She of the Voice

The Shining One Fatima“Ra-bi-ya, Ra-bi-ya…’

As she surveys the black and white squares of the court before her, the song echoes in her head, a beloved memory of time spent, long ago, with her mother, playing their hiding game among the orange groves in the gardens of the royal home.

She of the voice, the inner voice,’ had been the way they referred to her, later in childhood, when she would suddenly go quiet and listen to that wonderful, silent dialogue that taught her so much about what was really happening in front of her; watching others react while she smiled and laughed so much they thought she was just being girly.

But he knew better, too…

He, her mysterious spiritual guide, teacher of English and word games. Nur al-Din; whose name whispered its meaning – Light of the Faith. At first she hadn’t understood what he was teaching her; ‘the author of the words’ he had called it, a voice within the ‘voice of the world – the story being told is not the storyteller… come to know the storyteller.’

But it had been the other; the dark and purposeful figure of Muhammad al-Annuri, who strode into her life and spirited her away, un-graduated, from the mystical enchantment of learning the truth within the truth. The dark Muhammad had loved games, too. Games of the mind  had fascinated him… Games of the body they had shared with a mutual passion.

“Forget all you think you know,” her sad-eyed teacher had said as she was taken from him. “Let it teach you what it is…” No-one listening would have known what he meant.

But she did… and never forgot it. That was all back then, in distant Morocco. Back then…

The Saracen woman’ they call her, now, in the streets of London. They have little understanding of the place from which she came. They see a beautiful and dutiful wife to the Moroccan Ambassador. Her husband, with his royal connections, has done well, and now sits astride two civilisations. With one face, he is an ambassador; with the other, a spy and co-conspirator…

He has told her little, but his voice has told her much. She trembles at what she knows.

Guns… Ships and guns. Just the beginning.

And now, summoned, mysteriously, to be at the Queen’s gathering: this strange chamber. “Another leading woman,” was all they told her. “Great honour.”

The others are ranged around the edge of a floor patterned like a great game board in the middle of the room.

‘Revealing,’ the voice whispers. ‘A place of great revelation…’ Rab’ia breathes in the way he taught her, letting the other shadows emerge, the hidden ones, the ones with secrets… She opens hazel eyes that have made warriors wither and seeks the other awakened eyes in the room, surprised and smiling at the result.

Perhaps it has all led to this, she thinks, smiling in the way he used to do.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Rab’ia al-Anuuri is the wife of the Moroccan ambassador in London, during the time when Elizabeth I is seeking a closer relationship with the Saracen world – what we would now call the world of Islam. The Saracen world is a potent force and has more than enough might to challenge the other super-power in Europe – Spain.

In our five-act mystical drama, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow. Rab’ia, wife of the Moroccan Ambassador is brought into this chamber as a personal guest of the Queen, whose goal is to begin with as much of a male-female balance as she can achieve, in an age when powerful women were not abundant – not in the political sense, that is…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Rab’ia will come to have a unique relationship with the Queen, as she is a powerful foreign dignitary in her own right and truly beyond the monarch’s power – or is she? The Queen of England is a potent force when it comes to defending the interests of her own country…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

A Woman of Power and Substance

Bess of Hardwick montage fullAA

It is the winter of 1584. The well-dressed woman watches as her fourth husband storms out of the dining hall at their present home, Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire.

In the corner of the room sits a younger woman, now smiling at the angry departure of the man of the house–the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. The seated woman with the secretive smile has good reason to be pleased at the turn of events. She has been a captive in this house for nearly fifteen years and used that time to create mayhem with sexual politics. Her name is Mary, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her fortunes are diminishing by the month.. But that hasn’t stopped her using human emotions, particularly jealously, to drive a deadly wedge between the Count and Countess, her gaolers.

The lady of the house is already one of England’s richest women, in fact she will shortly be second only in wealth to the Sovereign – Queen Elizabeth I. She already owns the Chatsworth House estate; fabled, even then, for its beauty and gardens. She hates the partial ruin that is Tutbury Castle, but, for that fifteen year period, has done her duty by her husband and her Queen in keeping watch over the exiled Scottish monarch, who is a prisoner in their castle. In this way, and, astutely, at the expense of the Shrewsburys, Queen Elizabeth has kept her biggest problem at arm’s length.

The tall woman staring at the slammed door through which, metaphorically, her beloved husband has passed for the last time, is the Countess of Shrewsbury. She has inherited the goodwill and wealth of three of her previous spouses. She has over ten children from those marriages; some of whom will end up with a future, though distant, ‘claim’ to the throne.

She has led an interesting life, to say the least. On this angry morning, engineered by the jealousy deliberately created by the royal prisoner, Bess of Hardwick, as she is better known, vows that, within the year, she will return to her beloved Chatsworth and pick up the threads of her old life, again…

Earl and Countess Shrewsbury have had to keep moving around the many houses owned by the Earl, as Mary’s life is constantly being manipulated by those who would use her as a figurehead to overturn the fledgling Protestant religion, instigated by Queen Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII.

Born in 1527, Bess was the fourth daughter in a family of four girls and one boy. Their father died when she was young, but he managed to leave a Will which included a small dowry for the four girls.

Young Bess, aged twelve years, entered service for a great Derbyshire family, Sir John and Lady Zouche, (after whom the town of Ashby de la Zouche is named) whose home was Codnor Castle, in Derbyshire. Codnor was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was at that time the property of William Peveril of Castleton, in the High Peak.

