The Coronation of Mary II and William III

As the semester winds down, I find myself in a familiar position: avoiding the work I need to do by any means necessary. In the spirit of my current mood and my interest in iconography and ideology, here are some images and much commentary on the coronation of Mary and William.


As we know, Mary and William were crowned as joint-monarchs in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on 11 April 1689. An interesting note, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who typically presides over the coronation, refused to do so because he continued to support James II. So for this coronation, the bishop of London crowned the new queen and king (things like this happened several times in the Middle Ages, but there would often be a second coronation done with the AB of Canterbury for sake of continuity and because of fears over the illegitimacy of the ceremony). Above you can see wax models of Mary and William, as they can be seen in the museum of Westminster Abbey. A new museum is currently under construction and is to be opened in 2018 as part of the ongoing Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Elizabeth II.


King Edward’s Chair (or St. Edward’s Chair or the Coronation Chair) has been used for the coronation of English (and British later on) since Edward II, with the exceptions of Edward V and Edward VIII, both of whom were not crowned. Oddly enough, Mary II was not crowned in the chair as well. A second chair was constructed before the coronation for Mary to sit in. The chair currently resides in the museum of Westminster Abbey, but I cannot find a picture of it. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside the Abbey (I had to check my bag when I visited several years ago), so I haven’t even been able to find a picture someone took with their iPhone. From what I’ve read, the chair supposedly looks just like the coronation chair above. I would hazard the guess that it probably did not have a space beneath it like the chair above.


I wasn’t wrong! I found this when I was wrapping up the post. Its a nineteenth century drawing of the coronation chair used by Mary.


I promise I won’t go on too many tangents (hopefully), but here is a picture of the coronation chair with the Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny). The Stone was taken by Edward I after his “conquest” (however temporary it ended up being) of Scotland in 1296. It was the stone chair (for lack of a better way of putting it) used for the coronation of the kings of Scotland. There is plenty of mythology (or history depending on who you ask) related to the Stone, with one legend claiming that it is the Stone of Jacob as described in the book of Genesis. Legend says that the stone was carried to Ireland in c. 700 CE and that sometime between 700 and 840 it was brought to Scotland during an invasion by the Celtic Scots (Irish). King Edward’s Chair was built on the command of Edward I to house the Stone of Scone, with the intended purpose of the Stone being incorporated into coronation regalia for the English king. Indeed, it reinforced Edward’s consolidation of the British Isles into one crown, a goal that he nearly completed on one island if it weren’t for Mel Gibson and FRREEEEDDDOOOMMMM! The Stone was removed in 1996 and it was returned to Scotland to be kept at Edinburgh Castle, only to be removed for future coronations.


It was a pretty serious affair.


Lucky there is not a rabbit hole for me to fall down this time in terms of crowns. For the coronation of Mary and William there is no mention of the use of St. Edward’s Crown. Instead, some of the sources state that they wore their pair of imperial state crowns. A second crown, then, was either used from a previous queen (perhaps the consort of James II?) or a new crown imperial state crown was made for one or both of the new monarchs. The image above is a printing of an engraving made in 1689 by the Dutch artist Romeyn de Hooghe. Here we can see two crowns, both similar in look, though Mary’s is notably smaller.


Here we have Mary, and you can see in the background a crown. Again, it’s fairly small. Also, note the orb that she has her hand on: more on that later!


Above is William in his kingly attire. The crown in this portrait is pretty prominent, and as you can see is much larger than the crown in the portrait of Mary above it. If I were to make a guess, I would say that the crown depicted here is the imperial state crown, mostly due to the similarity between it and the current imperial state crown used by Elizabeth II. Again, I’m resisting the temptation to go back down the trail of crowns.



If you scrolled through my first post on the Crown Jewels, you’ll recognize this piece (if you didn’t, I don’t blame you: it was long and complicated). This is the head of the specter made for Mary to use during the coronation.


