Thursday, February 24, 2011

Royal Weddings & Anna Bolena

By no means do I follow The Royal Family. However, I have always admired Princess Diana for her courage to stand her ground towards The Queen in regards to how she would raise William and Harry. She made sure her boys would be raised understanding that just because you are born into royalty not everyone has the same privileges and impressed upon them the importance of charity work.
She was the first Princess of Wales to insist upon travelling with her boys on royal visits. Doing this was unheard of, against protocol, and would definitely upset The Queen. Diana did it anyway!

So, the upcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has me 'unusually' enraptured!
I love the fact that he fell in love with and is marrying a 'commoner' as did his father!

As some of my readers may already know, I am an avid fan of Author and Historian Alison Weir.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she and a group of women called, 'The History Girls' have a book coming out in the U.K. on 31st March.


THE RING AND THE CROWN: A HISTORY OF ROYAL WEDDINGS, 1066-2011
The History Girls - Alison Weir, Tracy Borman, Sarah Gristwood and Kate Williams - have been commissioned by Hutchinson to write an illustrated book on the history of royal weddings, due for publication in the U.K. on 31st March. The book, The Ring and the Crown, will be officially launched on 18th April at a special event at Hampton Court Palace.
It tells the stories of four romantic royal couples: Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, Owen Tudor and Katherine of Valois, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, The Prince Consort.

Something else that has come to my attention, thanks to a post on Everything Tudor, is an upcoming opera about Anne Boleyn! It is entitled, 'Anna Bolena' Composer Gaetano Donizetti, Librettist Felice Romani, Sung in Italian with Met titles in English, German, and Spanish.
'Anna Bolena' is one of the operas to be featured during the 2011-12 Season of The Metropolitan Opera in New York City! In the role of Anna Bolena is Russian born, Soprano, Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca as her rival, Jane Seymour, and Ildar Abdrazakov as Henry VIII. Marco Armiliato conducts. The only opera description I could find albeit brief says, 'the ill-fated queen driven insane by her unfaithful king. She sings one of opera’s greatest mad scenes in this production'.

I will be attending this opera my first one and I couldn't be more excited! I'm taking it as a sign that it happens to be about Anne Boleyn! So, expect a full report later this year!

Here are a few photos: One is The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York City,

The other photos are of Anna Netrebko dressed in costume as Anne Boleyn! You should recognize the black dress as one she wore in the portrait that hangs in Hever Castle!






Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Edward VI 28 January 1547 – 6 July 1553

Although, today is officially the anniversary of the coronation of King Edward VI, I am honoring the brief but important fifteen year life of the only son of Henry VIII and his third wife Queen Jane Seymour.

Jane's pregnancy was made known in February 1537, and in September she officially withdrew to her chamber at Hampton Court to await the birth of her child. After a long labour of two days and three nights, she gave birth to a healthy son at about 2am on 12 October 1537.
Jane appeared to make a good recovery following the birth of Edward and was well enough to receive guests at Edward's christening on 15 October. The following day, however, her condition suddenly worsened. In a letter to Cromwell, her physicians, including the King's favourite, William Butt (1485-1545), report that 'all this night she hath bene very syck and doth rather appare (worsen) then amend'. The Queen's confessor, the Bishop of Carlisle, the letter continued, had been with her since dawn and 'even now is preparing to minister to her grace the sacrament of (extreme)unction'. Twelve days after the birth of her son, at 8pm on 24 October, Jane Seymour died, probably from puerperal fever caused by unhygienic obstetric practices. That same day, responding to Francis I's message of congratulations on the birth of Edward, Henry told him, 'Divine Providence has mingled me joy with the bitterness of the death of her who brought me this happiness'. She was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor on 13 November. The court went into mourning; Henry ordered that hundreds of masses be recited for Jane's soul and wore black until 2 February 1538.

Edward,Prince of Wales (1537-1553) depicted in this portrait of Henry's long-awaited male heir, is about fourteen months old and shown as a miniature version of his father in a hat and costume similar to those worn by the King. Even the toy rattle is a composite of an orb and sceptre that is raised in a gesture of authority. The image illustrates the inscription. Written by the humanist Richard Morrison (c. 1510-56), whom Thomas Cromwell had promoted from his own service to that of the King, it exhorts the son to emulate his father and was designed to flatter Henry by maintaining that his achievements could never be surpassed. Almost certainly, the original painting was a New Year's gift to Henry in 1539 from the painter Hans Holbein the Younger, who had just returned to England after a short stay in Basel. Holbein received a silver cup in return.