It must have been a wrench when the employing family moved her from her beloved Derbyshire to London, where she married her first husband (also in service), Robert Barlow, nursing him back to health after being ill with chronic distemper. Robert was weakened and died soon after their they were married. Despite being only seventeen, Bess was eventually granted a widow’s pension, which was one third of his income; but she had to fight though the courts to secure this – an example of her determination to better herself and her standing in society.
Above – Arms of the Cavendish Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
Sir William Cavendish had been married twice before and was the father of two daughters. He courted Bess, who was at this time a beautiful and talented young woman, and married her in 1547. Despite his being more than twice her age, they were very happy and had a further eight children.
Sir William had made his fortune as an official of the Court of Augmentations – responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries and the appropriation of the properties. He was able to select from these some very attractive residences for himself. It is recorded that, even at this early stage, Bess had a talent for managing and trading property, and Sir William was persuaded by her to sell his lands in the south of England and buy the Chatsworth estates in her native Derbyshire…
Bess of Hardwick had come home.
Bess’s husband was less talented in business, He died in 1557, having squandered much of the Cavendish estate. Bess managed to claim the sum of the estate and retained Chatsworth, but was heavily in debt and faced a bleak future. Bess was a shrewd business woman, and set to, increasing her assets with business interests including mines and glass making workshops in her home county.
Above – Arms of the St Loe Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
In 1559, Bess married Sir William St Loe, who was Captain of the  Guard to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a very wealthy man, with large estates in the West Country.
He died, under suspicious circumstances, in 1564. Bess was not implicated, but there had been bad blood between Sir William and his brother, on whom suspicion fell. Bess was just thirty-seven when she inherited the full estate, paid off her former husband’s debts, and became one of the wealthiest women in England.
Sir William had been close to the Queen, and this had enabled Bess to be presented at Court. Following Sir William’s death, Bess became a Lady of the Bedchamber, with daily access to the Queen, who looked upon her kindly, respecting what she, another ‘feeble’ woman, had made of herself…
Bess had retained her good looks and health and was pursued by a number of important men.

 

Despite being courted by several prominent suitors, Bess did not remarry until 1568, when she was betrothed to George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewbury, and one of the senior figures in Elizabeth’s hierarchy. Bess became Countess of Shrewsbury. It was into this marriage–a happy one in the beginning–that the disruptive presence of Mary Queen of Scots was to intrude, though Bess and Mary were friends for a long time before the marriage eventually crumbled.

 

George Talbot was in poor health and died in 1590. Queen Elizabeth was fond of the couple and had made several attempts to reconcile them, but the ‘Mary’ years had taken their toll. Perhaps Elizabeth felt some guilt over this; but, if she did, it did not prevent her from imprisoning Bess in the Tower on two occasions when the Queen felt this other powerful woman was advancing her own cause at the expense of the Crown’s.

At sixty-three, Bess was now Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury and would not marry again. She devoted the remainder of her life to the welfare of her many children, getting into trouble several times because of their distant claims to the throne.

Bess of Hardwick died on 13 February 1608, aged 81. She outlived Queen Elizabeth by five years. She is buried in Derby Cathedral, where there is an elaborate monument to her life and achievements.

(References and heraldic shields)

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Bess was an unusual figure, being so successful in a man’s world which had intensely patriarchal values.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow, not even Bess…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Bess has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which her grasp of the ‘common touch’ can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Bess of Hardwick, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

/div>

The Deadly Edge of Love (part 2)

Robert Dudley Earl LeicesterFullAA(Continued from Part One of The Deadly Edge of Love)

It’s the morning of 18th November, 1558. Robert Dudley is witnessing a miracle.

In her dying months, Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister, and daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, has restored Elizabeth to the line of succession, following the failure of her marriage alliance with Charles II of Spain. Now, Mary is dead, and Dudley is watching his beloved Elizabeth, a former fellow prisoner in the Tower of London, become Queen of England.

Elizabeth's Great Seal

(Above: the The Great Seal of Elizabeth I. Source )

Time seems to stand still as the Great Seal is passed to the new queen and another chapter in the story of the Tudor dynasty begins. Dudley knows that Elizabeth is weary of religious strife and will not follow her half-sister in setting family against family in her new reign–though she will protect her father’s Protestant legacy. The people know it too, as the public joy of the Royal Coronation will show.

Within the day, Dudley will be made the royal Master of Horse, a role to which he is well suited as an outstanding horseman – something he shares with Philip Sidney. The role, which controls the provision of all transport for Elizabeth, will keep him by her side as much as possible. A new life has begun for them both…

But the official position has made it difficult for them to be seen together as often as before her accession to the throne. She once said, “A thousand eyes see everything I do…” It is difficult to imagine what that does to someone’s life, let alone their love-life. Elizabeth must have faced a personal crisis at that point, for in a unique show of determination and psychological strength, she threw caution away and flaunted her relationship with her favourite by having his bedchamber moved next to hers. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed on marriage, even though Dudley, now Earl of Leicester, was a suitable match. To have married would have subjected her to the will of her husband; and her estate would have passed to him.

William Cecil, her chief minister and spymaster, wrote her a long letter in which he detailed the detrimental effect on her kingdom of such a marriage. History does not record her immediate reaction. Dudley, recognising that he might never win her hand, married Amy Robsart in 1549, keeping her away from court to protect her from the Queen.

Privately, though, Dudley and Elizabeth remained bound to each other by their early experiences, and his marriage did not diminish the time they spent together; though Elizabeth, above anyone, knew the political dangers of wrong relationships. There is no proof they were ever lovers. Perhaps it is better to grant them this: that they had a pact to love each other, but not to let their bodies share this. Were this to be true, we can imagine the agonies that both endured, and, perhaps the resolve with which she cultivated her personal myth – that she was married to England, and would thus remain a Virgin Queen.

