Monday, July 31, 2017

The Queen Without a Crown

by Catherine Curzon

Caroline of Brunswick lived a life of drama, scandal and excitement. From her sheltered early days in Brunswick to a disastrous marriage to George IV (at the time merely the Prince of Wales) and a fling with an Italian chamberlain, she did nothing by halves. She had already survived George’s attempts to blacken her name, strip her of her titles and even divorce her, and through it all, the doughty lady emerged unscathed. Darling of the people, favourite of the radicals and rallying point for those who loathed her husband, she simply refused to bend, let alone break.

Yet even the strongest bough must eventually fall.

Caroline of Brunswick by Samuel Lane
Having survived a trial in the House of Lords that threatened to end her marriage and leave her in disgrace, without rank, title or privilege, in 1821 Caroline felt unstoppable. So unstoppable, in fact, that she decided to join the estranged husband who hated her at his Westminster Abbey coronation. Here the queen would be crowned, the crowd would cheer and Caroline would once and for all trounce George IV on his biggest of big days.

The whole of Great Britain knew that George was due to be crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19th July 1821, and it was going to be the biggest party the country had ever seen. He was determined that Caroline would not be there; she was determined that she would. Whether he liked it or not, she was set on having her moment in the spotlight.

Caroline, or rather her advisors, had always been masters of judging the public mood. Yet this time, the queen misread the atmosphere in the streets catastrophically. Though the public had always supported her in her battles with George, her victory in the Lords was old news by now. Instead, as the people of Britain weathered the long, cold winter and waited keenly for the summer to come, they were looking forward to the Coronation party, which promised to be the knees up to end all knees ups. As far as they were concerned, she had a home in Italy and with her husband’s efforts to divorce her exhausted, they began to wonder why she simply didn’t just go home and enjoy the £50,000 annuity Parliament had granted her. Could it be, the people wondered, that Caroline liked the limelight a little too much?

As the king’s Carlton House team went on the PR offensive, Caroline’s own advisors began to distance themselves from what was becoming a toxic situation. Lord Brougham, her chief advisor, told Caroline that she must not go to Westminster Abbey at any cost. He warned her that the public didn’t want it, and that, if she wanted to stay in their favour, the best approach was one of humility.

Caroline was having none of it.

Instead, she wrote to George IV to tell him that she would be there for her crowning. She requested that he let her know what he would like her to wear and asked for a retinue of ladies to assist her in preparing for the big day.

“The Queen from circumstances being obliged to remain in England, she requests the King will be pleased to command those Ladies of the first Rank his Majesty may think most proper in this Realms, to attend the Queen on the day of the Coronation, of which her Majesty is informed is now fixed, and also to name such Ladies which will be required to bear her Majesty's Train on that day. 

The Queen being particularly anxious to submit to the good Taste of his Majesty most earnestly entreats the King to inform the Queen in what Dress the King wishes the Queen to appear in, on that day, at the Coronation. Caroline R.”1

Needless to say, George didn’t reply. Instead, he passed the letter to Lord Liverpool, the prime minster who was no fan of Caroline. He informed the hopeful lady that she wasn't welcome and should keep her distance. With Liverpool’s warning echoing his own, Brougham redoubled his efforts to keep her from the Coronation. Even the press joined in the chorus of disapproval and begged Caroline to heed the words of the politician who had, so far, not failed her. Brougham’s sound guidance in the Lords had saved her from divorce and disgrace, could he now save her from national embarrassment?

Alas, no.

Henry Brougham by Thomas Lawrence
Brougham knew from the start that Caroline wouldn’t be dissuaded from her planned path, it meant so much to her to score a victory over George. Still, Brougham did all he could to dissuade her, yet she refused to accept that “the public feeling would not go along with her”2. Still, he wrote with an almost audible sigh, “having an order, she could not be stopt when she insisted upon it”3. So on 19th July 1821, Caroline sallied forth at six o’clock in the morning, determined to get into the Coronation.

Accompanied by the gallant and well-meaning Lord Hood, Caroline strode from door to door at Westminster Abbey attempting to gain admission. At each door she was turned away until, finally, one of the doors was literally slammed shut in her face. It was a humiliation like she had never known before, and as the crowd that had once cheered her now booed and jeered, one can only imagine what must have been going through Caroline’s head. 

