Anne of Denmark, wife of James I and IV of Scotland and England, was a renowned beauty who gave her (famously unfaithful) husband three children. She was also a secret Catholic. Her husband was a great Reformist, aka a Protestant, whose Catholic subjects frequently plotted against. Anne’s background was also Protestant; her grandfather had heard Martin Luther speak, and made Denmark and Norway officially Lutheran. Yet despite all this, Queen Anne had decided Catholic sympathies.
While it is unknown if she officially converted – if she did, it was of course a secret – Queen Anne had gathered about her an enclave of intimate Roman Catholic bedchamber attendants. Among their number was Jane Drummond who facilitated the queen’s private Catholic worship. This included smuggling priests into court and disguising them as her personal attendants.
The Spanish ambassador reported that “Mass was being said by a Scottish priest, who was simply called a ‘servant’ of [the queen’s] lady-in-waiting, Lady Drummond.”
This is the earliest surviving Chinese globe, and dates from the early 1600s. It was not made by the Chinese, but by two European missionaries, Father Nicolo Longobardi and Manuel Dias – they actually signed the globe using Chinese versions of their names, Yang Ma-no and Long Hua-min.
Both men introduced important Western geographical ideas into China, and the globe helped them to do this. The globe is inscribed with a number of complicated geographical and astronomical concepts. These include an explanation of the theories of latitude and longitude, and a description of the way eclipses of the sun and moon prove that the world is round.
The Chinese already had a long and esteemed map-making tradition. One inscription on the globe pays tribute to this by referring to terrestrial magnetism – the magnetic force that pulls a compass needle to the north. Chinese scientists were aware of this force about forty years before it was understood in Europe. Chinese maps traditionally showed China at the center of the world. They called China “the middle kingdom” for a reason. Far-away continents and countries were generally unknown, or downplayed. This globe does not downplay China, but simply puts it in context with other continents and countries.
In 1543, Nicholas à Spira (1510-1568) was elected abbot at Grimbergen in the southern Netherlands (in what is today Belgium). The vain Nicholas commissioned an altarpiece with his oil portrait on one wing and that of his patron saint, St. Nicholas, on the other.
Carnival, the Catholic holiday, probably comes from the word for “meat” in some way, which is “caro” in Classical Latin and “carne” in Medieval Latin. It was the last time that people could eat meat before the start of Lent, when meat was forbidden for 40 days.
Founded by St. Ciarán in the 500s CE, Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland’s most famous early monasteries. Its high status is reflected in the medieval documents recording numerous instances of Irish kings and important ecclesiastics being buried at the site.
Today, we know those were not fabrications of ambitious monks, because we have their beautiful grave-stones. Clonmacnoise has over 700 grave-stones, in fact. It is the largest collection of early medieval grave-slabs found anywhere in Atlantic Europe. People must really have wanted to be buried there!
Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that he [King Richard the Lionheart] retained the same cynicism about churchmen displayed by his mother in her prime. When the preacher Fulk of Neuilly accused him of begetting three shameless daughters, Pride, Avarice and Sensuality, Richard was ready with a retort worthy of William IX: ‘I give my daughter Pride to the Knights Templars, my daughter Avarice to the Cistercians, and my daughter Sensuality to the princes of the Church.’
No story illustrates more vividly how much he was a son after Eleanor’s heart, but, like her, he was no persecutor of clerics.