The possibility of a deeper relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley was quashed in 1560, when Dudley’s wife, having dismissed her servants to attend a local fair, was found dead at the foot of a staircase, her neck broken. It could have been an accident, or possibly suicide, but it is unlikely to have been intervention by Dudley or Elizabeth, who both suffered damage and ridicule at home and abroad because of it. In a cruel act of fate, Amy’s death ensured that they could never marry and that they were now forced to spend less time together, though ‘less’ was relative. They devised a secret code for themselves, using the notation ‘ôô’ to indicate the nickname that Elizabeth had given him – ‘Eyes’. Even at this stage of their relationship, the Queen kept Dudley’s letters – and his portrait, in miniature – in a locked desk within her bedroom. By any measure, this was a love story to compete with the best…

As the public memories of his wife’s death faded, he made one last attempt to gain Elizabeth’s hand in marriage; staging a magnificent festival of pageantry at one of his finest homes – Kenilworth Castle. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed. Dudley was a passionate man, and, seeing that he was going nowhere with his official advances, began a relationship the one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, Lettice Knollys, reputedly one of the best-looking women at court. Dangerously, she was also the great-niece of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, and therefore of royal blood… and the Queen’s cousin!

Dudley continued the relationship for three years before finding that Lettice was pregnant–and insisting that she be made an honest woman for her troubles. They married, in secret, in 1578. When the Queen learned of the ‘betrayal’ of her favourite she physically assaulted his new wife and banished her from court. Dudley was eventually forgiven but the essence of their relationship had changed.

Distance prevailed for a while after that, but, in the final years of Dudley’s life, their lives interlocked, again. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots devastated Elizabeth, even though the imprisoned Scottish Queen had been plotting to overthrow her rival. For a queen to execute another queen must have triggered the deepest responses in Elizabeth, not to mention setting a deadly precedent.

In a supposed fury, she raged at William Cecil, her life-long first minister and spymaster. He and Sir Francis Walsingham had, indeed, engineered Mary’s death, but Elizabeth had been far from a victim of circumstance in this execution. Cecil was removed as first minister and banished from courtly life, although there is a possibility that she presented him with the ‘deal’ that his son, Robert Cecil, would inherit his position. William Cecil. First Baron Burghley, was advanced in years and probably recognised that the arrangement was the best that could happen.

Bereft of Cecil’s presence, Elizabeth turned, again, to Dudley. He was by her side through the horror of the Spanish Armada and corresponding planned invasion from France, despite being ill. As she delivered her famous speed at Tilbury, he walked beside her horse as the troops were rallied, while she spoke those most famous words, “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.”

Dudley died, shortly after, on 4th September, 1588 at his home in Rycote in Oxfordshire. He wrote to his queen one last time before dying. She kept the letter in a locked box by her bed. The fabled Queen of England, victorious against the might of the Spanish empire was, finally, alone…

 How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

 

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Dudley is selected by the Queen to be one of her key players. He finds that he knows many of the others present – and has been an artistic sponsor of others, such as the poet Edmund Spenser, the writer of the Faerie Queen – based on Elizabeth, herself, and newly published. What does his Queen want him to do in this complex maze of relationships and potential confrontations? The answer may tax him more than anything she has ever asked…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

The Deadly Edge of Love (part 1)

Robert Dudley Earl LeicesterFullAA

They were both young, though he was a year older; beyond childhood but not yet adults, not in the way that their lives would soon force them to be…

They had been together since their early years, and what they were experiencing now, would, on an emotional level at least, bind them together for life. How much more frightened could you be than to be locked up in the place from which your mother was led to her execution? In the darkness, she tells him that she will never marry–should they survive. It is a sentiment and an intent shared with one she feels deeply for; and it will carve a signature of longing throughout his illustrious life.

They will never marry, though he will try to change her mind. They may have been lovers, but the risks to her kingdom of England and Ireland would have been grave. Better, I think, to consider them as lovers of the heart, as two intense and intelligent people who had to come to terms with an England and Ireland changing faster than anyone could have imagined…

Robert Dudley, the future Earl of Leicester, and Elizabeth Tudor, the future Queen of England, were prisoners in the Tower of London. It’s 1554, and England was about to change, forever.

It is as though they were meant to be close. They had been tutored, together, by one of England’s best minds – Roger Ascham – at the original Hatfield house – one of Henry VIII’s many homes. In Tudor times, women were not allowed to enter university. Robert Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland, may have been there to lend companionship to the second royal daughter, who was unlikely to ascend to the throne, given that her brother, Edward VI, King Henry’s son and heir, was shortly to be crowned.

Edward died in 1553, age sixteen, after just six years as regent. He never reached his majority. Because of his age, a Regency Council had been established to guide his steps. Despite his short reign, Edward was able to further the cause of Protestantism in England, becoming even more determined than his father, and without the latter’s ulterior motives.

The second head of that Regency Council was Robert Dudley’s father, John Dudley, who was then Duke of Northumberland, tasked with controlling unrest north of the border. John Dudley was a formidable military man and defended England well during the reign of both Henry and Edward. He had also recognised the future importance of the navy, leading to the establishment of the Naval Dockyard at Chatham. John Dudley used his unequalled power to entrap the Duke of Norfolk – a strong Catholic supporter. In 1551, The Duke of Norfolk (Edward Seymour) was executed for conspiracy.

John Dudley, Robert’s father, was now unchallenged in his power and had the ear of the monarch. But the young King Edward’s health was faltering. John Dudley had to act to prevent the return of Catholic political power – in the form of Princess Mary.