Still she persisted until one of the exasperated doorkeepers told her that admission was by ticket only, regardless of who she was, queen or no queen. Trying to make the best of a bad situation Lord Hood offered Caroline his own ticket so that she might at least see the procession, but she declined, unable to bear such a humiliation. When he made the kind offer Lord Hood heard, “some persons within the porch of the Abbey laughed, and uttered some expressions of disrespect.”4. He was mortified and Caroline, plunged into despair, had no choice but to flee.

“She flinched,” wrote Brougham, “for the first time in her life”5, and it was the beginning of a swift end for Caroline of Brunswick.

From her rooms in Brandenburgh House the crownless queen Caroline continued to stir up trouble, but to no avail. A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting “to be crowned some days after the King, and before the arrangements were done away with, so that there might be no additional expense”6 was met with a polite but firm rebuttal and one by one, her remaining allies deserted her.

George IV by Thomas Lawrence
Caroline fell ill with stomach pains in late July and her doctors diagnosed an obstruction of the bowel. Her attempts to self-medicate with opiates made matters worse and as the days passed, her condition grew ever weaker. She became convinced that her death was drawing near and requested one final meeting with Brougham, at which she told him,“I shall not recover; and I am much better dead, for I be tired of this life”7.

Caroline of Brunswick, the uncrowned queen, died just after ten o’clock on the evening of 7th August 1821.

“Yesterday evening, at twenty-five minutes after ten o’clock, the QUEEN departed this life after a short but painful illness, at Brandenburgh House, at Hammersmith.”8

Her last wish was to be taken back to her homeland of Brunswick and buried alongside her family. She envisaged a coffin bearing a plate that stated this was the last resting place of the injured queen of England. George IV ordered the minimum period of mourning possible for his late wife, and though he was happy to see her body leave England for Brunswick, her coffin was notably free of the plate she had requested. Enormous crowds turned out to watch her final journey to the coast, mourning the death of the woman who had always provided them with entertainment, if nothing else.

In fact, when the party paused for a rest at Colchester Caroline’s supporters succeeded in fastening the controversial plate to her coffin. The triumph was short lived, and when the procession began again, the official plate was in place once more.

Lord Brougham wrote that the crowds who gathered to watch the procession pass moved him deeply. Though her final weeks had been unhappy, Caroline had not been deserted by her public after all. Mourned, celebrated and notorious, Caroline of Brunswick might be dead, but she would never, ever be forgotten.

1. Melville, Lewis (1912), An Injured Queen, Caroline of Brunswick: Vol I. London: Hutchinson & Co, p.542.
2. Brougham, Henry (1871), The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham, Vol II. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, p.422.
3. Ibid.
4. Urban, Sylvanus (1821). The Gentleman's Magazine: 1821, Volume 91, Part 2. London: John Nichols and Son, p.74.
5. Brougham, Henry (1871), The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham, Vol II. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, p.422.
6. Nightingale, Joseph (1822). Memoirs of the Last Days of Her Late Most Gracious Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain. London: J Robins & Co, p.516.
7. Brougham, Henry (1871), The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham, Vol II. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, p.423.
8. The Morning Post (London, England), Thursday, August 09, 1821; Issue 15725, p.3.
All images courtesy Wikipedia

Further reading
Anonymous. A Brief Account of the Coronation of His Majesty, George IV. London: D Walther, 1821. 
Brougham, Henry. The Critical and Miscellaneous Writings of Henry Lord Brougham. London: Lea & Blanchard, 1841.
Brougham, Henry. The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham, Vol II. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1871.
Chapman, Frederic (trans.). A Queen of Indiscretions, The Tragedy of Caroline of Brunswick, Queen of England. London: John Lane, 1897.
Chapman, Hester W. Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark, 1751-75. London: Cape, 1971.
David, Saul. Prince of Pleasure. New York: Grove Press, 2000.
Fraser, Flora. The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline. Edinburgh: A&C Black, 2012.
Gossip, Giles. Coronation Anecdotes. London: Robert Jennings, 1828.
Hibbert, Christopher. George IV. London: Penguin, 1998.
Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.
Huish, Robert. Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain. London: T Kelly, 1821.
Melville, Lewis, An Injured Queen, Caroline of Brunswick: Vol I. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1912.
Nightingale, Joseph, Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Queen Caroline. London: J Robins and Company, 1821.
Nightingale, Joseph. Memoirs of the Last Days of Her Late Most Gracious Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain, and Consort of King George the Fourth. London: J Robins and Company, 1822.
Nightingale, Joseph. Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of Her Most Gracious Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain. London: J Robins & Co, 1820.
Richardson, Joanne. The Disastrous Marriage. London: Jonathan Cape, 1960.
Robins, Jane. The Trial of Queen Caroline: The Scandalous Affair that Nearly Ended a Monarchy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006.
Smith, EA. George IV. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Wilkins, William Henry. The Love of an Uncrowned Queen. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1900.

