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Ingram Frizer - killed Marlowe in self defence?

The Elizabethan period produced many characters whose names live on for their creative genius. One of these was the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe (See these earlier posts about Marlowe here & here) As well as being famous for his writing, Marlowe had also achieved notoriety. In the summer of 1589 he was involved in a sword fight in which a man was killed, he had previously been accused of forgery, blasphemy and having unorthodox religious views – on top of all this he was suspected to be homosexual.

St Nicholas Church, Deptford taken by Robot in Catford (Click image)

That Marlowe was stabbed to death in a house in Deptford London is a well known fact. However, the circumstances surrounding this death have been the subject of much debate.

A great reckoning in a little room (As you like it: Shakespeare)

The official story is that on the evening of May 31st 1593 Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer in a house in Deptford, London. Also present were two other men, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. Over the course of the day the four men had met, eaten and played backgammon. Following a walk in the garden they had returned to the room when an argument broke out over the bill to be paid.

Ingram Frizer was sitting at a table between Poley and Skeres when Marlowe, who had been lying on a bed, suddenly jumped up, snatched Frizer’s dagger and hit him on the head with the pommel (apparently this is where the term to ‘pummel’ comes from). Frizer sustained several cuts to his head from this attack. In the ensuing struggle Frizer managed to force the dagger from Marlowe who received a fatal wound to his right eye, according to the inquest;

“the said Ingram, in defence of his life, with the dagger aforesaid of the value of twelve pence, gave the said Christopher a mortal wound above his right eye, of the depth of two inches and of the width of one inch”

At the inquest, Frizer’s plea of self-defence was accepted by the coroner. Marlowe, at the time one of the literary greats of Elizabethan England was buried on the 1st of June 1593 in St Nicolas’s church in Deptford. Although the church is still there, the exact site of Marlowe’s burial is unknown.

In a time where people routinely carried weapons such as daggers and swords it is perhaps no surprise that occasionally these got used. Certainly at the time it seems to have been accepted that Marlowe’s death was simply the result of a drunken argument. However, over the years a great deal of suspicion has grown up about what actually happened that night. Although Marlowe is known primarily as a poet and playwright there was another, less public side to his life.

Deptford Strand 1623. Detail taken from map on Wikimedia commons: Click image

Deptford Strand 1623. Detail taken from map on Wikimedia commons: Click image

Undercover work and connections

It is agreed that Marlowe did perform some kind of undercover work which took him away from his Cambridge studies during 1585. This was probably for the spy master Walsingham and probably involved him in spying upon Catholic sympathisers. At this time, Cambridge was the focus of government suspicion because of concerns about students being drawn to outlawed Catholic circles. A secret recruitment network for dissident priests had been established there and the authorities were keen to gather as much information as possible about secretive Catholic activities. When Marlowe left Cambridge in 1597 it seems likely that he would have maintained his undercover contacts and also perhaps the undercover work?

Christopher Marlowe?

Christopher Marlowe?

Over the years many questions have been asked about the men who were with Marlowe at his death, Nicolas Skeres, Ingram Frizer and Robert Poley. All of these men have been linked to the murky world of Elizabethan espionage.

Both Frizer and Skeres had previously been in trouble for fraud. Nicholas Skeres had identified himself as a servant of the Earl of Essex at an earlier court hearing whilst Frizer was in the service of Walsingham. Robert Poley was also a Walsingham employee and had played an important role in the betrayal of the Babington plot conspirators. Another connection to the authorities can be found in the house owner, Eleanor Bull who was a (fairly distant) relative of Lord Burghley.

A fatal argument – or something more sinister?

Although the official investigation suggested that Marlowe’s death resulted from a drunken fight amongst acquaintances it seems certain that things are not so simple. As we have seen, it is a fact that all of the participants in Marlowe’s death can be linked to the world of espionage as well as to powerful (and ruthless) players in this game. Was Marlowe deliberately killed though? In his book (The Elizabethan Secret Services), Alan Haynes concluded that a political assassination was unlikely ‘even in that gloomy decade’ – why not simply lock him up if the authorities wanted to silence him?

In contrast, Charles Nichol comes to a slightly different conclusion in his book about Marlowe’s death. In Nichol’s carefully researched and argued account he concludes that the purpose of the meeting was to try and secure Marlowe’s co-operation – and failing this, to silence him forever.  Marlowe had fallen foul of the powerful Earl of Essex and the meeting was an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Marlowe to be a bit more compliant – there could be only one outcome, a political murder.

The Marlowe society takes a different view however and you are recommended to check this out here

It is hardly surprising that a lot of stories have been told about this incident, it is also understandable that the story may have grown in the telling. Imagine the fuss if something like this were to happen today – not only a famous poet and playwright stabbed to death but also a secret service connection – what would the media and the blogosphere make of that!