He did this, in 1553, by persuading the young king to sign a document excluding both Mary (Catherine of Aragon’s daughter by Henry) and Elizabeth (Anne Boleyn’s daughter) from inheriting the throne, on the basis of their ‘illegitimacy’. The throne was to go to Lady Jane Grey, conveniently newly married to Guildford Dudley, fourth son of John Dudley.

The political complexity of the times meant that Robert Dudley and Elizabeth’s fates were intertwined in so many ways. But, whereas Elizabeth would leave the Tower to be exiled to the comfort of one of the royal homes in Hertfordshire, Robert Dudley was to leave to a much more uncertain fate.

John Dudley’s attempt to control England floundered. He never had the ‘common touch’ and Princess Mary fled to East Anglia – where John Dudley was very unpopular. His son, Robert, was pressed by his father to take King’s Lynn and proclaim Lady Jane Grey as Queen; but by then, despite John Dudley suppressing the news of King Edward’s death for three days, the public had rallied around Henry’s eldest daughter and John Dudley was arrested and executed for treason, leaving Elizabeth and Robert Dudley at the mercy of the new queen.

Both survived the Tower. Robert Dudley fought for Mary’s forces (and for Catholic Spain) against the French and was restored to courtly favour, though the Northumberland estate was decimated. By then, new forces, orchestrated by the likes of William Cecil were taking every opportunity to re-establish Protestant England. After Mary reinstated Rome’s ecclesiastical authority over England in 1554, her popularity plummeted. The following four years earned her the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’, as scores of Protestant leaders were persecuted; but, in fairness, that was no different from the life of Catholics under Edward. In July 1554, Mary married Charles II of Spain, and England looked set for a Catholic future.

England’s prosperity was ailing. Her ships could no longer plunder the Spanish treasure ships, and Charles II was constantly away on his military campaigns abroad – on behalf of Spain, not England and Ireland. Aware of her failing health, and the failure of her marriage to the power of Spain, Mary reinstated Elizabeth as one of her last acts.

Queen Mary I died in November, 1558, in the Palace of Saint James. She was forty-two years old.

Elizabeth inherited the crown and was then free to take up her relationship with Robert Dudley, who had been her companion in those darkest of days.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Dudley is selected by the Queen to be one of her key players. He finds that he knows many of the others present – and has been an artistic sponsor of others, such as the poet Edmund Spenser, the writer of the Faerie Queen – based on Elizabeth, herself, and newly published. What does his Queen want him to do in this complex maze of relationships and potential confrontations? The answer may tax him more than anything she has ever asked…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588–the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

(End Part One. The story of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley will be continued in part two)

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I, 

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

An Arthur for Elizabeth?

Sir Philip Sidney composite Oct17
(Image: Sir Philip Sidney, Queen’s Champion. Original work – Author. Figure of Sir Philip Sidney from Wikipedia CC by Public Domain)

Philip Sidney was born, in 1554, into prosperity and with connections. He was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley – making him a relative of the 1st Duke of Northumberland and the 1st Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley.

He was educated at Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, Oxford.

If there was a man at Elizabeth’s court who epitomised the qualities of chivalry and courtly behaviour which were prized in the medieval foundations of that age, it was Sir Philip Sidney. In a life that was to end prematurely, he accomplished much, including distinction in the roles of solider, statesman and spy.

He rose to become a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, who made him her Champion of the Lists; otherwise known as jousting, which had been kept alive by Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, but was largely ceremonial in nature, in an age where guns were taking over the rituals of war. It was, though, a considerable honour and showed the depth of affection in which he was held by the queen.

His life ended prematurely at the age of thirty-two when he was wounded in a skirmish with a group of Spanish soldiers in Zutphen, the Netherlands. Ironically, he shouldn’t have been there. He had been planning, covertly, to join Sir Francis Drake on one of his expeditions, but his intentions were royally uncovered. Elizabeth was reluctant to let him travel too far – a treatment shared with Sir Walter Raleigh – and, instead, had him sent to fight the Spanish forces intent on crushing Flemish Protestantism. It is a twist of fate that, had he sailed with Drake, he would likely have been safe, whereas, obeying the queen, he died of gangrene from an infected thigh wound

Elizabeth I’s England had lost one of its favourite sons. His funeral was a huge event and nearly bankrupted his father in law, Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.

It has been received wisdom that the Elizabethan age was built, entirely, on medieval foundations. But recent studies of the breadth and influence of the early sciences of the era are leading to a different view. The Elizabethan age is increasingly seen as one of new endeavours in all fields, and this included the contrasting side of Sir Philip Sidney’s life – that of poet, critic, and nurturer of the poetic arts.

Shakespeare did not know Sidney, but he built on his written forms – which, themselves, perpetuated the techniques of his Italian idol, Petrach. Sidney formed the poetic bridge between ancient writings and the expanding world of Elizabeth’s England, a world that perfected its art in Shakespeare’s sonnets – written, of course, in English.

Even less well-known is the historical fact that Philip Sidney trained in what we would now call ‘magic’ under Dr John Dee, the Queen’s mathematician, astrologer, and later, alchemist. In so doing , he became a member of a secretive circle of enquirers into the esoteric, centred on his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who had the closest romantic ties to Elizabeth for most of their often-shared lives.

In 1583 Sidney made a visit to Oxford University with the celebrated Italian esotericist Giordano Bruno, who was so impressed, he subsequently dedicated two books to him. Bruno was an arrogant man, though a brilliant philosopher. His endorsement and philosophical extensions to Copernicus’ sun-centric cosmology was soon to lead to his imprisonment, torture and eventual death at the hands of the Vatican inquisitors.

