Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Elizabethan Quote of the Day: An Account of Queen Elizabeth from 1598

I recently came across a passage from Hentzner’s Travels, which captures in great detail a moment in time at Elizabeth’s court, toward the end of her reign. I have selected an excerpt, below, to share with you. While there are no portraits of Elizabeth as “old”-she had a fear of being perceived as such, and a monarch must never let her people think she was infirm or unfit to rule- this passage gives us the most accurate description of Elizabeth as a young mind, trapped in an elderly woman’s body. Presence was everything, and even at 65 with black teeth, she is still both beautiful and powerful.

Portrait Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I from 1590, by Nicholas Hilliard. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

"In the same hall were the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London, a great number of counselors of state, officers of the crown, and gentlemen, who waited the Queen’s coming out; which she did from her own apartment when it was time to go to prayers, attended in the following manner: First went gentlemen, barons, earls, knights of the Garter, all richly dressed and bare-headed; next came the chancellor, bearing the seals in a red-silk purse, between two: one of which carried the royal scepter, the other the sword of state, in a red scabbard, studded with golden Fleurs de Lis, the point upwards: next came the Queen, in the sixty-fifth year of her age, as we were told, very majestic; her face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked; her lips narrow, and her teeth black ( a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of sugar); she had in her ears two pearls, with very rich drops; she wore false hair, and that red; upon her head she had a small crown…Her bosom was uncovered, as all the English ladies have it till they marry; and she had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels; her hands were very small, her fingers long, and her stature neither tall nor low; her air was stately, her manner of speaking mild and obliging. That day she was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk, shot with silver threads; her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness; instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels. As she went along in all this state and magnificence, she spoke very graciously, first to one, then to another, whether foreign ministers, or those who attended for different reasons, in English, French and Italian.”
~From Hentzner’s Travels, 1598

            As you probably noticed, Elizabeth's dark, small eyes are mentioned, a trait she inherited from her mother. Her aquiline nose and wigs are also recorded. She would have been happy to know that her long fingers were being appreciated, as she was incredibly vain about them!

The Lord Chamberlain of England bears the Sword of State in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

The sword mentioned by Hentzner being carried in front of the Queen in a red scabbard is the Sword of State, or bearings sword. We have one at the museum where I work; it possibly belonged in the retinue of Henry IV or Henry V of England. It is an impressive weapon, meant to symbolize martial power and majesty, standing over 5ft tall! One will always be taken seriously with a bearing sword carried in front of them!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On this Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Queen Mary I of England

The head of the funeral effigy of Queen Mary I of England. In the effigy collection at Westminster Abbey. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan History, Queen Mary I died at the age of 42 with no issue. The tragedy of the many years of Mary I's ill health and phantom pregnancies was juxtaposed by the joy Elizabeth undoubtedly felt when she was declared the new queen. 

A side-by-side 17th century engraving of Mary I and Elizabeth I, courtesy of Inor19 on Flickr. Image public domain.

History tells us that when Elizabeth received the ring of her deceased sister, a symbol of her accession, she quoted scripture, declaring, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in out eyes". While some have said this statement was apocryphal, I do not doubt that Elizabeth said something of this nature when she realized that the danger had passed and she now had the opportunity to fulfill her destiny and serve her country.

"This oak tree was planted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 22nd July 1985, on the site of the original oak tree under which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I heard of her succession to the throne." Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Elizabeth survived to inherit the throne through a combination of intelligence, charisma, bravery, a keen understanding of politics, loyal supporters, and even to a certain extent the intervention of Mary's husband, Philip of Spain.

Elizabeth's coronation would take place on January 15th 1559; This glorious event was the very beginning of an iconic reign that would stabilize England and begin it on its path to the empire it would become in the 18th and 19th century.