There is also a specter used during the coronation that has a dove, but as you can see, there is a pretty clear difference between the one above and the one commissioned for Mary.


Here is the specter of the sovereign, or in this case William. As I mentioned in my previous post, the diamond was added later, but the object itself dates back to the coronation of Charles II. Note the difference between the specter now and the one we can see in the portrait of William above.


Next we have the orb that was made for Mary.


Here is the orb used for the sovereign. Again, the difference it pretty apparent.


Interestingly enough, there was a set of coronation regalia made for the wife of James II, Mary of Modena. They were made for the coronation of James and Mary in 1685. The pieces are still in use and presented during the Queen Consort during the coronation ceremony. The last time they were used was for the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth (more affectionally known as the Queen Mother) in 1936. The distinction that is being made her is rather interesting and distinct. Rather than use the regalia of the queen consort, it was decided (I don’t know by whom) that a second set of regalia should be made for Mary.

447378-1392819240To further support my claim that a crown was commissioned for Mary, above is the diadem made for Mary of Modena to be used at the coronation in 1658. Considering this, the state imperial crown said to have been worn by Mary was most likely commissioned specifically for her. Indeed, the state imperial crown would have been worn at all state occasions, such as the opening of Parliament, in which case both Mary and William would need crowns as displays of their regality.


From what I’ve been reading, it seems like the joint coronation ma have been a compromise on all sides. I feel like this is probably part of the older historiography Prof. Rabin mentioned in class regarding Mary, but there seems to be some suggestion that she had no intention of reigning on her own, with one source (I’m not convinced of the validity) claiming that Mary wanted William to rule solely as king regent. I haven’t done enough research to say anything related to this, but I would be interested in hearing more about it if anyone has some information they would like to share. Nudge nudge, Prof. Rabin.

I hope you all have enjoyed these types of posts. Its a fun break for me and hopefully interesting for you. Now back to my work…

A Medieval Trope and Medieval Connections in “The English Civil War”

“The long catalogue starts at ‘the beginning of His Majesty’s reign’, in 1625, when Charles was aged twenty-four. The king himself is not blamed for them. At this stage the conventions of deference still persuaded MPs to attribute misrule to evil advisors and conspirators around the monarch.” (Worden, 5-6)

“The king was in the meantime at Westminster, where he attended the conference on the image_flores_open_large9th of October, as he had promised the nobles, in order to consult with them as to the reforms necessary to be made in the kingdom; but the evil advise which he followed presented this being carried out…The bishops, on hearing these words, as if with one voice threatened to excommunicate by name the principal amongst these evil advisors of the king…” (Roger Wendover, Flores Historiarum, 572)

As some of you may know, I recently defended my MA thesis, part of which focused on the influence the Second Barons War (1258-1265)  had on national identity in thirteenth-century England. In many ways, the English Civil War reflects many of the issues at stake in the Second Barons War, most notably issues of ancient laws and customs (referring to the “good laws” of the Anglo-Saxon past), the prerogative of the king in matter of finance, and the king’s ability to select his own advisors. The parallels for me are almost too incredible and familiar, a point which I would like to stress in this blog post.

A common trope in medieval history was indirect criticism of the king through complaint targeted at his advisors. There are a few practical reasons to do this: one, to avoid personally offending the king, an act that could cause WLA_vanda_Cast_of_Tomb_Effigy_Henry_IIIloss of favor and royal patronage; another is to avoid breaching what I will call the king’s “majesty,” or in other words criticizing the institution itself, the physical embodiment of the people and nation (in most cases those two things were one and the same). In my MA thesis I call this idea into question to a degree. Scholars have often taken any criticism of the king’s advisors to mean criticism or personal grievance towards the king himself. Indeed, they suggest that the advisors were mere scapegoats for the actual inadequacy and incompetence of the king. However, as I point out, in the case of Henry III it appears as though the evils attributed to Henry’s advisors came be seen in both lights. In fact, the nobles seeking amends for injustices done on the part of the royal government are both levied against the misconduct of royal advisors (as illustrated above in the second quote) and the king’s reliance on them. In this case, I make the argument that the nobles were careful to aim their attacks at Henry’s advisors, in part to be careful not to implicate the king himself, the embodied nation, in unlawful behavior. Along with this, the nobles are also critical of the king’s reliance on such men, prompting a call by a group of reformist barons to question the prerogative of the monarch to appoint and maintain his own council.

