Lady Anne Clifford vs. the Patriarchy

Lady Anne Clifford was born in 1590 to George Clifford, Baron de Clifford, and Lady Margaret Russell. Her brother Francis died when her mother was pregnant with her. He was just five years old. Her only other brother Robert died at six when she was just 14 months old. There were no other siblings; only Anne would survive to adulthood. After Robert’s death, Lady Margaret took her baby daughter and moved in with her sister, leaving her husband to his mistresses and war games.

George Clifford was a dashing figure, captain of the Bonadventure during the battle against the Spanish Armada, buccaneer, Governor of the East India Company and an accomplished jouster who served as Queen Elizabeth I’s champion in many a tilting tourney. You can tell from his jousting armor, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, how glamorous he was on the field, and how willing he was to spend his family fortune. He even had to sell some of his land to pay debt incurred gambling on jousts and horse racing.

George Clifford died in 1605. Upon his death, his daughter Anne assumed the title Baroness de Clifford which was hers by right because the barony had been created by Edward II under absolute cognatic primogeniture, meaning inheritance by descent through the first-born line male or female. That should have meant she got the estates and moneys that went with the title, but in a will signed just 11 days before his death, her father instead bequeathed his estates (and after her death, his wife’s estates too) to his brother Francis Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, and his male heirs.

Perhaps keenly aware that he was leaving behind an inheritance considerably more meager than he had found it, perhaps thinking that his wealthy adult brother was more capable of keeping it from degenerating any further than his 15-year-old daughter, perhaps manipulated by his brother on his deathbed, doubtless knowing that she would be married before too long, George Clifford left Anne only the sum of £15,000. Good money back then, to be sure, but nothing even remotely close to the value of the vast landed estates to which she was entitled.

He sorely misjudged both his wife and his daughter. Lady Margaret immediately filed suit to ensure Anne received her rightful inheritance. Francis wasn’t happy about it. When Margaret and Anne showed up at Skipton Castle, the Clifford family seat, in 1607, Francis refused to let them in. Undeterred, Margaret kept the lawsuit going, researching the Clifford estate in depth to present a mountain of evidence of her daughter’s claim in court.

In 1609, Lady Anne Clifford married Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset. It was not a happy match. Much like her father, Dorset was a womanizer and a gambler and he had no interest in supporting Anne’s legal claim. He was enraged when she and her mother toured the Clifford lands in the north in 1614. He told her not to bother coming back home and threatened to take her baby daughter from her.

Lady Margaret died in 1616. Dorset, always in debt from his love of gambling and luxury he could not afford, wanted to get his hands on her property which George Clifford had willed to his brother along with his daughter’s inheritance. Richard was a favorite of King James I and was popular at court. He was able to pull strings and secure the lands held jointly by Margaret and George for him as his wife’s representative. He then persuaded Anne to sign a deed leaving him the land should she die without male heirs. She refused, however, to deed him the Clifford estates that were still in legal dispute. Dorset wasted no time and took Margaret’s lands for his purposes while Anne was still very much alive.

After Margaret’s funeral, a fight broke out between Anne and her cousin, Francis Clifford’s son Henry. The dispute threatened to get physical when Dorset brought his entourage up north. King James intervened to stop a duel between Henry and Dorset and tried to get Anne to compromise on her rights. Again she refused.

In March of 1617, the King devised a “settlement” which screwed Anne entirely but left Dorset with some cash to pay off his creditors. The deal was Lady Anne would sign away her claim to the estates and since his wife’s losses were also his, Dorset would be compensated £20,000. It seemed that after 12 years of battle, the patriarchy had beaten the Baroness.

Dorset died in 1624 leaving Anne a widow. She married again six years later to the Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. This marriage was a dud too. They lived apart for most of it. Her uncle Francis died in 1641. In December of 1643 her cousin Henry died too. With Henry’s death, finally the Clifford estates returned to Anne. Unfortunately the First English Civil War had broken out in 1642. A staunch royalist, Anne remained in London for the duration of the war and was unable to claim her lands in person until the fighting ended in 1649.

