“I believe your husband and his friends call me the Old Fox. I am also, for my sins, the lord high treasurer.”
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, lived from 1520-1598 and served as a primary advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. As a cautious and loyal advisor to the throne, the queen nicknamed Cecil “Spirit.” She had an apparent passion for nicknames and reportedly called one of her French suitors her “frog.”
After the death of Francis Walsingham, Cecil became the head of Elizabeth’s intricate spy network aimed at discovering (and squashing) Catholic plots against the queen.
In the text of Shadow of Night, Diana has every reason to be nervous about the appearance of Lord Burghley — after all, she knows that Matthew is in England as a Catholic spy on behalf of the de Clermonts. Lord Burghley did not believe in religious toleration — he believed that England “could never be in safety where there was a toleration of two religions. For there is no enmity so great as that for religion; and therefore they that differ in the service of their God can never agree in the service of their country.”
The little snippet of Latin Lord Burghley quotes to Diana (Vanitatis vanitatum, omnis vanitas) comes from the Vulgate translation of Ecclesiastes 1:2, a verse which translates as “Vanity, vanity, everything vanity.” It’s a curious bit of verse for a Protestant, as it comes from the official version of the Latin Bible dating from the 4th century.
If you’re interested in Lord Burghley as a spymaster, there’s a current BBC series airing on PBS that looks pretty interesting.
“Because if we are not in the audience chamber at Richmond Palace by two in the afternoon tomorrow, Elizabeth will arrest us both.”
Going to court in Tudor England was no small thing. First of all, the Tudor palaces were explicitly designed to restrict access to the monarchy and channel people of different rank into appropriate spaces. Because only the most important (and affluent) people made it into the presence of the king or queen, it paid to appear in court dressed in the finest clothing money could buy. In Tudor times, proximity to the king or queen was the quickest way to attain favor–and thereby improve your title and fortune. However, if Elizabeth I felt that you slighted, betrayed, or otherwise disobeyed her, the consequences could be brutal. Court was complicated, political, and highly performative.
In Shadow of Night, Elizabeth I’s court is located at Richmond Palace, the lost palace of the Tudor monarchy. Henry VII died in the palace and it became Elizabeth I’s favorite — she died there in 1603 and her body made the journey to Westminister Abbey from its gates. In the mid-seventeenth century, after the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and his administration systematically stripped the palace until only a few bits and pieces remained. You can still visit the site of Richmond Palace in southwest London today.
“And silver and black are the queen’s colors. That’s why Walter is always wearing them,” Mary explained, smoothing the puffed sleeves.
Elizabeth I had a vast and impressive wardrobe. As she grew older, she apparently leaned into the image of herself as the Virgin Queen and preferred to dress in black, white, and silver — colors she believed represented purity and virginity. Throughout Elizabeth’s reign, England remained under strict sumptuary laws — Elizabeth I believed that her courtiers should dress according to (but not exceeding) their rank. This is why Elizabeth has a bit of a fit when she notices Diana’s borrowed ostrich feather fan — a luxury restricted to gentlemen and above by the sumptuary laws. Fans in particular were a symbol of wealth, and fixed fans were a bit of A THING for Elizabeth I (you can see all of her fixed fans in her portraits here). Ostrich feathers came into fashion in England in 1552 and remained popular for the rest of the sixteenth century.
Three days later on the feast of St. Brigid, we set sail on our long journey to see the Holy Roman Emperor, find a treacherous English daemon, and, at long last, catch a glimpse of Ashmole 782.
The feast of St. Brigid takes place on 1 February and marks the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the beginning of spring. Brigid is the patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, cattle farmers, midwives, mariners, milkmaids, and poets. After her death, St. Brigid was reportedly buried in the Kildare Cathedral — but many of her relics were destroyed in the sixteenth century during Lord Grey’s deputyship of Ireland. In a funny little historical twist, St. Brigid’s head was presented to the Society of Jesus in Lisbon by none other than our buddy Emperor Rudolf II. We’ll talk about him PLENTY in the coming weeks — don’t you worry.
We hope you’re enjoying the Real-Time Reading of Shadow of Night. If you like what we do, consider supporting us on Patreon or joining our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers. As always, you can find us on Twitter @chamomilenclove or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We talked about this chapter and the end of Section III in Episode 31 — Full Elizabethan.
Until we see Verin in Berlin, take care of yourselves.