According to Hilary Mantel there are many references to Marlowe’s fate throughout the works of Shakespeare. Apparently the first part of Act 3 in Romeo and Juliet refers to the circumstances of his death.

Live by the sword – die by the sword?

To me it seems likely that the old saying ‘live by the sword – die by the sword’ applies to Marlowe. Given his history of unconventional beliefs and behaviour as well as the dangerous company he was keeping, it does not seem so very surprising that he met his death in the manner that he did. Despite there being many gaps in our knowledge of his life it is clear that his 29 years were surprisingly eventful and one can only wonder about what he would have achieved had he lived longer.

If you want to read more about the life and death of Marlowe then I strongly recommend ‘The Reckoning’ by Charles Nicholl.  I have already mentioned Alan Haynes’ book about the Elizabethan secret services which devotes a chapter to the death of Marlowe.

Marlowes burial place taken by Boats & Bees on Flickr (Click image)

Marlowe's burial place taken by Boats & Bees on Flickr (Click image)

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The Marlowe society website

Thanks to Lee Durkee for advice about the correct size ruff for ‘Ingram Frizer’

Thanks also to James O’Hanlon for agreeing to appear as Ingram Frizer.

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We hope you will forgive us for straying from the Tudor theme of the blog to write about the wonderful discovery of a huge hoard of Anglo Saxon gold near our home city of Birmingham.  The find, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, is believed to date back to the Seventh Century.  It contains around 5kg of Gold and 2.5kg of silver, far bigger than the famous find at the Sutton Hoo burial site.

A Staffordshire field.

Amazingly the gold was not unearthed due to careful historical research – rather it was found by a 55-year-old Staffordshire metal detectorist called Tony Herbert, as he searched a field near his home with his 14-year-old metal detector.  He had been a keen metal detector for 18 years, and I find it hard to imagine how excited he must have been to unearth such awe-inspiring treasures.

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Spirits of yesteryear.

He said: “I have this phrase that I say sometimes; ‘spirits of yesteryear take me where the coins appear’, but on that day I changed coins to gold.  I don’t know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening, and directed me to it.  Maybe it was meant to be, maybe the gold had my name on it all along, I don’t know.  My mates at the (metal detecting) club always say if there is a gold coin in a field I will be the one to find it. I dread to think what they’ll say when they hear about this.”

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Warlike items.

Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates, often inlaid with precious stones.  The seven warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms comprised Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, Sussex and Kent. The Mercians dominated the middle of the country, below the Humber and down to London – where we live in Birmingham is in the middle of Mercia.  The hoard points back towards a time of war, and also of great wealth, at least for those with political power.  There is biblical slogan etched along a strip of golden banding on one of the pieces.  It reads,

“Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.”

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Beowulf.

The gold points back to the time of the writing of the great Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf. There is a theory that Beowulf was Mercian in origin, and is about the mindset of these aristocratic warriors.  I find these lines send a shiver up my spine!  The translation from Old English is by Seamus Heaney.

A newly constructed

barrow stood waiting, on a wide headland

close to the waves, its entryway secured.

Into it the keeper of the hoard had carried

all the goods and golden ware

worth preserving. His words were few:

“Now, earth, hold what earls once held

and heroes can no more; it was mined from you first

by honourable men. My own people

have been ruined in war; one by one

they went down to death, looked their last

on sweet life in the hall. I am left with nobody

to bear a sword or burnish plated goblets,

put a sheen on the cup. The companies

have departed.

The hard helmet, hasped with gold,

will be stripped of its hoops; and the

helmet-shiner

who should polish the metal of the

war-mask sleeps;

the coat of mail that came through all fights,

through shield-collapse and cut of sword,

decays with the warrior. Nor may webbed mail

range far and wide on the warlord’s back

beside his mustered troops. No trembling harp,

no tuned timber, no tumbling hawk

swerving through the hall, no swift horse

pawing the courtyard. Pillage and slaughter

have emptied the earth of entire peoples.”

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tudors photo

Where her fair breasts at liberty were let,

Whose violet veins in branched riverets flow,

And Venus’ swans and milky doves were set

Upon those swelling mounts of driven snow;

(Excerpt from ‘Mortimer and Queen Isabella at Nottingham castle’ by Michael Drayton 1563 -1631)

‘Her breasts were naked for the day was hot’

(Excerpt from ‘Armida entertains Rinaldo’ by Edward Fairfax d 1635)

In the previous post about Tudor boobs I had wanted to include a photograph I had seen of a short-lived fashion trend  from London in the 1960’s. I clearly remember having seen a woman photographed in the street wearing a dress which exposed her breasts. Sadly, I couldn’t find it – as you can imagine, a Google search for ‘woman’ and ‘breasts exposed’ manages plenty of hits! ( 9,610,000 last count) – unfortunately it wasn’t a very good way of researching my blog post.

