Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Jeffrey Hudson

BBC News has a report about the sale at auction of what it describes as the trousers - I would have thought breeches would be more accurate - of Jeffrey Hudson (1619 - circa 1682) , the famous dwarf in the household of Queen Henrietta Maria. The article can be seen at Tiny trousers of 'Queen's dwarf' sold at auctionThere is another article about the clothing from the Antiques Trade Gazette, which is a little more cautious in accepting a definite attribution, but which can be seen at Pick of the week: Court dwarf’s trousers – or just a tall story? I understand other items of Hudson’s wardrobe survive in the collections at Sherborne Castle in Dorset.

As the purchaser of the trousers or breeches is reported to be Belgian it is a pity that the item will, presumably, be leaving this country.

Queen Henrietta Maria with Jeffrey Hudson in 1633 by Sir Antony van Dyck

Image: Wikipedia 
Jeffrey Hudson is a by no means unfamiliar figure and there are biographies of him from Wikipedia at Jeffrey Hudson and from History Extra at The amazing life of Jeffrey Hudson, the queen's dwarf

Looking at them I was struck by his luck at getting into the life of the Carolean court and his loyal and determined service, not to say ultimately disastrous action in successfully fighting a duel. His misfortunes thereafter were terrible and that he survived them is a tribute to his resilience. Even when he did get back to England it was to find more troubles. His life is in many respects a sad one after the glittering years in the brittle heyday of the court of King Charles I and his Queen.

The presence of dwarfs at courts across Europe is well attested. In some ways it provided a safe environment for people who might well otherwise have been marginalised or vulnerable. In other ways, as Hudson’s life shows only too well, it was still a vulnerable existence both in a royal household and certainly so once outside it.  

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