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‘The trumpets sound: stand close, the queen is coming’

From the First Folio (1623)

Some Shakespeare scholars have dismissed suggestions that Shakespeare and Fletcher’s All Is True or Henry VIII (1) alludes in part to the royal wedding of James I’s daughter Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine in February 1613. However, during the course of my research I have noted some interesting parallels between the stage spectacle of the play, and printed accounts of the wedding, and what follows are a few of my thoughts.

At the close of All Is True, Henry announces the event of his new daughter Elizabeth’s christening as a day of holiday for all. Similarly, on 14th February 1613, the date of James I’s daughter Elizabeth’s wedding, England celebrated with a national holiday. During the Coronation of Anne Bullen in Act Four of All is True, two Gentlemen, meeting on the street, discuss the event:

First Gent: You come to take your stand here, and behold
The Lady Ann pass from her coronation?

Second Gent: ‘Tis all my business. At our last encounter
The Duke of Buckingham came from his trial.

First Gent: ‘Tis very true. But that time offer’d sorrow,
This, general joy.

Second Gent: ‘Tis well: The citizens
I am sure have shown at full their royal minds.

It is tempting to read in this exchange an echo of the celebrations on the streets of London on Valentine’s Day 1613. Prince Henry’s funeral in December 1612 had been a sombre and depressing event. Two thousand mourners followed his coffin from St James to Westminster; an event which caused ‘many tears and sighs’ (2). Officials recorded they had never beheld ‘so much sorrow’ (3). Yet by January, Sir Thomas Lake reported ‘The black is wearing out, and the marriage pomps preparing’ (4). In February, the very same crowds which had mourned Henry’s death were cheering for the royal wedding. The ceremony took place at the Royal Chapel, Whitehall, on a Sunday. However the celebrations began on Thursday 11th with a spectacular firework display on the river Thames, and continued into the weekend with mock sea battles, masques, and all manner of ‘triumphant sportes’ (5). The weekend culminated in the wedding itself:

The Court being placed full of people of many Estates, sortes, and Nations, first came the Bride-groom from the newe built Banquetting-house, attired in a white Satten sute, richly beset with Pearle and Golde, attended on by a number of young gallant Courtiers, both English, Scottish, and Dutch, all in rich manner, every one striving to exceede in sumptuous habilliaments, fitte for the attendants of so princely a Bride-groome. After came the Lady Elizabeth, in her Virgin-robes, clothed in a gowne of white Satten richly embroidered, led betweene her royall brother Prince Charles, and the Earle of Northampton. Upon her head a crowne of refined golde, made imperiall by the Pearles and Dyamonds thereupon placed, which were so thicke beset that they stood like shining pinnacles. Upon her amber coloured haire, hanging plaited down over her shoulders to her Waste, betweene every plaight Gold spangles, Pearles, Riche stones, and Diamonds, and many Diamonds of inestimable value embroidered upon her sleeves, which dazzled and amazed the eyes of the beholders… After them came another traine of gallant young Courtiers in sutes embroidered and Pearled… then the king of Heralds bearing upon his shoulder a Mace of Golde… After them four Seargiants of the Mace, bearing upon their shoulders foure riche Enamelled Maces.Then followed the right Honourable the Earle of Aundell carrying the kings Sword. And then in great Royaltie the Kings Majestie himself… Upon her [Elizabeth]attended a number of married Ladies, the Countesses and wives of Earles and Barrons, apparelled in most noble manner which added glory into this triumphant time and Marriage (6).

A comparison with the stage directions in Act Four of All Is True reveals some similarities with the above description:


1. A lively flourish of Trumpets.
2. Then, two Judges.
3. LORD CHANCELLOR, with the purse and mace before him.
4. Choristers, singing. Music
5. MAYOR OF LONDON, bearing the mace. Then GARTER, in his coat of arms, and on his head a gilt copper crown.
6. MARQUESS DORSET, bearing a sceptre of gold, on his head a demi-coronal of gold. With him, the EARL OF SURREY, bearing the rod of silver with the dove, crowned with an earl’s coronet. Collars of Esses.
7. DUKE OF SUFFOLK, in his robe of estate, his coronet on his head, bearing a long white wand, as high-steward. With him, the DUKE OF NORFOLK, with the rod of marshalship, a coronet on his head. Collars of Esses.
8. A canopy borne by four of the Cinque-ports; under it, the QUEEN in her robe; in her hair, richly adorned with pearl, crowned. On each side her, the BISHOPS OF LONDON and WINCHESTER.
9. The old DUCHESS OF NORFOLK, in a coronal of gold, wrought with flowers, bearing the queen’s train.
10. Certain Ladies or Countesses, with plain circlets of gold without flowers.

