17th century

I have conveniently decided that here, 17th century means the period of Stuart England; i.e. from the death of Elizabeth I 1603 to the death of Queen Anne in 1714.

It makes sense from the perspective of other countries too; in France the 17th century didn’t really end until Louis XIV died, and for Sweden, the entire reign of Charles XII rather belongs in the political context of the 17th century.

Dec 172016

Because it’s finally December and we need to get jolly (and because I have a terrible sense of humor) I’m posting a Christmas video I made over at JibJab, featuring a bunch of historical people
(click the image to watch it).


Of course, these faces do have a common historical denominator – they all took part in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) in one way or the other.

Do you know who they are? Most likely not. They don’t really look like they usually do. But you might have seen the guy in the red bandana looking something like this?

King Louis XIV of France. Source: Wikipedia

That’s right – I’m talking about Louis XIV of France, aka The Sun King. He made it to this video because in 1701, he decided to let his grandson become King of Spain despite earlier agreeing that all his heirs should forfeit the right to the Spanish throne. Also I included him because he liked the sort of hair they have in that video and because he has this cute little moustache that makes him look like an overaged Casanova from the 1930′s, bless his little heart.

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough by Godfrey Kneller, ca 1702. Source: Wikipedia

Our next contender had to be the main singer for no other reason than blatant favorism. I adore the Duke of Marlborough, see. I adore him more when he’s young and pretty (because I’m shallow like that), but heck, I adore him old and saggy-chinned  as well. The fact that I hold him close to my heart isn’t the only reason I added him though – he was also the British commander for most of the war and kicked French butt on a regular basis, such as at Blenheim and Ramillies for example.

Queen Anne of Great Britain

So this is Marlborough’s boss, Queen Anne of England. She supported the ousting of her father James II, had 14 children during her lifetime (none of which survived their childhood) and loved chubby Danish guy to whom she was married. She was also bosom buddies with Marlborough’s wife Sarah until they quarrelled. Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch and she fought tooth and nail against the idea of recalling her half-brother James and letting him inherit the throne, instead preferring it to pass to distant German relatives.

James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick. Source: Wikipedia

If I say this is James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick, you’re all likely going to think he’s on the British side. Well, it ain’t so. Young Berwick, you see, was an illegitimate son of James II and he trailed after old Papa after they’d kicked said James out of England during the so called Glorious Revolution. That means that Berwick, half-brother of Queen Anne, was actually a general on the French side during the War of the Spanish Succession; a damned good general too. What makes the story even more quaint is that his mother was Arabella Churchill, sister of the Duke of Marlborough.

Eugene of Savoy, ca 1712 (school of Godfrey Kneller). Source: Wikipedia

Finally, we have the second allied commander of the war – Prince Eugene of Savoy. He was apparently brave and had quite a temper and people would say it was uncanny how he and Marlborough worked together like they could read each other’s mind. The man had a strong personal dislike of Louis XIV for complicated family reasons, and is generally considered one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history. Unfortunately, it seems he didn’t realise how good he’d look in red hair or think to learn to play bass.

And now you’ll never forget who the main players in the War of the Spanish Succession were, right?

Apr 172015


Name Generator Script Demo


Are you wondering what you might have been called had you been a 17th century Puritan? Or are you simply on the prowl for a truly unique name for your little darling?

Either way, look no further. The Puritan Name Generator is here to help!


Apr 122015

I was researching 17th century marriage licenses recently (as one does, at least if one is a writer of historical fiction about to marry two characters).

A marriage license was essentially as certificate to marry, taking the place of banns, which were normally read on three consecutive Sundays in both the bride’s and the groom’s parishes so that people could object if they knew of any reason why the two shouldn’t be married (such as a pre-existing marriage). If both parties were from parishes within the same diocese, they could get a license from “their” bishop. Otherwise, they had to turn to the Archbishop of Canterbury, which meant that in London, you went to Knightrider Street, Doctor’s Commons to apply.

In order to obtain a license you had to allege that you were of age/had consent and were free to marry, and you had to sign a bond of up to £200 that you had to pay if you turned out to have lied. This meant you could marry faster, in greater secrecy/privacy, or away from your parish.

There are almost no actual licenses that survive, but the records of the allegations quite often survive and they give you quite a lot of information about the parties involved. First, they had to be free to marry, so it is noted that they are spinster/widow and bachelor/widower respectively. Also, the age mattered as both men and women under 21 needed the consent of their parents/guardians, but quite often you find their exact age given even when they are older. Quite often the parents are noted, and in the case of the bride, consent is noted even when she’s not underaged.