Celia

I still keep noticing good examples of this trend for breast exposure in the Tudor period – I found this example (below) the other day in the Roxburghe ballads accompanied by ‘Celia’An excellent Ballad of a Prince of England's Courtship to the King of Frances Daughter, and how the Prince was disasterously slain ; and how the aforesaid Princess was afterwards married to a Forrester.

Come, my CELIA, let us prove,
While we may, the sports of love ;
Time will not be ours for ever :
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
Suns that set, may rise again:
But if once we lose this light,
‘Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys ?
Fame and rumor are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies ;
Or his easier ears buguile,
So removed by our wile ?
‘Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal,
But the sweet theft to reveal :
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.

Come, my CELIA, let us prove,

While we may, the sports of love ;

Time will not be ours for ever :

He at length our good will sever.

Spend not then his gifts in vain.

Suns that set, may rise again:

But if once we lose this light,

‘Tis with us perpetual night.

Why should we defer our joys ?

Fame and rumor are but toys.

Cannot we delude the eyes

Of a few poor household spies ;

Or his easier ears beguile,

So removed by our wile ?

‘Tis no sin love’s fruit to steal,

But the sweet theft to reveal :

To be taken, to be seen,

These have crimes accounted been.

A mystery solved!

clash

As mentioned at the top of the post I was no closer to finding out who it was in the original 1960’s photo until I happened to chance across it in an unexpected place.

I was lucky enough to have seen the Clash when they came to The Top Rank Suite in Dale End, Birmingham (about 1978 I think)I have been a fan ever since.  The first Clash album is one of my favourites and I especially like the song ‘Janie Jones’  which is one of the best songs on it.

I have always played the guitar – excruciatingly badly I admit – but it keeps me happy. I was trying to play ‘Janie Jones’ and decided to look up the chords on-line , I also wondered why the song was called Janie Jones and looked that up too.

I came across this website telling the story of Janie Jones, who was a London Madam, pop star and friend to the Clash. Check out her 1965 single ‘Witches brew’ and notice the picture that is 8 seconds in.

Mystery solved! – this is the photo of Janie taken as she attended the 1964 premiere of the film ‘London in the raw’  – this is the image I recall seeing on TV sometime in the past.

So – for the first ( & possibly last) time ever I have an excuse to put a Clash video on a blog about the Tudors! This is a video from 1977 – around the time that I saw them, what a great band and what a great front man Joe Strummer was –

RIP Joe.

He’s in love with rocknroll woaahh
Hes in love with gettin stoned woaahh
Hes in love with janie jones
But he dont like his boring job, no…

An he knows what hes got to do
So he knows hes gonna have fun with you
You lucky lady!
An he knows when the evening comes
When his job is done hell be over in his car for you

An in the in-tray lots of work
But the boss at the firm always thinks he shirks
But hes just like everyone, hes got a ford cortina
That just wont run without fuel
Fill her up, jacko!

An the invoice it dont quite fit,
Theres no payola in his alphabetical file
This time hes gonna really tell the boss
Gonna really let him know exactly how he feels
Its pretty bad!

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Square composition, Central Tower, Canterbury Cathedral: archdiave on Flickr (click image)

Square composition, Central Tower, Canterbury Cathedral: archdiave on Flickr (click image)

My two great musical interests are English folk music, and polyphonic church music from the tudor period – English or otherwise.  William Cornysh, Thomas Tallis and Willaim Byrd are some of the major English composers from this period; Palestrina and Allegri being two great Italian composers of the time;and Tomas Luis de Victoria being probably the most famous Spanish composer of the late Renaissance.

Thomas TallisThomas Tallis

Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-23 to November 1585) made an appearance in the BBC ‘The Tudors’ series, and this seems to have stirred up a new interest in him.  Little is known about Tallis’s early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born close to the end of the reign of Henry VII. We know that he was appointed as organist of the Benedictine priory at Dover in1532, moving, in the autumn of 1538, to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross at Waltham, until the abbey was dissolved.

(Try listening to the link below whilst looking at the picture on top of the blog – imagine the music echoing around the cathedral. Should you happen to be feeling in any way tense right now try doing this for a couple of minutes & see if you still feel tense! )

From there he went to Canterbury Cathedral (see photo at top of blog) and finally to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543, composing and performing for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I until he died in 1585.

Throughout his service to successive monarchs in turbulent times Tallis managed to avoid religious controversy, and, like William Byrd, stayed an “unreformed Roman Catholic.”

Spem in Alium

He changed the texts to which he set music for changing monarchs to match their religious standpoint, however his music in no way feels constrained by changing religious politics.  The mood of the country in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign leant towards puritanism, which discouraged the liturgical polyphony. However for the Holy Week services in 1573 the motet Spem in alium was written for eight five-voice choirs. The text is penitential, but the music is mesmerising, and very far from dour.