In 1649, she headed back north to her hard-won estate. Her estranged husband was sick and died in January of 1650, leaving her a widow again. That was fine with her. She was 60 by then but vigorous and motivated to repair the damage done to the Clifford properties by the Civil War. Skipton Castle had been the only royalist stronghold in the north to put up an extensive fight. It was besieged by Parliamentary forces for three years. Cromwell, who had ordered the roofs removed after the castle’s surrender in 1645 and its near-demolition in 1648, objected to her restoration plan. Lady Anne went through with it anyway. Legend has it that Cromwell didn’t stop her because of he had much respect for her as the only woman who ever stood up to him. That seems unlikely to me. I imagine political considerations formed the larger part of his thinking.

The rebuild took her ten years, but in 1659 she planted a yew tree in the castle’s central courtyard to mark the end of the restoration and Skipton’s post-Civil War renaissance. She repaired other Clifford castles, churches and founded charitable institutions.

She also set about compiling a complete record of the Clifford family’s history, from the first baron in 1310 to her own four-decade struggle with the law and various titled bullies to claim her rightful inheritance. The records her mother had put together in the early days were included, as was other genealogical material, biographies of all Clifford lords and ladies, Anne’s diaries and day-to-day records of the operation of the estates. She had them bound into three 1,000-page, 600,000-word, three-volume Great Books of Record. Each set was kept in a different place so they could be referred to as needed.

Three hundred years later, all three sets found their way to the Cumbria Archive Service in 2004. Lady Anne’s Great Books of Record give us a unique window into the life of a 17th century English noblewoman, but the originals have only been available to scholars. In 2010, Renaissance scholar Dr. Jessica Malay was granted a Leverhulme Trust award of £158,000 (about $250,000) for a three-year project of transcribing the Great Books of Record for publication.

She’s almost done.

Malay’s research into the Great Books of Record, which contain material from the early 12th century to the early 18th century, reveals the importance of family alliances in forming influential political networks.

It shows that women were integral to the construction of these networks, both regionally and nationally.

Malay said: “The Great Books explain the legal avenues open to women. Married women could call on male friends to act on their behalf. As part of marriage settlements many women had trusts set up to allow them access to their own money which they could in turn use in a variety of business enterprises or to help develop a wide network of social contacts.

“Men would often rely on their wives to access wider familial networks, leading to wives gaining higher prestige in the family.”

Inspired by Malay’s research, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal has put the Great Books on display for the first time in their long history.

Alongside them is another masterpiece from the unique vision of Lady Anne Clifford: The Great Picture, a triptych that depicts the three stages of Lady Anne’s struggle for her inheritance. The left panel is a portrait of Lady Anne when she was 15 and her father died, willing her birthright to her uncle. The middle panel, a piece so big Abbot Hall had to remove a window to get it into the gallery, depicts Lady Anne’s parents and her two brothers. Anne isn’t visible in the picture but she calculated the precise date of her conception and had the painter, probably Jan van Belcamp, paint her family with her as an unseen zygote. The right panel is Lady Anne at 53, the year her cousin died and she finally came into her inheritance.

Lady Anne Clifford died in 1676. She was 86 years old. She left her estates to her daughter Margaret Sackville, Lady Thanet. Nobody contested it.

Let’s stir up the antheap and build a Tesla museum

Wardenclyffe lab and towerNikola Tesla’s laboratory in Shoreham, New York is for sale. Known as Wardenclyffe or Wardenclyffe Tower, it is the last workshop standing to have been used by the electrical engineer, inventor, all-around genius and visionary for research. Unless the non-profit Tesla Science Center can raise at least $850,000 within the next 40 days, the property will be bought by real estate developers who will make condos and a shopping center out of it. The price of the land and the structures on it is $1.6 million. The State of New York has offered matching funds if the Tesla Science Center can raise the $850,000, so if they reach that fundraising goal, the Center will have $1.7 million to keep the property out of developer hands.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!Creator of The Oatmeal and huge Tesla fan Matthew Inman has rallied his massive readership to see justice done. Last week he started a Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum fundraising campaign on Indiegogo which in five days has raised a dizzying $771,642. All the money donated will go directly into the bank account of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.