Exeunt, first passing over the stage in order and state, and then, a great flourish of trumpets (4.1)

In one of the printed descriptions of the royal wedding, the bridesmaids attending the Princess are described as a ‘skye of Celestiall starres’ (7). The Second Gentleman, commenting on Anne Bullen’s procession in All Is True, refers to the countesses carrying the train as ‘stars indeed’(4.1.53). The Third Gentleman, commenting on the vast crowd watching the Coronation, evokes the spectators cheering Elizabeth, her new husband, and the court, as it processed from Whitehall to the Banqueting house: ‘when the people / Had the full view of, such a noise arose / As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest, / As loud and to as many tunes; hats, cloaks – / Doublets, I think – flew up’ (4.1.70-74).

Similarly, the printed account of the royal wedding describes silver trumpets welcoming the couple into the Banqueting House with such melodious sounds it caused ‘thousands to say at that instant time, God give them joy, God give them joy’ (8). The Third Gentleman in All is True, remarks on the crowds: ‘Such joy / I never saw before’ (4.1.75-6). Likewise, Antony Nixon describes the mood in England on 14th February as one of joy: ‘The day of ioy, the day of iollitie, / That young and old, and all doe celebrate,’ in honour of the nuptials, ‘behold, / How young and old, and high and low reioyce. / England hath put a face of gladnesse on; / And Court and Countrie caroll both their prayse’ (9).

Stage directions in any early modern play present problematic issues. We cannot assume they were always written by the playwright, and thus it is possible that the stage directions in All Is True were penned by a scribe. However, given the specific order of the Coronation procession, the stage directions here do suggest a deliberate attempt to transpose the spectacle of the royal wedding onto the stage at the Globe. So if we accept the possibility for a moment that these stage directions are original and inserted by the playwrights themselves, some interesting questions begin to emerge. Did Shakespeare and Fletcher attended the royal wedding in February 1613, as passive spectators, or even active participants? Given the role of the King’s Men at this time, it is possible they were indeed invited to attend. Perhaps they were absent from London and simply read subsequent printed accounts of the wedding. Wherever they were on 14th February 1613, what is clear is that both playwrights appear to have had specific aspects of the royal wedding in mind when they composed All Is True in the spring of 1613.

This extract is taken from my original research paper on All Is True, which was submitted to the University of Sussex in 2011.

1) Originally entitled All Is True, its name was changed to Henry VIII in the First Folio, ‘to bring its title in line with those of all the other English history plays, which are named after the kings whose reign they dramatize.’ See Wells, Stanley, Shakespeare & Co (Penguin, 2007), 212
2) Green, Mary Anne Everett (ed), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I 1611-18 (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, London, 1858), 162
3) Ibid
4) Ibid, 166
5) Anon, The mariage of Prince Fredericke, and the Kings daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, vpon Shrouesunday last VVith the shovves on land and water, before, and after the wedding, as also the maskes and reuells in his Highnes court, with the running at the ring, by the Kings Maiestie, the Palsegraue, Prince Charles, and diuers others of the nobilitie (London, 1613)
6) Ibid, Bv – B2r
7) Ibid, B2v
8) Ibid, B2r
9) Nixon, Antony, Great Brittaines generall ioyes. Londons glorious triumphes Dedicated to the immortall memorie of the ioyfull mariage of the two famous and illustrious princes, Fredericke and Elizabeth. Celebrated the 14. of Februarie, being S. Valentines day. With the instalment of the sayd potent Prince Fredericke at Windsore, the 7. of Februarie aforesaid (London, 1613), B4r


Death Household London Medicine

All Bed Clothes Of The Infected To Be Burned


Today, some advice on surviving the plague, published in 1603 by a London doctor: Abstain from sex, drink wine for breakfast, and put a clove in your mouth when leaving the house.


Perceiving many in this Citie to weare about their necks, upon the region of the heart, certaine Amulets (as Preservatives against the Pestilence) confected of Arsenicke, a strong poyson, I have thought it needfull to declare briefly my opinion touching the said Amulets: My opinion is that these Placents of Arsenicke carried about upon the Region of the heart, are so farre from effecting any good in that kinde, as a preservative, that they are very dangerous and hurtfull, if not pernicious to those that weare them.