It seems to me that the opponents of Charles in Parliament in the 1620s may have been doing the same thing. If we are to follow the narrative given by our textbook and Worden, and indeed believe that there were no calls for complete reform and change to monarchial prerogatives, then the MPs may have been conscious not to go against the grain of the social order and to implicate the king personally in the misrule of his kingdom. In this case, what would be the benefits to separate the misrule of the kingdom from Charles and place the blame on his advisors? One possible explanation could be the age of the king, though I am a bit dubious. Charles was 24 when he came to the throne, and while he was not very old, he certainly was not all that young. For example, Henry III came to the throne at the age of 9 and the English kingdom was overseen by a regency council (the composition of which and change of said composition over time is another discussion entirely) until he declared his minority over at the age of 17. Henry continued to Peter_des_Roches__2be heavily influenced by his advisors, the most prominent of which, Peter des Roches (effigy pictured), had been one of the original thirteen entrusted by King John to oversee the minority of Henry. The sources indicate (Flores Historiarum among them) that Henry was often chastised in public by his advisors, even into his maturity, and public acknowledged to have often been under the thumb of those who were supposed to advisor but ultimately execute the will of the king.

Here is where we get an interesting parallel, though. As we know, Charles was profoundly influenced by his father’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, and his hatred was so prominent that he was assassinated in 1628. Was it that Buckingham proved to be the perfect scapegoat for the misdeeds of Charles or was there perhaps something to the evil advisor corrupting the king? As things turned out, though, the impetus of the English Civil tumblr_niyrhlpZLG1r65o3qo2_1280War perhaps can be better attributed, at least in part, to the personality of Charles himself and not to his evil advisors. In the case of Henry III, however, the nobility refused throughout the baronial reforms of the 1250s and civil wars in the 1260s to personal implicate the came himself for the misrule of the kingdom, but rather continued to lay the blame on his advisors, who they viewed as the true source of corruption and injustice. A reading of the events and the responses of Henry himself suggests that he was fully aware of choses that he made, and indeed even that he used the scapegoat of his advisors as a way to placate the nobility while he maneuvered to consolidate his own power.

I had intended to talk a little bit about the use of medieval “ancient” laws and customs in the rhetoric leading up to the English Civil War (and knowing me and my problem with brevity, it would have been a lengthy discussion), but I will save that for another blog post if people are interested in reading about it.


Bewitching the Body of Anne Gunter

“Pins figured prominently in the evidence of this group of witnesses. John Prideaux said she had pins buried in her breast, but that she did not bleed when they were pulled out. William Helme saw pins in the ends of Anne’s toes and so many in her breast that it was ‘as if it had been pinpillow’; he agreed that Anne did not bleed when these pins were removed.” (103)the-bewitching-of-anne-gunter-700x700-imadzjyjanmzzktq

As I mentioned in class several weeks ago when we discussed The Bewitching of Anne Gunter, the “bewitching” of Anne’s body perhaps was the most striking thing of the account. Indeed, the abandonment of modesty and the protection of family status and dignity on the part of Brian Gunter was incredibly shocking and may indicate his overall commitment to the ruse. It may also indicate the level of power a male figure had over the body of his female subordinate (it pains me to describe it in these terms), and how in one out of many ways Anne was seemingly a subaltern throughout most of her story.

