28 September, 2006

Turn the pages of "The Golf Book" with the British Library

Have just discovered The British Library "Turning the Pages" site, where they use a clever Shockwave plug-in to simulate turning the pages of landmark historical books with your mouse.

The list of books on display includes the Luttrell Psalter; the Sherborne Missal; the Sforza Hours; and the Flemish "Golf Book" (so called due to the inclusion of golf in the illustrations of medieval games and pastimes).

There is even a draggable "magnifying glass" for superb close-ups.

You can download the Shockwave plug-in from Adobe from the site.

25 September, 2006

Exhibition time

A couple of must-see London autumn exhibitions for today's post. Firstly Holbein in England at Tate Briatin starts on Thursday 28th. Highlights include "the" portrait of Henry VIII reunited with those of Jane Seymour and his son Edward (VI). Here's another link to the same exhibition on ArtKnowledgeNews. There is an excellent article about the exhibition by Tom Teodorczuk in tonight's Evening Standard, and here's a link.

Secondly, At Home in Renaissance Italy at the V&A, which has its own very nice web microsite, complete with renaissance e-cards to send to your friends.
This quote from the V&A site gives a flavour:
"Many of the paintings, sculpture and decorative art objects we now associate with this period began their lives within the home. The exhibition places outstanding art and domestic objects within their original contexts. Together they highlight the rhythms and rituals of Renaissance living - from entertainment and cooking, to marriage and collecting.
With rich displays of paintings, furnishings and cherished family possessions from the palazzi of Tuscany and the Veneto, At Home in Renaissance Italy presents an entirely fresh look at the Renaissance."

It runs from 5th October.

19 September, 2006

Tudor perfumery - how to smell nice without taking a bath

This post is prompted by a surprise link to this blog from the Perfume of Life discussion forum Baths were infrequent in Cardinal Wolsey's time, so how did tudor gentlefolk stay sweet?.

This from Proctor and Gamble's site: "At the royal court in Tudor days 'sweet breath' was prized as much as facial beauty, and perfumes were highly valued in a society where few people paid much attention to washing"

The International Federation of Aromatherapists has a comprehensive piece on the perfumes of Elizabeth I , from which the following extract gives a flavour......

"Houses and Royal Residences used masses of pleasant smelling herbs and flowers as 'strewing herbes' which would be scattered on the floor to produce a pleasant perfume to the air. England produced many aromatic plants in both gardens, fields and hedgerows. In the days when sanitation was virtually unknown, they also assisted in keeping hygienic standards. As every visitor to the the Tower of London will know, the Royal Appartments contained small grilles in the wall for 'bodily functions'.

Every castle or country house had its still room where perfumes and aromatics were made. These were vital places in the country as they produced herbals wines, mead and many other drinks. Housewives prided themselves on producing a whole range of 'household recipes' which included candied flowers, anti-moth powders and herbal bath additives of mint and lovage. Herb gardens proliferated and many can be seen today with their intricate herb knot gardens"

Here is a recipe from the same source:

Take 1 ounce of Benjamin ( Benzoin), 1 ounce of Storax and 1 ounce of Labdanum.Heat in a mortar till very hot, and beat all the gums to a perfect paste. In beating add 6 grains of Musk and 4 grains of Civet. When it is beaten to a fine paste, wash your hands with Rose Water and take a portion and roll between the hands till it is round. Make holes in the beads and string them while they are hot.

....certainly beats Blue Stratos.

15 September, 2006

Tudor Googlefight!

A bit of fun for today's post. Googlefight.com enables you to have a little contest between search terms - whoever returns the highest number of google results wins. It is simple but addictive.

Always intersted in the balance of power, Cardinal Wolsey has staged some Googlefights between various Tudor figures, with some interesting results.....

Henry VII starts us off with a respectable 617,000 results, managing to overcome his Yorkist predecessor Richard III on Bosworth field in spite of the latter's superior 2,500,000 Google results.

However (as may be expected) both these are trumped by Henry VIII who wins the overall Tudor Googlefight with an all-conquering 4,690,000 results.

How about the Six Wives? Catherine of Aragon manages 194,000, but the winning combination of beauty and tragedy gets Anne Boleyn 555,000 results. Jane Seymour trumps that on 1,400,000 but of course shares the score with the eponymous actress. Anne of Cleves' appearance seems to have put people off writing about her and she only manages 113,000 hits. Henry's later wives also struggle for attention with Catherine H on 131,000 and Catherine P 125,000.

As for myself, Cardinal Wolsey scores a modest 152,000, but manages to stay ahead of my protegee Thomas Cromwell on 124,000. However we are both well beaten by Sir Thomas More with 395,000 results.

Mustn't forget Edward VI who at least beats his grandad Henry VII with 638,000 results.

Turning to Mary I's time, "Bloody Mary" herself scores an impressive 1,540,000, far ahead of those she did away with: Thomas Cranmer manages 149,000, Lady Jane Grey slightly better on 226,000, and Hugh Latimer a sad 65,000. Clearly martyrdom doesn't guarantee fame on the web.

Mary Queen of Scots gets an impressive 961,000 results, but cannot match her nemesis Elizabeth I on 3,620,000, second only to her father in the rankings.

In Elizabeth's reign it's nearly a dead heat between fellow schemers the Earl of Essex with 224,000 and Robert Dudley on 227,000

Finally, the battle between Elizabethan popular heroes sees Sir Francis Drake on 991,000 trounce Sir Walter Raleigh who has a still impressive 534,000. Clearly beating the Spanish scores higher in the web world than introducing potatoes and tobacco.

11 September, 2006

Men who commanded their own firing squads part 2: Admiral John Byng, March 1757

Admiral John Byng of the Royal Navy, like Marshal Ney in last week's post, gave the order to fire to his own firing squad, in his case by dropping a white handkerchief onto the deck of his flagship "Monarch", on which he was shot at Portsmouth in March 1757.

Byng had been found guilty by court-martial of "failing to do his utmost" in preventing the French capture of Minorca in 1756, at the start of the Seven Years War.

Many thought Byng had been made a scapegoat, and Voltaire wrote about his death in Candide, recording that in England 'it is thought good to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others' (pour encourager les autres)

Byng's end is recorded in typically terse naval style in the Master of the 'Monarch's' log recording the execution: 'at 12 Mr Byng was shot dead by 6 Marines and put into his coffin'.

Links: the National Maritime Museum , Peter Davis' site (where you can also download a Windows simulator for a square-rigged frigate) , Letters from Voltaire re. Byng on the Voltaire Soc. America site.

Other posts on this blog of naval interest:
The Spanish Armada
The Battle of Sole Bay
The Capture of Napoleon by the Bellerophon

07 September, 2006

Execution of Marshal Ney, 1815

This blog occasionally makes an excursion into the Napoleonic period (see previous posts on Napoleon's final surrender to the English Navy and Napoleon's death on St.Helena ), and today's post commemorates the death by firing squad (commanded by himself - how's that for guts) of Marshal Ney in December 1815.

Ney was knows as "le Rougeaud" (he had ginger hair), and was a popular general, but attracted enemies firstly by siding with the Bourbons while Napoleon was on Elba, and secondly poor tactics at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo.

Bruno Nackaerts's article on the lack of opposition to Ney's execution includes mention of two good conspiracy theories - one that Wellington felt guilty and arranged for a mock execution with Ney spirited away to America where he became Peter Ney, a schoolteacher; the other conspiracy theory is another mock execution arranged by the masons, complete with stage blood!

Incidentally, the excellent Fondation Napoleon site has an interesting article on Napoleon's famous hat ('whilst most of his officers wore their hats "en colonne", that is, perpendicular to the shoulders, Napoleon wore his "en bataille", that is, with the corns parallel to shoulders').
There is also a link to various primary sources on the Napoleonica site, as well as some fun stuff - how about a classy Napoleonic e-card to your history buddies?.

04 September, 2006

Great House of Easement webcam

Cardinal Wolsey has returned from holiday in Cornwall (where the population is still paying for their ill-advised rebellion in 1497), to learn that King Henry wishes a web-cam to be installed in the Great House of Easement at Hampton Court.

Given that up to 28 may be sat upon the boards at a time, there is scope for seditious conversations and discussion of plots, which vexes the King. The matter will be discussed with the Master of Works and hopefully some interesting views will be available on this blog shortly.