To be seen openly with him anywhere other than England would have marked Sidney for the special attention from the papist forces. The Pope had already excommunicated Queen Elizabeth in 1570.

Poetically, Sir Philip Sidney was the English inheritor of a great tradition.

There are some ideas which are of their time and take root, having a rippling effect for centuries beyond, before they pass into folklore, where they simmer, like the memory of a lost and beloved friend, just below the common consciousness.

The ideals of Courtly Love were one such example. The origin of Courtly Love was attributed to Eleanor of Aquitaine whose cultural influence on both France and England  was considerable. She married Henry II and, after their separation, Louis VII. Her court at Poitiers in south-west France was said to been centred on an actual Court of Love in which matters of the heart were given final judgments.

Courtly Love was born in the ages of the Troubadours – those mysterious balladeer poets of knightly class who wandered through European society in the 12th and 13th centuries, singing and/or reciting tales of courtly love and noble purpose. They were, undoubtedly, mystical teachers.

Chretien de Troyes was himself a trouvère (a troubadour equivalent from the north of France) and assembled and deepened what became the Arthurian mythos. His work influenced writers, not to mention mystics, for centuries afterwards.

Poetically, Sir Philip Sidney was directly in this line of received wisdom and culture. He lamented the dearth of good poets in England and did all he could to foster their development. He was a friend of Edward Spenser (as was Raleigh) and Christopher Marlowe.

We can speculate on his history but nothing reveals the soul of a person like their own writings.  Here is a link to sonnet 63 from Sidney’s work: Astrophil and Stella, quoted from the excellent Poetry Foundation.

O Grammar rules, O now your virtues show;
So children still read you with awful eyes,
As my young Dove may in your precepts wise
Her grant to me, by her own virtue know.
For late with heart most high, with eyes most low,
I crav’d the thing which ever she denies:
She lightning Love, displaying Venus’ skies,
Least once should not be heard, twice said, No, No.
Sing then my Muse, now Io Pæan sing,
Heav’ns envy not at my high triumphing:
But Grammar’s force with sweet success confirm,
For Grammar says (O this dear Stella weigh,)
For Grammar says (to Grammar who says nay)
That in one speech two Negatives affirm.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Sidney is selected by the Queen to be one of her Champions. To do this, he must represent the house of Magic, a role to which hints that the queen knows more about his activities than he thinks. But he quickly learns that he may be the only one in the room capable of defending Dr John Dee, now facing his doom as the royal plan unfolds…

At the start of the game, the Queen asks them all to help her answer a single question, revealed only when she begins speaking. The purpose of the Questioning at NonSuch, as these few days will come to be called, is to provide the answer, no matter how demanding the process…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Sir Philip Sidney courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.<<<<<
t;

The Adventurer’s Hidden Magic

“Strike man, strike!”

Those were the last words of Sir Walter Raleigh, spoken to an executioner who was taking his time, at the end of one of the most colourful lives of the whole Elizabethan era. The attitude–not of defiance, but of expediency–typified this adventurer’s life.

Raleigh had charmed Elizabeth I, but failed to do so with her successor, James I of England, who inherited the throne on the death of the childless ‘Virgin Queen’ in 1603. Despite the religious horrors of her early years, Elizabeth was pragmatic about religion, and actively sought to calm the religious stresses that the ‘bloody reign’ of her half-sister, Queen Mary I, had unleashed.

Raleigh was born into a strongly Protestant and well-connected family in Devon. Their lives had been blighted by religious persecution, and the aspiring Raleigh fitted Elizabeth’s cause well. As a young soldier of seventeen, he began a three year period of fighting for the Hugenots in France, an apprenticeship that was to fashion his outer persona as a handsome, gallant and efficient soldier.

An early academic start at Oxford University was cut short, and he never finished his degree. Instead, he later studied at the Inns of Court in London, though, at the end of his life, he denied he had ever studied law. He had become an accomplished soldier, and rose to fame as part of Elizabeth’s force in Ireland, which was tasked with putting down the frequent rebellions, which were stirred from afar. The Pope had sanctioned a series of incursions into southern Ireland, with the intention of supporting its Catholic traditions, and creating insurrection against England.

Raleigh served as a junior officer in the infamous Siege of Smerwick on the tip of the Dingle peninsula. Hundreds of Spanish and Italian soldiers had been landed there by boat and had prepared a hasty fortification using the ruins of a stone-age settlement. The English forces were soon on the scene. Messengers, sent earlier by the English, had been massacred and hung up, as trophies. Lord Grey, Elizabeth’s Deputy of Ireland, surrounded the invaders and began the Siege of Smerwick, which led to the brutal massacre of the six hundred invaders.

It is likely that, while serving under Lord Grey, Raleigh met Edmund Spenser–soon to be one of the most famous of the Elizabethan poets. Spenser was serving as military secretary to Lord Grey. His most famous poem, The Faerie Queen, was later presented at Court to Elizabeth, to whom it was dedicated. Raleigh, by then elevated in rank and rich in confiscated Irish estates given to him by the Queen, is likely to have been one of the sponsors of this introduction, since the two were neighbours in Munster.

Raleigh was a dazzling courtier, and renowned for his sparkling wit and quick-mindedness. Elizabeth was twenty-four years his senior, and, though no-one’s fool, she enjoyed his attentions and his intelligence. Once within the royal arc, Raleigh rose rapidly in her favour, and was knighted in 1585 at the age of thirty-one.