For me, it also brings up the question of public humiliation and even the public spectacle of Anne’s bewitching. Without a doubt it seem that there is a performative quality to the bewitching and the participation of the individuals involved. That is not to say that we should divorce ourselves of the idea that the contemporaries understood a world inflected by witchcraft. It does seem like a suspicious construct, though, given the narrative of Anne’s bewitching and social motives behind it. Might we consider this, then, a social performance? (Full disclosure: I’m not even sure I know what that might mean).

The Crown Jewels

The British Crown Jewels have a long, complicated, and at points, confusing history. Indeed, despite the claim that the coronation crown (St. Edward’s Crown) was destroyed during the English Republic (or Commonwealth) in the mid-seventeenth century, there is little evidence to substantiate that the crown originally belonged to St. Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, or that it had even existed for more than a couple of centuries. The first reference to “St. Edward’s Crown” was recorded in 1220 at the second coronation of Henry III. William the Conqueror wore a crown suggested to have been the same that Edward the Confessor wore. However, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, while noting that William wore a crown at least three times a year to illustrate and reinforced his kingliness, gives no indication that the crown had belonged to his predecessor. Perhaps, and this is my own conjecture, those who continued the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle may have actively sought to disassociate St. Edward’s Crown with William with the desire not to add legitimacy to his reign.

While this is not conclusive, depictions of the crown worn by both Edward the Confessor and William I look nearly identical. Both of the following images are from the Bayeux Tapestry.

1280px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene1_EDWARD_REXThis first image is Edward the Confessor (Edward Rex: King Edward).

williamcrownedIt is a little difficult to see, but it appears as though William is wearing the same crown that Edward was in the previous picture. The most significant differences is size and the inversion of color: William’s crown is dark, but this was most likely done because of his blond hair, as depicted in the tapestry.

This is a drawing of William II, son and successor of William I, from a manuscript of Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum. Here, again, the crown looks similar.


This is a drawing of the next English king, Henry I, from the same manuscript. Once again, there is continuity in look. It is important to note, however, that Matthew Paris composed his chronicle in the mid-thirteenth-century, more than a hundred years after the reigns of William II and Henry I.


In this twelfth-century depiction of Henry II, we can see a difference from the illustrations made by Matthew Paris. Here Henry, and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, are both wearing crowns more similar in style, with outward flair, to those depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.


Once again, though, we have a difference in style shown with Henry II and Eleanor’s effigies (more tombs!). While difficult to see in this picture, the crown does not have the similar flair as shown above, but appears to be more similar the style from Paris’s chronicle. There are several explanation, and given more time I might be able to research and come up with a more definitive one: several crowns were commissioned by different monarchs in the Middle Ages. Indeed, this has continued to be fairly common, even into the twentieth-century. Records of the crowns, especially those commissioned and owned independently by the monarch, are ambiguous and often do not provide more of an explanation than a chancery record that states “a crown of Henry II” in an inventory list (sometimes such mentions are also made in wardrobe records).


In the coronation image of Henry III from a late-thirteenth to early fourteenth century manuscript, the coronation crown again resembles the one worn by Edward the Confessor in the Bayeux Tapestry. An interesting twist happens here. It is rumored that King John, the father of Henry III, lost the original crown of St. Edward (presumably he did the modern equivalent of pawning it and never making good on the loan). For the first coronation of Henry in 1216, some sources indicate that a circlet of some sort was used during the ceremony. This was indeed a true departure from tradition: it was thought that every king since William I had St. Edward’s Crown placed on their head during the coronation in Westminster Abbey. However, there are claims that the crown was hidden away in Westminster abbey and was used for the coronation of Henry VIII.


This drawing, from Flores Historiarum, a manuscript compiled at St. Albans monastery during the thirteenth-century (Matthew Paris wrote one continuation of it) Edward I is shown wearing what appears to be the same crown as his father in the image above it.


This is an early fourteenth-century manuscript showing the coronation of Edward II. The crown is again similar. My treatment of St. Edward’s Crown so far as been a little extensive, but I want to provide a fair amount of illustrations to show how the crown had been depicted, especially from the reign of Henry III on because it is not until then that the coronation crown was explicitly named “St. Edward’s Crown.” I’ll go ahead and move on to some later examples, and maybe even include some of the other crown jewels!


