Sunday, 24 August 2014

Margaret [Peg] Hughes Prince Rupert's last Love

Margaret [Peg] Hughes
Actresses first appeared on the English stage in 1629, when a troupe of French players gave a performances at Blackfriars. A Thomas Brande wrote to Archbishop Laude expressing the anger of the crowd, in that the French actresses were 'hissed, hooted, and pippin-pelted from the stage,' thus Brande concluded he, 'did not think they would soon be ready to try the same again'.

This same troupe reappeared a few weeks later at the Fortune and Red Bull theatres, and received similar abuse, so to compensate, the Master of the Revels returned part of their licence fee. Three years later,  the Puritan author William Prynne brought out his Histrio-Mastix, The Player's Scourge, or Actor's Tragedy in which he stigmatized all 'woman-actors' as 'monsters', and their performances, 'impudent', 'shameful', and 'unwomanish'.

The ban on theatres which was imposed by the Commonwealth in 1642, was lifted by Charles II, who granted two royal patents to perform ‘legitimate drama’ in London to Sir Thomas Killigrew and Sir William Davenant. By 1661, the prejudice against women actors had declined, so when Killigrew and Davenant received a renewal of the letters patent,they included a clause that females could perform. The King’s Company and the Duke’s Company were formed, both briefly based in The Cockpit Theatre (also known as the Phoenix Theatre) Drury Lane, later moving to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Margaret Hughes appeared in Killigrew’s ‘Othello’ as Desdemona in December 1660 at a converted tennis court called the Vere Street Theatre.  The audience were asked: ‘And how do you like her?’ The applause that followed guaranteed the place of actresses on the English stage - however this story may be allegorical, as four years earlier, Davenant's  'Siege of Rhodes' was performed at Rutland House, with Mrs. Coleman as Ianthe.  

Not much is known about Peg’s early life, and she was already 30 before she performed Desdemona, but she apparently took the London theatre scene by storm.With her long dark hair, sleepily sensual eyes and lovely face, Margaret ‘Peg’ Hughes counted among her lovers a brief liaison with Charles II, Charles Sedley, the famous fop and, reputedly, other members of the court circle.

Prince Rupert

Samuel Pepys, who recorded going backstage on 7 May 1668 after a performance of The Virgin Martyr and stole a kiss from an actress named ‘Pegg’ whom he described as ‘a mighty pretty woman, and seems, but is not, modest’ She was the first actress to play Theodosia in John Dryden's Evening's Love, or, The Mock Astrologer, which premiered on 22 June 1668.

According to the Count de Gramont’s memoirs, Peg was with the count on a summer visit to Tunbridge Wells in 1668 when she met Prince Rupert. No longer a young and dashing cavalier, he was still a rich and handsome man who had turned his back on his homeland after a fierce quarrel with his elder brother, Charles Louis the Elector Palatine. He lived in England under the patronage of his cousin, King Charles II. By 1669 , Peg became a member of the King's Company which gave her status and immunity from arrest for debt. She was also painted four times by Sir Peter Lely.  

Peg initially refused Rupert's gifts, preferring instead to ‘sell her favours at a dearer rate’.  This unexpected rejection upset Rupert a great deal, but this did not mean he was about to propose marriage. At least not a regular one. Some accounts say that the pair went through a ‘left-handed marriage’ ceremony, in that the groom held the bride’s right hand in his left hand instead of in his right - a ceremony that meant neither Hughes nor any children they might have would inherit Rupert’s royal titles or privileges.  

At the end of that year, Peg left the stage in order to set up home with the fifty-year old Prince, who was generous to Peg’s family and employed at least one of her brothers in his household.
It appears, though, that their ‘marriage’ was a happy one as Rupert rejected his elder brother’s pleas to marry more appropriately and produce an heir for the Palatine. 

For the next six years, Peg lived an expensive lifestyle with her royal lover, giving birth to their daughter, Ruperta in 1673. Rupert gave Peg at least £20,000 worth of jewelry during their relationship, including several items from the Palatinate royal collection.

In 1676, Peg emerged from retirement for a year with the Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre, near the Strand. Rupert then bought a 'grand building' worth £25,000 that he bought in Hammersmith from Sir Nicholas Crispe where he installed Peg and their daughter.

Ruperta Howe

In June 1670, Peg's brother became embroiled in a quarrel with one of the king's retainers over which of the royal mistresses, Margaret Hughes or Nell Gwyn, was ‘the handsomer now att Windsor’. Insults flew,  swords drawn, and Hughes' brother was killed.

