Since I have been doing so much reading lately and have begun sharing the titles names and authors with friends I thought “hey why don’t I just start a section on here for book reviews” is like to do it so others can also share their reviews for books they have read as well. So keep your eyes out. I’ll begin working on this starting tomorrow hopefully.
Did you know, that in 1596 Sir John Harington introduced Queen Elizabeth to her first flushing toilet? Sure, flushing toilets have been around since the time of the ancient Minoans, but for the English, they were a new marvel.
Harington, who was known as Elizabeth’s “saucy godson,” constantly fell in and out of favor with the Queen. However, his flushing toilet remained forever in her favor.
Now that tourists are scarce and the trees are bare once more, it suits me to visit the Tower of London and study the graffiti. The austere stone structures of this ancient fortress by the river reassert their grim dignity in Winter when the crowd-borne hubbub subsides, and quiet consideration of the sombre texts graven there becomes possible. Some are bold and graceful, others are spidery and maladroit, yet every one represents an attempt by their creators to renegotiate the nature of their existence. Many are by those who would otherwise be forgotten if they had not possessed a powerful need to record their being, unwilling to let themselves slide irrevocably into obscurity and be lost forever. For those faced with interminable days, painstaking carving in stone served to mark time, and to assert identity and belief. Every mark here is a testimony to the power of human will, and they speak across the ages as tokens of brave defiance and the refusal to be cowed by tyranny.
“The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.” This inscription in Latin was carved above the chimney breast in the Beauchamp Tower by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel in 1587. His father was executed in 1572 for treason and, in 1585, Howard was arrested and charged with being a Catholic, spending the rest of his life at the Tower where he died in 1595.
Sent to the Tower in 1560, Hew Draper was a Bristol innkeeper accused of sorcery. He pleaded not guilty yet set about carving this mysterious chart upon the wall of his cell in the Salt Tower with the inscription HEW DRAPER OF BRISTOW (Bristol) MADE THIS SPEER THE 30 DAYE OF MAYE, 1561. It is a zodiac wheel, with a plan of the days of the week and hours of the day to the right. Yet time was running out for Hew even as he carved this defiant piece of cosmology upon the wall of his cell, because he was noted as “verie sick” and it is low upon the wall, as if done by a man sitting on the floor.
The rebus of Thomas Abel. Chaplain to Katherine of Aragon, Abel took the Queen’s side against Henry VIII and refused to change his position when Henry married Anne Boleyn. Imprisoned in 1533, he wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1537, “I have now been in close prison three years and a quarter come Easter,” and begged “to lie in some house upon the Green.”After five and half years imprisoned at the Tower, Abel was hung, drawn and quartered at Smithfield in 1540.
Both inscriptions, above and below, have been ascribed to Lady Jane Grey, yet it is more likely that she was not committed to a cell but confined within domestic quarters at the Tower, on account of her rank. These may be the result of nineteenth century whimsy.
JOHN DUDLE – YOU THAT THESE BEASTS DO WEL BEHOLD AND SE, MAY DEME WITH EASE WHEREFORE HERE MADE THEY BE, WITH BORDERS EKE WHEREIN (THERE MAY BE FOUND) 4 BROTHERS NAMES WHO LIST TO SERCHE THE GROUNDE. The flowers around the Dudley family arms represent the names of the four brothers who were imprisoned in the Tower between 1553-4 , as result of the attempt by their elder sibiing John Dudley to put Lady Jane Grey upon the throne. The roses are for Ambrose, carnations (known as gillyflowers) for Guildford, oak leaves for Robert – from robur, Latin for oak – and honeysuckle for Henry. All four were condemned as traitors in 1553, but after the execution of Guildford they were pardoned and released. John died ten days after release and Henry was killed at the seige of San Quentin in 1557 while Ambrose became Queen Elizabeth’s Master of the Ordinance and Robert became her favourite, granted the title of Earl of Leicester.
Edward Smalley was the servant of a Member of Parliament who was imprisoned for one month for non-payment of a fine for assault in 1576. Thomas Rooper, 1570, may have been a member of the Roper family into which Thomas More’s daughter married, believed to be enemies of Queen Elizabeth. Edward Cuffyn faced trial in 1568 accused of conspiracy against Elizabeth and passed out his days at the Tower.
BY TORTURE STRANGE MY TROUTH WAS TRIED YET OF MY LIBERTIE DENIED THEREFORE RESON HATH ME PERSWADYD PASYENS MUST BE YMB RASYD THOGH HARD FORTUN CHASYTH ME WYTH SMART YET PASEYNS SHALL PREVAIL – this anonymous incsription in the Bell Tower is one of several attributed to Thomas Miagh, an Irishman who was committed to the Tower in 1581 for leading rebellion against Elizabeth in his homeland.
This inscription signed Thomas Miagh 1581 is in the Beauchamp Tower. THOMAS MIAGH – WHICH LETH HERE THAT FAYNE WOLD FROM HENS BE GON BY TORTURE STRAUNGE MI TROUTH WAS TRYED YET OF MY LIBERTY DENIED. Never brought to trail, he was imprisoned until 1583, yet allowed “the liberty of the Tower” which meant he could move freely within the precincts.
Subjected to the manacles fourteen times in 1594, Jesuit priest Henry Walpole incised his name in the wall of the Beauchamp Tower and beneath he carved the names of St Peter and St Paul, along with Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory – the four great doctors of the Eastern church.
JAMES TYPPING. STAND (OR BE WEL CONTENT) BEAR THY CROSS, FOR THOU ART (SWEET GOOD) CATHOLIC BUT NO WORSE AND FOR THAT CAUSE, THIS 3 YEAR SPACE, THOW HAS CONTINUED IN GREAT DISGRACE, YET WHAT HAPP WILL IT? I CANNOT TELL BUT BE DEATH. Arrested in 1586 as part of the Babington Conpiracy, Typping was tortured, yet later released in 1590 on agreeing to conform his religion. This inscription is in the Beauchamp Tower.
T. Salmon, 1622. Above his coat of arms, he scrawled, CLOSE PRISONER 32 WEEKS, 224 DAYS, 5376 HOURS. He is believed to have died in custody.
A second graffito by Giovanni Battista Castiglione, imprisoned in 1556 by Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, for plotting against her and later released.
Nothing is known of William Rame whose name is at the base of this inscription. BETTER IT IS TO BE IN THE HOUSE OF MOURNING THAN IN THE HOUSE OF BANQUETING. THE HEART OF THE WISE IS IN THE MOURNING HOUSE. IT IS MUCH BETTER TO HAVE SOME CHASTENING THAN TO HAVE OVERMUCH LIBERTY. THERE IS A TIME FOR ALL THINGS, A TIME TO BE BORN AND A TIME TO DIE, AND THE DAY OF DEATH IS BETTER THAN THE DAY OF BIRTH. THERE IS AN END TO ALL THINGS AND THE END OF A THING IS BETTER THAN THE BEGINNING, BE WISE AND PATIENT IN TROUBLE FOR WISDOM DEFENDETH AS WELL AS MONEY. USE WELL THE TIME OF PROSPERITY AND REMBER THE TIME OF MISFORTUNE – 25 APRIL 1559.
Ambrose Rookwood was one of the Gunpowder Plotters. He was arrested on 8th November 1606 and taken from the Tower on 27th January 1607 to Westminster Hall where he pleaded guilty. On 30th January, he was tied to a hurdle and dragged by horse from the Tower to Westminster before being hung, drawn and quartered with his fellow conspirators.
Photographs copyright © Historic Royal Palaces
The extraordinary astronomical clock was added to the clock cabinet in January 1754. Engineer Claude-Siméon Passemant designed the timepiece, clockmaker Louis Dauthiau crafted the mechanism and sculptors and bronze artists Jacques and Philippe II Caffiéri made the case. It shows the date, real time, average time, phases of the moon and movements of the planets according to Copernicus. A moving sphere crowns the exceptional rocaille work, which measures over two metres tall. A bronze globe features all the countries engraved with the main cities. It is amidst rocks and waterfalls serving as the universal horizon.
The Academy of Science examined and approved the clock in August 1749 before the Duc de Chaulnes presented it to Louis XV at Choisy on 7 September 1750. The king acquired it that year. It was put in the clock cabinet, attesting to Louis XV’s interest in the mechanical arts and clocks; the room actually got its name because of the large astronomical clock dials in the wainscoting showing the sunrises and moonrises every day. The king’s scientific interests led him to amplify that daily experience by having the Passemant clock installed in this room.