Henry VI is shown here wearing the “coronation crown” in a fifteenth-century manuscript. The crown appears a little different, but the style continues to be similar.


Here is Edward IV with a similar looking crown for his coronation.




Henry_VII_groatI have not been able to find a drawing or painting of Henry VII wearing a crown, let alone the coronation crown. However, I was able to find an image of a coin issued during his reign which shows Henry wearing a crown with arches. Such crowns were popular since the Middle Ages, with the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor, dating from perhaps the eleventh-century, having a single hoop or arch. By the fifteenth-century, the style of the monarch’s secondary crown, a state crown, changed to include two arches, representing the “imperial” power and authority of the English king. (More on the Imperial State Crown below, along with the confusion it causes).

Holy_Roman_Empire_Crown_(Imperial_Treasury)2I have read that William I had a crown made that resembled the one above, but I have never been able to find a drawing of it. It could be that I have not looked hard enough. But from what I can find, it seems that the style of the crown, and even the coronation crown, changed during the Tudor period.HVIIIcoronation_450x299Here is an illustration of the coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. It is difficult to really make it out well, but the coronation crown appear to be in the same style as the one worn by Henry VII above. Indeed, there is some conjecture that the crown the last two pictures was commissioned by with Henry VII or VIII. If that is true, the crown worn by Henry VIII may very well have been the crown stripped of its jewels and melted down under Oliver Cromwell. 08henry8Here we have Henry VIII in all of his regal gloriousness, obviously later in life. I do not have a date or artist for the portrait. The painting is of a similar look to other portrait made during his reign or shortly after, so I will hazard the guess that it may be a fair depiction of Henry and his crown.

Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robesDuring the reign of Elizabeth I we see a couple different depicted of crowns. In the image above, the coronation crown is said to have been the crown commissioned by Henry VIII for the coronation of Anne Boyle. Anne is the only Queen Consort to be crowned with St. Edward’s Crown (or Henry VIII’s crown), but she complained of the weight, a gripe of modern monarchs with the recreation, so a light crown was made for her to wear at the events following the ceremony. elizabeth_i_armada_portrait_british_schoolThis is a portrait we are already familiar with: Elizabeth following the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Here the crown is different, perhaps Henry’s or St. Edward’s Crown. To me, it looks quite a bit different from the crown shown in the portrait of late-life Henry. Again, though, the crown very well may have been modified for Elizabeth.

800px-James_I_of_England_404446James I is shown above, wearing a crown that looks very similar to the one in the second portrait of Elizabeth I. Again, the crown may have been very heavily modified for James. charles-i-king-of-england-1636Here is another familiar portrait, the one I showed in class on Tuesday. We can see, rather faintly, the crown in the background, again looking similar to the crown shown in the portraits of Elizabeth and James.


St. Edward’s Crown was stripped of its jewels and melted down during the English Republic under Oliver Cromwell. Likewise, all of the jewels made of precious metals, aside from the gold Anointing Spoon, were melted down and/or sold. Three steel swords (the swords of Temporal Justice, of Spiritual Justice, and of Mercy) also survived.


Above is the Anointing Spoon and the Ampulia, which contains the holy oil used to anoint kings and queens of England (they are both still in use). The spoon dates to the thirteenth-century, making it the oldest surviving piece of royal regalia.


Here is another image of the Anointing Spoon.


Above is the Sword of Temporal Justice, dated to c. 1600. There is debate as to whether it was added in the reign of James I or Charles I. Such a sword has been used in the coronation ceremony from the reign of Richard I to the present day. It is also carried before the monarch by the Earl Marshal at the opening of Parliament.


Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, St. Edward’s Crown was recreated for the coronation of Charles II. It is said that some of the gold from the original crown was added to the gold cast for the recreation. The modifications of the coronation crown are much easier to track after the restoration, and there does not appear to be any doubt that the same base (or perhaps gold) has been used for the reforming or modifications of St. Edward’s Crown.


