Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Exeter Princess

A posthumous painting of Henriette by 
Samuel Cooper commissioned by 
Charles II in 1671, to thank the city 
for sheltering his baby sister
I was once fortunate enough to live in Exeter, Devon, and I say fortunate because if you are as fascinated by 17th century history as I am, you will find examples of it everywhere you go in this ancient city the Romans founded and named Isca.

One of Exeter’s landmarks is the Guildhall, England’s oldest, still serving, civic building, parts of which can be traced back to 1160. It has functioned as a prison, a court house, a police station, a place for civic functions, a city archive store, a wool market hall, and as the meeting place for the City Chamber and Council. A portrait of Princess Henriette Anne, the youngest child of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria hangs in the main hall.

During the English Civil War, when Exeter was held by the Royalists, a heavily pregnant Queen Henrietta Maria, escaped Oxford ahead of encroaching Rebel troops intending to reach France. She got as far as Bedford House in Exeter, where on 16th June 1644, after a difficult birth that many thought she would not survive, gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Henriette.

For the safety of the infant princess, or because the Queen did not think the sickly baby would survive the journey, the Queen left her in the care of Lady Anne Dalkeith before making her way to Falmouth on her way to France to ask Louis XIV to assist her husband’s war efforts.

In July 1644, Henriette met her father, Charles I for the first and only time. He had arrived in Exeter to take on the Earl of Essex, and whilst there, he ordered the child be baptised in accordance with the rites of the Church of England at Exeter Cathedral. King Charles then left for Cornwall and defeated the Parliamentary forces at Lostwithiel, but as Parliament gradually gained the upper hand, Exeter surrendered in April 1646.

The surrender negotiations at Poltimore House gave the young Princess Henriette, her Governess and household permission to travel to France, but perhaps because of the baby’s health or danger of travel, they went to Oatland’s Palace in Surrey, her parents’ royal residence.

When she was almost three years old, Parliament decided Henriette was to be taken to St James’ Palace in London where her siblings, James, Duke of York, Elizabeth and Henry were being held captive. Before the soldiers could arrive to remove her, Lady Dalkeith disguised herself as a peasant woman and escaped to France and Louis XIV’s court.

Reunited with her mother, Henriette grew up at the French court and in honour of her great-aunt Anne of Austria the princess was given the name Anne. She and her mother were given apartments at the Louvre, a monthly pension of 30,000 Livres and the use of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The Queen, however, sent all the money she received to her husband for his war effort, or to exiled cavaliers who had fled to France.

Henriette grew close to her brother, Charles during his frequent visits to his mother’s exiled court, and in February 1649, after the execution of King Charles I, she and her daughter moved into the Palais Royal with the 13 year old Louis XIV and his mother and brother. Henriette was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and the queen attempted to do the same with her son Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who arrived in 1652, but the boy steadfastly refused to convert. A decision backed by his brother Charles which resulted in his being expelled from Paris by his mother.

The dowager Queen’s plans to marry Henrietta to the young King Louis failed, but at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the King’s brother, Philippe, Duc D’Orleans, known as Monsieur, a flambouyant homosexual, married Henriette.
An Exeter mural featuring
Princess Henriette

In the meantime, Queen Henrietta Maria went to England to sort out her debts, secure a dowry for Henriette, and to prevent the Duke of York's announcement of his marriage with Anne Hyde, a former maid-of-honour to the Princess Royal. The Dowager Queen also encouraged Charles II to hunt down and execute all surviving Regicides: those who signed her husband’s death warrant twelve years before. During their visit, Henry Duke of Gloucester died of smallpox at 20 leaving Henriette distraught.

Her only failure was in preventing the Duke of York marrying Anne Hyde, who produced two future Queens of England, Mary and Anne.

Henrietta Maria's return to France was delayed by the death in the same smallpox epidemic, of Mary, Princess of Orange, her oldest daughter and widow of William of Orange.

Henriette married  Monsieur in early 1661 when she was 15 and moved into the Palais des Tuileries styled as Madame, Duchess of Orléans.  King Louis and his new bride met the couple at Fontainbleu and it was here that Louis and Henriette allegedly fell in love and enjoyed a close relationship until her death. Louise de La Vallière and Madame de Montespan were part of Henriette’s household prior to being Louis XIV's mistresses.