At the base of the painting is a Latin inscription:
PARVVLE PATRISSA, PATRIÆ VIRTVTIS ET HÆRES
ESTO, NIHIL MAIVS MAXIMVS ORBIS HABET.
GNATVM VIX POSSVNT COELVM ET NATVRA DEDISSE,
HVIVS QVEM PATRIS, VICTVS HONORET HONOS.
ÆQVATO TANTVM, TANTI TV FACTA PARENTIS,
VOTA HOMINVM, VIX QVO PROGREDIANTVR, HABENT
VINCITO, VICISTI. QVOT REGES PRISCVS ADORAT
ORBIS, NEC TE QVI VINCERE POSSIT, ERIT.


The English Translation reads:
Little one, emulate your father and be the
heir of his virtue; the world contains nothing greater. Heaven
and earth could scarcely produce a son whose glory would surpass
that of such a father. Only equal the deeds of your parent and men
can wish for no more. Surpass him and you have surpassed all the
kings the world ever revered and none will surpass you.


The Coronation of King Edward VI
Edward VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey four days after the burial of Henry VIII next to Jane Seymour, on Sunday 20 February the first coronation in England for almost 40 years took place. The ceremonies were shortened, because of the "tedious length of the same which should weary and be hurtsome peradventure to the King's majesty, being yet of tender age", and also because the Reformation had rendered some of them inappropriate. On the eve of the coronation, Edward progressed on horseback from the Tower to the Palace of Westminster through thronging crowds and pageants, many based on the pageants for a previous boy king, Henry VI. He laughed at a Spanish tightrope walker who "tumbled and played many pretty toys" outside St Paul's Cathedral. At the coronation service, Cranmer affirmed the royal supremacy and called Edward a second Josiah, urging him to continue the reformation of the Church of England, "the tyranny of the Bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed". After the service, Edward presided at a banquet in Westminster Hall, where, he recalled in his diary, he dined with his crown on his head.


Illness and Death of Edward VI
Edward became ill in January 1553 with a fever and cough that gradually worsened. The imperial ambassador, Scheyfve, reported that "he suffers a good deal when the fever is upon him, especially from a difficulty in drawing his breath, which is due to the compression of the organs on the right side ... I opine that this is a visitation and sign from God".
Edward felt well enough in early April to take the air in the park at Westminster and to move to Greenwich, but by the end of the month he had weakened again. By 7 May 1553 he was "much amended" and the royal doctors had no doubt of his recovery. A few days later the king was watching the ships on the Thames, sitting at his window. However, he relapsed, and on 11 June 1553,Scheyfve, who had an informant in the king's household, reported that "the matter he ejects from his mouth is sometimes coloured a greenish yellow and black, sometimes pink, like the colour of blood". Now his doctors believed he was suffering from "a suppurating tumour" of the lung and admitted that Edward's life was beyond recovery. Soon, his legs became so swollen that he had to lie on his back, and he lost the strength to resist the disease. To his tutor John Cheke, he whispered "I am glad to die".

Edward made his final appearance in public on 1 July 1553, when he showed himself at his window in Greenwich Palace, horrifying those who saw him by his "thin and wasted" condition. During the next two days, large crowds arrived hoping to see the king again, but on the 3rd, they were told that the weather was too chilly for him to appear. Edward died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace on 6 July 1553. According to John Foxe's legendary account of his death, his last words were: "I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit". He was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on 8 August 1553, with reformed rites performed by Thomas Cranmer. The procession was led by "a grett company of chylderyn in ther surples" and watched by Londoners "wepyng and lamenting"; the funeral chariot, draped in cloth of gold, was topped by an effigy of Edward, with crown, sceptre, and garter. At the same time, Queen Mary attended a mass for his soul in the Tower, where Jane Grey was by then a prisoner.

The cause of Edward VI's death is not certain. As with many royal deaths in the 16th century, rumours of poisoning abounded, but no evidence has been found to support these. The Duke of Northumberland, whose unpopularity was underlined by the events that followed Edward's death, was widely believed to have ordered the imagined poisoning. Another theory held that Edward had been poisoned by Catholics seeking to bring Mary to the throne. The surgeon who opened Edward's chest after his death found that "the disease whereof his majesty died was the disease of the lungs". The Venetian ambassador reported that Edward had died of consumption—in other words, tuberculosis—a diagnosis accepted by many historians. Skidmore believes that Edward contracted the tuberculosis after a bout of measles and smallpox in 1552 that suppressed his natural immunity to the disease. It is believed instead that his symptoms were typical of acute bronchopneumonia, leading to a "suppurating pulmonary infection", septicaemia, and kidney failure.

Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Changing Face of William Shakespeare


The above video is from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, birthplace of William Shakespeare. It was recorded in 2009 when the Cobb Portrait (detailed below re: Morgan Exhibit) was discovered.
I thought the video would be an interesting tie-in to the current exhibit.
More details about this Cobbe Portrait taken from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust:

The Claims For The Cobbe Portrait:
Copies of the painting we now refer to as the Cobbe portrait were identified as Shakespeare within living memory of the poet. The original was almost certainly owned by Shakespeare's only known literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, to whom the Cobbe family is distantly related. The sitter would appear to have been identified as a playwright in the 17th century. The Latin inscription along its top edge, 'Principum Amicitias!', is a quotation from an ode by the classical writer Horace (Book II, Ode I). In Horace's poem, the words--which can be translated as 'the alliances of princes!'-- were addressed to the tragic playwright Pollio. Horace's words warned Pollio of the dangers of writing vividly about recent major historical events (dangers of which Shakespeare was all too well aware) and contrasted the playwright's historical and tragic writings. But even more importantly, the Cobbe portrait seems to have been the model or source (through a copy) for Martin Droeshout's familiar engraving of Shakespeare for the First Folio of 1623.

On exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum, in New York City, is The Changing Face of William Shakespeare, February 4 through May 1, 2011.


Details taken from The Morgan Library & Museum site are as follows:
In 2009, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon unveiled a previously unknown portrait painting with strong claims to be the only surviving life-time portrait of William Shakespeare, it created an international sensation. The Jacobean painting had hung unrecognized for centuries in an Irish country house belonging to the Cobbe family. Both this portrait and a recently identified portrait of Shakespeare's patron and dedicatee, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, were inherited by Archbishop Charles Cobbe (1686-1765). Recent technical analysis—as well as the portrait's superior quality—has established it as the original of a long series of portraits traditionally identified as Shakespeare. The Cobbe portrait has significant resemblances in costume and design to Martin Droeshout's engraving of Shakespeare published in the First Folio (1623), and bears a Latin inscription, taken from a poem by Horace, addressed to a playwright.

Also on view for the first time in the United States are the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's recently acquired "Ellenborough" portrait of Shakespeare; the privately-owned Fitzgerald portrait of Shakespeare;

A copy of Venus and Adonis, the narrative poem Shakespeare dedicated to his patron, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, in 1593. Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592-1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.


Also, on exhibit is an important New Year's gift roll that records the earl's gift to Elizabeth I in 1596; the Morgan's first folio edition of Shakespeare's plays (1623); and a portrait of Shakespeare acquired by Pierpont Morgan in 1910.

I cannot wait to attend this exhibit especially excited to gaze upon the signature of Queen Elizabeth I! Hope I don't faint but I know I will burst into tears!

Thank you for stopping by please feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Elizabeth of York 11 February 1466 – 11 February 1503


Elizabeth of York was Queen consort of England as spouse of King Henry VII from 1486 until 1503, mother of King Henry VIII of England and Grandmother to Elizabeth I (daughter of King Henry VIII & Queen Anne Boleyn) as well as Edward VI of England (son of Henry VIII & Jane Seymour). In addition, Elizabeth of York is the only English queen to have been a daughter, sister, niece, wife and mother of English monarchs during her lifetime.

She was born at Westminster, the eldest child of King Edward IV and his Queen consort, Elizabeth Woodville, the former Lady Grey. Her christening was celebrated at Westminster Abbey, her sponsors being her grandmothers Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford.

She was named a Lady of the Garter in 1477, along with her mother and her paternal aunt Elizabeth of York, Duchess of Suffolk.
At the age of 5, she was briefly betrothed to George Neville, son of John Neville, Earl of Northumberland, a supporter of Edward IV. Northumberland switched sides, however, and the betrothal was called off. In 1475, she was offered as the bride of Charles, the Dauphin of France. That plan was scrapped when Charles's father, Louis XI, decided against her.