Any moneys raised beyond the $850,000 mark are still very much needed. Buying the property is just the first step. The structures and grounds have seen a lot of hard living over the past century. They need a great deal of restoration and repair. After that, there’s the not inconsiderable matter of actually building a museum. As expensive and daunting a task as it may be, it’s so worthwhile. It’s a damn crime that there isn’t a single Tesla museum in this country. There’s an awesome one in Belgrade and he never even lived there.

Wardenclyffe Tower demolition, 1917Tesla began building Wardenclyffe in 1900 with $150,000 invested by J.P. Morgan. The laboratory building was designed by Gilded Age architect to the rich-and-famous Stanford White, which in and of itself is more than sufficient grounds for historic landmark status. He also built a 187-foot power tower, but it was never fully realized and in 1917 was dynamited by the government, afraid it was being used by German spies. Still, the foundation and labyrinth of tunnels underneath the tower are still there and that’s almost as cool. Even cooler, according to the March 27, 1904 issue of the New York Times:

While the tower itself is very stagy and picturesque, it is the wonders that are supposed to be hidden in the earth underneath it that excite the curiosity of the population in the little settlement. In the centre of the wide concrete platform, which serves as a base for the structure there is a wooden affair very much like the companionway on an ocean steamer. […]

Mr. Scherff, the private secretary of the inventor, told an inquirer that the companionway led to a small drainage passage built for the purpose of keeping the ground about the tower dry. But such of the villagers as saw the tower constructed, tell a different story. They declare that it leads to a well-like excavation as deep as the tower is high with walls of mason work and a circular stairway leading to the bottom. From there, they say, tunnels have been built in all directions, until the entire ground below the little plain on which the tower is raised has been honeycombed with subterranean passages. They tell with awe how Mr. Tesla, on his weekly visits to Wardenclyffe, spends as much time in the underground passages as he does on the tower or in the handsome laboratory and workshop erected beside it, and where the power plant for the world telegraph has been installed.

Tesla at workTesla’s ultimate plan was for the tower to wirelessly transmit telegraphy, telephony and electrical power all over the world. The tower would harness the electrical energy of the ionosphere and then relay power to other strategically located towers, thereby electrifying even the remotest areas of the globe for free. This article in the New York Daily Tribune of August 7, 1901 (pdf) describes the initial stages of the project. Tesla talks about the tower solely as a communication device. Once the tower was built, Tesla’s far more ambitious plans for it came to the forefront. In this article in Electrical World and Engineer from March 5, 1904, Tesla describes them thus:

When the great truth accidentally revealed and experimentally confirmed is fully recognized, that this planet, with all its appalling immensity, is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball and that by this fact many possibilities, each baffling imagination and of incalculable consequence, are rendered absolutely sure of accomplishment; when the first plant is inaugurated and it is shown that a telegraphic message, almost as secret and non-interferable as a thought, can be transmitted to any terrestrial distance, the sound of the human voice, with all its intonations and inflections, faithfully and instantly reproduced at any other point of the globe, the energy of a waterfall made available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere-on sea, or land, or high in the air-humanity will be like an ant heap stirred up with a stick: See the excitement coming!

A smartphone in every pot.

John Pierpont Morgan is not amusedMorgan only knew about the wireless communications plan when he financed the project. Insulted by Tesla’s less than tactful approach almost from the beginning and having lost interest in the communications aspect once Marconi transmitted the first radio signal on December 12, 1901, Morgan refused to give him any additional funding. Two years later, Tesla, hoping to pry more money out of the financier to complete the project, told Morgan about his global wireless power station idea. Morgan, not pleased at the prospect of a limitless supply of free electricity killing his ability to profit from industrial power, had his secretary write him a Dear John letter and that was the end of that.