In 1591, in what the Queen was to see as an act of betrayal, Raleigh secretly married one of her ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Throckmorton. She was pregnant with their child at the time, though the child died of plague in 1592. Bess returned to her duties with the Queen, who soon discovered what had happened. In her fury, the Queen had both Raleigh and Bess imprisoned in the Tower of London.

But Elizabeth needed his expeditionary expertise and released him to oversee an attack on the Spanish coast. The fleet was recalled at the last minute, but Raleigh had already captured a rich merchant ship, the Madre de Deus, sailing off the Azores. On his return, Elizabeth sent him back to the tower to remind him of her authority over his life. She released him shortly afterwards and allowed him to become a member of Parliament, where he soon established a reputation as an eloquent speaker on religious and naval matters. Bess had also been forgiven and resumed her duties at the Queen’s side.

For the rest of their lives, Raleigh and his wife remained devoted to each other. They had two more sons. Elizabeth died in 1603. Raleigh did not get on with the more cautious James I, who was fervent and dogmatic in his religious beliefs and suspicious that the Queen’s former favourite was one of a new breed of ‘free-thinkers’, more allied to the world of knowledge than of God. Elizabeth had been keen to stay abreast of the emerging fields of what we would now call natural sciences, particularly where she could see advantage for her England. But James was more superstitious and frightened of anything that bordered on what he saw as magic, having been persecuted, he believed, by witches in Scotland. Raleigh, along with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was a founder of a mysterious organisation known as The School of the Night… Under James, this was asking for trouble.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018?

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Raleigh is selected by the Queen to be one of her Champions. To do this, he must represent the house of Adventure, a role to which he agrees he is suited. But only the Queen and one of her advisors knows the full pattern of the relationships which will unfold as each character shows their strengths… and their vulnerabilites.

At the start of the game, the Queen asks them all to help her answer a single question, revealed only when she begins speaking. The purpose of the Questioning at NonSuch, as these few days will come to be called, is to provide the answer, no matter how demanding the process…

We can speculate on his history but nothing reveals the soul of a person like their own writings. Raleigh’s life had many facets, including being a father, soldier, statesman, spy. philosopher and poet. The severity of his early life gave him little time for the fanciful. He loved poetry from an early age and was considered one of the finest poets of the day.

By way of an example, Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, was ten years younger than Raleigh. Raleigh considered Marlowe’s famous poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd’ to be hopelessly romantic and ungrounded. Below is a comparison of Raleigh’s notorious response to the original – The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.

There is much to learn about the man from the subtleties in the verses, matched, here, to the original.

 

Marlowe vs RaleighThe Silent Eye’s spring workshop 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

A game of three halves (3 of 3)

 

Continued from Part Two

So, this one day, considered in all its facets, resolves itself into a journey, a destination and an arrival – an arrival at a meeting with a French relative we have never met, and whose unlikely presence, here in the north-west corner of Wales, completes a cycle of mystery and loss lasting ninety-three years…

As we journey along the spine of Anglesey, to meet her by the Red Tower in the university town of Bangor, Juliette is waiting, over a coffee, in a place where she will be able to see us walking up the main street.

The car journey, fortified by all the strange connections, becomes an arrow; an arrow that completes…

The island of Middle Mouse seen from the cliffs above St Patrick’s church

On the road across the island, we talk of the wonderful good luck of finding the local guide cum historian in the church of St Patrick at Llanbadrig Head; of his smile when he had told us that, usually, he attends on only two afternoons a week, but this morning, he felt he should be there… Wonderful story teller that he is, he had walked us to the cliff edge to see the island of Middle Mouse,  to point at the dark rock and bring to life St Patrick’s escape from the storm that wrecked his ship. He had told us of the deadly cliffs, below, and that we were standing right over the cave that gave sanctuary to the swimmer on the dawn as Patrick escaped from his isolated rock and made the relative safety of the shore, with its protective cave with the freshwater spring.

And then how he had taken us back into the church, the remarkable church rebuilt by Lord Stanley, the man who had fallen in love with an Islamic lady and been so ‘opened’ to the love in his soul that he had converted to Islam and devoted his time to ‘good works’, including the reconstruction of the remarkable St Patrick’s Church.

On hearing that, a shiver ran up my spine. What, I had asked myself, as our guided tour unfolded, did any of the history of St Patrick’s Church have to do with the fact that, on this day, we were due to close the gap between two parts of a family lost to each other for nearly a hundred years? Suddenly, in the guise of Lord Stanley – Adbul Rahman as he became, in his new spiritual tradition, there was a symbol of a man who loved a woman so deeply that he gave up his ‘home’ – physical or spiritual, for her.

Stephen, my great-uncle and Adrienne, his wife

My grandmother’s eldest brother, Stephen, had done that, too. He came through the war unscathed, and, while still in France, married Adrienne, the woman he loved. Then he brought her back to England and the northern working-class town of Bolton, where their first child, Madeleine, was born. We do not know what happened after that; only that the three of them returned to France within two years. Stephen, later known in the family as ‘The Englishman’, went to work in the family’s bakery business and, subsequently, ran a successful Tabac near Calais.

Elizabeth, my paternal grandmother, never saw him, again… Was there bad feeling, that the Bolton family had lost their eldest son to a French girl? Maria, Stephen’s mother, was said to be a strong personality, even refusing to have her photograph taken because it might ‘steal her soul’. Perhaps she and Adrienne, Stephen’s new wife, fought. More likely is that her lack of spoken English may have created great hardship and homesickness for her – especially with a young child. My aunt Mary, Stephen’s niece and still alive in her nineties, remembers Adrienne ‘being very quiet; she just sat there and said nothing…’

Adrienne in the family Tabac and coffee shop

Whatever the reason, on returning to Calais, the family links seem to have fallen away… and were lost, eventually, to the knowledge of their English cousins and their children. They stayed that way for nearly a hundred years.

