Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Tudor Year: February

A snowfall at Hampton Court, February, 2009. Photo from Cooking the Books, "the blog of the Tudor kitchens cookery project at Hampton Court palace."

Theme: jewels

(from the National Portrait Gallery, London, via Tudor History dot org)

(photo from Fashion Monitor Toronto)

February 8, 1601 -- Earl of Essex's rebellion against Queen Elizabeth
February 12, 1554 -- Execution of Lady Jane Grey
February 13, 1542 -- Execution of Catherine Howard
February 17, 1587 -- Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
February 18, 1516 -- Birth of Mary Tudor
February 25, 1601 -- Execution of the Earl of Essex

February's grim roster of executions, particularly of young women, reminds us that to be near royal power, or in the Earl of Essex's case to grasp at it, was to live and die (in Catheine Howard's words) "very dangerously." Depending on the time Easter fell, February was likely to be the month of Shrovetide, a "day of celebration and release before Lent," and then of Lent, which meant, for all Elizabethans, seven weeks of a purely fish diet. Valentine's Day was celebrated by the women of a household -- including servants -- choosing men's names by lot, and then receiving a gift from the man. The first two pictures above show a collection of affordable, middle-class Tudor jewelry, from the Cheapside Hoard discovered in London in 1912. More famous is the fabulous pearl La Peregrina, once owned by Queen Mary I and now belonging -- it was a Valentine's gift -- to Elizabeth Taylor.

David Starkey,
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII. New York: Harper Collins, 2003, p. 264 (Shrovetide, "day of celebration").

F. G. Emmison, Tudor Secretary: Sir William Petre at Court and Home. London and Chichester: Phillimore & Co., 1970. First published by Longmans, Green, and Co., 1961 (pp. 142-143 (fish diet), and pp. 217-218 (Valentine's Day).

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