One that really gripped me (from 1632) was this one about heartbreakingly young Mary Lambert, 14, ward of His Majesty, and John Crawley, about 23.

Wedding license

I suspect the groom is her guardian’s son or possibly nephew because they have the same last name, and as he is of Gray’s Inn (along with what I assume is his brother Francis, who shares his first name with the guardian), it would seem Crawley Junior is following in the footsteps of Crawley the Elder, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. Had John only been two years younger we would have known for sure if Francis senior was his father or not, because then it would have said “son of X, who consents”.

I wonder how she felt about it? And how it turned out?

Jan 212015

I think a lot of people may have seen Susan Higginbotham’s Tudor Cosmo girls. I thought they were really funny so I decided to try my hand at making a few Stuart ones.

Cosmo Frances Howard edition

For those not entirely familiar with Frances and her fascinating story, I offer you these links, plus a brief explanation.

She was the daughter of the Earl of Suffolk and initially married the Earl of Essex (son of Elizabeth’s favourite). However, the marriage was a failure and was never consummated (both parties seem to haveagreed on that), and after a few years divorce proceedings were initiated (separation was much easier but then they would technically still be married and not able to remarry and Essex would be unable to ever get an heir). One of the few grounds for divorce was impotence, but in order for both parties to be able to remarry, Essex’s impotence had to be specific – they had to claim he could perform with other women, just not with Frances.

She had meanwhile fallen in love with Robert Carr, James’s current favourite and wanted to marry him. One obstacle was the fact that his best friend, Sir Thomas Overbury (who some experts claim is really the sitter in the most famous portrait others claim to be of William Shakespeare), hated her and tried to sabotage the relationship. He was imprisoned in the Tower on trumped up charges where he died.

A few years later stories surfaced about how Overbury had been poisoned by Frances (one of the more piquant details in the drama was Frances’s addiction to astrology and witchcraft and her reliance on the infamous necromancer Simon Forman), and it was claimed that “letters” was used as a code word for poison. She and her husband were convicted for the murder and, after a few years in the Tower, exiled to the country, where she died a few years later of uterine cancer, just 42 years old.

Earlier: the Anne of Denmark issue

Jan 192015
Jones_Tethys_Festival_nymph_1610 (1)

Costume sketch for a nymph in Tethys’ Festival, 1610
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is a list I have prepared for myself, but since I have it, I might as well share it (in case it’s of use to anyone else). It isn’t done; I will to come back and try to fill in more vital information for each piece – when it was performed; who wrote it; who designed it; who featured in it; and, who wrote the music – as well as more performances if I find them.

I have linked to the Wikipedia page or similar information for each masque if you want to read more.


The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses 
Performed: in the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace on the evening of Sunday, 8 January 1604
Written by: Samuel Daniel
Design by: ?
Music by:
Starring: Queen Anne and selected ladies.


The Masque of Blackness
Performed: in the Banqueting Hall of Whitehall Palace on Twelfth Night, 6 January 1605
Written by: Ben Jonson
Design: Inigo Jones
Music by:
Starring: Queen Anne and selected ladies

Continue reading »

Jan 122015

I think a lot of people may have seen Susan Higginbotham’s Tudor Cosmo girls. I thought they were really funny so I decided to try my hand at making a Stuart one.

And, presto, here is the Anne of Denmark issue!

I’m offering a slight breakdown for those not extremely familiar with Anne (less people are as familiar with the Stuarts as they are with the Tudors, and part of the idea with making this was changing that in a sort of fun and light-hearted way). Continue reading »

Oct 242014

Abraham Bosse, 1629 Metropolitan Museum of Art
Full image credit, se end of post

In the early 17th century, England’s military reputation was at an all time low. William Trumbull, the English ambassador at the court of Archduchess Isabella in Brussels (and also James Wadsworth’s contact during his career as a spy in the 1620s, according to the account Wadsworth gave to the King in 1628), reported that in the Spanish Netherlands, the English were considered

effeminate, unable to endure fatigations and travails of a war; delicate, well-fed, given to tobacco, wine, strong drink, feather-beds; undisciplined, unarmed, unfurnished of money and munitions.

Continue reading »

Aug 232014

On 23rd August, 1628, the Duke of Buckingham, King Charles’s closest friend and most trusted political ally, as well as the least popular man in England, was stabbed to death in Portsmouth by a man called Felton.

George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham by Peter Paul Rubens, 1625

Continue reading »