Above is the St. Edward’s Crown. As you can see, it has been pretty significantly changed over the last four centuries. The cap has been changed a number of times (it is now purple, instead of red).


Here is another picture, so you can get a little more of a sense of the details. It is rather stunning.


Many other pieces of regalia were recreated for the coronation of Charles II. One such piece is the Sovereign’s Orb.


Another object is one of two scepters, the first of which is with a cross.The scepter has seen many alterations, but the most notable was done in the early twentieth century when the Star of Africa (large diamond) was inserted.


The second is mounted with a dove. The first represents the sovereigns temporal rule, and the second his/her spiritual rule.


Above is perhaps the most iconic piece in the Crown Jewels collection, the Imperial State Crown. St. Edward’s Crown was and still is used only for coronations. Once again, we now hit another point of confusion. A “State Crown,” for lack of a better term, was used by monarchs throughout the Middle Ages, with many references to the “everyday” crown also named St. Edward’s Crown. Indeed, the crown used for coronations was regarded as a holy relic, so it stayed in the sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, where the rest of the crown jewels were also kept. In the early fourteenth-century after a few instances of theft, the crown jewels were moved to the Tower of London. This has caused a bit of difficulty in determining what actually might have happened to the original crown: did John lose it in the thirteenth-century or was it lost sometime after the fourteenth? Deans of Westminster Abbey have claimed that the original crown, along with some pieces of the regalia, were held in the Treasury of Westminster, but no records have ever been shown to prove them. The sapphire on the circlet portion of the crown is said to have belonged to Edward the Confessor, an additional connection to the revered Anglo-Saxon saint-king.


We have a problem then. The crown shown in the picture above, and the others from the Tudor era forward, may very well be the Tudor Imperial State Crown, not St. Edward’s. If St. Edward’s Crown was indeed only used for coronations, and not for portraits, we may not have any illustrations at all depicting the original coronation crown. Monarchs, past and present, have complained about the weight of St. Edward’s Crown, and prefer to wear it for the shortest time possible following their coronation. So, the current St. Edward’s Crown may be modeled off of the original, but we have absolutely no way of actually knowing. The only descriptions of the crowns appearance was that it was gold with precious jewels. Not much to paint a picture from.




This is an illustration of the Imperial State Crown used by Queen Victoria and her son King Edward VII.


This is the version worn by King George V, the father of the current queen. The large diamond at the base is the Second Star of Africa. The large ruby looking stone is actually a  spinel. It is known as the Black Prince’s Ruby, said to have been given by Edward the Black Prince of Wales in 1367 by the king of Castile for the prince’s valor in battle.


Here again is the current Imperial State Crown worn by Elizabeth II. As you can see, the arches have been lowered, the thought being that it would be more flattering for the queen and look more feminine.

I will go ahead and end here. There is so much more I would like to include, but I am already over 2300 words! I hope you all have enjoyed the post and my confusing history of the Crown Jewels. If there is interest, I will put together another post on other pieces of the collection. There are several more crowns and other extraordinary pieces.

Tudor Tombs

I thought it would be fun to celebrate the ending of the Tudor’s in class to put together a post of the actually ‘endings’ of some of the Tudor’s themselves.

Like I mentioned in class on Tuesday, the case of Queen Elizabeth I’s tomb effigy is truly a curious one. As it turns out, in more ways than the one I brought up. This first picture is a shot of the marble tomb itself in Westminster Abbey (it doesn’t show the large columned canopy that covers it).Elizabeth I tomb effigy (digitally altered so railings do not sh As you can see, the effigy isn’t very flattering.

This next picture shows Elizabeth’s hands, which are not as dainty as they were depicted in the portraits we saw in class. Her fingers are still a little long, but not really when you consider the overall size of the effigy (it’s pretty big).


