Yuletide

It will be quiet here over Christmas (as it has been the past week) because I am going to Norway with my family.

 

I wish all my readers (yes all two of you) a very merry Christmas!

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Six Tudor Ladies

Henry VIII's wives

The photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto took pictures of the wax figues made of  Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleeves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

I love how life-like they look, quite different from the, quite brilliant, portraits that were made of them in their time.

The Story of Saint Lucia (and how a Catholic saint came to be celebrated in the Protestant North)

 

 

Saint Lucia

Today is the 13th of December, a day that throughout of Scandinavia and some of Northern Germany is celebrated as The Day of Saint Lucia.

The 13th of December was originally celebrated as a Catholic saint’s day day, so why does the Protestant North celebrate this day under the name of a Catholic Saint?

The Holy Saint Lucia is the patron saint of Syracuse in Italy whose saint’s day falls on the 13th of December. Lucia is thought to have lived during the rule of Diocletian, and it was at the hands of his officials that she faced a martyr’s death.

Lucia, depicted with her eyes in a bowl

The reason that Lucia was painted carrying her eyes outside of their appointed place is that, according to myth, she desired to be a bride of Christ so ardently that she ripped out her eyes so that a man could never see their beauty and fall in love with him.

The story goes that her mother was sick, so the young girl travelled with her mother to the grave of holy Agatha to pray, and during her session of prayer, Lucia saw in a vision that she was to become the patron saint of Syracuse. Her mother became instantly well.

Upon her betterment Lucia’s mother made plans to wed Lucia to a Roman man who, to the Christian Lucia, was a heathen. She refused and refused and the Roman man then vengefully accused her of being a Christian to the officials. They gave her the choice of burning an offering  to the Roman Emperor but Lucia said that she had no more to offer, she had offered it all up to God. It was instead decided to make Lucia the offer and burn her alive, but the men come to fetch her from her mother’s home, could not drag her from the doorstep to the pyre, not even when they used oxen. Lucia said to them that the Holy Spirit was protecting her and the Romans arranged for an executioner to come to her instead and she was killed in her mother’s home. She was martyred and later declared a saint by the church, patron saint of Syracuse and helper of the blind as she was also believed to have plucked out her own eyes, so that no man should see their beauty and fall thus in love.

But how did a Catholic saint’s day come to be celebrated in the Lutheran Scandinavia?

Children at a school walk in the traditional Lucia Procession

Accoir the Julian calender, the 13th of December is the shortest day of the year. (According to the Gregorian calender which we now use, it is the 21st of December that has that particular honour.)

The Swedish have celebrated the Lucia-night (Lusse-nat), from the 16th century onwards, especially in the Western part of the country. In the morninghours of the 13th all the young girls in the household rise early to wake up the rest of the household with coffee and saffron-buns in the pitch-black of the Scandinavian winter mornings. It developed to become a countrywide tradition and to this day every Swedish city elects a Lucia-bride who goes on to the capital, Stockholm, to perhaps become the country’s Lucia-bride. Amongst her prices is a trip to Syracuse.

In Denmark the first Lucia-procession was held during the Nazi occupation of the mid-forties, as a show of peaceful resistance and a reminder of hope. After the war, when candles became readily available again, the tradition spread to the entire country and since then every school and church has held Lucia processions. Amongst the girls a Lucia-bride is chosen and she wears a crown of candles, as well as a candle in her hands. After her come the bridesmaids, with candles in their hands. In the back of the procession walk the usually reluctant boys handing out peppernuts to the onlookers, and alongside the children is a teacher, or other grown-up, carrying a bucket of water in case the crown slips or a child is unobservant with his or her candle.

Everybody wears white gowns with a red ribbon tied around their waist. I’ve walked in four of five processions, since my first school was a Christian one. We had to do a procession in church, school and a retirement home.

I was never the bride. It hurts still 😉

Anne of Denmark

Anne of Denmark

Today, 436 years ago, Anne was born at Skanderborg Castle. She was the second child, and second girl, of Frederik the Second and his queen, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. After her christening she was sent to be raised by her maternal grandparents in Wismar, capital of what is now Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She had a quiet childhood there and it wasn’t until three years later she returned to Denmark, to greet the birth of her brother, Christian who later became Christian the Fourth of Denmark (the most famous of all the Danish kings), and once he had been christened in Copenhagen, away to Germany they went. She stayed there with her older sister, Elisabeth and Christian, for around a year. It was their father, Frederik, who wrote for the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg, in a letter brimming with paternal love. He wanted his children back. When Christian was old enough he was sent to school, while Elisabeth and Anne stayed with their mother and father.

Anne of Denmark

All Frederik and Sophie’s children were raised in the Lutheran faith that their grandfather had brough to Denmark. They were given educations and travelled the Danish kingdom, which at this time included Norway, certain parts of Northern Germany and Southern Sweden, with their mother and father.

In 1588 Frederik died of a lung infection. The plans for a princess of Denmark to marry the king of Scotland, James the First, were already underway. At first Elisabeth had been the chosen candidate but while Frederik was still alive he betrothed her to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. As he did so he promised to the Scottish delegation “for the second daughter, Anne, if the king did like her, he should have her”. Anne was fourteen when she travelled to Norway, to be met by her husband.

Possibly Anne of Denmark, by Paul Somer

After the final agreement was signed in July, Anne was married by proxy at Kronborg, the most modern castle in Denmark, to James. Ten days later she set out for Scotland with her was her recently widowed mother and older sister. Her eleven-year old brother, who now was king, was at school back home. The fleet was beset by trouble and the ship carrying the princess and her family was forced to land in Norway, for fear of the sea. It was a lord Dingwall who brought news of the misfortune to king James in Scotland, and James immediately ordered public prayers and national fasting.

In October he was again informed that the Danes were staying in Norway for the winter, afraid of the autumn seas. James must have thought “weather be damned” because he himself, along with three-hundred men, set out for Norway. Upon arrival he had to travel some distance over land to meet his bride but upon reaching her dwelling-place presented himself to her “in boots and all” and kissed her, in the Scottish fashion. It must have been a great shock to her, such showings of affection were, at the Danish court, passed in private and only after the wedding. Although, other sources do claim that she was wildly in love with him, having herself embroidered shirts for him back home, so maybe the kiss wasn’t quite so unwelcome, though it shocked her mother and sister, and the rest of the Danish delegation.

They were formally married the 23rd of November, at the Old Bishop’s Palace in Oslo. “With all the splendour possible at the time and place” probably means that the wedding party was slightly subdued. It is unclear whether it was before or after the wedding ceremony, but as a precaution against future storms James ordered the burning of up to ten witches that he believed had caused the storms that made it impossible for Anne to meet her husband in Norway.

The newlyweds celebrated their wedding in Oslo for a full month, before travelling to Denmark on the 22nd of December with only fifty of James’ men. There they met the young king and his council, celebrated Christmas with the family at Kronborg and in March travelled to Copenhagen to attend the wedding of Anne’s older sister, Elisabeth to Julius of Braunswick-Lüneburg. Two days later they finally made for Leith, Scotland. Five days after their arrival Anne made her official entry into Edinburgh, riding in a silver coach with her husband on horseback besides her.

On the 17th of May she was crowned queen of Scotland. The ceremony lasted seven hours and during the anointing in holy oil, Anne’s dress was opened so that oil could be poured upon her breast and arm. It was chancellor Maitland who crowned Anne, and her oath indluded a pledge to defend the true faith against “papistical superstitions and whatsoever ceremonies and rites contrary to the word of God.”

Anne's coat of arms, combining those of her husband with her father's.

Anne, 1617.

by Paul van Somer