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TudorCast #6
November 2006


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

Hello, and welcome to Tudor Cast for November 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.

Late in October, Sotheby’s announced that a letter written by Catherine of Aragon is due to be auctioned in December. The letter was written in 1534 by Catherine, in Spanish, to her nephew Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor asking him to help her plead her case to the Pope and uphold her marriage to Henry VIII. The letter is expected to sell for $150,000.

Two men who were hanged because of their Catholic beliefs in the reign of Elizabeth I have had their faces reconstructed by a forensics expert from Dundee University. The heads of Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston were displayed on Micklegate Bar in York after their executions and eventually removed by a local Catholic group and taken to Hazelwood Castle. The skulls were uncovered during renovation work in the 19th century and will be interred in St. Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds.

In a follow up to a series of articles from January and that I mentioned in the first podcast, a portrait thought to be of Lady Jane Grey has been purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in London for a rumored £100,000. Analysis on the wood panel the portrait was painted on place it late in the reign of Elizabeth, adding to the thinking that it was a copy of a lost original. It is thought that the painting was commissioned by someone late in Elizabeth’s reign who possibly wanted a memorial to Protestant martyrs or to re-enforce Protestant credentials. Historian David Starkey has criticized the portrait’s identification and purchase.

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 I’ve chosen the official website of one of my favorite places to visit in London - Westminster Abbey. The sites address is, easy enough, www.westminster-abbey.org. This site includes a brief history of the abbey, with links to more about the Norman monastery, of which little remains due to the rebuilding under Henry III, as well as an exploration of the architectural styles now visible in the abbey.

They also have an entire section dedicated to the history of the nearly 1000 years of coronations at the Abbey, including and page about and photos of the preparation for the coronation of Elizabeth II in June, 1953.

The site has a virtual tour with photos and information on several areas of the Abbey, including Elizabeth I and Mary I’s tomb, Mary Queen of Scots’ tomb and the Lady Chapel built during the reign of Henry VII. This section also has two panoramic views of the abbey, one in the Lady Chapel and the other in the heart of the abbey at the crossing of the choir and sanctuary and the north and south transepts. Also, look for the section on the stained glass windows, one of my favorite things to look at in churches and cathedrals.

Be sure to look for the pages on St. Margaret’s church, which is the separate church building outside the north entrance of the Abbey. They have a nice history and tour of that building on the website as well. Look for the memorial to Blanche Parry, who was nurse to Elizabeth I when she was a princess and later served her as Queen.

In addition to all the things I’ve mentioned above, they have a section on the College gardens, Frequently Asked Questions, and the Abbey Library and Archives. And, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in London, there is also a full listing of all the services and special events at the Abbey and the standard visitor information.

Although it is no substitute for visiting the real thing, the website for Westminster Abbey will give you a nice taste of the magnificence of the building and all the history that has taken place in it.

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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.

When I started doing this podcast and choosing events for This Month in Tudor History, I was going to try to stay away from some of the most obvious choices, but this month will not be one of those times!

On November 17th, 1558 Mary I died and her half-sister Elizabeth succeeded to the throne.

In the years before her death, Mary’s overall health had been in gradual decline.

On two occasions Mary thought she was pregnant, but failed to deliver a child even though her menstruation had ceased and her belly swelled. By 1558, Mary was losing weight and her appetite in addition to the severe headaches she had suffered for many years. Her symptoms have lead some modern scholars, including doctors interested in historical medicine, to believe that Mary had an ovarian cyst or possibly cancer of the uterus. In her final days, Mary was lapsing into unconsciousness with periods of lucidity. Mary had put off formally naming Elizabeth as her heir until very near her death when Mary’s council convinced her to do so. On the morning of November 17th, at St. James’ Palace in London, Mary died.

The roads were already clogged on the way to what is now called the Old Palace of Hatfield, where Elizabeth had lived on and off for 25 years. Legend has it that Elizabeth was seated under an oak tree in the park when she received word that her sister had died and she was now Queen. As a side note, the tree associated with Elizabeth I no longer stands, but a new one was planted in the same spot by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985. Upon hearing the news of her ascension to the throne, Elizabeth is said to have repeated a line from the 118th psalm: “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”

On December 14th, Mary was buried in Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey. After Elizabeth I’s death 45 years later, James I built a tomb and monument for Elizabeth over that of Mary. A plaque on the tomb reads: Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection.

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And now for a page from the Tudor History glossary.

This entry was inspired by a submission on the Question and Answer blog a month or so ago. As someone who is in science for a living and history as a hobby, the combination of the two is irresistible for me!

“The Sweat” or the “Sweating Sickness” was a dreaded illness that took numerous lives in the Tudor period. It is also known as “Sudor Anglicus”. There were 5 outbreaks occurring in the summers of 1485, 1508, 1517, 1528 and 1551. One chronicler wrote of the first outbreak: “A new kind of sickness came through the whole region, which was so sore, so painful and sharp that the like was never heard of to any manners rememberance before that time”. There were some notable victims of the disease, including young Henry and Charles Brandon, Dukes of Suffolk. Young Charles Brandon only held the title of Duke of Suffolk for one day after he followed his older brother to the grave at about the age of 13.