Authors: Engineer: Claude-Siméon Passemant (1702-1769); Clockmaker: Louis Dauthiau (1730-1809); Sculptors and bronze artists: Jean-Jacques and Philippe Caffiéri (1725-1772)
Date: Presented to the Royal Academy of Science on 23 August 1749, presented to the king in 1750. Mechanism: 1749; bronze: 1753
Characteristics/Origins: Gilt bronze, enamel, steel, copper and glass. Versailles, musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon © château de Versailles, Christian Milet
Louis XV had a “flying chair”, an ancestor of the lift, built for Madame de Châteauroux, one of his favourites; the plans and cross-sections have been preserved. The king’s mistress used the device to reach her apartments on the palace’s third floor. Later, another favourite, Madame de Pompadour, also used it. Count de Villayer developed the chair in the 18th century, and Louis XV later commissioned this adaptation from Blaise-Henri Arnoult, his talented machinist, who also worked on the Versailles Royal Opera. The flying chair’s occupant operated the device by tugging on a cord in the car that was connected to a system of pulleys and counterweights.
This flying chair, the only one known at the Château de Versailles, shows how technical knowledge helped improve the comfort of everyday life. It also recalls the flying tables Louis XV had installed in his château at Choisy and planned for Trianon. They went up and down to and from the kitchens located directly beneath the dining room, allowing the king to enjoy a private meal without his servants’ intrusive presence.
Flying chair created for Madame de Châteauroux, watercolour drawing in the king’s rooms at Versailles, Paris, National Archives, maps and plans © Atelier photographique des Archives Nationales
The apothecary was the ancestor of the pharmacy. In the 17th century, the world of pharmacology was divided. While some apothecaries prescribed natural drugs, others recommended chemical drugs that became widely popular in the following century.
However, the two methods persisted in the preparation of the medications of Louis XVI between 1787 and 1790. Apothecary treatments also contained essential oils, flower waters and essences as well as syrups like poppy syrup whose opium soothed pains.
Chemistry also contributed to the development of pharmaceutical science to meet the important requirements for health and hygiene of the Academy of Sciences. In the Château de Versailles, the King’s four apothecaries, their two assistant apothecaries and two distiller apothecaries were in constant employ. In the reign of Louis XV, around the apothecary courtyard they had large well-equipped rooms available to them, some of which were used as dispensaries and storerooms and as the accommodation of the chief apothecary.
The ancient apothecary of the hospital of Saint-Germain-en-Laye possesses a collection of earthenware pots decorated with blue patterns, glass vases and hand-decorated wooden boxes. All these objects date from the 17th and 18th centuries and come from the two royal hospitals founded in Saint-Germain-en-Laye round the same period.
© château de Versailles, Jean-Marc Manaï
Nobody knows when cheese was invented, but it could have been one of the great ideas of the Neolithic revolution, nine thousand years ago.
The inventor was surely a traveller who thought of carrying milk in a bag made from an animal’s stomach, found that it had curdled, and decided to taste the result. This unknown benefactor of the human race (at least, of humans who can digest lactose) had discovered the only practical pre-refrigeration method of storing milk. Dairy farming could now provide food all year round, and not just for people who lived on the farm. Animals could be fully used for their milk as well as their meat, and one more foodstuff could be delivered to the towns where humans were just beginning to live.
One more foodstuff? That isn’t the full story. Cheese is not one food but an infinite range of flavors and textures, a whole world of gastronomy. Any neolithic townie might appreciate the difference between new and mature cheese, cheese from the eastern lowlands and the western hills, cheese from sheep and goats and cows. Among the earliest pyramid burials, around 3,000 BC, archaeologists identified a fortunate ruler of both halves of Egypt who was dispatched to the next world with labelled supplies of ‘northern cheese’ and ‘southern cheese’.
Ancient Greeks imported cheese from Sicily. Classical Romans sampled it from all round the Mediterranean, though some still preferred the smoked cheese that reached perfection in Rome’s crowded Velabrum district. Charlemagne, who ruled France and Germany in AD 800, is the first recorded fashion-setter to appreciate blue cheese (was it Roquefort? No one knows). Rock-like Parmesan and runny Brie were already Europe’s favourites in the 15th century. Cheese-making was among the most essential skills of the early colonists of the New World. Globalization? Cheese was far ahead of the game.
Andrew Dalby is a linguist, translator and historian, based in France. He is the author of Cheese: A Global History – Edible) and many other books including Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece (1996), which won the Runciman Award. Andrew also makes hard cider…in France; where he recently enjoyed a holiday bottle!
By Andrew Dalby
The Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians – even the Babylonians couldn’t get enough of the gooey golden stuff. Sugar craving, you say? That wasn’t the half of it.
1. Honey was used to cure almost everything – and with good reason. Its antibacterial properties were far superior for burns, abscesses, and wounds than the other two leading remedies: dung and rust.