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian. She is the author of Life in the Georgian Court, Kings of Georgian Britain, and Queens of Georgian Britain (October 2017). 

Her work has been featured online by BBC History Magazine and in Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has provided research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A and spoken at venues including the Royal Pavilion, Lichfield Guildhall, Greenwich National Maritime Museum and Dr Johnson’s House. This year she will speak at the Stamford Georgian Festival, the Jane Austen Festival, Kenwood House and Godmersham Park. 

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

The overshadowed brother

by Anna Belfrage

It is difficult to study the period of the English Civil War without encountering Prince Rupert of the Rhine. This handsome nephew to King Charles pops up here, he pops up there, one of his uncle’s most loyal and competent commanders. So often does Rupert appear one could be forgiven for believing he was King Charles’ only loyal nephew. That, however, is not true. Rupert had an equally dashing and loyal brother, Maurice.

Rupert and Maurice came from a large family. Their mother, Princess Elizabeth Stuart, had wed Frederick of the Palatinate back in 1613 and for a little while the newlyweds had also been King and Queen of Bohemia, a venture that ended rather disastrously when the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, decided to oust the Protestant pretender from Prague. Whatever hopes Frederick and Elizabeth may have had of remaining on the Bohemian throne were ground to dust at the Battle of the White Mountain in November of 1620. (Read more about Elizabeth here)

In effect, Frederick and Elizabeth thereby became homeless, a royal couple without a throne. Catholic forces had invaded Frederick’s hereditary lands so they really had nowhere to go. Must have caused some concern, especially as Elizabeth was a most fertile lady. Baby Maurice was born in 1621, the fifth of thirteen children. By then, the family was installed in The Hague, which is probably why the baby was named after the then Prince of Orange.  Some say Elizabeth named her fourth son after the brave and ferocious Prince of Orange because he too would have to grow up to be a soldier and fight for what he wanted.

A very young Frederick
In 1632 Frederick rode off to join the Swedish warrior king Gustavus Adolphus on the battlefield, hoping to enlist his help in regaining his hereditary lands. A not-so-successful meeting ended with Frederick deciding to return to The Hague, but along the way he sickened and died. Elizabeth was left with a huge brood (albeit somewhat decimated: three had already died) to raise. By all accounts, she was utterly devastated by the loss of her husband. Her brother, Charles I, offered her a home in England but Elizabeth refused. She had to stay on the continent and fight for the rights of her eldest surviving son, Charles Louis.

Charles Louis and Rupert
Our Maurice grew up in The Hague. Where Charles Louis and Rupert were shipped off to their English royal uncle for extended visits, Maurice was mostly kept at home by his doting mama. Maurice had a habit of partying too hard which did not please the upright citizens of The Hague, even less so when on one occasion Maurice ended up fighting a duel which led to the death of one of his assailants. Elizabeth decided it was time her son learnt manners and sent him off to Paris to study at the University. I’m not all that sure this worked – partying in Paris must have been much more fun than in The Hague- and two years later Maurice decided he wasn’t cut out for studies and went to join the Swedish Army instead.

Over the coming years, Maurice saw a lot of action. He distinguished himself on the field, was considered a brave and competent leader of men. He was only seventeen when he served at the Siege of Breda, a resounding triumph for the Protestant forces. He fought for years under the Swedish Field Marshal Johan Banér. By the time the English Civil War began, our Maurice was a very young but battle-hardened warrior, as competent as his much more famous older brother.

King Charles welcomed Maurice to England with open arms. He needed commanders – loyal commanders – and in Rupert and Maurice he had two such men, experienced enough to be able to face the Parliamentarian forces. The older brother, Charles Louis, was, however, persona non grata at the English Court. Where both Rupert and Maurice were royalists to their core, Charles Louis found much merit in the Parliamentarian cause, going so far as to sign the Solemn league and Covenant in 1644. (As to why he did this, I imagine Charles Louis had his eyes on the bigger prize, hoping the Parliamentarians might enthrone him instead of his uncle. To give Charles Louis his due, though, he was utterly shocked when Charles was executed in 1649)

Maurice served his king capably and loyally. Often in the company of Rupert, he was dismissed as being nothing but his older brother’s shadow, a good-for-nothing that lacked the skills to act independently. This was not the case, and there are various occasions during the Civil War when Maurice’s command and personal bravery resulted in won battles.

No matter how bravely and effectively Maurice fought, his reputation in England was destroyed by the debacle of the Siege of Lyme in 1644. Prince Maurice had been in the west for some time, successfully regaining ground from the Parliamentarian forces until only Plymouth, Poole and Lyme remained under Parliamentarian control.

Maurice was ordered to besiege and take Lyme – a walk in the park according to the other royalist officers. Turns out it wasn’t. Not only was Lyme kept in food and water by Parliamentarian ships sneaking into its harbour, but it was defended by men who fervently believed in the Parliamentarian cause. Maurice’s mercenaries were not as passionate, and things weren’t helped by nature itself, steep cliffs making it difficult for Maurice to deploy his artillery. In desperation, Maurice ordered the town to be stormed. Didn’t work. He did it again. Didn’t work. By now, Maurice’s men were less than enthusiastic about the whole thing and when they had news of the Earl of Essex advancing to relieve the town, Maurice had no choice but to pull back.

Demoted and humiliated, Maurice still continued to fight for his uncle, now mostly under the command of his brother, like at the Battle of Naseby.  He was also with Rupert at the disastrous Siege of Bristol where Rupert had to give up. King Charles angrily accused his nephew of cowardice and borderline treason and ordered Rupert to leave his service—immediately.

Rupert wasn’t having it. Neither was Maurice. Somehow they made their way back to the king where Rupert demanded he be court-martialled for the events at Bristol. He was cleared of any duplicitous behaviour but the relationship between the king and his fiery nephew was permanently damaged – even more so when both Rupert and Maurice tried to make King Charles see he had no choice but to negotiate with the Parliamentarians.
“Over my dead body,” Charles likely said (most unfortunately, given how things turned out) but he grudgingly allowed the brothers to remain in his service which they did until they were exiled by the Parliamentary forces in 1646.

Maurice didn’t exactly twiddle his thumbs once he’d left England. He found a new army to serve, new battles to fight, joining the French in Flanders. But when big brother Rupert suggested he return to serve under him in 1648, Maurice eagerly did so, enamoured, no doubt, by Rupert’s plans to crush the Parliamentarian forces at sea now that most of the Parliamentarian vessels had defected to the royalist cause.

Things didn’t work out quite as intended, mainly because fighting at sea was a totally different animal than fighting on land, and neither Rupert nor Maurice had any experience in managing naval forces. Plus, of course, the Parliamentarian navy had one of the better admirals around, a Robert Blake who soon enough had Rupert’s fleet fleeing for its life, away from England, away from Europe.

By the time 1650 rolled in, Rupert and Maurice were down to six ships or so but determined to regroup and return in force to England, there to push the claim of their young cousin, Charles II. Their uncle was dead, beheaded no less, and the royalist cause had little going for it. There was no money, no men, no leadership. It was Rupert’s hope that his ships would be able to sort the money issue by resorting to piracy, and for a while there things went rather well. Until a storm sank one of the ships and most of the treasure. Maurice almost drowned in the debacle but was pulled to safety at the last moment.
A short-lived reprieve as it would turn out. In 1652, the little fleet was hit by a hurricane in the West indies and one of the ships went down. This time, Maurice went down with it and no matter how his brother searched for him, he was never found. A devastated Rupert returned home to Europe. For years, he held out hope that Maurice had somehow survived, but Maurice never did reappear, stuck no doubt in a very watery grave somewhere in the Caribbean.

Maurice was thirty-one when he died, a veteran of military campaigns on the Continent, in England and at sea. He never married, left no children, and in the history books his life is forever overshadowed by that of the gallant and charming Prince Rupert. But Maurice was more than a shadow, as gallant and brave as his brother. And in my opinion he was also by far the handsomest of the two – but that is neither here nor there.

All pictures in public domain and/or licensed under Wikimedia Creative Commons


Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. And yes, Edmund of Woodstock appears quite frequently. The first book, In The Shadow of the Storm was published in 2015, the second, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016, and the third, Under the Approaching Dark, was published in April 2017.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

More about Anna on her website or on her blog!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Beowulf: Tales Told in Mead-Halls

By Mark Patton.

In an earlier blog-post, I looked at the remarkable survival, in a single manuscript copy of the Tenth or Eleventh Century, of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf. This manuscript was probably produced by Christian monks, perhaps at Malmesbury Abbey, but the poem itself is much earlier (perhaps Seventh or Eighth Century), and its context Pagan. The original poets (we don't know if there was one, or if there were many) were almost certainly illiterate, and their words memorised, handed down, and modified over several centuries in an oral tradition, much like that of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

The language of the poem is an early form of English, but the story that it tells takes place in Scandinavia. Neither England, Denmark, or Sweden were unified countries at the time the poem was composed. The king at whose court Beowulf was first performed (possibly Raedwald of East Anglia) may have ruled in England, but his ancestors probably came from the Nordic lands, perhaps even Geatland (part of modern Sweden), the home of the poem's hero.

The poet even tells us something about the sort of hall in which he would have performed his poems:

"The fortunes of war favoured Hrothgar.
Friends and kinsmen flocked to his ranks,
young followers, a force that grew
to be a mighty army. So his mind turned
to hall-building:he handed down orders
for men to work on a great mead-hall
meant to be a wonder of the world forever;
it would be his throne-room an there he would dispense
his God-given goods to young and old ... 
 ... And soon it stood there,
finished and ready, in full view,
the hall of halls. Heorot was the name
he had settled on it, whose utterance was law ... 
... The hall towered,
its gables high and wide and awaiting
a barbarous burning. That doom abided,
but in time it would come: the killer instinct
unleashed among in-laws, the blood-lust rampant."
(Translation by Seamus Heaney).

No such hall has survived, but archaeologists believe that they have located Hrothgar's Heorot, including the post-holes of his mead-hall, and of its surrounding buildings, at Lejre in Denmark. King Raedwald's mead-hall has not yet been found, but it was probably close to the burial-ground of his dynasty, which archaeologists have discovered, at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk. Richard Denning has, on another post on this site, described some of the artefacts found there: some of these probably belonged to Raedwald himself, and they include fragments of a lyre which the Beowulf-poet may have used in the performance of his works.

The reconstructed great hall of Fyrkat, Denmark, some centuries later than that in which the Beowulf-poet performed. Photo: Maik Meid (licensed under CCA). 

One of the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. Photo: Geoff Dallimore (licensed under GNU).

We will never know quite what such a performance would have sounded like, but here are two recordings that may give an intimation. In the first, Benjamin Bagby recites the opening verses of Beowulf itself; whilst, in the second, Will Rowan sings part of another Anglo-Saxon poem, Deor (a poem about a poet), to the accompaniment of a lyre similar to that found at Sutton Hoo. An epic poem such as Beowulf  typically includes tales within tales, so there would be plenty of scope for a bard to perform the various sections in different ways.

Lyre fragments from Sutton Hoo. Photo: Andreas Praefcke (image is in the Public Domain).

When archaeologists excavate the remains of a wooden building, such as the mead-hall at Lejre, or a similar structure at Yeavering in northern England, what they see, in effect, is the bare bones of a once great hall, and, if they then go on to reconstruct it (whether physically or digitally), this is generally what we ourselves see. Making things up is no part of the job-description of the archaeologist or historian.

Digital image of a great hall and associated buildings at Yeavering. Photo: Past Perfect (reproduced under Fair Use Protocols).