As a teenager, I remember my grandmother telling me the story of her eldest brother, and crying at the sadness of never having seen him again after his return to France. Other than the ancestral records and the fact that I, too, am called Stephen, I have little presence in her, or great uncle’s Stephen’s story… but the memory of her tears is very real and painful, and gives me a point of historical reality that suddenly becomes very raw, like a wound that needs healing.

Perhaps this is why we are here… on this day; to make good that gap in love. And, as Stuart would say, names are important; and mine is Stephen.

Stephen and Adrienne’s four children. The boy is Etienne – French for Stephen

In the car, we review what we know: Stephen and Adrienne had four children. Etienne (Stephen in French) was their third, and is still alive, though in his nineties. His wife is Mado (Madeleine) who began her earnest search for their long-lost English family over a decade ago. It was Mado’s message that Bernie, my wife, found on the Ancestry website while she was conducting a parallel search.

One of their children is Christophe, who is a Green politician in Calais. His daughter is Juliette, the Erasmus Language Scholar, studying at Bangor University, who waits for us in Bangor, near the red tower.

We arrive with five minutes to spare. We walk from the car park in near silence. The events of the morning have been overwhelming on so many levels. I feel as though a great weight rests on our shoulders as we complete the physical act of climbing the hill to the Red Tower. I speak a little French, though it is rusty. Perhaps I need not worry; she is a languages scholar, after all…

Juliette has finished her coffee. She sits on a bench by the Red Tower, rising to her feet and smiling, as we approach…

 

‘We found him, Grandma, and this woman is his great-granddaughter…’

Epilogue

I could have written: ‘we discovered that a long-lost branch of the family was alive and well in France. A younger member of that family is studying in Bangor, Wales. We happened to be on a short break, nearby, that weekend, so we arranged to meet up with her.’

But where would the fun have been in that? Moreover, where would the truth have been in that?

Any spiritual path, including that of the Silent Eye, requires that we examine the whole of our life, in detail, as it happens. We observe and let unfold; we do not judge – we simply let happen so that it may reveal its real nature.

This has been the story of that day’s unfolding. Everything in the three parts of this story is the truth, told as it happened.

Juliette and her grandmother, Mado – the originator of the French side of the search

Other parts of this series of posts

Part One; Part Two

…………..

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost, supervised correspondence courses. His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham

 

 

A game of three halves (2)

 

It is, still, all of it, only one day…

Though now the winds that buffeted the bed-and-breakfast farmhouse have abated. I look at my watch. We have two hours to go before we need to leave to drive across Anglesey to meet a young woman named Juliette, who holds the key to this entire story. She will be waiting, at noon, by the red tower in the centre of Bangor – the nearest town on the other side of the beautiful but deadly Menai Straits.

We have time, we decide. Time to visit the isolated and mysterious St Patrick’s Church on the rugged cliffs to the east of Cemaes Bay. Prior to this trip, we hadn’t heard of it. Now, after hearing local accounts of its history, we can’t wait to visit…

After a couple of false starts, we correctly interpret the hand-drawn map, donated at breakfast, and make our way from the main Holyhead road along the mile of narrow and twisting country lane to find the archway to the church ahead of us.

Not far away, but long ago, he is standing a little way ahead; looking down at the crashing waves and bringing his gaze from the dark rock of Middle Mouse island towards the cliffs beneath his feet.

It is 1864 and he has used his wealth to fund the restoration of the little church behind him.

He gazes down at the waves… How long had Bishop Patrick clung to the inhospitable granite of the tiny island of Middle Mouse, as the wreckage of his ship washed past him? Did he wait till first light, before tying what was left of his heavy and saturated woollen robe across his back and entering the sea, again, to swim the half kilometer to the cave he could now see; a cave that would offer a fresh-water spring and let him tend his wounds, a cave that would become his home until the miracle of his survival became known to the local people, who would build him a church on the headland – the first Christian church in these parts.

Badrig – St Patrick

Adbul Rahman looks down one last time at the savagery of the waves breaking below. He shakes his head at what early religious pioneers of all faiths had to go through. His own sacrifice is small by comparison; and carried out under the cloak of wealth. But, in his own way, he has sought out worthy causes, to show that his heart is still within Britain, though his faith has changed. Now a devout muslim, and the first such in the British House of Lords, Adbul Rahman, formerly Henry Edward John Stanley, Third Baron of Alderley, has just overseen the full restoration of St Patrick’s first church in Wales.

The feeling is a good one. He, Adbul Rahman, has made a contribution to the sincere worship of God, paying respect, as is the custom in his new faith of Islam, to those of other faiths. The completion of the church at Llanbadrig has been timely; his sister has just given birth. The infant’s name is Bertrand Russell. It sounds like a good name -a portent, perhaps of the child’s future…

Entering the tiny church, he is greeted by the ancient cross, the one bearing the two-overlapped fishes – said to be the original Christian cross design. Beneath the cross is a crude carving, chiseled, with patience and dedication, on the ancient granite pillar whose origin or possible previous use is unknown. It is a palm tree. No one knows what it means, or why it is juxtaposed with the crossed fishes…

On the far eastern wall, behind the simple, but beautiful altar, the wall tiles are of an Islamic pattern, though fired in England. It has been his one overt imposition on the design of the restored site, though several more are hidden – for those who have knowledge of eastern symbolism – in the design of the church.