Queen Elizabeth I's Coronation Portrait. The National Portrait Galley estimates this painting was created c. 1600, after an earlier version. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Among her many accomplishments, Elizabeth revitalized England's navy, though she would keep no standing army. Her moderate religious stance was revolutionary, and kept England from the religious wars and other conflicts that would devastate the kingdoms of the continent, and claim thousands of lives. Elizabeth would welcome and support religious refugees, nurture England's tradesmen and women, and as a result, the economy improved so that 16th century England could operate almost independently, more so than ever before. It should come as no surprise that there was also a rise in the lower and middle classes as a result. And Queen Elizabeth famously supported the arts, theatre, literature and pageantry, bringing her country into the Golden Age.

Every year from the 1570's onward, Elizabeth's Accession Day, or Queen's Day, was celebrated with an opulent tilt and other festivities in her honor. The English nobility was already at court in November for the beginning of the Christmas season, so the Tournament was held with all the pomp and circumstance it required.

Usually the Accession Day celebrations had a theme: Arthurian, Pastoral, or even the Classical Gods and Goddesses. The Queen's special champions in the tilt were Sir Henry Lee, commissioner of the famous Ditchley portrait, and George Clifford, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland, whose tournament armor now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland's stunning armor for the Tournament. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Todd Hoogerland. Image public domain.
A German visitor to England, Lupold von Wedel, wrote that at 12 o'clock, on September 17th:

"...the queen and her ladies placed themselves at the windows in a long room at [Whitehall] palace, near Westminster, opposite the barrier where the tournament was to be held...Many thousand spectators, men, women and girls got places...

During the whole time of the tournament all those who wished to fight entered the list by pairs, the trumpets being blown at the time and other musical instruments.The combatants had their servants clad in different colours, they, however, did not enter the barrier, but arranged themselves on both sides. Some of the servants were disguised like savages, or like Irishmen, with their hair hanging down to the girdle like women, others had hoses equipped like elephants, some carriages were drawn by men,others appeared to move by themselves; altogether the carriages were very odd in appearance.Some had their horses with them and mounted in full armour directly from the carriage. There were some who showed very good horsemanship and were also in fine attire.The manner of the combat each had settled before entering the lists. The costs amounted to several thousand pounds each.

When a gentleman with his servants approached the barrier, on horseback or in a carriage, he stopped at the foot of the staircase leading to the queen's room, while one of his servant's in pompous attire of a special pattern mounted the steps and addressed the queen in well-composed verses or with a ludicrous speech, making her and her ladies laugh. When the speech was ended he in the name of his lord offered to the queen a costly present..."

von Wedel went on to record the excitement of the joust in his observations of this clearly spectacular event.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Power has been restored! (electrical, not political!)

Dearest readers,

I am delighted to inform you that my power has finally been restored! I have Internet access at home now, not just at work, which means that I can catch up on my emails, my article writing, my tweeting and my posting!

I thank those of you who expressed concern for my well being from the bottom of my heart-you are far too kind!

"Living simply" didn't bother me one bit-in fact, I rather enjoyed it! My main concern was all of my animals (I have, I think, a million at last count!) and that they be warm. I went to great lengths to keep the Piggles (my beloved Guinea Pigs) and my rabbit warm. My cat was very distraught, but I think my dogs rather enjoyed all the cuddling under the blankets!

I am looking forward to sharing more with you soon. Also, I begin construction of a new Elizabethan dress shortly, and I will be documenting the process in my costuming page on this site. It will be a sort of educational "dress diary" if you will!

Also, I wanted to share with you a wonderful new post on Barbara Alexander's site, concerning Hollywood vs. History and how we should approach movies that fall short of our expectations...Read it HERE:



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Power Outage!

An extreme power outage in my state has taken me away from you for far too long! I have had no power since Saturday in my home, which heat, no electricity, no internet. It is by my relatives good graces that I have been able to cook hot food tonight, take a shower, check my email, and publish this brief post!

Please know that the "National Grid" (responsible for the nations power here in America) cannot promise any date for power anytime soon-the best estimate they can give me is noon by Thursday, but who knows?

I shall do my best to tweet in the mornings from my work computer before I am on the clock, and I hold out hope to get back to my emails, write articles, and interact with you soon.

In the meantime, I am getting in touch with my Nordic roots, burying perishables in the snow, lighting candles, and bundling up!

Stay Warm, dear readers!