Monsieur appeared to be a doting husband, and a year into the marriage, Henriette gave birth to a daughter baptised Marie Louise. Popular with the court, and adored by her elder brother, Charles II, Henriette, known as Minette, was known for her flirtatious nature, and paternity of the child was doubted by the court who believed Louis XIV or the Count of Guiche was the father. Henriette and Guiche had allegedly begun an affair, despite him being a lover of Monsieur. These flirtations caused a once adoring Monsieur to become intensely jealous and he complained to Queen Anne who reprimanded Louis and Henriette.

The couples' next child was a son born in July 1664, Philippe Charles, Duke of Valois,who died of convulsions at the age of two. The following year, Minette gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and in 1699, another daughter, who was baptised Anne Marie in 1670.

In late 1669, Henriette lost her mother Queen Henrietta Maria, whose health had never been good. She apparently died from an opiate overdose taken as a painkiller. Henriette was devastated, the situation not being helped by Monsieur's immediate rush to claim all her possessions before she had even been buried.

In 1667 Henrietta began complaining of an intense pain in her side and by April 1670, she had digestive problems so severe, that she could only consume milk. 

Her brother Charles II, had been trying to establish a closer relationship with France and in 1669, set the wheels into motion by openly agreeing to become a Roman Catholic and bring England back to Rome. Henriette was eager to visit her homeland and Louis XIV encouraged her in order for the treaty to take place. Monsieur however, annoyed with Henriette for flirting with Guiche and his previous lovers, insisted she remain in France.

Henriette  appealed to the king, was granted permission to travel and she stayed in England until the Secret Treaty of Dover was signed.  She returned to France and soon afterward, in June 1670, Henrietta complained of a severe pain in her side and died. Some say she was poisoned by her husband's lover the Chevalier de Lorraine, others that she suffered a perforated peptic ulcer. Henriette was buried at the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis on 4 July – she was 26.

The Jacobite claims to the throne following the death of Henry Benedict Stuart, [James II's great-grandson] descend from Henriette Anne through her daughter Anne Marie, Queen of Sardinia.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Witch Persecutions, Women, and Social Change

I recently revisited my Senior Paper, written in 1988 at the University of Minnesota. Although some of my sources are *very* dated, most of the actual historical information seems to have stood up to the test of time and, though my focus in this paper was Germany, much of this material seems prescient for what I would later write in DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL.

Especially important in my research was the realization that women in the Middle Ages actually had more economic power and independence than they did in the Renaissance and Early Modern Period. I highly recommend Joan Kelly's iconic essay, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?", reprinted in Women, History & Theory: the Essays of Joan Kelly, University of Chicago Press, 1984.

So as an All Hallows offering, I thought I would repost my paper here, in digestible chapters. Keep in mind that I was a college senior when I wrote it, not a PhD candidate, and that I majored in German, so some of my sources are German language. Please note that in the twenty years after I wrote this papar, a lot more scholarship has been done on historical witchcraft studies, and if you are interested in reading more, please refer to the more recent books. I'll try to post a more updated reading list later.

Witch Persecutions, Women, and Social Change: Germany: 1560 - 1660

Part One

The 16th and 17th centuries were one of the bleakest periods for European women. From roughly 1560 to 1660, the witch hysteria claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, around 75% of whom were women, many of them older women of the lower classes (Ruether 111). One of the worst areas of persecution at this time was Southwest Germany. The question I shall try to answer in this essay is why the witch persecutions often seemed to focus on poor, elderly women. Were these women viewed as a threat to the social order to be violently subdued? What is the historical context for this? How do the persecutions relate to the rise of capitalism, the decline of the domestic economy, the male takeover of tradtionally female professions, the tightening moral and religious strictures, and the peasant rebellions? I will begin to try to answer these questions by tracing the development of the witch burnings over history and the status of women in these different historical periods: from the Middle Ages, when there were very few witch persecutions and women enjoyed relative economic and sexual freedom; to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, when men and women began to compete in the market economy and women were beginning to be perceived as a threat, and the number of witch persecutions significantly increased; to the last half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, when the mass persecutions took place and women were forced into a far more restricted sphere, ecnomonically and morally, than they had experienced during the medieval period.