It is 1919. Stephen Duffy fingers the document in his pocket for the umpteenth time, realising that his constant fretting with it is wearing the paper away. He pulls his fingers from his jacket’s inside pocket, glancing, nervously across at his youngest sister, Elizabeth, who knows him so well that she has spotted his fretful behaviour. From the look in her eyes, she senses that something dreadful is going to happen, despite the smiles of her beloved brother and his new French wife.

Stephen Duffy and his French wife, Adrienne

A soldier in the Royal Engineers, he has come through the first World War unharmed – a miracle in itself. But his wife, Adrienne, cannot settle in the working class darkness of post-war Bolton, and needs to return to her home town of Calais, where her relatives have created a new job in the family’s bakery business. Stephen is a baker by trade and will be very welcome in the family’s boulangerie, The couple’s newborn first child, Madeleine is assured of a warm, family welcome. Three more children will follow, including Etienne, Juliette’s grandfather. Etienne is French for Stephen.

Stephen Duffy, of Bolton, Lancashire, and his wife Adrienne are leaving for France. The document in the breast pocket is the ticket for the ferry. Elizabeth Duffy, my paternal grandmother, looks at him across the table where Sunday lunch has been, and senses, correctly, that despite his surviving the horrors of the war, she will never see her elder brother, again.

Juliette Duffy is twenty years old. She is combing her hair and looking at her reflection in the small room’s mirror. She knows she looks like her devoted grandmother Mado. Mado – the preferred short-form from her given name of Madelaine – has been a detailed researcher of the family tree – particularly the lost English connection, for decades. Juliette knows that there is a mystery back there, back then, as to why the two families lost contact… but fate has cast her, an Erasmus Scholar of languages, studying at Bangor University, in an unlikely role.

Seven years ago, Mado placed a request on the Ancestry website asking for help from anyone who could help reunite the two sides of the family by giving details of its lost English connection. Two weeks ago, that notice was finally seen by a woman in England who knew of the Duffys; indeed had married the grandson of one…

Juliette puts on her coat and leaves the student block. She will be early. She will have a coffee and think what she might say to these two middle-aged relatives on behalf of her grandmother, who is frantic with anticipation across the channel in Calais…

(Continued in Part Three)

Other parts in this series:

Part One;

(Continued in Part Three)

………….

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost, supervised correspondence courses. His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham

 

A game of three halves (1)

It is, after all, only one day…

Have you ever re-assembled a day into a different sequence? Been so involved with its contents that the threads seem to weave themselves, again… and differently.

But it is only one day… and at the halfway point she will be waiting; waiting near the red tower where we will meet for the first time. And then the torn thread of ninety-seven years will be re-woven… for real, not just as a story.

It’s early October, 2017. It’s also AD 440 on a rocky cliff top towards which we are walking; and it’s 1914, and a picture from my genetic past rises, again, in my consciousness and returns to haunt me…

She’s very young, the girl in the black and white family photo. Her feet don’t touch the floor on the adult chair, and she stands out as much younger than the rest of them. She is my paternal grandmother, and her name is Elizabeth.

We know the island of Anglesey quite well. Even from Cumbria, it’s a relatively easy journey, courtesy of the northern M6 and the A55 dual-carriageway that follows the North Wales coast right to the bridges over the beautiful Menai Straits.

We’re having a short break near Cemaes Bay, which is located in the north of this historic and fascinating island.

My annotated Anglesey photo (above) from the tourist board at the tiny seaside village of Camaes Bay shows the location of this beautiful stretch of coast, which boasts that it is ‘the most northerly village in Wales’.

We had planned our trip carefully. It was to be a day of two halves, with very different agendas. The lunchtime and afternoon were to be spent on the reuniting of two family threads that have been separated by a near-hundred year gap, about which more later…

The morning was ours to fill, and we had our eyes on the nearby clifftop church of St Patrick’s; a place we had read about but never visited.

The beautiful bay of Cemaes is well known. Less celebrated is the ancient tiny church on the adjacent headland of Llanbadrig, and its founding by no less a figure than St Patrick, the father of the first Christian communities in Ireland and the west coast of Scotland

According to local legend, in AD 440, Bishop Patrick, as he was then, was on his maiden voyage from St Columba, on Iona, to Ireland, in order to bring it into line with Christianity – empowered by holy orders from Pope Celestine.

As often happens with the Patrick of legends, his voyage was ravaged by storms. The ship was driven towards the brutal coastline by the notorious Anglesey winds and shipwrecked onto the rock of Middle Mouse – now called St Patrick’s island, where he was marooned.

Above: the tiny rock of St Patrick’s Island, formerly Middle Mouse.

He clings to the rock that, later, he will find is called Middle Mouse, though they will rename it. His coarse robe has taken on so much water that it’s seen him nearly drowned. Only by tearing at it was he able to squeeze between the jagged, black rocks that held him captive, while the breakers pounded him to a bloody mess. But he’s alive… nearly naked, frozen, bleeding and weeping. But alive… In the boiling sea, splinters of wood flicker into focus as he scans the waves for signs of they who brought him here, steered a course from Iona until the waves turned to salty mountains risen from the blackest nightmare.

But alive…

The photograph is taken; the photographer is thanked and dismissed. The members of the family – minus mother, Maria, who believes that cameras steal your souls – leave the family room. But not all of them… Stephen gazes down at his youngest sister, tears forming in his eyes. How difficult it is to know he will see her, again. She will not turn to look at him. She knows that the most precious person in her world is leaving. He is going to war; he and his fine engineer’s mind and his self-taught and fluent French.

(Continued in Part Two)

———

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost, supervised correspondence courses.His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham