Thursday, October 24, 2013

Queen Henrietta Maria's Dwarf

Stepanie Mann quotes Fr. Rutler about Queen Henrietta Maria's devoted retainer:
In the saga of Catholic curiosities, unique is the smallest known adult Catholic, Sir Jeffrey Hudson who as a man was eighteen inches tall. His parents and siblings were of average height. He was not a typical dwarf, inasmuch as he was perfectly proportioned in every way, only tiny—more of what is called vernacularly a midget, and technically a pituitary dwarf, conditioned by a lack of growth hormone. But his hypopituitarism was without precedent in England and his perfect and delicate miniature size distinguished him from the common Continental court dwarves of his day. As a possible portent, he was born on June 14, 1619 in England’s smallest county, Rutland, whose motto is “Multum in Parvo,” or, Much in Little as David Cameron might try to translate it. His father raised cattle, particularly bulls for baiting, for the Duke of Buckingham. When little Jeffrey failed to grow, he was taken in to the Buckingham household as a “rarity of nature.” He was seven years old and when King Charles I and his queen Henrietta Maria were entertained by the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, the lavish banquet ended with a large pie out of which popped Jeffrey Hudson in a miniature suit of armor. This gave rise to a rumor that he had been baked in the pie, but this was not the case. The Queen was so delighted that the Buckinghams presented their rarity to her. The Queen kept a separate household at Denmark House in London, and Jeffrey joined it at the end of 1626, along with two disproportionate dwarfs and a Welsh giant. Jeffrey became favored for his wit and elegance, and Inigo Jones wrote costumed masques in which he took part. The French queen’s court was Catholic and housed so many priests that some objections were raised among Londoners who feared a conspiracy might be afoot. Jeffrey embraced Catholicism and kept his faith throughout his difficult life, regularly assisting at Low Masses which occasioned tasteless puns. (Read more.)
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