Very little witch persecution took place in the medieval period. Although, by the early Middle Ages, most of Europe had been at least nominally Christianized, many old pagan folk ways survived. Such tradtional seasonal festivities such as Walpurgis (May Eve), Fastnacht (the wild festivities that preceded the solemn fast of Lent), harvest homes, and the like often featured much feasting, drinking, and sexual licentiousness. Church officials did not necessarily condone these activities, but the Church, at this point in history, was content to erect a superstructure of Christianity over this rural plebian culture (Ibid 93). To a great extent, the Church looked the other way in cases of lapses in sexual morality, and men and women often did as they pleased. Thus, the customs and behaviors which would later be connected with witchcraft were tolerated and often ignored by the early medieval Church (Ibid 99).

During the Middle Ages, beliefs about what constituted magic and witchcraft slowly evolved. During the early medieval period, the Church viewed witchcraft and magic merely as pagan superstition. In the 8th century, for example, Boniface, the English apostle of Germany, declared that believing in witches was unchristian. In the same century, Emperor Charlesmagne denounced witch burnings as foul remnants of paganism and initiated the death penalty in newly converted Saxony for anyone who committed this sinful act (Trevor-Roper 92). Having firmly established witch persecutions as pagan superstition, the Church maintained a healthy skepticism in regard to the idea of witchcraft (Midelfort 14). In fact, up until the late 15th century, the Church declared it a sin to even believe in witches (Chamberlin 137). Thus, the medieval period until this point was far more "enlightened" in regard to the subject of witchcraft than the next few generations would be. As we shall see, the witch craze was a phenomenon of the Renaissance, Reformation, and early modern period.

The econominc structure of the medieval period until about 1450 was based on the feudal agrarian system, peasant control of production, and a dominant domestic economy. The peasants worked the lord's land and this guaranteed them their livelihood: from the harvest, they took what they needed for survival, while the lord took the surplus. Feudalism necessitated cooperation and interdependence on the part of peasants. For example, the introduction of the heavy plow during Carolingian times made it necessary for the serfs to work together to get a plow and a team of horses or oxen for it. They also decided communally what to plant, where they would plant, which fields to leave fallow, how crops should be rotated, and how the harvest should be divided. Although the landlord benefitted the most from this system, the peasants made the major decisions and controlled production. This subsistence ecnonomy was a domestic economy: almost all the goods necessary for survival were produced by peasant family units in the household (Ketsch 83).

The domestic agrarian economy and culture allowed women relative economic freedom. Work among the lower classes did not have any rigid gender division at the time. Male and female peasants worked alongside each other in the fields. Male and female servants of the same class often did identical work. The only female-specific work was housework, child-rearing, midwifery, and prostitution. In addition, herbal medicine and the crafts of brewing, spinning, and weaving were thought to be more "female" than "male" professions. Among the lower classes, however there was no specifically "male" work. Rigidly defined gender spheres existed only among the feudal nobility: women were responsible for reproduction and household management, while men took over martial responsibilities (Hoher 14).

No rigid gender division was evident in the market economy at this time, however. Men and women participated on a relatively equal basis in the flourishing craft guilds in the imperial cities. In the 13th through 15th centuries, women were admitted to all guilds. Although, in the early Middle Ages, there had been restrictions regarding independent female masters--that is women masters not married or related to male masters--this situation improved in the 13th century. Women began founding their own guilds and taking part on a more equal basis in the mixed guilds (Hoher 15). A document from a yarn making guild in Cologne in the last 14th century, for example, gives detailed regulations specifically regarding female apprentices and female masters: "Welches Maedchen das Garnhandwerk in Koeln lernen will, das soll vier Jahre dienen and nicht weniger . . . . Und sie soll in den vier Jahren nicht mehr als zwei Frauen dienen." (If a girl wants to learn the yarn making craft in Cologne, she must apprentice at least four years . . . . and in these four years, she should serve no more than two women.) This document also outlines the special provisions made for husbands of deceased female masters. Another guild document gives evidence for both male and female masters working in a bath house: "Kein Meister and keine Meisterin soll eines anderen Badegaeste zu sich bitten, bei einer Strafe von halben Pfund." (Rauer 104). (No male master or female master should solicit someone else's bath guest client, on pain of a fine of half a pound.) Women were also quite acrive in selling and trading, especially in materials commonly used in both medicine and folk magic. (Hoher 16).

