17 May 2019

The Marian Revolution

I recall an interesting paper arguing that at the Renaissance it became fashionable in certain elite intellectual circles to look down a faintly snooty nose at the old inherited conventions of Heraldry, in favour of symbolic pictures (imprese; or emblems) which could better express a man's "personal values, virtues, and ambitions".

The writer thus quoted Camden (1605): Queen Mary when she was a princesse, used both a red and white Rose, and a Pomegranate knit together to show her descent from Lancaster, Yorke, and Spaine. When she came to the kingdom, by perswasion of the Clergie, shee bare winged Time drawing Truth out of a Pit, with VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA.

Two points: firstly, this reminds me rather of the talking-to she received early in her reign from Cardinal Pole, who pointed out to her that she ought not to use even merely conventional expressions of filial esteem when speaking of the King her Father, the adulterous schismatic Henry Tudor. By using this impresa she did indeed distance herself from the culture of her father.

Secondly: this Renaissance affectation marked her reign out as a fresh turning point with a new, reformed, stream-lined counter-Reformation Catholicism. This is the point Duffy made in Fires of Faith, his revisionist account of Marian England as an experimental laboratory for so many of the features of (what was to become) Tridentine Catholicism.

You don't need to remind me that neither badges nor coats of arms were in fact discarded in the reign of Good King Philip and Good Queen Mary. The impaled arms of Spain and England were prominent enough on their coinage. I am wondering if anybody can give evidence to substantiate the claim Camden makes. It would be interesting to know how true it is, and in what contexts Mary may have employed this new, fashionable device.


I have been interested in this area of study since I was able to demonstrate (Transactions of the Dumfriesshire ... , 1993) that the previously unidentified sculptures at the Scottish castle of the recusant Maxwell family, carved in the 1630s, were taken, some (via the Emblemes of Quarles, 1635) from a Jesuit book (Typus Mundi) printed in Antwerp in 1627, and some from Andrea Alciato's best seller of 1531. Caerlaverock, by the way, is a truly lovely spot.

No comments: