Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, June 28, 2021

Carlotta of Lusignan, Queen of Cyprus

 Carlotta of Lusignan, queen of Cyprus (born 28 June 1444)

Born on 28 June 1444, Carlotta of Lusignan was the eldest daughter of Giovanni II, king of Cyprus. Although he was also the titular prince of Antioch and the titular king of Jerusalem (from 1432 to 1458), Giovanni ruled only on the island of Cyprus. (The designation "of Lusignan" here refers not to Carlotta's place of birth but to her paternal family connections.)

Carlotta of Lusignan, queen of Cyprus
detail from Cosimo Roselli,
fresco, Sistine Chapel, c. 1481-2 
Carlotta's mother was Giovanni's second wife, Helena Palaiologina, a Byzantine princess. (Giovanni's first wife, Amadea Palaiologina of Monferrato, died just two months after her marriage.) Carlotta was raised in the Byzantine tradition, among her mother's Greek-speaking women, so she was fluent in that language, which she spoke throughout her life. She understood, spoke, and wrote French and Italian, though she was not fluent, but her knowledge of Latin was less certain. 

In 1450, perhaps concerned that he had only a daughter as heir, Giovanni sought a papal dispensation for Carlotta's marriage to Louis of Savoy, his sister's son. 

These plans did not materialize, however, perhaps because of Queen Helena's disapproval of the marriage of first cousins. Adding to the political turmoil in Cyprus was ongoing religious conflict--the queen's Orthodox Christianity frequently placed her in opposition to the Roman church, and there is some suggestion that she was suspicious of papal intervention in such marital connections. (There was cultural conflict between Giovanni and Helena as well, with the queen welcoming Greeks to Cyprus after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.)

Whether it was due to the queen's opposition or not, in 1456, the twelve-year-old Carlotta was married not to her cousin but to João of Coimbra, the son of the Portuguese duke of Coimbra. Some sources suggest that the choice of the twenty-five-year-old João was Queen Helena's. Following the marriage, João and Carlotta were named prince and princess of Antioch.

The couple took up residence with Carlotta's godfather, Peter of Lusignan, count of Tripoli. Their relocation seems to have been the result of growing tension with members of her father's court. Unfortunately, the young João quickly fell ill and died. And, of course, Queen Helena was suspected of having poisoned her daughter's new husband . . . 

Whatever the reason for her husband's death, Carlotta's first marriage was brief--João had arrived in Cyprus in May of 1457, and he was dead by 22 June. The widowed Carlotta returned to her father's home. 

Meanwhile, although Giovanni's only legitimate child was his daughter, he did have another child, an illegitimate son, Giacomo, born in 1438 or 1439 to the king and his mistress, Marietta de Patras (shortly after Helena Palaiologina married Giovanni, she reportedly had Marietta's nose cut off . . . ) Giovanni had provided well for his son, naming the sixteen-year-old as archbishop of Nicosia in 1456, but after murdering a royal chamberlain, the young archbishop was deprived of his office. (Don't worry--Giovanni quickly pardoned his son and returned the archbishopric to him.)

After the death of Carlotta's husband, her half-brother seems to have been involved in a scheme to arrange the marriage of the widowed princess to a candidate of his own choosing, a nephew of the pope, perhaps even going so far as to enter into a plot to kidnap Carlotta. But, instead of arranging his daughter's marriage to his son's preferred candidate, Giovanni turned his attention once more to his nephew, Louis of Savoy.  

A dispensation for the marriage was needed--again, sources suggest that the alliance was opposed by the queen. But events overtook the king and queen of Cyprus--because of Giacomo's rebellion, they were forced to retreat to the fortress of Nicosia, where they both died, Queen Helena on 11 April 1458, and King Giovanni on 28 July 1458. According to at least one chronicle, Giacomo was responsible for Helena's death--he was said to have poisoned her.