As historical fiction writers, however, it is fundamentally a part of our job-description to make up those aspects of the past for which evidence has not survived. In imagining a Saxon, or Danish, or Geatish mead-hall, I would look to the later Medieval wooden "stave-churches" of Norway, built and decorated, almost certainly, by the Christian descendants of the carpenters and carvers who laboured on the Pagan mead-halls.

The stave-church of Heddal, Norway. Photo: Christian Bartis (licensed under CCA).

The stave-church of Lomen, Norway. Photo: Nina Aldin Thune (licensed under GNU).

Detail of the carving in the stave-church of Urnes, Norway. Photo: Nina Aldin Thune (licensed under CCA).

As for the mead that was served, it is unlikely to have had much in common with the refined liqueur that can be purchased today at heritage sites. The mead drunk by hordes of warriors, to drown their fears on the eve of battle, was a form of ale (it was not "beer," which is flavoured with hops, not used for this purpose until a much later date). Most ale was flavoured with something - often herbs picked from hedgerows: meadowsweet, dandelion, burdock; but mead was flavoured, far more expensively, with honey, which a king such as Hrothgar or Raedwald served only to his elite warriors, his bards, his queen and her ladies.


Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Lady Spy

by Linda Fetterly Root

When the new Spanish ambassador Don Pedro de Zuniga arrived in London in the early autumn of 1605, he was given the names of seven individuals who were 'pensioners' of the King of Spain, presumably aristocrats who had rendered service to the Hapsburgs. The names were not made public nor were they presumed to have been revealed to King James.


Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton 

Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire 

Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset 

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, the king's First Minister. 

Catherine Howard, Countess of Suffolk, Chief Lady-in-Waiting to the queen; wife of a principal peer.

Sir William Monson, Diplomat

Jean Drummond, first lady of the Queen's Bedchamber

This was a time in English history when aligning with the Spanish was a precarious course of action. The years between the appearance of the Armada off the Lizard in 1588 and the peace overtures of 1604 were not nearly enough to erase the terrors of the Armada years from the collective English memory. And if that were not concern enough, two months after the list came into the ambassador's hands,  the Spanish threat emerged again in the wake of the Gunpowder Treason. Anti-Spanish sentiment was again stoked and the new ambassador was forced into self-imposed house arrest at Spanish Place, guarded by a cordon of English soldiers. It would not have served the fragile peace had it become know that seven strategically-placed personalities at the Stuart court were  in the pocket of the Spanish.

Of the seven on the list, two were women. Six were either participants or, as was the case with the Duchess of Suffolk, closely associated with principals in the negotiations of the Treaty of London of 1603, an instrument that ended hundreds of years of hostilities and decades of actual war between the English and the Spanish. If the seven names were to be made public, the first six could stand behind an argument that King Philip III was merely thanking them for the successful conclusion of an enterprise as beneficial to England as it was to Spain.

Seated at the English side of the negotiating table at Somerset House where the Treaty of London was signed were Thomas Sackville, Charles Blount, Henry Howard and none other than Sir Robert Cecil, who was considered one of England's vociferous critics of the Spanish. The only male of the seven missing from the table was Sir William Monson, who had gone to Flanders as escort to the retiring leader of the Spanish-Hapsburg delegation, Don Juan de Velasco, Duke of Frias, who while in the portrait, was too ill to participate in the negotiations. Monson had strong personal ties to the Hapsburgs and his status as a pensioner should come as no surprise. Nor is Catherine Howard's inclusion a puzzle. Long before the autumn of 1605, she was a well known conniver with a propensity to assert herself into most matters of consequence, a Howard, and the wife of one of England's highest ranking peers. Sir Thomas had the title but his Countess had the brains.


To the casual historian, there is no plausible explanation for the inclusion of the last name on the list unless she was a spy. Jane (Jean) Drummond, the only Scot on King Philip's secret list was an unmarried woman and the third child of a well regarded but remote Scottish Earl. What prestige she may have acquired as sister-in-law of Alexander Seton, the powerful Scottish Chancellor, faded when Seton set aside Lilias Drummond for the same reason Henry Tudor discarded Queen Catherine for Anne Boleyn. Yet, while Lady Jane seemed the least likely to be of value to the Hapsburgs, hers was among the largest grants. The grants were given at a time when Philip III was nearly bankrupt, which begs the question: what services did Lady Drummond perform to warrant extravagant gifts and an annual stipend of 2000 Felipes?