War of the Roses -- Houses of Lancaster & York
Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Woodville, made an alliance with Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, who was the closest to Royalty the Lancastrian party possessed. Although Henry was descended from King Edward III, his claim to the throne was weak, due to the clause barring ascension to the throne by any heirs of the legitimized offspring of his great-great-grandparents, John of Gaunt (3rd son of King Edward III) and Katherine Swynford. Despite this, his mother and Elizabeth Woodville agreed Henry should move to claim the throne, and once he had taken it, he would marry Woodville's daughter, Elizabeth of York, uniting the two rival Houses. In December 1483, in the cathedral in Rennes, Henry swore an oath promising to marry her, and began planning an invasion.

Henry was the heir of the House of Lancaster but as Lancaster was genealogically junior to the House of York, he had taken the throne by right of conquest. Although he acknowledged the necessity of marrying Elizabeth to secure his stability and survival upon the throne and weaken the claims of other surviving members of the House of York, he did not intend to call his rights into question: he wanted it to be clear that he ruled as king-conqueror, not as Elizabeth's husband, and had no intention of sharing power. To do this, he had the Titulus Regius repealed immediately and unread (which re-legitimised the children of Edward IV and acknowledged the 'reign' of Edward V), since he did not want the legitimacy of his wife or her claim as heiress of Edward IV called into question, and chose to be crowned on 30 October 1485, before his marriage. Even then, he did not marry her, having not received the Papal dispensation to do so; eventually the Dispensation was approved and they married on 18 January 1486. Their first son, Arthur, was born on 20 September 1486. Henry had Elizabeth crowned queen consort on 25 November 1487. Had Henry's claim to the throne not been based on conquest, Elizabeth would have been the rightful heir to the throne as Edward IV's heir, assuming her brothers were dead.
The marriage proved successful and both partners appear to have cared for each other. As queen, Elizabeth did not exercise much political influence, due to her strong-minded mother-in-law Lady Margaret Beaufort, but she was reported to be gentle and kind, and generous to her relations, servants and benefactors. Elizabeth enjoyed music and dancing, as well as dicing. She kept greyhounds, and she may have enjoyed hunting and archery.

Elizabeth was a renowned beauty, inheriting her parents' fair hair and complexion.
Elizabeth and Henry VII had seven children:

Arthur, Prince of Wales (20 September 1486 – 2 April 1502)
Margaret, Queen consort of Scotland (28 November 1489 – 18 October 1541)
Henry VIII of England (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547)
Elizabeth Tudor (2 July 1492 – 14 September 1495)
Mary, Queen consort of France (18 March 1496 – 25 June 1533)
Edmund, Duke of Somerset (21 February 1499 – 19 June 1500)
Katherine Tudor (born & died 2 February 1503)

Death
On 14 November 1501, Elizabeth's eldest son, Arthur (aged 15), married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and the pair were sent to Ludlow Castle, traditional residence of the Prince of Wales. Five months later, Arthur was dead. The news of Arthur's death caused Henry VII to break down in grief; Elizabeth comforted him, telling him that his mother (to whom she refers as My Lady) had no more children but him, and that God had left him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses and that they are both young enough [for more children].
Arthur's death prompted Elizabeth to become pregnant once more, attempting to strengthen the succession. Elizabeth gave birth to a girl and named her Katherine. She was born and died on 2 February 1503. Succumbing to a post-partum infection, Elizabeth died on 11 February, her 37th birthday. Her husband appeared to sincerely mourn her death: according to one account, he "privily departed to a solitary place and would no man should resort unto him". Despite his reputation for thrift, he gave her a splendid funeral: she lay in state in the Tower and was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the Lady Chapel Henry had built. He later entertained thoughts of remarriage in order to renew the alliance with Spain - Joan, Dowager Queen of Naples (niece of Ferdinand II of Aragon), Joanna, Queen of Castile (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), and Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Savoy (sister-in-law of Joanna of Castile) were all considered - but Henry died a widower in 1509. He was buried with Elizabeth; they can be found today, under their effigies in his chapel.

Thank you for stopping by! Please feel free to ask any questions or leave a comment!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots 8 February 1587


Today marks the anniversary of the execution of Mary Stuart Queen of Scotland (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587) known as Mary Queen of Scots.
She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. She was 6 days old when her father died and she was crowned nine months later. In 1558, she married Francis, Dauphin of France, who ascended the French throne as Francis II in 1559. Mary was not Queen of France for long; she was widowed on 5 December 1560. Mary then returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Their union was unhappy and in February 1567, there was a huge explosion at their house, and Darnley was found dead, apparently strangled, in the garden.
She soon married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June and forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England, whose kingdom she hoped to inherit. Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in the Rising of the North. Perceiving her as a threat, Elizabeth had her arrested. After 19 years in custody in a number of castles and manor houses in England, she was tried and executed for treason for her alleged involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth. (RE: Babington Plot & The Casket Letters):