I have never put my hope in any other but in you,

O God of Israel

who can show both anger

and graciousness,

and who absolves all the sins of suffering man

Lord God,

Creator of Heaven and Earth

be mindful of our lowliness

Marriage, death and an appearance in ‘The Tudors’

Tallis married around 1552.  His wife, Joan, outlived him by four years. They apparently had no children. The television series recently produced by the BBC shows Tallis arriving in London and attracting the attention of Sir William Compton, a close friend of King Henry VIII, with the two becoming lovers.  After Compton’s death Tallis begins to court two sisters.  I have no idea whether this is accurate or not – but it makes for a good story!  Late in his life Tallis lived in Greenwich, close to the royal palace, and was buried at St Alphege’s Church.  A couplet from his epitaph reads:

As he did live, so also did he die, in mild and quiet Sort (O! happy Man).

Spike Milligan: Janesdead / Sheldon Wood on Flickr (click image)

Spike Milligan: Janesdead / Sheldon Wood on Flickr (click image)

Thomas Tallis likewise inspired this poem by Spike Milligan,

Thomas Tallis

Bore no man any malice

Save an organist called Ken

Who played his music rather badly now and then.


 

PPS We had an email from Phillip Sheppard (composer of the music for the recent David Starkey TV series about Henry VIII) – Phillip has added a page of tracks to his blog – click here to listen to them (password is ‘crumpets’) – his blog is called ‘Radiomovies’


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Corfe Castle at sunrise on summer morning from West Hill: o.ivanchenko on Flickr (Click image)

Corfe Castle at sunrise on summer morning from West Hill: o.ivanchenko on Flickr (Click image)

I have been intending to do this post for a while now. I thought that it would be best to wait until the Summer comes. It is officially Summer now but as anyone in England knows the weather has been really awful. Right now if you wanted to flatter anyone then you probably wouldn’t compare them to a summers day – unless you wanted a smack in the mouth that is!

I suppose that it is ok to post this anyway – Shakespeare does acknowledge that Summer is imperfect, there are sometimes rough winds – or the sun can be too hot. I suspect he would have been suprised at the current weather

‘ sometimes it raineth continuously throughout the month of July!’

It is however, a good excuse to show some excellent photos of the English countryside if nothing else!  I am heading off on holiday for a week so things might get a bit slow around here for a short time.

English Countryside by sabine.gruenke on Flickr (click image)

English Countryside by sabine.gruenke on Flickr (click image)

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:

Summer Eves by rawprints on Flickr (click image)

Summer Eves by Rob Woolf (rawprints.co.uk - click image)

But thy eternal Summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18

William Shakespeare

And finally, all those pictures of England reminded me of this video I saw on YouTube – it has got absolutely nothing to do with things Tudor but I thought it would be good to add.

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v and a marriage

edge2Victoria & Adam are getting married.

An unusual post for Tudor Stuff today – just for once this blog is featuring a modern event. Victoria Taylor – co-writer of Tudor Stuff is to be married to Adam Skerrett on Friday 30th May in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

This post is dedicated with love and great respect to Victoria and Adam. I hope you have a great day & I wish you happiness for the future.

If anyone reading this feels like passing on a message then you are more than welcome to do so!

Shakespeare: Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments.
Love is not love Which alters
when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose Worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

admit impediments.

Love is not love Which alters

when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

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That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose Worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

PS Normal Tudor Stuff Service will be resumed with the next post

PPS Victoria & Adam – sorry for the slightly dodgy pictures – I didn’t have a lot to work with.

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Rosemoor (By Kewlottie on Flickr - Click Image)

Rosemoor (By Kewlottie on Flickr - Click Image)

We are now well into the Month of May, Spring is at it’s height and England never looks better than at this time of year. This Madrigal which celebrates May was written by Thomas Morley  in 1595, the year that Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet was first performed and Robert Southwell was executed at Tyburn.

Now is the month of maying,

When merry lads are playing

Each with his bonny lass

Upon the greeny grass.

Spring (Wanderlust676 on Flickr : Click image)

Spring (Wanderlust676 on Flickr : Click image)

The Spring, clad all in gladness,

Doth laugh at Winters sadness,

And to the bagpipes sound

The nymphs tread out their ground.

maying-1

Fie then! why sit we musing,

Youth’s sweet delight refusing?

Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,

Shall we play barley- break?

Thomas Morley 1595

So that you can also hear the tune I have added this video fromYouTube.  I considered leaving it out because it is seriously naff. I eventually decided it was too funny to leave out. Someone on YouTube likened it to Monty Python and they do have a point! See if you can watch this without thinking of Terry Jones/Eric Idle & co.

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