Unfortunately, one of the most comprehensive sources of information regarding the influence of Queen Anne's ladies, The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe, (an anthology edited by Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben) is priced out of the budget of most researchers. Also, as pointed out by Linda Porter in her journal article, The Politics of Female Households, (History Today, Vol. 64, Issue 6, June 2014), the anthology has the weaknesses of having been written by graduate students of varying talents and being poorly edited. However, the portion dealing with the household of Anne of Denmark has much to offer about Lady Jane which is not found elsewhere.
Nevertheless, it includes little of her history before Lady Jane Drummond accompanied Anne to England in 1603. For that, one must delve into the Scottish history of the years from the time of the King's marriage to Anne of Denmark and his ascension to the English crown when Elizabeth Tudor died in 1603. By then, Anne had already shown a preference for staffing her household with Catholics. Some modern historians argue that she did so with the king's knowledge and half-hearted consent. The popular opinion is he advised her to be discreet about it and agreed to look through his fingers if she kept her Catholic leanings in the closet.

The king's ambivalence toward his wife's Catholicism raises the question of just whose agent Lady Drummond may have been. Recent research suggests if not an agent, she was at least a conduit for exchanges between the Stuart monarchy and the Catholic kings of early modern Europe which James wished to seduce to the peace table.

Those who follow the politics of James Stuart's last few years as Scotland's resident king will recall he often lived apart from his Danish bride, Anne, whose sons were expected to live in separate households, a tradition which the queen found abhorrent and which caused an estrangement between the royals. When she was separated from her firstborn, Prince Henry Frederick, she launched an aborted attempt to kidnap him while James was occupied elsewhere. As was his nature, the king forgave her, but their relationship was never quite the same. As a part of her dowry, she had an entitlement to lands at Dunfermline and established a residence in the Abbey Palace where her second son, Charles I, was born. He was a sickly child, and thus there was no pressure from the Scottish lords to separate him from his mother. There was no political advantage and considerable risk in obtaining guardianship of a child who would likely die.

At the time of Charles Stuart's birth, the king's Scottish counselor and confidante, Alexander Seton, was still married to his first wife Lilias Drummond. They, too, had established a palatial residence at Dunfermline. It was likely during her confinement before the birth of her second son that the Queen met Lilias's sister Jane. At any rate, a few months after James Stuart's arrival in England to ascend the English throne in the spring of 1603, His Majesty ordered his consort to gather up their remarkable son Prince Henry Frederick and travel south, leaving unappealing, crippled Charles behind with his Chancellor and his second wife, Grizel Leslie. Queen Anne selected Jane Drummond to accompany her to Stirling to collect Prince Henry Frederick, heir-apparent to three kingdoms and a well-known crowd-pleaser.

By then she and Lady Jane were fast friends and co-conspirators. In the autumn of 1603 when the Queen arrived in London, one of Jane's first assigned duties was to staff the queen’s household with priests disguised as servants, with the queen’s confessor posing as her Majesty’s falconer.
According to research contained in the book edited by Nadine Akkerman, Lady Jane Drummond’s activities on behalf of the Hapsburgs and the Vatican were likely instigated by the queen and possibly sanctioned by the king, who possibly used them as a conduit to the Catholic kings with whom he wished to reconcile. This viewpoint is consistent with recent research indicating James I aspired to a legacy as the monarch who brought peace to the modern states of Europe by minimizing the religious differences between Protestant rulers and the Catholic kings. (see King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom, W. B. Patterson, Cambridge Studies in Earl Modern British History, Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Jane’s relationship with the Spanish and likely, the Pope, were not the least bit casual. She had even been assigned the code name Amadisfrom a character in a medieval romance novel. She was a single woman and could not have gained her pension as a means of exerting pressure on a well-placed husband, for she did not marry reformed Scottish reiver-cum-courtier, Lord Robert Kerr (later Earl of Roxburgh) until 1614, after his first wife died. Her stock in trade was her actual or perceived influence over the queen. Before he was replaced by Don Pedro Zuniga in 1605, the Spanish ambassador Don Juan de Taxis, Count of Villa Medina, personally requested Philip III to grant a stipend to Lady Drummond, citing the numerous times she had passed on valuable secret information. While the extent of her disclosures are not known, it is likely she was also used to pass messages to the Spanish from James I when he himself could not.