All dead corpses be layd a convenient depth in the ground, and not one coffin heaped upon another. It were necessarie the place of Buriall should be on the South side of the Citie, that the Sunne may draw the vapours from it.

Let care be had that the streets, especially the narrow lanes and allies, be kept from annoyance of dung-hilles, vaults or houses of office, the common sewers and chanels be well purged and scowred, the dung-farmers tyed to their stint of time in Winter, and not suffered (unlesse urgent necessitie require) to perfume the streets all Summer long, especially in this time of contagion. Let not the carkasses of horses, dogs, cats, &c. lye rotting and poysoning the ayre (as they have done) in More and Finsburie fields, and elsewhere round about the Citie.

Let the Pipes layd from the new River be often opened, to clense the channels of every streete in the Citie. Let the Ditches towards the suburbs, especially towards Islington and Pick-hatch, Old-streete, and towards Shoreditch and White-chappell, be well cleansed, and if it might be, the water of the new River to runne through them, as also the like to be done through the Burrough of South-worke.

Let the ayre be purged and corrected, especially in evenings which are somewhat cold, and in places low and neare the River (as Thames street and the Allyes there about) by making fires of Oaken or Ash wood, with some few bundles of Juniper cast into them.

Let men in their private houses amend the aire by laying in their windowes sweet herbes, as Marjoram, Time, Rosemarie, Balme, Fennell, Peniroyall, Mints, &c. Likewise by burning Juniper, Rosemarie, Time, Bay-leaves, Cloves, Cinamon, or using other compound perfumes. The poorer sort may burne Worme-wood, Rue, Time. Let them cast often on the floores of their houses water mingled with Vineger.

Concourse of people to Stage-playes, Wakes or Feasts, and May-pole dauncings, are to be prohibited by publique Authoritie, whereby the bodies of men and women by surfetting, drunkennes, and other riots, the contagion dangerously scattered both in Citie and Countrie.

Let the Bells in Cities and Townes be rung often, and the great Ordnance discharged, thereby the aire is purified.

Touching our regiment and diet, those meats are to be used which are of easie digestion and apt to breed good juice. Such as are of hard concoction are to be avoyded: specially those that easily corrupt and putrifie in the stomacke, as the most part of summer fruit, raw cherries, plums, apples, &c.

The blankets, matresses, flockbeds, and all bed-clothes of the infected, are to be burned, also leather garments, because they hold the infection very long. Alexander Benedictus reports that in Venice, a flockbed used in a contagious time, was after 7 yeares found in an inward roome, the Mistris of the house commanded the servants to ayre and beat it, whereupon the servants were instantly infected with the pestilence and died.

It is not good to be abroad in the ayre early in the morning before the Sunne has purified the ayre, or late in the night after Sunne-setting. In rainie, darke, and cloudie weather, keepe to your house as much as you can.

Let your exercise be moderate. The time of exercise is an houre before dinner or supper, not in the heat of the day, or when the stomacke is full. Use seldome familiaritie with Venus, for shee enfeebleth the body, and maketh it more obnoxious to externall injuries.

You may feede three times in the day, but more sparingly than at other times. Shunne varietie of dishes at one meale: The most simple feeding is the most wholsome feeding.

Goe not forth of your house into the ayre, neither willingly speake with any, till you have broken your Fast. For breakfast you may use a good draught of wormwood beere or ale, and a few morsels of bread and butter with the leaves of sage, or else a toste with sweet salade oyle, two or three drops of rose vinegar, and a little sugar. They that have cold stomackes may drinke a draught of wormewood wine or malmsey, in stead of small beere. But take heed of extreame hot waters, as Aqua vitae.

If you be not accustomed to a breakfast, take the quantitie of a Nutmeg or thereabouts of some cordiall before you set foot out of doores.

As you walke in the streets or talke with any; hold in your mouth a Clove, or a peece of  Angelica.

Once in foure of five dayes take three or foure cordiall and stomachicall pilles by direction of your Physitian, to fortifie the heart and stomacke against all corruption, and to cleanse your body from such humours as may dispose you to the sicknesse.