Rupert installed Peg in the lavishly furnished mansion at Hammersmith, later known as Brandenburg House, where Margaret gave birth to a daughter in 1673, christened Ruperta. 

Margaret returned to the stage in 1676 as a member of the Duke of York's Company, based at the Dorset Garden Theatre. After that season, Peg retired from acting and devoted herself to Rupert, now fifty-seven and with failing health. 

Rupert reputedly gave Peg a pair of pearl drop earrings that once belonged to his mother. Rupert's youngest sister, the Electress Sophia of Hanover, complained bitterly to her husband, Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover, but when she saw how well Peg looked after her elderly bachelor brother, she was forgiven and allowed to keep them.
By 1680, Rupert was bedridden and used an invalid chair. He wrote to Sophia that, ‘Margaret ‘took great care of me during my illness and I am obliged to her for many things’. Of his life with Peg, he also said, ‘as for the little one [Ruperta], she cannot resemble me, [for] she is turning into the prettiest creature. She already rules the whole house and sometimes argues with her mother, which makes us all laugh’.

Two days before his death, Rupert signed his will which stated Margaret was to receive all his money, plate, English estates, and investments, including: the string of pearls which had once belonged to his mother, the winter queen; his diamonds; and all of his tapestries, gold stucco work, and hangings. He  had already given her a large cabinet worth £8000 that she was to keep. Rupert died at his house in Spring Gardens, Westminster after a bout of pleurisy, and was buried in the crypt of Westminster Abbey.

Electress Sophia, Rupert's sister
From his deathbed the prince made a last request to Charles II that a marriage be contracted between Ruperta and Lord Burford, son of Nell Gwyn and the king. This, however, was refused. Concerned that his daughter should make an advantageous match, Rupert stipulated in his will that she should be ‘dutifull and obedient to her mother, and not … dispose herself in marriage, without her consent, and the advise of the … Earl of Craven’ 

The Earl of Craven was appointed executor and Margaret and Ruperta were the chief beneficiaries. Rupert’s former mistress, Francesca Bard, was excluded and their son, Dudley Bard, was left only Rupert's house at Rhenen and monies owed to him by the emperor and the elector palatine.

This was an era when women did not attend funerals, thus Rupert's coffin was accompanied to the grave on 6 December 1682 by a party which included a ‘Mr. Hughes—Gentleman’, probably another brother or kinsman to Margaret. Within a few months Craven had already paid out £6000 each to her and her daughter, and had sold one of the most valuable items—the pearl necklace given by Rupert's father to Elizabeth—to Nell Gwyn for £4520 in an attempt to clear household debts.
Rupert and Peg's House in Hammersmith
Hughes had an 'uncomfortable widowhood' without Rupert's support, exacerbated by her gambling. Elizabeth of Bohemia's earrings were sold to the Duchess of Marlborough. Hughes sold the house in Hammersmith to two London merchants: Timothy Lannoy and George Treadwell. [The name changed to Brandeburgh House when bought by the Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach]  

Margaret moved to Eltham in Kent where she died in October 1719, and was buried at Lee, Kent.Her daughter, Ruperta, ultimately married Lt-General Emanuel Scrope Howe, future MP and had four children by him - James, Henriette, William and Sophie. Ruperta died in 1719.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Moon Time

Photo by Orion 8

In Virginia, on March 22, 1622, and again on April 18, 1644, paramount chief Opechancanough arranged attacks killing several hundred colonists on both occasions. The fact that assaults could be carried out with such devastating consequences on unsuspecting colonists demonstrates Opechancanough's organizational skills. But how did he time his attacks with such precision?

For the most part, the various tribes commonly referred to as the Powhatan lived in towns near water, which could be reached by dugout (a type of canoe). Runners were also common messengers, but the tribal people used the moon as a calendar. Both attacks came one day shy of the third-quarter moon.

Moon cycles have been used for thousands of years to mark the passage of time. Each month the moon cycles has a new moon, first quarter, a full moon, last quarter, then returns to the new moon. The cycle repeats approximately every 29 days. One clergyman wrote that the Powhatan kept track of time by days, moons, and years. In their numbering system, they had specific words for one to ten, after which, according to John Smith, they counted by tens, and they also had a word for a thousand. If necessary, they used notched sticks and knotted strings to keep track of larger numbers.

