bonus linkage!

Because I’m short of time this week:

How ‘The White Princess’ Went Against the Norm and Featured People of Color in Tudor England: “Because when you’re making a show about people who have been excluded from history-as women have-it would be entirely hypocritical to exclude other groups of people who have also been excluded from history.” Indeed. Related: People of Color in European Art History Tumblr; “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” exhibition catalog.

Mantel to give Reith Lectures on historical fiction: Given Mantel’s controversial statements about the tension between history and fiction I’ll be interested to listen to these once they’re available online. I’m thoroughly impressed by both of her Thomas Cromwell novels, so I admit personal bias.

After 500 Years, Dürer’s Art Still Engraved on Mathematicians’ Minds: And here I was thinking he was “just” an artist. The medieval mind associated the melancholic personality with creativity and intelligence (see this blog’s title); here’s a breakdown of the symbolism in Melencholia I.

Engraving of Melancholy sitting among mathematical and scientific instruments. For symbolic breakdown, see the second link!
Dürer’s Melencholia I, 1515, via Tumblr

biweekly links 5-17-2017

A 17th-century alleged witch inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – not just “witches” in general but a specific one, who might have been Atwood’s ancestor.

Séance Through Science: Edison’s Ghost Machine – didn’t know this hard-headed inventor was into “that kind of thing”. Mind, it might have been a hoax. Still, something smells strange in Menlo Park.

Build The Spirit Radio That Creeped Out Tesla Himself – Tesla embraced the weird and now you can too!

A statue of Nikola Tesla in Silicon Valley radiates free Wi-Fi in memory of Tesla, who wanted free power for the world.
This is true – I checked it out. Photo via Tumblr.

Woodville witches in “The White Princess”

Like a lot of histfic fans I’ve been enjoying Starz’ “The White Princess”. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is. I’m not sure it matters.

The story plays with one of the gaps in our knowledge that is so ripe for fictionalization: how did Henry VII and his queen Elizabeth of York develop a happy marriage? Sources tell us Henry mourned Elizabeth deeply when she died, but not how a woman could be happy with a man who killed her uncle and deposed her family.  Two episodes in I think the miniseries (based on Philippa Gregory’s novel of the same name) plays with this question admirably.

It also plays with the usual wild rumors: that Richard III intended to marry his niece Elizabeth of York and that one of the Princes in the Tower survived as Perkin Warbeck. But of course the most appealing historical mystery to me is whether Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s widow, practiced witchcraft.

animated gif of a woman in medieval gown spinning a pendulum
Essie Davis witching it up as Elizabeth Woodville in “The White Princess.” Image found by Gramunion via Tumblr.

I don’t have the time to do the subject the research it deserves, so alas, I’m not including any footnotes. It does seem Elizabeth Woodville’s mother Jacquetta was accused of witchcraft twice, both times by political enemies who conveniently had her imprisoned before they charged her. Jacquetta denied her guilt and the accusations dried up when the Woodvilles came back into power anyway.

Even if the Woodvilles did try to lure Edward IV into marrying Elizabeth through supernatural means they may not have had to: she was reputed to be a great beauty and charming to boot.

Essie Davis in costume as Elizabeth Woodville from The White Princess
If the real Elizabeth Woodville looked like Essie Davis it certainly didn’t hurt. Via Tumblr.

Still, if those lead figures were Jaquetta’s she was using them for something, but that may not mean much. People at all levels of society dabbled in witchcraft during the early modern period. For that I do have a footnote: Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic.

biweekly links 5-3-2017

Steve Bannon and the occult: The right wing’s long, strange love affair with New Age mysticism: old news, but it seems everyone pulled from this article. Lest you think “New Age alternative spirituality is solely the domain of lefty hippies” indeed. See also: Peter Levenda’s “Sinister Forces” Trilogy (too many links to choose from; you know how to Google).

scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Nazis are incinerated by the Ark of the Covenant. The movie's been out over 25 years, this is not a spoiler.
Mind, the last time alt-righties seriously got into weird stuff it didn’t go well for them. Via FerdyOnFilms.com

Weird Norfolk: The Witch’s Heart of Kings Lynn: a modern reminder of an old crime.

From yob to nabob: the astonishing rise of the Tudor merchant adventurer: Stephen Alford tackles international trade in Tudor London. Alford’s “The Watchers” on Elizabethan espionage was a key and enjoyable research resource for The Book so I have faith he can make this seemingly dry topic just as riveting.