NOTE In defense of Elizabeth I because she really is portrayed in such bad light for signing Mary Queen of Scots death warrant, this was not a decision Elizabeth I comes to easily. Here is how it happened:
Although Mary had been found guilty and sentenced to death, Elizabeth hesitated to actually order her execution. She was fearful of the consequences, especially if, in revenge, Mary's son James of Scotland formed an alliance with the Catholic powers, France and Spain, and invaded England. She was also concerned about how this would affect the Divine Right of Kings. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final custodian, Amias Paulet, if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary. He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity."
She did eventually sign the death warrant and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy councillor. Later, the privy council, having been summoned by Lord Burghley without Elizabeth's knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once before she could change her mind.

The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots

At Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, on 7 February 1587, Mary was told that she was to be executed the next day. She spent the last hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will. She asked that her servants be released and that she be buried in France. The scaffold that was erected in the great hall was three feet tall and draped in black. It was reached by five steps and the only things on it were a disrobing stool, the block, a cushion for her to kneel on, and a bloody butcher's axe that had been previously used on animals. At her execution, on 8 February 1587, the executioners (one of whom was named Bull) knelt before her and asked forgiveness. According to a contemporaneous account by Robert Wynkfield, she replied, "I forgive you with all my heart". The executioners and her two servants helped remove a black outer gown, two petticoats, and her corset to reveal a deep red chemise — the liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church, the profession of which constantly endangered her life in the face of the rise of Protestantism. As she disrobed she smiled faintly to the executioner and said, "Never have I had such assistants to disrobe me, and never have I put off my clothes before such a company." She was then blindfolded and knelt down on the cushion in front of the block. She positioned her head on the block and stretched her arms out behind her. Before she died, Fr. John Laux relates in his Church History that her last words were, "My faith is the ancient Catholic faith. It is for this faith that I give up my life. In Thee I trust, O Lord; into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
In Lady Antonia Fraser's biography, Mary Queen of Scots, the author writes that it took two strikes to decapitate Mary: The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head, at which point the Queen's lips moved. (Her servants reported they thought she had whispered the words "Sweet Jesus.") The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew that the executioner severed by using the axe as a saw. Robert Wynkfield recorded a detailed account of the moments leading up to Mary's execution, also describing that it took two strikes to behead the Queen. Afterward, the executioner held her head aloft and declared, "God save the Queen." At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand came apart and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had had very short, grey hair. The chemise that Mary wore at her execution is displayed at Coughton Court near Alcester in Warwickshire, which was a Catholic household at that time.
It has been suggested that it took three strikes to decapitate Mary instead of two. If so, then Mary would have been executed with the same number of axe strikes as Essex. It has been postulated that said number was part of a ritual devised to protract the suffering of the victim.
There are several stories told about the execution. One already mentioned and thought to be true is that, when the executioner picked up the severed head to show it to those present, it was discovered that Mary was wearing a wig. The headsman was left holding the wig, while the late queen's head rolled on the floor. It was thought that she had tried to disguise the greying of her hair by wearing an auburn wig, the natural colour of her hair before her years of imprisonment began. She was 24 when first imprisoned by Protestants in Scotland, and she was 44 years of age at the time of her execution. Another well-known execution story related in Robert Wynkfield's first-hand account concerns a small dog owned by the queen, which is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. As her dress and layers of clothing were so immensely regal, it would have been easy for the tiny pet to have hidden there as she slowly made her way to the scaffold. Following the beheading, the dog refused to be parted from its owner and was covered in blood. It was finally taken away by her ladies-in-waiting and washed.
When the news of the execution reached Elizabeth she was extremely indignant, and her wrath was chiefly directed against Davison, who, she asserted, had disobeyed her instructions not to part with the warrant. The secretary was arrested and thrown into the Tower. He was later released, after paying a heavy fine, but his career was ruined.

In honor of the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, here are two versions of her last letter written while imprisoned in Forthingay Castle in Scotland, hours before her execution.
One letter is in her own words in her native language French and the transcribed English translation taken from Marie Stuart Society

English Translation
To Henri III, the Most Christian King of France.
8 February 1587.
Monsieur mon beau-frère, estant par la permission de Dieu...

Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had honour to be queen, your sister and old ally.

Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English throne are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and, although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister brought here for that purpose.

The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due to them-this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.

I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feelings for you. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instruction, if it please you, that for my soul's sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.