2. Want to madden your opponents? Look no further. “Mad honey,” produced by bees from laurels, rhododendrons, and azaleas, contained potent compounds like grayanotoxin that did a number on hearts and nervous systems. More than one ancient army put mad honey in the path of the enemy, causing its mass collapse – followed by slaughter of the lambs
3. A low dose of “mad honey” was also the get-high choice for oracle prophesying, ecstatic religious rites, adventurous drinkers, and merry maenad frenzy at women’s festivals.
4. Funeral feast cuisine: honeycakes were a must-have for every newly dead person to carry into the underworld. Why? They were needed to get past Cerberus, the 3-headed dog. The savage beast guarding the gates to Hades’ realm, Cerberus had an inexplicable sweet tooth.
5. Urgently need to embalm a corpse? Nine out of ten aristocrats, including Alexander the Great, preferred mellification, the elite art of embalming with honey. Did the technique get results? Certainly did for Alex, who looked Great for at least 538 years.
By Vicki León
What became of the baby daughter of Henry VIII’s widow Katherine Parr and her disgraced fourth husband Thomas Seymour after their deaths? Linda Porter unravels a Tudor mystery.
On August 30th, 1548 Katherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII and then wife of Thomas Seymour, Lord Sudeley, gave birth to a daughter at her fourth husband’s country seat, Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. Katherine was 36 years old and the pregnancy, so far as we know, was her first. For Tudor times this was very late to be embarking on motherhood and Katherine, plagued by morning sickness and general discomfort, found the experience trying. Her general condition was compounded by the realisation that Seymour’s very open flirtation with the Lady Elizabeth, her late husband’s daughter and now her ward, had passed the bounds of propriety. So Elizabeth had been sent away in the spring and the 11-year-old Lady Jane Grey had, instead, accompanied Katherine to the Cotswolds for her confinement. There Thomas and Katherine seem to have repaired their marriage while waiting with mounting excitement for the birth of the child whom Thomas was confident would be a boy.
To his credit Seymour seems to have been equally delighted that the new arrival was a girl. She was christened Mary, after Katherine’s elder stepdaughter, was healthy and pretty and her life with two doting parents seemed set fair. But though Katherine had come through the labour itself well there were soon indications of a disquieting nature. The queen developed puerperal fever, the greatest health hazard of post-partum women at the time. Katherine had received the best available medical care, attended by her personal physician, Dr Robert Huicke. Yet she was no more able to withstand the dangers of bacterial infection than a woman of much more humble origins. The disease took its inexorable course. Katherine became disorientated, frightened and restless, telling one of her ladies on the morning of September 3rd that ‘she feared such things in herself that she was sure she could not live’. It was reported (admittedly by a source unfriendly to Thomas Seymour) that she had chided her husband for his behaviour as he lay beside her on the bed trying to calm her. However, when her fears were confirmed by her doctor, Katherine dictated her will, leaving everything she had to Thomas and wishing it could be ‘a thousand times more’. She seems to have made no mention of little Lady Mary, lying nearby in the splendid crimson and gold nursery that Katherine had prepared, nor do we know if she asked to see the child during the few lucid intervals that were left to her.
Katherine Parr died in the early hours of September 5th and was immediately wrapped in wax cloth and buried in a lead coffin in the small church in the grounds of the castle. It was a simple funeral, the first Protestant service of its kind for a queen in England and Lady Jane Grey acted as chief mourner. Thomas, as was the custom at the time, did not attend the ceremony. His wife’s death left him stunned: ‘I was so amazed’, he wrote to Jane Grey’s father, ‘that I had small regard either to myself or to my doings’. He did, though, think of his daughter and, turning to his family for support, took her with him to London to be looked after in the household of his brother, the Protector Somerset. The Duke and Duchess of Somerset had numerous children and a new baby of their own, so probably took Lady Mary’s arrival in their stride. Unfortunately, their relations with her father were much more volatile.
Without the steadying influence of Katherine Parr and perhaps suffering more from the effects of bereavement than has often been supposed, Thomas Seymour’s judgement, which had been unpredictable in the past, now deserted him completely. His resentment against the power and authority of his brother rankled, his own role in politics being ill-defined, and he began to develop schemes for raising the country in revolt and perhaps even marrying Elizabeth. Neither of these ideas was as hare-brained as they look with hindsight, but both were fraught with danger and Thomas lacked any real power-base from which to impose himself on England. Eventually he was caught apparently trying to kidnap Edward VI, who had been very fond of his younger uncle until he shot his pet dog in the ensuing fracas. The background to this incident remains murky but the campaign of vilification that swung into action to discredit Seymour was swift and relentless. Attainted and therefore never brought to trial, Thomas was executed for treason on March 17th, 1549, leaving Lady Mary an orphan at the age of seven months.