Wardenclyffe todayUnable to keep the facility going or find new backers, Tesla was forced to abandon Wardenclyffe permanently in 1911. In 1915 he transferred ownership of the property to George C. Boldt, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria, to satisfy his $20,000 hotel bill (judicious money management was not Tesla’s strong suit, obviously). Boldt sold the property in 1925. In 1939 it was purchased by Peerless Photo Products who made a toxic dump of cadmium and silver out of it. AGFA bought it from them in 1969 and used the Stanford White building until 1992. In the 2000s New York State made AGFA clean up the toxic materials so as of 2009 it could be sold without all those bald children arousing suspicion.

Which brings us to today and the potential commercial buyers versus the potential for a kickass Tesla science museum. Click here to help make the dream a reality.

Siena Duomo’s mosaic floor visible for 2 months

Duomo of Siena, central naveThe Duomo of Siena’s floor is now open to visitors and will be until October 24th. Most of the year just a few of the 56 panels are visible. The rest are covered by pressboard planks and carpets to protect the unbelievably beautiful inlaid marble mosaics from the pitter patter of a million pairs of tourist feet a year, but for the next two months people will be dazzled by a floor unlike anything else in Italy or, I daresay, the world.

The 56 mosaic panels cover the entire floor of the cathedral. Although there are decorative geometric and floral elements, what makes this floor so startling are the figures: scenes from the Bible, Hebrew and Christian (mainly the former); allegories about fortune and ancient philosophers; the ten Sibyls of antiquity representing the revelation of Christ to virtuous ancient peoples; and symbols of Siena and its Ghibelline allegiance, Emperor Sigismund and his Advisers by Domenico di Bartololike a portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund (my favorite HRE) conferring with his advisers. The panels are rectangles, rounds, hexagons, squares and rhombuses.

Libyan Sybil by Guidoccio CozzarelliThe cartoons would be made on paper first by prominent local artists (or in one special case, by Umbrian master Pinturicchio), then they would be translated to marble mosaic format by stone cutting, carving and marquetry masters. The earliest panels were made using the graffito technique where lines were scratched into the surface of white marble and then filled with pitch or bitumen to make them black. Later panels used different colors of marble to create intricate inlays complete with delicate shading and strong chiaroscuro contrasts.

The Wheel of FortuneAccording to 16th century artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari, Sienese master Duccio di Buoninsegna first designed the floor mosaics in the early 1300s. He did design the Duomo’s stained glass round window in 1288 and its altarpiece in 1308 (both are now in the cathedral museum), but there’s no evidence that he had any involvement or that it started that early at all. The first records of payments made to artists for the floor date to 1369. The Sienese She-Wolf and Emblems of Allied CitiesThe earliest panels are the Wheel of Fortune (1372), the Sienese She-Wolf Surrounded by the Emblems of Allied Cities (1373) and the Imperial Eagle (1374). They were restored in the 1860s with many of their marble inlays replaced, worn nearly featureless by centuries of tramping pilgrims and tourists.

Work continued throughout the 15th century, with panels depicting the Four Virtues, the feats of King David, Joshua and Samson, my man Emperor Sigismund and a gorgeous Death of Absalom. In the 1480s, the 10 Sibyls were created and two large transept panels with shockingly vivid images of The Slaughter of the Innocents and The Expulsion of Herod.

Allegory of the Hill of Wisdom, PinturicchioPinturicchio’s piece opened the 16th century phase with style. His gorgeously pagan design for The Allegory of the Hill of Wisdom (aka The Allegory of Fortune) was made in 1504.

Starting in 1517, Mannerist painter Domenico Beccafumi, considered the greatest Sienese artist of his time, took the lead in designing the floor. The Sacrifice of Elijah by Domenico BeccafumiHe worked assiduously for the next 30 years, creating the central hexagon panels in the transept depicting various episodes in the life of the prophet Elijah, plus the rectangular frieze 26 feet long showing Moses Striking Water from the Rock on Mount Horeb, Moses on Mount Sinai and The Sacrifice of Isaac.

