Book Review – ‘Royal Seals: Images of Power and Majesty’ by Paul Dryburgh


I absolutely loved this book. I have always been very interested in the history of the monarchy and believe it is an essential part of England’s history and an important part of the future as well. This was an intriguing look into the past through the National Archives.

The images in the book are incredibly good quality, large and easy to see the details. The photos of the seals are detailed and close-up, so even if you never get the chance to see them for real at the archives the pictures themselves are well-worth paying the price of the book. The accompanying text for each image is a history of the seal and the use of image, portrayals of power, and the basic history of the reign which affected the images on the seal.

It offers a glimpse into the different seals of the monarchs, nobility, and clergy. Comparing the differences between them is interesting and it’s easy to compare through the images. The key to a good seal seems to be demonstrations of power and quite a lot of heraldry to represent different elements of the person who the seal is supposed to represent.

The section I actually found particularly interesting, which I didn’t expect, was on the ways that the seals were created, and how this changed over time. The materials and the discussions of how they were created, and also how the significance of the document often depended on the seal. I would really like an index so that it’s easy to find a particular section you’re looking for.

The bibliography is quite comprehensive and demonstrates that really there is a gap in the market to write about this, especially from an author who spends his working life with these seals and other historical artefacts. This is a book I will keep on my shelf for years to come and dip in and out of.

Chapters

  1. Royal Seals
  2. Personal Seals
  3. Ecclesiastical Seals
  4. Materials

Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Blount – Mother of the King’s Son


Elizabeth Blount Funeral Brass
Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Blount’s Funeral Brass

Today I’m shedding a light on what is fast becoming one of my favourite history blogs – Hisdoryan. I wrote a guest piece for the lovely Claire on Mary Boleyn – you can read it here: http://hisdoryan.co.uk/mary-boleyn.

However, this week Claire looks at Bessie Blount, probably the lesser known of the pair, but their relationship was actually better-known at the time, as Bessie gave Henry VIII the thing he most wanted – a son, Henry Fitzroy.

You can read Claire’s take on Bessie here – http://hisdoryan.co.uk/bessie-blount but I have also posted her ratings below, as I find this part of her Royal Mistresses series so fascinating!

Power **

Poor Bessie. You think after giving Henry VIII his heart’s desire she could have whatever she wanted. However, despite having the king’s son the only thing she was rewarded with was a marginally advantageous marriage. This was the same reward as other mistresses – like Mary Boleyn –  received. Bessie did get a certain degree of respect and recognition as mother of the king’s son, which earns her one more star than Mary B.

Beauty ***

While Bessie is described as beautiful by a handful of sources, most people seemed to comment on her personality. Basically she seemed to have been a really fun person to have been around, and we all know how Henry VIII preferred having fun to doing any actual ruling.

Longevity ***

We’re looking at a potential 4 to 5 year long relationship here. This was very long by Henry’s standards!

Scandal *

If a monarch was to have a child out of wedlock now it would be scandalous, but back then having illegitimate offspring – much like having a mistress – was almost the norm for male monarchs.

Overall Mistress Rating **

I think the fact that Bessie Blount has ended up with the same score as fellow mistress of Henry VIII Mary Boleyn is very interesting. Even though Bessie gave Henry a much longed for son, it didn’t leave her much better off in the scheme of things. I think this is indicative of the way Henry treated his mistresses generally, and also perhaps of the types of personalities he liked – women who conformed to the subservient norms of Tudor society, and who did what they were told when their king told them to do it. It really makes the actions and personality of his future queen Anne Boleyn stand out in stark contrast.

Women’s Unruly Speech in Early Modern Europe


To what Extent can Women’s Unruly Speech be seen as Quasi-Public Power?

Women’s unruly speech can take a variety of different forms: gossip, slander or treason, to name a few. The term ‘quasi-public power’ is seemingly, partly or almost public power, as women did not have obvious public power; their only weapon was their speech. The key themes in this question are the ways in which women were targeted over treason, monarchs being victims of gossip, gossip in writing, cases and statistics, comparisons of male and female speech, as well as the connections between gossip and witchcraft. This essay will argue that women’s unruly speech was largely considered to be quasi-public power because attention was drawn towards it by the fact that the male population was threatened by it. There were repeated attacks on gossiping which showed a widespread concern that ‘unsupervised female solidarity posed a threat to the order and values of a patriarchal society’.[1] Hence, groups of gossiping women were seen as a threat to male order. However, there are a few historical problems in this area. Women’s speech is recorded a lot less than men’s unless it gets to court, so we have a lot more records of male speech than female. Also, women’s speech only became powerful when men gave it credence, so we cannot see evidence of it unless men gave it credit.

Ducking Stool
Ducking Stool

Simply the fact that many women went to court over cases of scandalous, slanderous or treasonous speech gives them quasi-public power, as courts more often than not made the cases public. Treason cases particularly were always very high-profile and, if it was a case of female treasonous speech, this brought women’s unruly speech to the attention of the population. Continue reading “Women’s Unruly Speech in Early Modern Europe”

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