Here we can see her hands again, but also a really good shot of her face. The effort to keep Elizabeth looking youthful clearly didn’t carry over into death. Like in the later portraits, we see the lower neckline of Elizabeth’s dress. Also, the crown and scepter are modern recreations, the originals having been stolen sometime in the late-seventeenth or early eighteenth century.

7362g3200 2

This last picture is of the entire structure of Elizabeth’s tomb, a rather impressive and imposing one. While there seemed to be no love lost between Elizabeth and her sister Queen Mary, the two are buried together, though there is no representation of Mary beyond a plaque at the base of the structure.


While I postulated that perhaps James I didn’t care much for his mother considering that he was abandoned by her at a young age, the tomb that he built for her in Westminster Abbey suggests that there may have been some affection after all.


Did I mention that it is across the aisle from Elizabeth’s tomb? And that her tomb is nearly as elaborate as Elizabeth’s?

Tomb3All of these tombs are located in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Here is a picture of the tomb of the original Tudor and his queen, Elizabeth of York. Also buried near Henry’s tomb is Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. The actual location of his tomb wasn’t discovered until the nineteenth century. A plaque now marks the spot.

BAL99038 Tomb of Henry VII (1457-1509) and his Wife, Elizabeth of York, 1518 (bronze) by Torrigiano, Pietro (1472-1528) bronze Westminster Abbey, London, UK Italian, out of copyright

Here is an image of the foot of the sarcophagus, showing detailing of the English Coat of Arms. We also get a sense of the profound piety of the Henry and perhaps the divine sanctity he associated with his claim to the throne and his reign.

Henry VII tomb, Westminster Abbey. Detail east end with cherubs

Lastly, we have the tomb of Henry VIII. You would think that Henry would have the grandest of all the tombs of the Tudors…


Henry had planned an elaborate tomb, one that may have reviled his father’s, though it was never constructed. Instead, he was buried in a vault beneath St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle with his third wife, Jane Seymour. The simple marker above was not placed until the reign of William IV, the predecessor of Queen Victoria. As you can see, the vault also houses the remains of the deposed, tried, and executed King Charles I.

Translating the Past: Inspired by Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism and Sir John Davies ‘A Discovery’

“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘race’ was first used in English by the Scottish poet William Dunbar in a poem called ‘The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins’ (1508) where the followers of Envy included ‘bakbyttaris of sundry races.’ Here the word means ‘groups’ but does not tell us much about what kind of groups these might be.” (Loomba, 22)

ShakespeareAs Prof. Rabin pointed out in class on Tuesday, each sentence in Ania Loomba’s Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism could easily be expanded into its own section. Indeed, each section of each chapter could very well be a monograph in its own right. While I heavily annotate most of the books I read (Bossy was mostly filled with the rantings of an unhappy grad student), the character count for my annotations in this week’s book narrowly falls short of the total character count of the monograph itself. I absolutely loved the book. Like I stated on Tuesday, I love works that challenge notions of periodization, and I especially admire scholars who engage in discourses that are thought to be excluded from the pre-modern world. For this post I would like to discuss the usage of race in medieval and early modern England with the question of translation in mind. This post is kind of a double-feature, because the question of translation came up while I was reading Sir John Davies ‘A Discovery of the True Causes…’ The passage that caught my eye was, “…such as are descended of English race would be found more in number than the ancient natives.” (Davies, 70: emphasis mine)political-history-irish

When I read Davies I wondered what the original language of the text was. Between now and then I discovered that Davies wrote in English, but originally I thought that he might have written in Latin and that the piece that we read was a translation. The thing that made me wonder was the usage of ‘race,’ as noted in the quote above. While we know that ‘race’ was first used in 1508 in English, for some reason the usage still struck me as kind of odd even for the late-sixteenth century. I’ve run across this in my own research: medieval scholars have commonly translated the Latin word ‘genus’ as ‘race,’ a choice I always found curious, even anachronistic, until the usage and meaning of ‘genus,’ along with a couple other Latin words, became part of my research on pre-modern nations.