Beccafumi was also an innovator on the mosaic inlay side of things. Here’s how Vasari describes his work in his Lives of the Artists:

Moses on Mt. Sinai by Domenico BeccafumiThe figures and scenes were already in great part designed on the marble, the outlines being hollowed out with the chisel and filled with a black mixture, with ornaments of coloured marble all around, and likewise the grounds for the figures. But Domenico, with fine judgment, saw that this work could be much improved, and he therefore took grey marbles, to the end that these, profiled with the chisel and placed beside the brilliancy of the white marble, might give the middle shades; and he found that in this way, with white and grey marble, pictures of stone could be made with great perfection after the manner of chiaroscuro. The central hexagon under the cupola of the DuomoHaving then made a trial, the work succeeded so well in invention, in solidity of design, and in abundance of figures, that he made a beginning after this fashion with the grandest, the most beautiful, and the most magnificent pavement that had ever been made; and in the course of his life, little by little, he executed a great part of it.

By the end of Beccafumi’s contribution, the floor was basically complete. After him, some minor elements were added, some damaged pieces restored with exact copies, and in 1878, artist Alessandro Franchi created new Elijah panels to replace irretrievably damaged 15th century pieces which didn’t match Beccafumi’s Elijah theme. Franchi’s panels don’t mimic Beccafumi’s style, but they’re very much in keeping with it.

If you just can’t make it to Siena over the next couple of months, you can at least peruse the extensive collection of pictures of the floor on Wikimedia. They need to get Villanova University’s computer squad on the case so they can make one of those high resolution 3D composites like they did with the Sistine Chapel.

Wreck of Scott’s polar ship found off Greenland

SS Terra Nova stuck in ice, 1910-1911The SS Terra Nova began life in 1884 as a whaler and seal hunting vessel on the Labrador Sea between Canada and Greenland. After a starring role carrying Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team to the other end of the earth, it returned to duty in its home waters. There, damaged by ice, it went down on September 13th, 1943, off the southwestern coast of Greenland.

Computer rendering of sonar data showing the Terra NovaOn July 11 of this year, the Schmidt Ocean Institute was testing new echosounders, devices that use sound pulses to map the depth of water, in preparation for their use on a 2013 research mission when they found not just how deep the coastal waters on the southern tip of Greenland are, but the wreck of the Terra Nova. It wasn’t a freakish coincidence. One of the reasons they chose the location was that it had been reported as the site of the sinking, so if they did find the wreck it would be a useful calibration tool.

On the first line of the calibration survey, on-board survey expert Jonathan Beaudoin from the University of New Hampshire had noted a feature on the seabed which remained initially unidentified. Upon completion of the main calibration exercise, SOI technician Leighton Rolley and Jonathan reviewed each of the many potential targets identified during the 12 hours of surveying, and the target was noted as a strong candidate for further investigation. Multibeam data expert Jean Marie from Ifremer analyzed the feature in more detail, finding its length (57m) to match the reported length of the Terra Nova.

Encouraged by the similarity in length, the acoustic survey team post-processed the collected multi-beam data to verify the observed feature. A shorter survey from several angles reaffirmed the possibility that the team had found a wreck.

SS Terra Nova mastThe research team then sent down a weighted high resolution camera package that they built to film plankton net tows. The camera recorded a wooden shipwreck with its funnel lying next to it. They compared the footage of the funnel to historical pictures of the Terra Nova and it was a match.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute reported the find to the U.S. State Department, which notified the British and Danish governments. All parties agreed to allow the information to be released as long as the specific location or identifying details were kept quiet to keep the site from interference by souvenir hunters wanting a piece of such a legendary vessel.

Terra Nova in Antarctic iceThe Terra Nova’s legendary status began when it departed Bute Docks, Cardiff on June 15th, 1910 to explore Antarctica and reach the South Pole. Although there was a general exploratory purpose, Captain Scott’s main aim was to plant the Union Jack on the South Pole. He was already a popular hero since his return from the Discovery Expedition of Antarctica in 1904. With the added boost of pre-World War I jingoism and a year spent traveling the country giving lectures and raising funds for the new expedition, by the time the Terra Nova took off, national excitement was at a peak.

Herbert Ponting recording penguinsScott had had the ship’s hull reinforced with seven feet of oak, but it still got stuck in pack ice between New Zealand and the Antarctic for 20 days. That delay, bad weather and other problems kept the team from making camp where they had first planned. They laid their main supply depot (where the butter was recently found) a full 35 miles north of the intended location, a fatal error, as it turned out.

South Pole expedition team, Scott in the middleAfter collecting an exceptional amount of data about the flora and fauna, all documented in photographs and on film by Herbert Ponting, on November 1st, 1911, Scott took a caravan of people and supplies south towards the Pole. Most of them turned back. Only five men including Scott reached the South Pole on January 17th, 1912, only to find the Norwegian flag planted by Roald Amundsen who had reached the Pole on December 14th, 1911.

Scott's team at South Pole, Scott standing in the middle next to the flagBeaten by barely more than a month, a dejected Scott and his team set out on the return voyage of 800 miles. By the time they reached the halfway mark, they had already lost one man. Another would die on March 16th, leaving just three men to make camp on March 19th just 11 miles from the main supply camp, 24 miles past the original location they had intended for it. There they were hit with a blizzard that kept them from moving. Frostbitten, out of supplies, the men died one after the other, with Scott being the last to die. His last journal entry was on the 29th of March.

Their bodies would not be discovered until the next summer, in November 1912. The Terra Nova left for home in January 1913. Purchased by its former owners, it went right back to work in the seal hunting grounds of Newfoundland. Meanwhile Scott’s death, so heartbreakingly captured in his journals, made him a national hero.

In 1924, Herbert Ponting made a documentary of the doomed voyage using the footage he’d taken and some recreations of events he hadn’t captured on film. The Great White Silence has been remastered and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Here’s the Terra Nova in happier times, departing from Cardiff with crowds to see the valiant explorers off:

Here’s the Terra Nova today:

Zapotec noble found buried in tomb’s 3rd chamber

Archaeologists excavating the Zapotec vertical tomb complex discovered in the Oaxacan archeological site of Atzompa three months ago have discovered the remains of a high-ranking noble in the third chamber. In the previous two chambers researchers found thematically significant, well-preserved murals and small offerings including ceramic vessels and an engraved turtle shell, but no burials. Those chambers appear to have been emptied and filled with rubble in antiquity, possibly in a cancellation ritual when Atzompa was abandoned between 850 and 900 A.D. Although experts knew that the stacked chambers, the first such architecture ever discovered, were tombs, without human remains they couldn’t be certain the complex had ever been used for burials.

The third chamber was the charm. It too was filled in antiquity with alternating layers of earth and stone, but it wasn’t cleared first. Instead the fill kept the skeletal remains and offerings safe from the ravages of looters and time. Archaeologists found the bones of a Zapotec noble, probably male. The skeleton wasn’t whole. Only the short, flat bones like vertebrae, ribs and sternum were discovered, plus large, important bones like the pelvis and skull. Along with the remains of this individual a second, fragmented skull was found, probably a sacrificial offering.

Forensic anthropologists will analyze the skeletal remains to determine, if possible, the age at death, health, nutrition and whether there were any deliberate deformations of the bones for cultural purposes.

Along with the human remains, the chamber contained a small black vessel and parts of a bowl. Under a stone slab archaeologists discovered an exceptional anthropomorphic clay urn shaped like a human face wearing earrings. A headdress was found detached on the other side of the chamber. The piece is 12 inches in diameter and 20 inches high without the headdress, about 28 inches with the headdress attached. The urn is painted a strikingly bright red, its rich hue perfectly preserved despite over 1100 years or so of existence by the fill in the chamber.

Researchers believe this third chamber was actually the first one built. Its location next to the House of the Altars made it prime real estate, so when they needed more prestige tombs, they carefully sealed the first one and built two more on top and added the stairway. They also reduced the size of the original tomb. It seems the third chamber was about 11.5 feet long originally, but some of that length was trimmed to make room for the staircase.

This would have happened in fairly quick succession. The date range for all three tombs is the same, 650 – 850 A.D. Archaeologists believe they were built within three generations.

Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) has a nice photo gallery with some additional pictures of the find.