Immediately after her father's death, Carlotta was recognized as his successor--and among those who promptly offered his allegiance was her half-brother, Giacomo. Now fourteen years old, Carlotta was crowned queen of Cyprus on 15 October 1458. The coronation did not proceed altogether smoothly, however--during the ceremony, the crown fell off her head. Later, this unfortunate accident was regarded as a sign of what was to come.

Carlotta's marriage contract with Louis was signed a few days later, and on 7 October 1459, a year after she became queen of Cyprus, Carlotta married Louis of Savoy, who became ure oxis, a co-ruler by right of marriage, not a king consort. 

Although Giacomo had sworn allegiance to his half-sister when she became queen, he was soon claiming the throne for himself "in a such way," writes historian Marina Tymviou, "that it amounted to a military coup." In less than a year after Carlotta's marriage, by 26 September 1460, he had captured Nicosia and then had himself crowned king of Cyprus.

Queen Carlotta, young and inexperienced, did not cede her kingdom immediately, but retreated to the castle of Kyrenia, on the northern coast of Cyprus, which remained loyal to her. But after three years, Carlotta was forced to flee. 

She arrived in Rhodes, seeking support and determined to retake Cyprus. As Tymviou argues, Carlotta maintained her role as a "queen in exile and not a former queen." She sought assistance from her husband's father, the duke of Savoy, and from Rome, where she arrived on 15 October 1461 and met with Pius II, who "welcomed her as a fully sovereign queen."

Carlotta's efforts to regain her throne were notable: she traveled widely throughout the Italian peninsula to rally support for her cause. She eventually reached Savoy, taking up residence at her father-in-law's ducal court. (Though her reception seems to have lacked a bit--Pius II wrote that she was received there "coldly," speculating that the duke had been impoverished by efforts to aid Carlotta.)

Leaving Savoy, Carlotta returned to Rhodes, where she established a kind of court-in-exile and was supported by the Knights Hospitaller. The possibility for regaining her throne grew less likely when she was joined in 1463 by her husband, Louis, who was forced to leave Cyprus. Then, in 1464, Pius II died, replaced by a pope who recognized Giacomo as king of Cyprus. And in 1465, the duke of Savoy died--the new duke, Louis' brother, was not eager to spend more resources in Cyprus.  

Carlotta of Lusignan, queen of Cyprus
detail from Giovanni de Fondulis, 
terracotta sculpture, after 1483 
In the mean time, Giacomo had sought to establish himself as the legitimate king of Cyprus. He too had drummed up support on the Italian peninsula. Although Carlotta had sought and received assistance from Venice, it was Giacomo who received a bride from Venice--he was betrothed to Caterina Cornaro in 1468. The two were married four years later, in 1472. 

But, just as Carlotta's fortunes had turned dramatically, so did Giacomo's--within a year of his marriage, he died, leaving his young wife pregnant. Carlotta saw this as an opportunity to reclaim her throne. 

While Carlotta's supporters on Cyprus assassinated several members of Caterina's household, the young widow managed to escape, support from Venice arrived to reestablish order, and she gave birth to a son, Giacomo III, named after his father. With the birth of a boy, who could become king, the question of who was the "legitimate" ruler in Cyprus seemed to be over.

Once again fate intervened. In less than a year, the boy was dead, and Carlotta was once again eager to regain her throne. But it was not to be. 

Carlotta of Lusignan, queen of Cyprus, was never restored to her throne. Instead, in 1475, she settled in Rome, where she was received by Pope Sixtus IV, installed in an apartment in Castel Sant'Angelo, and provided with a stipend. 

Carlotta was offered a substantial income by Venice if she would renounce her claim to Cyprus, but she refused. She continued to campaign for her return--she seems to have been aided by Naples and Egypt in 1478 and again in 1481, and there is some indication that another effort was considered as late as 1484.

But Carlotta of Lusignan, queen of Cyprus, did not achieve her ambition. She died in Rome on 16 July 1487. She was just forty-four years old. 