The Latin word ‘genus’ was used in the Roman world to indicate birth, decent, origin, and race: the word was meant to denote some type of association between peoples in both familial and communal groups, as a way of proving a sense of linage. The word evolved in the Middle Ages to have a broad meaning of ‘a people,’ with a connotation of ‘race’ as in terms of ‘origins’ and ‘group,’ similar to the early modern usage. The medieval usage of the word also implied a connection to both language (vernacular language of the people/group) and geographical space (territory associated with the group/people). While Loomba indicated that ‘race’ was used to describe familial groups and linage, the older concept had deeper implications associating other characteristics such as language and territory. With this, there were equivalents in Old English and Middle English. The OE word ‘þeode’ which was used to describe ‘peoples, folks (groups of people/communities), and nation.’ In Middle English the most commonly used word with the same meaning was ‘folke’ which had the same meaning. Like ‘genus,’ both of these words maintained the same connection with language and space. As it turned out, the translation of the ‘genus’ as ‘race’ was not ahistorical, but rather associated with a meaning not readily familiar because of the modern usage.

So, while the word ‘race’ in English with an association with people, origin, group (along with language and space) was first introduced in the early sixteenth century, the concept is indeed much older. As we can see in the usage of the word by Davies, ‘English race,’ is rather loaded, with a deeper meaning than just a group with a common linage, but one which also occupy a specific place and use a particular language (although this gets complicated with English being the vernacular for those other than ‘the English race’).

Once again I have taken us back, although this time even further than the Middle Ages. I had thought about bringing this up in class last week, but I thought it would make for a more appropriate blog post.

****One note: ‘gens’ was also a term used to describe peoples, groups, and nations. I conflated ‘genus’ and ‘gens,’ forgetting to include the latter. As you can see, we are all subject to revision. ****

Entering the Labyrinth ‘Under the Molehill’

As a grad student, reading a monograph and not necessarily understanding it is not an uncommon thing. Indeed, one often gets bogged down in theory, confused by the use of unfamiliar types of evidence, and sometimes even the very essence of the argument itself. I strive to find the positive in every book I read, even if it is outside of my field or areas of interest (both temporally and spatially). But then there was John Bossy’s ‘Under the Mole Hill…’


As I pointed out in class yesterday, the selection of the book as the BBC History Magazine book of the year represents a very different impression of the work than the one we all collectively constructed (with the exception of D.E., sorry). To look at the back cover of the book once more, the quotes offer further examples of the disparity between our opinions and those of high literary minds. This quote truly illustrates that point: ‘John Bossy tells this story with all his familiar narrative flair,’ by Ralph Houlbrooke of the Times Literary Supplement. While his narrative prose was nice, and actually pleasant, when it appeared, it was hampered by his uneven and often confusing analysis. His attempt at leaving a trail for his reads to follow turned into a spasmodic spreading of breadcrumbs leading to frustration and aggravation.

As we touched on in class yesterday, the audience for Bossy’s work was profoundly limited, perhaps even within a microcosm of a microcosm of a microcosm of the academy in Yorkshire. Indeed, Bossy’s history of an ‘Elizabethan Spy Story’ is the epitome of the micro-history. During the discussion yesterday, it was postulated that maybe this was Bossy’s response to the movement of writing accessible, almost meta-narratives in the hopes of reaching an audience beyond the confines of academia. If this is his proverbial middle-finger to that turn in historical writing, imagine his response to something pedestrian he might take offense to.

This post is a testament to my contempt and loathing of this book. I have rambled on for over three hundred words now in an attempt to avoid engaging with the book itself. I typically enjoy scholarship which engages in a difficult, thought provoking question or problem. Yet, I am at an absolute loss. The one positive I can offer it that at least it was short. But perhaps the subject would have been better served by a work twice as long. Good lord…what have I just suggested?! Indeed, my only positive comment is in fact a negative.