Anne of Denmark
After the discovery of the Gunpowder Treason in November 1604, the queen found it politically astute to cut back on her Catholic leanings, which made Jane’s position critical insofar as it provided an avenue for the queen to maintain a clandestine contact with the Catholic European monarchies and the Vatican. However, the Queen and Jane had a a falling out in 1617 when Jane's husband, who was by then the Earl of Roxburghe, attempted to obtain the guardianship of Charles without first consulting either the king or the queen. The popular Henry Frederick had died in 1612, apparently of typhus, and control of adolescent Charles was indeed a power play characteristic of Lord Roxburghe. When Jane was expelled from the royal bedchamber, the Spanish discontinued the stipend, a rather clear statement of why it had been awarded in the first place.

Logically, this should be the end of the story, but it is not. Jane Drummond did not disappear from the world of power politics when her relationship with Anne ended. By then, she had already gained the favor of the heir-apparent Charles. When he married the Catholic French princess Henrietta Maria, Jane's stars were in ascendance. She remained an important figure in the Court of Charles I until her death. The circumstances of her last mission were not fully known until last year when its details were reported in The Guardian.


The year 1642 found Jane Drummond, Countess of Roxburghe, in the household of yet another Stuart consort, Henrietta Maria, wife of ill-fated Charles I. She had known Charles since he was an infant in the Scottish household of Alexander Seton. Between the Setons and his mother, he had spent most of his early life in the care of Catholics, until he was placed in the care of Sir Robert Carey and his wife, Dame Robert. At some point after his marriage, Charles I wished to make the Countess of Roxburghe governess of his heir, the future Charles II, but the anti-Catholic faction at the English court balked. Nevertheless, Jane Drummond was appointed governess of his other children. Charles and Henrietta Maria's marriage is said to have become a love match, and the royal household, however stressed, was a happy one. Unfortunately, domestic harmony did not save Charles I from his shortcomings or his inability to adapt to change.

King Charles, his consort and his children

Charles I and his allies (PD Art)
A scant few months before the outbreak of what became the English Civil War, the king's consort and a few of her most trusted ladies sailed from Dover to the Netherlands, ostensibly to deliver the princess Mary, who was five, to the protection of her betrothed, William of Orange. But that was not the true reason for the trip. Henrietta Marie was traveling to Europe to pawn the Crown Jewels, in order to finance a Royalist army. It was a highly dangerous mission, both practically and politically. Many of Charles's failings had been attributed to his Catholic consort. While the details of the mission are unclear, the fleet of twelve ships in the Consort's convoy was shipwrecked off the Dutch Island of Texel. The royal party either survived or was not at sea when the storm hit. Reports of the shipwreck are vague. With England soon to be at war, the event was overshadowed. However, in 2014, Dutch divers found the wreckage of one of the ships and among the items salvaged was an elegant dress, heavily embroidered in gold and silver threads and wonderfully preserved.

Courtesy of the Texil Museum
The discovery was not widely publicized until the origin of the items could be researched, but thanks to circumstantial evidence, a newly discovered letter from Charles I's sister Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, and the research of Nadine Akkerman and her colleague Helmer Helmers, the dress is accepted by most historians as a gown belonging to Jane Drummond, Countess of Roxburghe. The claim is largely based upon its dated style and large size.  At the time of the shipwreck, the Countess was 46 years old, stout, and no longer a fashion trend-setter.  Her inclusion on the mission is a testimony to the degree of trust and high esteem in which she was held by the Queen Consort and by King Charles, who sought to entrust her with his children.  If the mission to  pawn the Crown Jewels had been exposed, more than just gowns and trinkets would have been sacrificed. Jane Drummond, Countess of Roxburghe, died the following year.  King Charles was beheaded at Westminster on January 31, 1649.


Linda Fetterly Root is the author of seven novels set in Marie Stuart's Scotland and early modern Britain. She lives in the Southern California high desert and is a retired major crimes prosecutor. She is a member of the Marie Stuart Society, the California Bar and the Bar of the Supreme Court.

Sunday, July 23, 2017