Wednesday at two in the morning.

Your most loving and most true sister.

Queen of Scotland

The second version of this letter comes from author Margaret George's novel, 'Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles'. It is her fictionalized scene of Mary's final hours.
I am closing with this version because her novel is the first I read about Mary Queen of Scots and it has remained with me always!

In My End Is My Beginning
England, 1587

In the deepest part of the night, when all the candles save one had been put out and everyone lay quiet, the woman crossed silently to her desk and sat down. She put that one candle at her right hand, and spread out a piece of paper as slowly as possible across the desktop, so as to make no noise. She held its left side down with her hand-a white hand with long, slender fingers, which the French poet Ronsard had once described as “a tree with uneven branches.” The hand looked young, as if it belonged to a virgin of fifteen. From across the room, with only one candle for illumination, the woman’s face looked as young as the hand. But up closer, although the outlines of the beauty were still there, within the frame of the old loveliness there were lines and bumps and sags. The skin no longer stretched taut against the high cheekbones, the long, imperious nose, the almond-shaped eyes. It lay softly against them, tracing and revealing every hollow.
She rubbed her eyes, which were heavy-lidded and had traces of exhaustion under them, with that incongruously slender-fingered, elegantly ringed hand. Sighing, she dipped her pen in ink and began to write.

To Henri III, the Most Christian King of France.
8 February 1587.

Monsieur mon beau frere, estant par la permission de Dieu–
Royal brother, having by God’s will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had the honour to be queen, your sister and old ally.
‘Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English throne are the two issues on which I am condemned.
She stopped and stared ahead, as if her mind had suddenly ceased to form words, or she had run out of them. The French language was soothing, lulling. Even terrible things did not sound so heinous in French. Her mind could not, dared not, form them in Scots.
“Ce porteur & sa compaignie la pluspart de vos subiectz . . . “
The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-inlaw and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due them-this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian Queen of France, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions.
I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feelings for you. Give instructions, if it please you, that for my soul’s sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.

Wednesday, at two in the morning.

Your most loving and most true sister,
Mary Queen of Scotland



Thank you for stopping by! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Save Anne Boleyn Portrait

London National Portrait Gallery needs your help!

As an avid Anne Boleyn fan and fan of the Tudor dynasty since childhood, I have been very blessed to have met many wonderful writers of historical fiction. One of whom runs On the Tudor Trail
She has created a Facebook page to help raise awareness of the desperate plight of this famous portrait of Anne Boleyn. So I thought I would help spread the word.

 The Facebook page can be found here: Save Anne Boleyn's Portrait

This page has been officially endorsed by historian and author Alison Weir who wrote:

  “I am delighted to endorse this page, and to lend my support to the fundraising for the restoration of this important – indeed, the definitive – portrait of Anne Boleyn. It has entranced and intrigued me since I was a young teenager and first became aware of Anne’s story. Even though it is only a copy of a lost original, it is the portrait by which most people identify Anne, and it captures the charm and wit of which contemporaries spoke. It also bears testimony to the famous ‘little neck’ and the eyes that were ‘black and beautiful’ and ‘invited to conversation’, as well as to Anne’s famed elegance in dress. In short, the portrait captures the essence of Anne Boleyn, despite rogue theories that it was painted to make her look like her daughter, Elizabeth I, from whose reign it probably dates. The proliferation of other versions, as well as an image on a medal struck in Anne’s lifetime, proves that this portrait type is an accurate representation of what she actually looked like. We must save this important and iconic portrait so that future generations will not know it only from photographs.”


For more information and to donate, please go directly to National Portrait Gallery  information can be found below:


Help support the conservation work on the portrait of Anne Boleyn

This important portrait of Anne Boleyn is in urgent need of conservation treatment.  It is in a particularly vulnerable and unstable condition as a result of structural problems with the wooden panel.  Vertical 
cracking has occurred across the picture causing minor paint loss where the wood has split (see the photograph taken in raking light alongside).  We need to act now as the damage is being caused by the 
long term effects of an unsuitable cradle (an applied wooden panel support) which must be removed. 
Therefore this important and much loved painting needs urgent conservation treatment to ensure it can 
be put back on public display.
The Gallery hopes to raise £4,000 for conservation work on this picture, and with your help we very much
 hope to be able to undertake this work in early 2011.

Anne Boleyn by Unknown artist
late 16th century

How the portrait should look

Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to ask any questions or comments! 
Raking light reveals the perilous state of this panel painting 


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