The people tracked the lunar calendar with seasonal and solar cycles, along with crop and migratory seasons. Little is known about the astronomical knowledge of the Powhatan, but they recognized lunar months, such as "moon of the stags," the "corn moon," and the first and second "moon of cohonks." Cohonk is the Algonquian word meaning Canada goose, and the moons so named occurred in early winter when the geese returned. It was also the beginning of their year. The word itself sounded like a goose honking. Not only that, I recently discovered an interesting tidbit that to honk your car horn is derived from the same Algonquian word.

According to some anthropologists, calendars were developed by women to coincide with not only the lunar cycle, but menstrual cycles as well. Mayan midwives knew that when a woman missed her period a baby would be delivered about 260 days later. Opechancanough most likely timed his attacks using a similar method. In any case, the attacks were timed with precision, taking place just before spring planting and the beginning of the busiest time of year.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 3 August 2014

William and Benedict Arnold: Rhode Island’s Borgias?

The Borgias

The House of Borgia rose to political and ecclesiastical prominence during the Italian Renaissance. Though the Borgias were accused of murder, bribery, and simony, and the powerful Medici family were their enemies, the Borgias produced two popes, and their support of the arts helped spur the Renaissance.

17th century Rhode Island had a pair of leaders who could well be described as Borgia-esque. William Arnold was baptized on 6/24/1587 in Ilchester, County Somerset. His eldest son, Benedict, was baptized on December 21, 1615, also in Ilchester, and died June 19, 1678 in Newport, Rhode Island. No, he wasn’t THAT Benedict Arnold, but he was the Revolutionary War traitor’s great-grandsire.

Arnold coat of arms
William Arnold brought his family from Somerset to Hingham, Massachusetts in 1635. A year later the Arnolds followed Roger Williams (who was banished for radical notions, such as freedom of religion) to Providence, Rhode Island. In 1638 William and his sons moved a few miles south of Providence, and named their self-governed settlement Pawtuxet, after the nearby river.

Rhode Island 1660
The Arnolds got along well with Roger Williams, but the same could not be said of Samuel Gorton. On January 12, 1642-3, Gorton, who Roger Williams described as bewitching and bemadding poor Providence, purchased a large tract of land adjoining Pawtuxet from the Narragansetts, and named it Shawomet. 

Samuel Gorton on trial
Samuel Gorton had been turned out of nearly every place he settled in New England. He came to Boston in 1636, but before long he fled Massachusetts’ Puritans for Plymouth. The Pilgrims quickly ousted him. Gorton tried Portsmouth, then Newport, and then Providence, Rhode Island, but didn’t stay long in any of those towns. William Coddington, Rhode Island’s chief Justice, had him whipped for insolence after Gorton referred to him as a “Just-Ass.”

Benedict and William Arnold loathed their new neighbor, knew that the Puritans in Massachusetts felt likewise, and also knew that Massachusetts eagerly sought to claim the entire western side of Narragansett Bay. Benedict  had learned to speak the Narragansett language, and used his knowledge to undermine Rhode Island in general, and Samuel Gorton in particular. Two minor Narragansett sachems had partial control of both Pawtuxet and Shawomet. Benedict Arnold took these chieftains to Boston and persuaded them to submit themselves and their lands to Massachusetts. On September 8, 1642, Benedict and William Arnold formally turned the English settlement at Pawtuxet over to Massachusetts’ rule and protection.

With the Arnolds’ cooperation in hand, Massachusetts ordered Gorton to come to Boston’s court to answer charges of duress and theft made by the Narragansett chieftans. Gorton refused, and Massachusetts sent an army to arrest him, again with the Arnolds’ blessing. 

Remember the Borgias’ reputation for assassination and murder? Benedict and William Arnold knew well that the Puritans considered Samuel Gorton to be a heretic, and that delivering him into Puritan hands placed Gorton in grave danger. Maybe they weren’t seeking Gorton’s life, but he was tried, not for harassing the Indians, but for heresy. He barely escaped execution when a single vote saved Samuel Gorton’s life.

Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick
The Arnolds likely wanted to see Gorton removed so they could occupy the Gortonists’ improved lands, but that plot failed as well. Samuel Gorton sought help from his powerful patron, the Earl of Warwick. The overt harassment of Samuel Gorton by his neighbors stopped, and Gorton named his settlement Warwick in gratitude.