Two online sources are particularly good for understanding Carlotta of Lusignan's life and efforts to regain Cyprus. Angela Dillon Bussi's biographical essay, from Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, is available at Trecanni (click here). And Marina Tymviou's doctoral dissertation, "Charlotte of Lusignan and Caterina Cornaro: The Politics of Queenship and Identity in Cyprus and Italy, 1458-1861," is available in its entirety (click here).

Also very useful is the chapter on Carlotta in volume 3 of George Hill's A History of Cyprus.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Levina Teerlinc, Painter at the Tudor Court

 Levina Teerlinc, Artist (died 23 June 1576)

Like her somewhat older contemporary, Susannah Hornebolt, Levina Teerlinc was a Flemish artist, specializing in miniature painting, who lived and work at the court of the Tudor kings and queens. And also like Hornebolt, unfortunately, little is known about Teerlinc's life or work.* 

This 1565 miniature of Queen Elizabeth
is one of those most frequently
attributed to Levina Teerlinc
(it's used to illustrate the entry in
Wikipedia, so I've reproduced it here)

Born Levina Bening, Teerlinc was the oldest of five daughters born to Catherine Stroo and Simon Bening (or Binnink). 

Simon Bening was an accomplished and successful miniaturist and illuminator who had been trained in the family workshop in Ghent by his father, Alexander Bening. Simon Bening's mother was Kathelijn van der Goes, a woman who seems to have been either a sister or niece of another noted Flemish painter, Hugo van der Goes. 

Simon Bening left Ghent about the year 1510, establishing himself in Bruges as a producer of elaborate and expensive books of hours for wealthy patrons. This year--1510--is at times given as the date for Levina's birth, although there is no evidence to support that date, and some sources suggest her date of birth was as late as 1520. 

Aside from the names of her parents, nothing at all is known about the young Levina's life. Given her own father's background, most historians assume that Levina was trained in her father's workshop so that she could continue the family business. 

Her mother, Catherine Stroo, died in 1542, and Teerlinc's father, Simon, would remarry, his second wife adding another daughter to his family. At some point Levina herself married, but there is no evidence as to when exactly the marriage took place. Indeed, the first documented reference to Levina is on 4 February 1545, when her appearance, along with that of her husband, George Teerlinc, is noted in official records of the mayor of Bruges as they close accounts related to the death of George Teerlinc's father. Given the range of dates suggested for her birth, Levina might have been as old as thirty-five or as young as twenty-five when the first real fact of her existence emerges.

At some point after this date in early 1545, Levina Teerlinc arrived in England. By November of the next year, 1546, she had entered into royal service at the Tudor court, where documents note that she was awarded an annuity by Henry VIII, to be paid "during the King's pleasure." (For his part, George Teerlinc seems to have been given something of an honorary position at court, becoming a Gentleman Pensioner.) Levina Teerlinc's tenure at the royal court was to outlast Henry's reign--her service continued for thirty years.

In 1547, after Henry VIII's death, "Maistris Levyn Teerling paintrix" was recognized by Edward VI, who continued her annuity of £40 a year, paid quarterly. Teerlinc remained as a court painter during the reigns of both Mary and Elizabeth (through all these years of service, the amount she was paid did not change). Based on surviving documentary evidence, Edward Towne concludes, "It would appear that her position at court only required her to produce one miniature annually."**

Records indicate that, in 1551, Teerlnc was asked to "drawe owt" a picture of Princess Elizabeth. As a New Year's gift in 1553, Teerlinc presented Queen Mary with "a small picture of the trynitie." In 1559, during the first year of Elizabeth's reign, she completed "the Quenis picture finely painted upon a card" ("card," in this context, refers to vellum). Records of New Year's gifts in subsequent years show Teerlinc's regular presents to the queen: in 1562, she presents a miniature described as depicting "the Queen's personne and other personages in a box fynely painted"; in 1563, a "card . . . with the Queene & many other personages"; in 1564, "a certayne Journey of the Quenis Ma[jes]tie and the Trayne, fynely wrought"; in 1565, "a howse paynted and theraboute certayne personages in a case of walnuttree"; in 1567, "the picture of the queene," this one, notably, a full-length painting--"her whole stature drawne upon a Card"; in 1568, "a paper paynted" with the queen and "the knyghtes of the order"; in 1575, "a carte paynted upon a card" depicting the queen and "other personages"; and, in 1576, another painting of "the Quenis picture upon a Card" (Towne 172).