From the 12th to the mid 15th century, Europe was underpopulated and the workforce needed women. At this time, there was little economic competition between the sexes and the split between the domestic and the market economy had not yet been fully established (Ketsch 117). So, as we have seen, women were relatively economically independent during this period.

There were also viable alternatives to the domestic sphere of marriage and motherhood during the Middle Ages. Convents attracted noblewomen who wished to free themselves from a life of child-rearing and to devote themselves to religion and learning. Beguinages--urban and secular all female communes--motivated women of the lower classes to leave the country for the city. Some women even became vagabond musicians and mercenary soldiers. There were also a few female hermits: single women who lived on the outskirts of towns and forests, and often practiced herbal medicine. These solitary women would later become victims of the witch hysteria in the Renaissance (Boulding 210-211).

The feudal agrarian system was not to last forever. The landlords' tendency to extract from unfree peasants any handy income above subsistence meant that these peansant were unable to give back what they took from the land. Thus, a combination of bad farming techniques leading to soil depletion, steady population growth, and the overtaxation of peasants by land owners all contributed to the gradual breakdown of the feudal agrarian economy and ecosystem (Marchant 47). As the feudal agrarian and domestic economy wanted, the capitalist market economy grew stronger. This had a profound effect on the socio-economic status of women.

During the years 1450 to 1550, very dramatic economic, social, and religious changes took place that would threaten the status and freedom that medieval women had enjoyed. Up until 1450, both sexes were needed in the economy, but afterwards, competition began to take place between the sexes in the market economy. It is during this period that the sexual division of labor, and the separation between the market and the domestic economy began to develop. As men struggled to gain supremacy in the market economy and to push women, their competitors, out of the guilds and into the domestic economy, which was becoming more and more marginalized, women resisted. Women were beginning to be viewed by men as a threat to the order of society. At the same time, a tightening in the moral and religious strictures in both the Catholic and the newly developing Protestant Churches began. The sexual licentiousness, dancing, and drinking that had been commonplace in the medieval period was increasingly frowned upon. Religious authorities grew more obsessed with morality, and the concepts of the devil and witchcraft than they had been before. During this period, the number of witch persecutions rose significantly. The events that took place between 1450 and 1550, thus, were decisive in laying down the foundation for the later witch crazes of 1560 to 1660.

Boulding, Elise. "Familial Constraints on Women's Working Roles," Women and the Politics of Culture, Zak & Moots, eds., Longman Inc., New York, 1983.

Chamberlin, E.R., Everyday Life in Renaissance Times, Pedigree, London, 1965.

Hoher, Friederike. "Hexe, Maria und Hausmutter--zur Geschichte der Weiblichkeit im Spaetmittelalter," Frauen in der Geschichte (Vol. III), Kuhn & Rusen, eds., Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1983.

Ketsch, Peter. Frauen im Mittelalter (Vol. I) Kuhn (ed.), Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1983.

Midelfort, Erik, H. C. Witch Hunting in Southwest Germany 1562-1684: The Social Foundations, Stanford, 1972.

Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1979.

Rauer, Brigitte. "Hexenwahn--Frauenverfolgung zur Beginn der Neuzeit," Frauen in der Geschichte (Vol. II), Kuhn & Rusen, (eds.), Paedagogischer Verlag Schwann-Bagel, Dusseldorf, 1982.

Reuther, Rosemary. New Woman/New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation, Seabury Press, New York, 1975.

