What links a yellow dwarf with the Curse of Scotland, with Matrimony and Intrigue, ladies with feathers, and countries all over Europe? Read on…
Did you know that there is a theory that Pope John VIII was a woman? This thirteenth century conspiracy theory (conspiracy theories, it seems, aren’t a modern phenomenon) suggests that Ioannes Anglicus; AD 855–857 was a woman who disguised herself to become secretly involved in church matters (women were not allowed to be priests, of course) and proved so able that she rose up the ranks to become Pope. The best bit of the story, widely believed throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, was that her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession. That would do it…
Our usual source for such things is Wikipedia. Do have a look for the full story.
Meanwhile, the whole business spawned a parlour game, first mentioned in eighteenth century documents, called Pope Joan. Again, ‘Google it’ for details. It seems pretty complicated, and had overtones of religious and political bias, but became very popular in the Victorian period. If you want to have a play, used sets are available on ebay…!
Jean and Joan, our ever reliable Social History volunteers, have found a set in our archives…
This is probably a nineteenth century set, possibly early. Chinoiserie became popular in Britain in the eighteenth century, and these counters clearly show an oriental influence.
Jane and Jean are two Volunteers who work on the checking, cataloguing and re-wrapping of the museum’s Social History archives. More often than not, ‘gems’ appear, and they have kindly agreed to share some of them with us via the blog.
This week, we have what has been itemised as a pomander. We all know what that is, more or less. Its name is from the French – pomme d’ambre, apple of amber. Later they used scented wood, fruit spiked with cloves, or a small container of lavender, held to the nose to avoid the stink of the Medieval town. This was important when it was thought that miasma , or the smell of the filth, was what caused illness.
Traditionally these pomanders were apple shaped and so held comfortably in the hand.
This doesn’t quite look right. Whatever it is,it is clearly intended, not to be held, but to stand on a flat surface, a table. Technically it may be a vinaigrette, though not as we understand it today. A sponge or soft cloth, steeped in vinegar, would be stuffed inside a decorative container and the lid opened to allow the aroma to escape into the room which would otherwise smell unpleasant. Does this sound a bit like something some of us have at home today…?
This beautifully carved object, in the shape of a fashionable shoe, has a sliding lid with the moustachioed face of a man on it. Antique dealers describe these as, in fact, snuff boxes. Snuff was already common by the seventeenth century, which is apparently the date for this item. Ours has a drilled hole at the front of the toe. Now that is unusual. Was it re-purposed in some way?
On the toe of the shoe is a date – 1651 – and around the heel, a name – Richard Minifie. Richard did, indeed, live in ‘New Sarum’ in the 17th century, and at one point was mayor. The family were still here a couple of hundred years later. It is said they came here from Somerset, and were in the lace trade, although some sources suggest ‘our’ Richard was a milliner. In St Thomas’ Church there is a memorial to a later Richard Minifie.
All thoughts and ideas are the bloggers, not the museum’s. Your research is as good as mine, or perhaps there are some experts out there?
Next time, we can look forward to finding out about Salisbury and the Duke of Buckingham. Or just muddying the waters…..