Meanwhile, in 1566, Teerlinc and her husband applied for denization, a grant of citizenship for themselves and their son--so Levina gave birth to at least one child. The couple also built a house on leased land in Stepney.

By this point, in the mid-1560s, Levina Teerlinc's reputation as an artist was so well established that in his 1567 description of the history and art of the Low Countries, Lodovico Guicciardini includes her among his account of only four "living female artists." The first of these, he says, is Levina, "who, like her father, is excellent in miniature." According to Guicciardini, her skill in miniature painting is why Henry VIII "invited her to his court," where she was "highly rewarded." He notes that royal favor continued under Queen Mary and that Teerlinc enjoys "equal esteem" under Queen Elizabeth. 

It is important to note that Guicciardini speaks about Teerlinc only in general terms, so that he is unlikely to have seen any of her work, and he can be mistaken--he claims that Teerlinc was "splendidly married" after she arrived at the Tudor court. In their groundbreaking Women Artists: 1550-1950, Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin note that Teerlinc's "fame was still part of the tradition when Guicciardini wrote" (26).

A document dated 11 August 1576, "given by the queen under her privy seal," notes that Levina Teerlinc died "the xxxiii of June last past." The queen made the quarterly payment of Levina's annuity to her husband "as our gift." She was buried at St. Dunstan and All Saints, in Stepney.

Unfortunately, as with her countrywoman and near contemporary, Susannah Hornebolt, and so many other women artists (like Marietta Robusti, about whom I wrote a month ago), no surviving work has been firmly attributed to Levina Teerlinc. A great deal of effort has gone into identifying surviving miniatures with those described in the New Year's gift lists, but there are no certainties. Of course, if you Google, you'll find lots of miniatures attributed to Levina Teerlinc, but none of these attributions is supported by evidence. One exasperated art historian bemoans "the current epidemic of unsustainable attributions to Levina Teerlinc"!

In addition to her work as a miniature painter, Teerlinc may have produced designs for coins, documents, seals, woodcut illustrations, and, perhaps, needlework, as part of her duties at court--all of these have been suggested by a variety of different art historians, searching for Levina Teerlinc. It has even been suggested that Teerlinc produced a written "discourse on painting, . . . A Very Proper Treatise." Some of these claims are more plausible than others--none is supported by much, if any, evidence.

It has also been suggested--and subsequently accepted by some--that Teerlinc was responsible for instructing and training the well-known Elizabethan miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard in the art of the miniature, but again, there is no evidence to support such a claim and much to disprove it. 

An even more tenuous (and romantic) connection has been made between Teerlinc and Giulio Clovio, an illuminator and miniaturist who was born in the Kingdom of Croatia but who worked principally in Rome. In the mid-1550s, Clovio's portrait was painted by the extraordinary Sofonisba Anguissola. In Anguissola's portrait of the artist, he is holding a miniature, one which, it is said, he so valued that he kept with him until his death. The art historian Federico Zeri, who owned the portrait of Clovio painted by Anguissola, came to believe earlier claims about this picture--that the miniature in the portrait of Clovio represented Levina Teerlinc, and that the Flemish painter had, early in her career, traveled to Rome to be trained by Clovio. However, as Mary Garrard writes, these "conclusions" seem to rest on misidentification and conflation. Zeri had accepted an earlier identification of Teerlinc as a female miniaturist who was said to have written to Clovio in Rome. And, noting that Clovio may have owned a miniature by Teerlinc, he concluded that the miniature Clovio was holding in Anguissola's painting was of Levina Teerlinc. From this came the notion that Levina Teerlinc had, at some point early in her career, traveled to Rome to train with Clovio. As for the evidence of all this--there is none. In the 1540s, Clovio is said to have addressed a letter to a nameless female miniature painter, a young German woman, though this letter survives only in late copies (and Teerlinc was Flemish, not German). Clovio may have had a female painter training in his workshop, but there is no evidence to support the claim that Levina Teerlinc left Bruges and trained with anyone anywhere at any time before she arrived in England. And an inventory of Clovio's property at the time of his death refers to a portrait by (again, not of) "Livinia meniatrice"--this may or may not refer to Levina Teerlinc.***