Trevor-Roper, H.R. The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Harper & Row, New York, 1969.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Binh Thuan Shipwreck

In my previous blogs (The Wreck of the Batavia Part 1 and 2) I touched on the importance of the trade between the East and the West during the seventeenth century and hinted at the power struggle that existed between Portugal, Holland and England for control of the spice trade. So while I am on the subject of shipwrecks I would like to share another story with you - one with a personal connection.

Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the Japanese and the Chinese had established trade networks with Indian and Arab connections.From as early as the 13th century the Chinese had been a huge consumer of  not only spices, but consumer goods such as aromatic resins, sandalwood, camphor, ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, black coral and pearls. These were traded for silk, iron products and ceramics. Even before the arrival of the Europeans well established entrepots had been established at Malacca and in various places along the East coast of Sumatra. Every north east monsoon fleets of Chinese junks would sail southwards tracking the coast of Vietnam, exchange their cargoes and sail back on the south east monsoon. At a single entrepot the Chinese could load a full and diverse cargo without the need to travel to different ports and the Indonesian ships then distributed the highly sought after Chinese products through the other entrepot ports in the archipelago.

Malacca in the seventeenth century

By the beginning of the seventeenth century the Portugese had well established entrepots in India, modern Malaysia (Malacca) and Macau but they were coming under increased pressure from the Dutch who, realising that there was force in numbers, had founded the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) which sent merchants in heavily armed ships manned with troops to non-Portugese entrepots such as Banten in Java and Johore on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. By 1619 the VOC had established its base in Batavia but the Chinese  refused to trade with the VOC, distrusting these agressive newcomers. The little Chinese junks continued to ply their annual cycle of trade on the monsoons to the long established entrepots, forcing the VOC merchants to source their Chinese ceramics from elsewhere in south east Asia.

One such junk set sail from southern China in the first decade of the seventeenth century, carrying a cargo of Zhangzhou porcelain (or Swatow porcelain). It was not a fabulous cargo, the pottery made in that region was known to be work-a-day ware, quite coarse with kiln grit adhering to the bases of the bowls but the designs were free spirited and the characteristic blue and white of the pottery was popular with both European and Asian tastes.
Illustration of a Chinese junk in a storm.
A Chinese junk in a storm
It may be that this was the junk of one I Sin Ho. In July 1608 the VOC representative in Johore, Abraham van den Broecke wrote a report to Banten stating "...we have received the news that I Sin Ho, the Chinese merchant, while returning with his junk...was lost at sea somewhere about Cambodia (the generic term the Dutch used for Vietnam and Cambodia). For that reason the VOC loses 10 piculs of raw silk and other Chinese goods..."

In early 2001, Vietnamese authorities were alerted to stories of local fishermen from the village of Binh Thuanh, selling porcelain from a hitherto unknown shipwreck.  The wreck had been discovered when the trawl net had become entangled in the wreckage. The fishermen were persuaded to reveal the location of the wreck and in September 2002 an official excavation led by an Australian maritime archaeologist, Dr. Michael Flecker, commenced.  

Dr. Flecker found a typical Chinese junk in an amazing state of preservation. Still in situ looking exactly as they had when they had been packed in the boxes and baskets that had carried them were over 20,000 pieces of Zhangzhou pottery. Several pieces were identical to other china found in the wreck of a Dutch ship of the period so the dating to the early years of the seventeenth century is consistent with the story of I Sin Ho and his ill fated voyage.  

And what is my personal connection to this story? Well I am the owner of several pieces of the Binh Thuan pottery. In 2004 Christies auctioned some 900 pieces, raising over $2million. Nothing like it had ever been seen in Melbourne before and the interest was extraordinary. I brought my 5 bowls and 3 little jarlets home and laid them on the dining room table. The pottery is rough, the imprints of the makers fingers can be seen on the bowls and the kiln grit still adheres to their bases but for several days I just marvelled at these simple pieces of pottery that had been loaded on to a ship, maybe in Canton somewhere around 1608 and then disappeared for nearly five hundred years. It was almost as if I had bought them straight from the hand of the potter.

(A full account of the excavation of the Binh Thuan wreck by Dr. Flecker can be found here.)