Thomas did not appoint any of his own or Katherine’s relatives as guardian to his daughter. He could scarcely have handed her to the brother who signed his death warrant and no one else among the extended Parr or Seymour families seems to have taken much interest in the child. Like most of his former ‘friends’, they were all trying to put as much distance between themselves and Thomas Seymour as possible. Instead, Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, a close friend of Katherine Parr and a lady of seemingly unimpeachable reforming religious ideas, was appointed as guardian. It was not a charge she accepted with enthusiasm.
Despite her strong religious views, the duchess’s bosom was not full of Christian charity. Lady Mary may have been a dispossessed orphan, but she was an expensive one. As a queen’s daughter, she came with a household of her own, consisting of a lady governess, rockers, laundresses and other servants. The government was supposed to provide for her upkeep and the payment of her staff but the duchess could not get Somerset to part with the money until she appealed to William Cecil, then a prominent member of the duke’s household, to intervene on her behalf. The letter she wrote makes it clear how much she resented ‘the queen’s child’, as she frostily referred to the little girl.
The Duchess of Suffolk’s complaint clearly brought about some response, because in January 1550 Lady Mary Seymour was allowed, by act of Parliament, to inherit any of her father’s property that remained. There was not much left but no claim was ever made and, thereafter, Katherine Parr’s daughter disappears from the historical record completely. What could have happened to her?
The answer to this compelling Tudor mystery seems to lie in a Latin book of poems and epitaphs written by John Parkhurst, Katherine Parr’s chaplain, who had previously served the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. The discovery was made by the American academic, Janel Mueller, but has been overlooked by historians. I am grateful to Jean Bray, the archivist at Sudeley Castle, for drawing it to my attention. In Parkhurst’s Ludicra sive Epigrammata juvenilia, published in 1573, appears the following poem, which translated reads:
I whom at the cost
Of her own life
My queenly mother
Bore with the pangs of labour
Sleep under this marble
An unfit traveller.
If Death had given me to live longer
That virtue, that modesty, That obedience of my excellent Mother
That Heavenly courageous nature
Would have lived again in me.
You are, fare thee well
Because I cannot speak any more, this stone
Is a memorial to my brief life
Though no name is given, this must surely be the epitaph that Parkhurst, who would have known Lady Mary Seymour, wrote on her death. It suggests, as has long been conjectured, that she died young, probably around the age of two. She may well be buried in Lincolnshire, near Grimsthorpe, the estate owned by the Duchess of Suffolk, where she had lived as an unwelcome burden for most of her short, sad life.
Black Death bacterium identified: Genetic analysis of medieval plague skeletons shows presence of Yersinia pestis bacteria:
ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2011) — A team of German and Canadian scientists has shown that today’s plague pathogen has been around at least 600 years.
The Black Death claimed the lives of one-third of Europeans in just five years from 1348 to 1353. Until recently, it was not certain whether the bacterium Yersinia pestis — known to cause the plague today — was responsible for that most deadly outbreak of disease ever. Now, the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Scientific Archaeology and McMaster University in Canada have been able to confirm that Yersinia pestis was behind the great plague.
The results of the research are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous genetic tests indicating that the bacterium was present in medieval samples had previously been dismissed as contaminated by modern DNA or the DNA of bacteria in the soil. Above all, there was doubt because the modern plague pathogen spreads much more slowly and is less deadly than the medieval plague — even allowing for modern medicine.
The international team of researchers has for the first time been able to decode a circular genome important for explaining the virulence of Y. pestis. It is called pPCP1 plasmid and comprises about 10,000 positions in the bacterium’s DNA. The sample was taken from skeletons from a London plague cemetery. The working group in Tübingen, led by Dr. Johannes Krause used a new technique of “molecular fishing” — enriching plague DNA fragments from tooth enamel and sequencing them using the latest technology. In this way, the fragments were connected up into a long genome sequence — which turned out to be identical to modern-day plague pathogens. “That indicates that at least this part of the genetic information has barely changed in the past 600 years,” says Krause.
The researchers were also able to show that the plague DNA from the London cemetery was indeed medieval. To do that, they examined damage to the DNA which only occurs in old DNA — therefore excluding the possibility of modern contamination. “Without a doubt, the plague pathogen known today as Y. pestis was also the cause of the plague in the Middle Ages,” says Krause, who is well known for his DNA sequencing of ancient hominin finds, which help trace relationships between types of prehistoric man and modern humans.