William and Benedict Arnold also engaged in other shady practices. On October 27 1643, Massachusetts ordered that the Narragansett chieftans be lent fowling guns, and gave Benedict Arnold permission to supply them with powder and shot, though giving Indians arms and ammunition was directly counter to Rhode Island’s law. Samuel Gorton also complained that the Arnolds gave liquor to the Indians – also illegal – and traded on the Sabbath Day.

The Arnolds and their Pawtuxet residents remained under Massachusetts’ jurisdiction, despite a charter issued by Parliament in 1644 which included Pawtuxet as part of Rhode Island. On May 22, 1649, Rhode Island’s court sent letters to Pawtuxet, ordering them subject themselves to Rhode Island governance, but the Arnolds ignored it.

The Arnolds actively undermined Rhode Island’s affairs by providing information to the Puritans for sixteen years, and were repaid with food and protection. William wrote regarding Rhode Island’s effort to get a charter from Parliament: From Pawtuxet, this 1st day of the 7th month, 1651, Much Honored, I thought it my duty to give intelligence unto the much honored Court [of Massachusetts] of that which is now working here in these parts; so that if it be the will of God, an evil may be prevented … under the pretence of liberty of conscience about these parts, there comes to live all the scum, the runaways of the country, which, in time, for want of better order, may bring a heavy burthen upon the land … I humbly desire my name may be concealed, lest they, hearing of what I have herein written, they will be enraged against me, and so will revenge themselves upon me.

William Arnold maintained his opposition to Rhode Island, and Samuel Gorton went back to London in disgust. He returned in 1658 with a strong letter of protest from the Earl of Warwick, who was both an ardent Puritan and a sponsor of Providence settlement. Massachusetts was finally forced to withdraw, Pawtuxet submitted to Rhode Island, and on 5/31/1666 William Arnold swore allegiance to King Charles II. William Arnold remained in Pawtuxet for the rest of his life, reconciling with his neighbors as they mellowed with age.

Benedict Arnold grave marker
William's son, on the other hand, had already grasped a new opportunity. In 1653, at the age of 38, Benedict took his family to Rhode Island’s principal city, Newport. He became a freeman that year and represented Newport in Rhode Island’s government, and in 1657 he succeeded Roger Williams as President of the colony. He served as president, then as governor almost continuously from then until his death in 1678.

Now, Benedict Arnold had to fight off Massachusetts, his former protector. He complained to Parliament, and then to King Charles II about “sundry obstructions” and claims made by Massachusetts and Connecticut to the Narragansett Indians’ lands. He vigorously pursued a new royal charter for Rhode Island, and obtained that vital document in 1663, granting the colony self-rule and liberty of conscience in “a Republic of Liberty under Law, in which every man is king and no man subject.”

Though the Puritan colonies complained, and despite the “bad effects of their doctrines and endeavors,” President Arnold allowed the highly controversial Quakers to shelter in Rhode Island. He advised the Puritan colonies to let them speak their minds in peace, and in 1658 coolly noted that where Quakers were punished harshly, they unceasingly returned and gained adherents through their patient sufferings. However, Rhode Island’s government allowed Quakers to declare themselves freely, and in consequence, “they least of all desire to come [among us].”

Benedict truly turned over a new leaf, pursuing the union of Pawtuxet and Warwick with Rhode Island’s other towns. He became a warrior for civil and religious liberty, and the historian Samuel G. Arnold wrote of his famed ancestor that “he recognized the distinction between persecution and opposition, between legal force and moral suasion as applied to matters of opinion … throughout his long and useful life he displayed talents of a brilliant order which were ever employed for the welfare of his fellow men.”

If Benedict Arnold’s actions benefitted himself along with his fellow Rhode Islanders, that was all to the better. At Governor Arnold’s death, his will dispersed several thousand acres of land, cash, and livestock among his wife and children. If wealth was any indication, God had clearly poured out his favor on Benedict Arnold, and so did Rhode Island, even though Benedict had once been a force of opposition. 

Jo Ann Butler is proud to be a 13th generation descendant from Benedict Arnold. She is currently writing about the Arnolds in the final volume of her A Scandalous Life series about Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter and Rhode Island’s earliest years.

“Benedict Arnold, First Governor of Rhode Island” - Hamilton B. Tompkins - Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society - 1919
The Great Migration - Robert Anderson, George Sanborn, Melinde Sanborn - 1999
The Arnold Memorial - Elisha S. Arnold - 1935