If any man be bound by Religion, office, or any such respect, to visite the sicke parties, let him first provide that the chamber bee well perfumed, the windowes layd with the herbes afore-named, the floore cleane swept and sprinkled with rose-water and vineger: that there be a fire of sweet wood burning in the chimney, the windowes being shut for an houre, then open the casements towardes the North. Then let him wash his face and hands with rose-water and rose-vineger, and enter into the chamber with a waxe candle in the one hand, and a sponge with rose-vineger and wormewood, or some other Pomander, to smell unto. Let him hold in his mouth a peece of Cinamon, or Citron, or a Clove. Let him desire his sicke friend to speake with his face turned from him.

When he goeth forth, let him wash his hands and face with rose vineger and water as before, especially if he have taken his friend by the hand as the manner is: and going presently to his owne house, let him change his garments, and lay those wherein he visited his friend, apart for a good time before he resume them againe.

Let him not forget upon his returne home or before, to take a convenient quantitie of his cordiall, and forbeare meat an houre or two after it.


Published list of plague deaths by London parish, 1603 

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Biography Curiosities Dinosaurs Medicine Science

He discovered the fossil bones of the prehistoric Iguanodon

Gideon Mantel by Samuel Stepney, published in ‘Thoughts on a Pebble’ (1837)


Shakespeare’s England usually sits very firmly in the everyday world of the seventeenth century, but I’ve always believed this doesn’t preclude me from exploring tantalising snippets of history from both before and after my beloved sixteen hundreds. So this post is on Gideon Mantell (1790-1852), father, doctor, and dinosaur expert. As a resident of Sussex, I’ve often walked past the house which once belonged to him, and this week I thought it was time, at last, to discover who he really was.

Gideon was born on 3rd February 1790, at the family home in Lewes, East Sussex. His father Thomas was a shoemaker, and his mother, Sarah Austen, came originally from a family in Kent. Gideon’s father had radical political opinions. As a strident Whig and Methodist, his views were unacceptable at the local grammar school, and so Gideon was educated by John Button in Sussex and his uncle in Wiltshire. By 1805, at the age of fifteen, Gideon had become apprenticed to the Lewes surgeon James Moore, and after a six-month spell at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, he became Moore’s business partner. In 1816, Mantell married Mary Ann Woodhouse of London, the daughter of one of his earliest patients, and he was soon successful enough to buy out James Moore’s interest in the Lewes medical practice and support a growing family.

Gideon contributed to a number of journals and publications as his medical career progressed, but he developed an increasing fascination for geology and palaeontology; interests he had been fostering since childhood. Spending many hours exploring the rolling countryside of Sussex, Gideon published his first book, The Fossils of the South Downs, in 1822. By 1825, having surveyed Tilgate Forest near Cuckfield, Mantell announced the exciting discovery of Iguanodon. His early evidence for the existence of dinosaurs (incidentally a word not yet coined in 1825) consisted primarily of extant teeth he had collected, but it was sufficient to establish the identity of a gigantic extinct herbivore, and Mantell was subsequently invited to become a member of the Royal Society.

In 1827, Gideon published Illustrations of the Geology of Sussex, a booked devoted to vertebrate fossils, it is ‘the earliest book of any to deal primarily with dinosaur remains’ (Dean). In 1833, he combined his writings from both his previous books with a paper written for the Geological Society, and published a new book entitled Geology of the South-East of England, in which he confirms his discovery of a second type of dinosaur, the heavily-armoured Hylaeosaurus. This discovery confirmed that dinosaurs walked on the ground and were not amphibians; a theory previously held by scientists.

Mantell’s work and reputation grew exponentially in these years, and he began to associate with members of the aristocracy, particularly the third earl of Egremont, who made him a whopping grant of £1000. Such was his fame and popularity, Mantell located to the more fashionable nearby resort of Brighton, which the king visited every winter. Gideon attempted to open a medical practice in Brighton which failed, but he did create a geological museum to house his fossils. In 1834, Benjamin Silliman of Yale managed to secure Gideon an honorary LLD, and despite his distinction being literary, rather than medical, he adopted the title Dr Mantell henceforth.


The Weekly True Sun (London) 1838


In 1834, Mantell acquired his most famous paleontological specimen, the Maidstone Iguanodon, which had been located for him by two of his friends. It was one of only two almost complete dinosaur fossils known at the time, and it became the chief attraction in Mantell’s Brighton museum. Despite this however, Mantell’s finances were failing, and he was forced to purchase a medical practice in Clapham. Unable to afford to maintain his collection, he sold his fossils to the British Museum in 1838 for £4000. The following year, his wife and elder son left him, and in 1840, his favourite daughter, Hannah, died of tuberculosis.


