biweekly links 12-14-2016

Queen Elizabeth I’s Vast Spy Network Was The First Surveillance State: repeats old myths about John Dee as the inspiration for 007 but the rest of the article is rock solid factual. I used Alford’s “The Watchers” as background for the “Dee/Kelley as spies” angle and discovered enough about intelligencer Charles Sledd to make him a well-rounded antagonist for my book.

Oil painting of dour Elizabethan man in dark clothes and stiffly starched ruff
Elizabeth I’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, attributed to John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Pretty glum, no? He was probably only happy when fighting Spain and the Catholic Church.
Through foreign eyes: the forgotten ambassadors to the Tudor court: English espionage got organized under Liz but there was plenty of spy vs. spy at her dad’s court too. Diplomats spied on the king, courtiers, and each other, with varying degrees of success.

In the 16th Century, People Went Crazy for Portraits Made Up of Fruits and Veggies – delightful thumbnail sketch of Rudolf II fave Giuseppe Archimboldo and a nice selection of his proto-surrealist portraiture.

Why the Stone Age could be when Brits first brewed beer: hops only came in during the late medieval period but fermenting was going on long before that. Heather ale? Why not – evidently it has a long tradition in Scotland. Article links extensively to archaeologists’ CVs and publications, and even a few historically-inspired brews. Don’t you just love food archaeology?

Rudolf II supplementary materials

I was on a podcast!

I talked with Roejen and Lobo over at Project Archivist about one of Dee and Kelley’s great patrons, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.  He provided material support and political protection for alchemists, astrologers, scientists, and artists of all stripes. Perhaps not the most glittering court (he was a melancholic recluse who preferred the world to come to him), but he created a golden age of early modern science in Prague.

Here are some images of the Mad Emperor himself, some of the art he favored, and a disturbing family tree. All images Wikipedia Commons unless otherwise noted:

Portrait of Rudolf II
Rudolf II by Joseph Heinz the Elder, 1594, at the peak of his power as Holy Roman Emperor and art/science/occult studies patron.
Archduke Rudolf when he was about 15, by Spanish court painter Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1567. I’d love to know what’s up with the long red nails – some odd Spanish court fashion? Kids those days…
Habsburg family tree
An illustration of the Habsburg intermarriages and the end result. Anna of Austria was Rudolf II’s sister; they lived over 100 years before poor Charles II. From


Arcimboldo Librarian Stokholm
“The Librarian”, 1570 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. His inventive portraits influenced Surrealist artists 400 years later.

Bartholomäus Springers Venus and Adonis
Bartholomäus Spranger’s “Venus and Adonis”, 1595-1597. An example of the mythological-themed art with bonus naked ladies of which Rudolf was so fond.
Selected Bibliography:

Evans, R. J. W. (1973). Rudolf II and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576-1612. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fučíková, E. (1997). Rudolf II and Prague: The court and the city. Prague, New York, and London: Prague : Prague Castle Administration ; London ; New York : Thames and Hudson.

Marshall, P. (2006). The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague. Walker & Company.

Nummedal, T. (2007). Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.