Sunday, 21 February 2010

The connection between Margaret of Denmark and Shetland

Margaret of Denmarkqueen margaret of denmark
For anyone who is not familiar with Shetland it is a beautiful collection of islands off the north of Scotland. It is situated 100 miles from Scotland and 200 miles west of Norway (see map below). Perhaps because of its remoteness it maintains a unique character of its own independent from its greater Scottish and British identities. The roots of this are also in the fact it up until the latter part of the fifteenth century it was part of Denmark. Uniquely it was actually pawned along with Orkney to the Scottish crown by Christian I of Denmark as part of his daughter's dowry. This transaction took place when Christian's daughter Margaret of Denmark married James III of Scotland in 1469. Contemporary writers describe Margaret as a beautiful and likeable woman, however it is said that she was neglected by her husband. This neglect was probably in part to do with the political strife in Scotland at the time. As soon as James arrived home with his new bride the first news he received was of plots and conspiracies. Margaret and James reigned together in Scotland until Margaret's death after an illness in 1486. James was murdered shortly after in 1488 after a difficult reign, and buried with his Queen, their tomb can still be seen at the ruined twelfth century Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling, Scotland.

Beautiful: Burra Beach, Shetland

Cambuskenneth Abbey with tomb in foreground

Locating Shetland on the Map:
View Larger Map


Picture of Burra Beach, Shetland is my own
The picture of Cambuskenneth Abbey is from
Portrait of Margaret of Denmark from Shaw, Henry, Dresses and decorations of the Middle Ages, Volume 2, (1843)

Copyright © 2010 E.JH

Monday, 15 February 2010

Saint Milburg, Abbess of Wenlock

I visited this priory in the summer 2009. It was founded as an Anglo-Saxon monastery in around 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia. Merewalh's daughter Milburge was an abbess there. She was said to have power over birds and the ability to perform miracles and was consequently hailed as a saint. The monastery was then later re-founded by the Normans as a Cluniac priory which is what remains today. St Milburg's relics were rediscovered at the priory in 1101 which made it a popular destination for pilgrims.

Fascinating details: Surviving decorative stonework and floor tiles

For more information of this site please visit:
Also See:
Dockray-Miller, Mary, Motherhood and mothering in Anglo-Saxon England , (St Martins Press: New York, 2000)

All photographs were taken by me in 2009.

Copyright © 2010 E.JH

Sunday, 14 February 2010

17th Century female poet: A poem about love (as its Valentine's Day)

The Souls desireby Julia Palmer, June 6, 1673

A burning beacon, of pure love
Still strongly, flaming up to thee
I’de be, until thou doe remove
Mee up where love. Shall perfect be

This Grace of love is mine eye
The thing, I greatly doe desire
For itt the richest pearls, should lye
Under my feet, as durt, and mire

I will desire no greater pleasure
Then in these flames, of love to ly
I will seek for, noe richer treasure
Then. Wings of love, wheron to fly

If thou’lt not fill me to the brim
Whils here, oh hasten my remove,
Unto that place where I shall swim
In seas, of pure, unmixed, love

(Extract from: Millman, Jill Seal and Gillian Wright (eds), Early modern women’s manuscript poetry, (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2005), p. 180. )

This is a poem about love but it is religious rather than romantic, the 'burning beacon' refers to Palmer herself while the place where love 'shall perfect be' refers to heaven. Little is known about the author herself but it is thought that she was non-conformist in religious belief and probably Presbyterian. This is reflected by the preoccupation throughout her poetry with having a spiritual marriage with Jesus in heaven, which was a popular non-conformist theme. Therefore death is a recurrent theme throughout her work.

Copyright © 2010 E.JH

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Monsterous Births Imagined

In the medieval and early modern period much of what was known about human physiology, conception and childbirth amounted to guesswork. Often unusual or ‘monstrous’ births were perceived as a bad omen but it was also believed that the mind the mind of the mother to be could affect a child's development in adverse ways. Reasons given for monstrous births in Ambroise ParΓ©’s text Des Monstres et Prodiges (1573) were the imagination, demons and devils and ‘the wrath of God’. Contemporary pamphlets reported births of conjoined twins and other unusual births but more subtle differences could also be considered monstrous. In ParΓ©’s assessment of monsters he included anything that could be differentiated from the norm such as the occurrence of warts or a flat shaped nose.
Crawford has argued that in post-reformation England monstrous births were used by Protestant reformers as religious propaganda to guide their people through a tumultuous period in English history. For instance a double bodied, two faced child would be illustrated in the popular press as not only a punishment for sex out of wedlock, but also as an allegory for religious dishonesty.

Illustration: Anon, The forme and shape of a monstrous child, borne at Maydstone in Kent, 1568
Source: Early English Books Online

Copyright © 2010 E.JH