namely Pocahontas, to whom my hearty and best thoughts are..." Pocahontas converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca.

Portrait thought to be
of Pocahontas and her son.
The couple married in 1616 and lived in Henricus for two years. They had one child, a son named Thomas Rolfe, in 1615. The marriage brought peace for a time between the warring Settlers and Indians.

In 1616 the family traveled to England. Smith learned of their arrival and asked the Wueen to welcome Pocahontas as a royal visitor. The couple were invited to a masque the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall. She was warmly welcomed, though due to James I's unimposing nature, did not realize she had met the King until later.

In 1617, the couple attempted to return to Virginia. However, Pocahontas died of unknown causes and was buried near Gravesend, Kent in England.

The Pocahontas Archive
Women's History in Virginia - Pocahontas 
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ladies of Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil
Robert Cecil is probably best known for smoothly paving the way for James to take the throne of England after Elizabeth's death. He is usually portrayed as a cold and unctuous hunchback, who cares only for his own advancement, often at the expense of others. One contemporary source described him as,
"A slight, crooked, hump-backed young gentleman, dwarfish in stature, but with a face not irregular in feature, and thoughtful and subtle in expression, with reddish hair, a thin tawny beard, and lear, pathetic greenish-colored eyes, with a mind and manners already trained to courts and cabinets, and with a disposition almost ingenuous..."
However, I have a bit of gossip for you today which might paint a new picture of Cecil for you. How about one of him as the lover?

Shocking, I know. However, there is strong evidence that Cecil had at least two affairs with notable ladies at the Tudor and Stuart court.

The first is Katherine Knyvet, Countess of Suffolk. Katherine was known at court for her great beauty. She was also known to be a bit of a trollop. Her string of affairs were said to have included Robert Cecil. Her husband, Sir Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, seems to have turned a blind eye to the affairs, though she used his influence to gain favors for her lovers. Katherine bore twelve children, all of whom her husband claimed as his. No one may ever know if they all were or not.

Katherine Knyvet
Katherine was marred by small pox in 1619, yet she continued to hold great influence at court. Her husband served as the King's Treasurer until 1619 when he and Katherine were tried for misconduct, including accepting bribes. They were found guilty (with Katherine taking the majority of the blame) and banished from court.

As stated before, there is little evidence to support an affair with Robert Cecil. However, considering she was one of the most notorious women of James' court, and Robert one of the most despised, it is no surprise the two were linked.

Lady Audrey (sometimes referred to as Ethelred) Walsingham, was wife of Thomas Walsingham and Mistress of the Robes to Queen Anne of Denmark. She was a close friend of the Cecils, which sparked rumors that she and Robert had an affair. In 1608, William Cecil (Robert's son) and Katherine Howard (Katherine Knycert's daughter) were married in Audrey's lodgings.  She was well liked, with the continuation of Marlowe's Hero and Leander by George Chapman being dedicated to her.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that Robert Cecil had affairs with these two women. However, they had some sort of relationship, enough so to incite rumors. With the description above, I wouldn't be surprised if he did have affairs. He was certainly an intelligent and charming man, which would have certainly made him attractive, even if he had a slight physical deformity. If affairs did take place, I would like to know how he became entangled with two so very different women as Katherine and Audrey. 
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fashion or Flop? Lady Morton

Here we see Ann Wortley, Lady Morton wearing a burnt orange silk gown. It is accented with orange lace embroidery, and white lace cuffs and frill. The Lady's hair and accent frill and jewels are very reminiscent of the late Queen Elizabeth. Her dress is scandalously short, revealing a wee bit of her delicate slipper.

What think ye? Did the Jacobeans continue in fashion, or flop?

*Note: This is one of two "Fashion or Flops?" this week. I am also posting about Jacobean fashion later this week! Stay tuned.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tudor Tart: Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset

Frances Carr was daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk and Catherine Knyvett. In 1604, she was married to Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex and son of Elizabeth I's ill-fated favorite. She was 15, her husband 14. The two were separated immediately after their marriage so it could not be consummated. This was a common practice when the couple were deemed too young (I find it interesting that they were too young to consummate, but not too young to marry). The marriage was, thus, doomed from the start. When the two were allowed to consummate, Devereux found he could not. By this time, his little wife had already found another she liked better. Robert Carr, 1st earl of Somerset was the favorite of the new King. He and Frances had fallen madly in love and wanted to marry. Because Devereux was unable to perform, Frances claimed impotency and demanded a divorce.

Why couldn't he perform? Rumors abounded that Frances was slipping him herbs that prevented it. Others stated that he was "bewitched." During the divorce proceedings, it was seriously debated whether he should be sent to Poland to be "unwitched!" Regardless, Carr had the ear of the King. James intervened and the divorce went through.

In the mean time, Carr's closest friend, Thomas Overbury, was loudly protesting the match. He claimed that his friend could do better. He saw Frances as immodest and loose of morals. However, Frances had a few tricks up her sleeve. During the divorce proceedings, the King had Overbury imprisoned in the Tower. The charge? He refused to take a post as ambassador to Russia. He felt his friend needed his support in England. The truth? Carr wanted to marry Frances, and really just wanted his friend to be silent. With her powerful connections, Frances had the Lord Lieutenant of the Tower replaced with one of her supporters.

Curiously, Overbury died in the Tower. The divorce was finalized soon after.

Rumors abounded that Frances had had Overbury poisoned. Despite this, Carr and Frances married in Dec. of 1613. The two were soon arrested on suspicion of murder. Carr proclaimed his innocence. Frances, however, admitted a small part in the crime. She was convicted of murder, but spared execution. Why was the King so lenient? Some think he had a part in the murder, too. He apparently resented Overbury, with one witness saying that James "hath long had a desire to remove him from about [Carr], as thinking it a dishonour to him that the world should have an opinion that [Carr] ruled him and Overbury ruled [Carr]." Both Carr and She were pardoned and finally released from the Tower in 1622. They lived happily together.  

With the evidence in, what think ye? Was Frances an innocent woman, whose only crime was to be stuck in a loveless marriage, easily becoming a scapegoat for a jealous King's will? Or was she a loose woman, who would stop at nothing, including murder, to get what she wanted?

Fraser, Antoina. The Weaker Vessel.
Lindley, David. The Trials of Frances Howard
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Stuart Week Updates

Hi guys! I'm currently on a much needed vacation until Wednesday. I am having some technical difficulties getting some posts up. Today I am only posting the Artifact Monday and tomorrow the Tudor Tart. However, I will be making up the rest of the posts (and adding a few extras such as a Fashion or Flop) Wednesday thru Sunday! Thanks for your patience and understanding!

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Artifact Monday: Embroidered Jacket of Margaret Laton

This beautifully embroidered jacket once belonged to Margaret Laton. Though it is a stunning example of Jacobean workmanship, it was actually considered casual wear. It, and a portrait of Margaret wearing it, are both preserved at the V&A.

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