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TudorCast #5
October 2006


Welcome to Tudor Cast, a podcast dedicated to Tudor History.

Hello, and welcome to Tudor Cast for October 2006. I’m your host, Lara Eakins owner of tudorhistory.org and the TudorTalk email list at YahooGroups.

Let’s get started with a recap of some of the Tudor news since the last podcast.

In mid-September, an Elizabethan shipwreck that was actually discovered some time ago was made public, although excavations have been conducted since the early 1990s. The wreck was discovered by a fisherman in 1977 off Alderney, the most northern of the Channel Islands and is just 9 miles from the Cherbourg Peninsula in northern France. The wreck is thought to have occurred in 1592. More information on the wreck and the Trust overseeing the project is available in the show notes.

With the Tate Britain’s “Holbein in England” exhibition opening, there continues to be lots of articles on the painter and his works. I have a round up of coverage in the news blog. I also have links to the book of the exhibition, which is as close as some of us will be getting to the collection!

In more Tudor movie news, Kristen Scott Thomas joined the cast of The Other Boleyn Girl and will be portraying Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, the mother or Mary and Anne Boleyn. And, Scarlett Johansson, who is playing Mary Boleyn in the movie, has also been cast to portray Mary Queen of Scots in an upcoming film.

A story that got lost in the shuffle last month is the unveiling of a new memorial to those executed at the Tower of London. The memorial is two circles with a glass pillow at the center. The lower stone circle has inscribed a poem by the designer and an upper glass circle is engraved with the names of those executed in front of the chapel.

And finally, Sting’s “Songs from the Labyrinth” was released in October. The album is a tribute to Elizabethan composer John Dowland. Stay tuned for my comments on the album at the end of the podcast.

For links to source articles and other past Tudor news, please see the archives of the news blog at tudorhistory.org/blog

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In this segment, I look at websites that explore aspects of Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan or Renaissance history in depth.

This month’s site is Renaissance, the Elizabethan World, now at their new domain name www.elizabethan.org

This site, written by Maggie Pierce Secara, has been around since the late 1990s and has a section called The Compendium of Common Knowledge, an excellent resource on life in Elizabethan England. The Compendium actually began life as notes used for the Queen’s Court at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California and then made its way from print to the world wide web. It covers a wide range of topics from money and food to weddings and keeping Christmas. One nice bonus is a downloadable copy of the whole Compendium as a PDF.

Other detailed sections include Elizabethan Heraldry, Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws, which we’ll talk more about in the glossary section in a moment, and a transcription of the trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton in 1601. And of course, they have compiled a great collection of links to other sites of Renaissance and Elizabethan history. So if you’re for a nice overview of many elements of life in Elizabethan England, check it out!

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And now for This Month in Tudor History, where I feature some well known and maybe not as well known people and events that took place during this month.

On October 18, 1541, Margaret Tudor died in Methven Castle in Scotland. Margaret was the older sister of Henry VIII and was married to James IV of Scotland in 1503 when she was just 13 years old. In 1512 she gave birth to the future James V, who succeeded his father as king just a year later when James IV was killed at Flodden Field. Margaret acted as regent for her son for a year until she forfeit that right by marrying Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus as her second husband. Circumstances in Scotland forced Margaret to flee to England, where she gave birth to her daughter Margaret Douglas, who would figure in to English and Scottish history significantly in her own right. Margaret Tudor‘s marriage to Angus turned out to be disastrous and was annulled in 1527. Shortly afterwards she took Henry Stewart, later Lord Methven, as her third husband, although this marriage turned out to be unhappy in later years as well. When Margaret died from a stroke at the age of 52, she had spent many years lonely and unhappy in Scotland. Margaret was buried among Scottish kings at the Carthusian Abbey of St. John’s in Perth, Scotland. Margaret did leave one important legacy to British history though. It was through her descendants that the crowns of Scotland and England were eventually united under James in 1603. And because of Margaret, Tudor blood flows in the veins of the current Queen Elizabeth II.

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And now for a page from the Tudor History glossary.

This month’s term is Sumptuary Laws. Generally speaking, a sumptuary law is one that restricts extravagance in certain items, such as food and clothing. The laws were often justified on religious or moral grounds, but more often had the impression of trying to keep those from the lower classes in their place. There were also legitimate economic concerns, such as promoting a native product over an imported one. Many countries in many time periods have tried to enact and enforce sumptuary laws, including Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and feudal Japan.

English monarchs had a history of trying to regulate who could buy and wear what. The first recorded sumptuary laws in England date back to London in the late 13th century, and were expanded throughout the following three hundred years. Under Edward III there were nation-wide statutes, including limiting the lengths of shoe spikes and points to certain lengths depending on rank. Later in that reign the wearing of cloth of gold and purple silk was restricted to women of the royal family. Under Edward IV we see more shoe-length regulations, although there is little evidence of these rules being enforced.

In Henry’s VIII’s first parliament, among the laws passed in that session was “An Act Against Wearing of Costly Apparel”. Some examples include “Velvet of crimson or blue is prohibited to any one under the degree of knight of the garter; no person under a knight (excepting sons of lords, judges, those of the king’s council and the mayor of London) is to wear velvet in his gown and doublet, or satin or damask in his gown or coat. Also in the lower classes, no serving man is to use above 2 ½ yards in a short gown or 3 yards in a long one.

Sumptuary laws reached their zenith in the reign of Elizabeth I, at least for England. The statutes from Henry VIII’s and Mary I’s reigns were kept and elaborated upon, including regulating ruffs, hose and the length of swords. Interestingly, some of the statutes came to the New World with English settlers and there were sumptuary laws passed in Massachusetts up to at least 1651.

Needless to say, the enforcement of these laws was difficult, if not impossible.

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Now it’s time for a segment where I feature a text from the Tudor period. With all the attention John Dowland is now getting thanks to Sting’s new album, I thought it would be nice to put in one of his songs this month. This is “Can She Excuse My Wrongs” and is performed by Magnatune artist La Primavera, whom I’ve featured tunes from in the past in the podcast. I’ll post the lyrics in the show notes for anyone who is interested.

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And now for some closing comments…

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have left very nice comments on the blog and posted reviews of the podcast and sent me kind emails. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to hear that folks are listening to and enjoying the podcast.

I also wanted to briefly comment on the new Sting album that I mentioned in the news section. The album has been getting mixed reviews, possibly because some people just don’t know what to make of it. I personally have been enjoying it and I’m very pleased at the attention that it is bringing to Elizabethan music.

I’d once again like to remind everyone that the Tudor Ghost Story for 2006 is open for submissions. You can find out all the details of the website at tudorhistory.org/storycontest/ Just to clarify what has been on the website about the contest, the $5 entry fee is to cover Wendy’s expenses for the contest. Any left over money will be donated to UNICEF.

Stay tuned after the closing segment for a promo from Michael Anthony’s British History 101 podcast. If you are like me and interested in periods of British History outside of the Tudor era, then you will definitely want to tune in to his podcast!

If you want to comment on this podcast, you can do so at tudorhistory.org/podcast or send me an email at lara@tudorhistory.org A transcript of this and previous podcasts are also available at the website. All the music in this episode is from the Magnatune artist Jacob Heringman. Logon to magnatune.com to listen to and purchase music from this and other artists.

Until next month, fare the well!