Maidstone Iguanodon


Initially and naturally devastated by his accumulated losses, Gideon nevertheless maintained his interest in palaeontology, and his book Wonders of Geology (1838), as well as his Medals of Creation (1844, which opposed evolution), and Thoughts on Animalcules (1846, on microscopy) sold well and were popular. His last books on geology, A Pictorial Atlas of Fossil Remains (1850) and Petrifactions and their Teachings (1851), included contributions on recently extinct New Zealand birds by his son Walter.

From 1841 onwards, Gideon was plagued with a painful spinal disease and he eventually died in his Chester Square home in London on 10th November 1852, possibly from an overdose of opium taken to counteract his back-pain. He was buried in Norwood cemetery with his daughter, Hannah.

The word dinosaur came into use in 1842, coined by a comparative anatomist named Richard Owen, who was envious of Mantell’s discoveries. For posterity it should be noted that it was Mantell, and not Owen, who first emphasised that there had been an age of reptiles preceding the age of mammals. Besides Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus, Mantell’s dinosaur discoveries included Megalosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Regnosaurus, Pelorosaurus, and the later-named Hypsilophodon. He also discovered dozens of other prehistoric creatures: new fossil fishes, further vertebrates, and a very large number of invertebrates, together with microspecies and plants.


Plaque outside Mantell’s home in Lewes


Source: “Mantell, Gideon Algernon (1790–1852),” Dennis R. Dean in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, October (2006)

Death London Medicine

Lord have mercy on us!

Reading through some plague statistics recently I was shocked to discover just how many lives were claimed by this disease in the 17th Century. I had known that during plague outbreaks hundreds of people died, but I hadn’t realised just how enormous those numbers were. What follows is a brief overview of the disease, followed by the numbers of deaths which occurred during several big plague outbreaks, recorded during a particularly virulent outbreak in 1665.

Bubonic Plague is a disease transmitted by rats. Or rather the fleas on rats. When a plague-carrying flea bites a host, human or rodent, the bacillus enters the bloodstream. This infection then spreads through the lymph nodes, leading to swellings, or buboes, in the neck, armpit, and groin. Of those infected, about two-thirds die. Symptoms of plague included vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, nausea, bleeding from the ears, fever and abdominal pain. More general pain resulted from the slow decay of the skin of an infected person which produced black spots all over the body.

In the 17th Century, an outbreak of plague was impossible to treat. Those infected were isolated in their houses for at least twenty days and were compelled to pin a paper to their front door bearing the words ‘Lord have mercy upon us’. The parish often paid members of the community to visit plague victims to bring them food, and, in the case of death, call for a cart to bear the body away. All bedding and linen used by an infected person was burned. Those who had visited an infected house carried a long white stick to warn others to avoid contact with them.

Some plague numbers: In 1591-2, 11,503 people died of plague. In 1625, it claimed 35,428 lives, and five years later in 1630, another 1,317. Between 1636-8, 16,213 people succumbed to the disease, and between 1646 and 1648, another 8,324. In 1665, more than 64,296 people died between January and October.

During the outbreak of 1665, the above numbers were published, along with some approved remedies for curing the plague, entitled Certain approved Medicines for the plague, both to prevent that Contagion, and to expel it after it be taken; as have been approved in the year 1625 and also in this present visitation 1665.

To correct the Aire

Thyme, Mint, Rosemary, Bay leaves, Blame, Pitch, Tarre Rosen, Turpentine, Frankincense, Myrrh, Amber. One or more of these, as they are at hand, or may be readily procured, to be cast on the coales to perfume the house.


Such as are to walk abroad, or talk with any may do well to carry Rue, Wormwood, Angelica, Gentian, Myrrh, Valerian or Setwall-root in their hands to smell, and of those they may hold or chew a little in their mouths as they go.

Inward Medicines for the Prevention of the Plague

Take a Spoon full of quick wine vinegar, wherein Wormwood chopped hath been infused. Take good Figs, thirty, Walnut kernels twenty, green Rue picked a good handful, Salt one spoonful, stamp them and incorporate them together. Take of this mixture every morning the quantity of a Prune; Children and weak bodies, as much as a Hasel nut.

For the Cure of the Plague

If any person be infected, let him sweat with Marigold drink, mingling therewith two drams of London treacle (a medicinal salve, or compound, composed of many ingredients).

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