*In her blog post on Levina Teerlinc, art historian Louisa Woodville writes that Gerard Hornebolt, Susannah Hornebolt's father, is Levina Teerlinc's uncle, thus making the two women cousins. There is no documentation provided, and I have been unable to find this information in other sources. Gerard Hornebolt was married to a woman named Margaret Saunders (or Svanders), so the two, Levina Teerlinc and Susannah Hornebolt, were surely countrywomen, but I cannot confirm a family relationship. In Pens and Needles: Women's Textualities in Early Modern England, Susan Frye notes that Simon Bening and Gerard Hornebolt collaborated on the production of illuminated manuscripts, which may (?) account for the confusion.

**Town, "A Biographical Dictionary of London Painters, 1547-1625," The Volume of the Walpole Society 76 (2014): 172. 

***Mary D. Garrard, "Here's Looking at Me: Sofonisba Anguissola and the Problem of the Woman Artist," Renaissance Quarterly  47, no. 3 (1994): 575. And here is an example of how undocumented claims about Teerlinc become fact: by the time Susan Frye is writing about Levina Teerlinc, she says that Teerlinc "apprenticed" with Clovio in Rome and that she was "trained . . . within the Italian Mannerist movement"--no footnote in sight.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Mary Dyer, American Martyr

Mary Barrett Dyer, Religious Dissident (executed 1 June 1660)

Note: A few days ago, for reasons that I do not understand, an earlier version of this post (published in 2016!!) was flagged for "violating community standards," and it was made to disappear from the blog. Since there was no explanation of what "community standard" had been "violated," I appealed, and the blog gods--without any explanation--reinstated it. So it's there once again, back where it was in 2016, but just because I am that kind of woman, I am re-posting it here too, so it now appears TWICE. I did take the opportunity to update the images on this version.

So many racists, homophobes, misogynists, and all-around assholes are comfortable using their "god-given" sense of "religious freedom" as justification for their "right" to bully, harass, humiliate, and persecute anyone who fails to conform to their idea of what is "godly" that it seems like a good time to remind ourselves about the long tradition of "religious freedom" in what would eventually become the United States of America. So here's just one example of how religious "freedom" usually means religious persecution.

Sculpture of Mary Dyer,
Massachusetts State House,
dedicated 9 June 1959
(photo in public domain)

Born in England probably about the year 1611, Mary Barrett married William Dyer in London in 1633. As Puritans, the Dyers left England for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In December 1635, the couple is noted among the members of the Boston Church.

Defending the notion of religious tolerance and difference, Dyer and her husband supported Anne Hutchinson and others like her whose religious views began to diverge from those of the dominant Puritan majority.

In the theological and very political fight that erupted in the colony, Anne Hutchinson, among others, was tried and convicted in 1637 for the crime of having "traduced" Boston ministers. She was banished from the colony. For his support of Anne Hutchinson, William Dyer was disenfranchised. When armed insurrection seemed about to erupt, colonial officials were empowered to confiscate "all such guns, pistols, swords, powder, shot, & match as they shall be owners of, or have in their custody, upon paine of ten pound[s] for every default" (so much for the "god-given" right to bear arms too, I guess . . . )

For her part, Mary Dyer had not been officially investigated, though her support for Hutchinson brought her to the attention of officials in 1638, when she committed the mistake of walking hand-in-hand with Anne Hutchinson after Hutchinson's excommunication.

