On This Day 21st January 1535
On 21st January 1535 six French Huguenots were burnt at Notre Dame, in Paris, following the ‘Affair of the Placards’ in which posters denigrating the Mass and the Pope in lurid terms were published all over France, including, provocatively, one pinned to the door of King François I’s own bedchamber, a breach of security that was a shock to the King. Previously, François had been tolerant of Huguenots – his sister, Marguerite of Angouleme, was certainly an evangelical, even if she did not go as far as Lutheranism, and his sister-in-law, Renee, Duchess of Ferrara, was a committed Calvinist. This, however, was going too far and Francois reconfirmed his belief in traditional Catholic teaching, and eventually issued the Edict of Fontainebleu which announced that ‘heresy’ would be punished by forfeiture of goods, torture and death.
Picture is of François I by Clouet
On This Day 20th January 1583
On 20th January 1583 Sir John Maxwell died. Maxwell, who was Lord Herries of Terregles in right of his wife, Agnes Herries, was one of the staunchest supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots after her forced abdication. Maxwell had been brought up as one of the first generation of Protestants in Scotland, and was described by John Knox as ‘zealous and stout in God’s cause’. He was one of the Lords of the Congregation who opposed the Regent, Marie of Guise, and introduced Protestantism as the religion of the country in the Reformation Parliament of 1560. When Mary returned from France, Maxwell became one of her most loyal advisors, supporting her marriage to Darnley, whilst trying to temper her anger with the Earl of Moray following the Chaseabout Raid. When Mary decided, for reasons which will forever remain debated, to marry Bothwell, Maxwell apparently begged her on bended knees not to take action he believed would end in disaster. Maxwell commanded the Queen’s cavalry at Langside, and accompanied Mary when she crossed into England after losing the battle. He was a Commissioner for her in the hearing at York and continued to push for her restoration to the throne. He died leaving seven children.
Picture is Sir John Lavery's (1856 - 1941) interpretation of the night after the Battle of Langside.
On This Day 19th January 1526
On 19th January 1526, Isabel of Austria, Queen of Denmark, died, aged only 24. Isabel was the second daughter of Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, and Juana I of Castile. Her brothers were later the Holy Roman Emperors, Charles V and Ferdinand I. Isabel’s father died when she was only five, and the mental state of her mother (Juana was considered to be insane) led to her being brought up at the court of her aunt, Marguerite of Austria, who was Regent of the Netherlands. At the age of thirteen, Isabel was married by proxy to Christian II, a man twenty years her senior. Christian’s proxy for the wedding, rather bizarrely, was Isabel’s own grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian. A year later, in 1515, Isabel travelled to Denmark to join her husband, by whom she had three children: John, Dorothea and Christina. The kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were linked in a complex union, called the Kalmar Union (more here) and at various times Christian was King of all three countries.
The marriage did not start well – Christian had a mistress, Dyveke Sigridsdatter, to whom he was deeply attached, and was also strongly influence by Dyveke’s mother, who held surprising levels of power for a woman not of noble birth. After Dyveke’s death, matters improved and Isabel acted as Regent in her husband’s absence. Christian was deposed in 1523 by his nephew and the royal couple went into exile in the Netherlands. Like many educated women of the 1520s, Isabella was interested in religious reform and even Lutheranism, but as harder lines began to be drawn between Catholics and Lutherans, this was a difficult position for the Emperor’s sister.
Picture is of an altarpiece in the Carmelite Cloister in Elsinore showing Isabel and Christian II
When we researched John Knox, we had the common perception of him as a woman-hating kill-joy, and were surprised to discover that, in fact, he was an emotional man, with many close female friends. Dr Marie Macpherson is working on a trilogy of novels exploring Knox’ human side, and we are delighted to have a non-fiction Guest Article from her about the women in the famous preachers’ life.Read article