The characteristics of the disease were its sudden onset, headaches, profuse sweating (hence the name), fever, muscle pain, difficulty breathing and usually death in a short space of time, often only a day.

The disease has caught the attention of both modern historians and modern pathologists who have tried to analyze the recorded symptoms and find an illness known today that might fit. If you do a search on pubmed.gov, you will turn up roughly two dozen publications in medical journals on the disease. One of the more likely causes is a disease similar to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which there was a large outbreak of in the southwestern US in 1993. Anthrax has also been suggested as a possibility. Undisturbed graves of victims of the English sweating sickness have been found and it is possible that a DNA analysis will finally give us an answer.

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Now it’s time for a segment where I feature a text from the Tudor period. We’re going to go to the reign of Henry VII for this month’s featured text. The following is a description of the king from Polydore Vergil’s “History of England”. The work was first commissioned by Henry VII, but it was not published until well into the reign of his son, Henry VIII.

A Description of Henry VII

His body was slender but well built and strong; his height above the average. His appearance was remarkably attractive and his face was cheerful, especially when speaking; his eyes were small and blue, his teeth few, poor and blackish; his hair was thin and white; his complexion sallow. His spirit was distinguished, wise and prudent; his mind was brave and resolute and never, even at moments of the greatest danger, deserted him. He had a most pertinacious memory. Withal he was not devoid of scholarship. In government he was shrewd and prudent, so that no one dared to get the better of him through deceit or guile. He was gracious and kind and was as attentive to his visitors as he was easy of access. His hospitality was splendidly generous; he was fond of having foreigners at his court and he freely conferred favours of them. But those of his subjects who were indebted to him and who did not pay him due honour or who were generous only with promises, he treated with harsh severity. He well knew how to maintain his royal majesty and all which appertains to kingship at every time and in every place. He was most fortunate in war, although he was constitutionally more inclined to peace than to war. He cherished justice above all things; as a result he vigorously punished violence, manslaughter and every other kind of wickedness whatsoever. Consequently he was greatly regretted on that account by all his subjects, who had been able to conduct their lives peaceably, far removed from the assaults and evil doing of scoundrels. He was the most ardent supporter of our faith, and daily participated with great piety in religious services. To those whom he considered to be worthy priests, he often secretly gave alms so that they should pray for his salvation. He was particularly fond of those Franciscan friars whom they call Observants, for whom he founded many convents, so that with his help their rule should continually flourish in his kingdom, but all these virtues were obscured latterly only by avarice, from which...he suffered. This avarice is surely a bad enough vice in a private individual, whom it forever torments; in a monarch indeed it may be considered the worst vice, since it is harmful to everyone, and distorts those qualities of trustfulness, justice and integrity by which the state must be governed.

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And now for some closing comments…

I don’t have a whole lot to ramble about this month, so I thought I would take a moment to mention some of the other history podcasts I enjoy. There are many other history podcasts out there that I haven’t had a chance to download and listen to, but these are the few that I have been keeping up with. So, no slight is intended to the others out there I haven’t listened to yet! There is a bit of a US history slant on some of them, which may or may not interest some of you. I find it interesting since I always feel like I should know more about US history than I do!

The first history podcast that I happened across was Matt’s Today in History, which, like the title suggests is a near-daily podcast that focuses on an event that happened on that day. His podcasts are a mix of US and international history. The next history podcast I found was History According to Bob, from Professor Bob, who has been teaching history for 31 years. His podcasts are also mix of US and international history, stretching back to ancient times. He’s also added some video podcasts in recent months. Another history podcast that I’ve been enjoying for a while is the Baseball History Podcast. I’m sure this one appeals to mostly to American audiences, but I’m sure not exclusively given the all the international players on today’s teams, not to mention the strong Japanese baseball following. I also enjoy the Archaeology Channel podcast, which is a short weekly update on archaeological news. Of course, there is British History 101, which you’ve probably heard the promo for here, and if you all aren’t listening to yet, you should be! One of my more recent discoveries is the Biography Podcast, by Phillip Zannini, which I’ll play a promo for at the end of this episode. Again, there is mostly American History in his podcast, so far at least, but it’s been enjoyable. One other podcast I’d like to mention is not a history podcast, but rather a music one. It isn’t even really historical, but will be fun for folks like me who don’t let a year go by without attending a renaissance festival. The Renaissance Festival Podcast, by fellow central Texan Marc Gunn, features music and musicians who play at Renaissance Festivals. I’ve heard music from acts I’ve know for years as well as discovering new ones. I’ll post links to these podcasts in the show notes. 

And for one last time this year, I’d like to remind everyone that the Tudor Ghost Story for 2006 is open for submissions but will be closing on December 1. You can find out all the details on the website at tudorhistory.org/storycontest/

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!