For her act of friendship, Mary Dyer now became the subject of investigation--and in her case, her "sin" proved to be a doozy. It seems that Mary Dyer had given birth to a "monster" a few months earlier, in October 1637. This birth of this stillborn child became the subject of an intense investigation by the Puritan governor of the colony, John Winthrop.

Unfortunately for Dyer and Hutchinson, Hutchinson had been one of two midwives in attendance at the birth. Learning this, Winthrop, accompanied by "above a hundred persons," all of them, obviously, god-fearing defenders of religion, excavated the stillborn infant's grave, finding the remains not human "but a most hideous creature, a woman, a fish, a bird, & a beast all woven together." As Winthrop described the remains in his journal:
it was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape's; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback [i.e., a skate or ray], the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be, and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons.
Winthrop concluded that the "monstrous birth" was an unequivocal sign of Dyer's sin for having religious views that diverged from those of the Puritan majority.

Forced to leave Massachusetts Bay Colony, Mary Dyer joined her husband (and the Hutchinsons, as well as others forced out by the Puritans) at a new settlement in the territory later known as Rhode Island. But religious conflicts between all of those in the new settlements--new arrivals as well as those fleeing Massachusetts--soon erupted.

The Dyers returned to England for several years, with William Dyer one of several men who were attempting to sort out the problems with those who had commissioned the Rhode Island settlers. In England, Mary Dyer converted to Quakerism. When she returned to New England in 1657, Mary Dyer settled once more in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, then actively involved in discovering, persecuting, and eliminating Quakers.

Dyer was imprisoned in Boston. Although her husband arranged for her release, ensuring the colonial authorities that she would not speak to any members of the colony and that she would immediately return home, Dyer refused to be silent.

She traveled throughout New England to share her faith. She was arrested in the New Haven Colony in 1658 and forced to leave. By October of 1658, persecution of Quakers had intensified. In Massachusetts Bay, being a Quaker became a capital offense. The punishment for Quakerism was banishment--and if the convicted were to be found within the colony after conviction, the punishment was death.

In June of 1659, learning of the arrest of Quakers in Massachusetts, Mary Dyer left her home in Newport and headed back to Boston. She was arrested and, along with two others, condemned to death. She was taken to her place of execution on 27 October, but after watching the executions of the two men convicted with her, she was reprieved.

Mary Dyer refused to accept the conditions of the reprieve, which meant denying her faith: "My life is not accepted, neither availeth me, in comparison with the lives and liberty of the Truth and Servants of the living God for which in the Bowels of Love and Meekness I sought you; yet nevertheless with wicked Hands have you put two of them to Death, which makes me to feel that the Mercies of the Wicked is cruelty; I rather chuse to Dye than to live, as from you, as Guilty of their Innocent Blood."

Once more returned to Rhode Island, Dyer refused to accept her situation--she decided to force the Puritans of Massachusetts to change their laws or to execute a woman.

Dyer returned to Boston in May of 1660. She was arrested once more and on 31 May was examined in front of the governor of the colony, now John Endicott. Although her husband once more hoped to gain her a reprieve, she was once more condemned.

Edward Burrough's 1661 pamphlet,
decrying the persecution of
Quakers in Massachusetts
(for the full text, click here)

This time, she was also executed. On 1 June 1660 she was taken to the gallows where she had watched her two fellow Quakers executed in October 1659. She refused an offer to save herself, saying, "I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law of banishment upon pain of death, made against the innocent servants of the Lord, therefore my blood will be required at your hands who willfully do it; but for those that do is in the simplicity of their hearts, I do desire the Lord to forgive them. I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to his will I stand even to the death."

Mary Dyer was hanged that day, becoming one of the "Boston Martyrs." And one of many of those whose lives and death testify not so much to the long and glorious history of "religious freedom" in the U.S. but to religious intolerance, persecution, and blind ignorance.