Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Weekly Geek! The Serpent's Mirror

Our author set off a mini Serpent's Mirror frenzy a while ago when she switched her social media banners to the "Serpent's Mirror-inspired" one pictured below.  It's a lovely compendium of images.

She included some familiar ones: the alchemical Sun King image from the US edition cover of A Discovery of Witches, perhaps symbolic of Matthew; a photo of Speke Hall, the real life inspiration of Matthew's Tudor era home - The Old Lodge; and Matthew's wax seal which would have been used on important correspondence and documents.

It was the unfamiliar ones that stirred things up for this Daemon on a boring weekday.  The first was the close up of a 16th century mirror in a painting by Quentin Matsys called 'The Moneylender and his Wife' which was painted in 1514.

The second was the close up of a portrait by Hans Holbein entitled 'The Unknown Man at his Office Desk' painted in 1541, and thought to depict a young Dutch Merchant named George Giese.

The third clue was a piece of embroidered bodice belonging to Margaret Layton, wife of the Yeoman of the Jewel House under Charles I.

So we have a merchant, a money lender, and the Jewel House.  Sounds like we could be seeing a lot of Baldwin (of course, the Daemon train of thought would go there!).  It's also interesting to note that the Matsys painting is an allegory extolling the virtues of honesty.  It is part of the Louvre collection - the palace that was a focal point of the French Court during the probable time frame of The Serpent's Mirror.   It seems like the French court warrants a closer look...

This particular train of though inspired further research about The Serpent's Mirror - this Daemon got a little obsessed (what else is new!), which led to more reading about the happenings in the English, French, and Spanish courts - not to mention the Vatican.  So far, the reading has led to two interesting prospects.  Stick with me here:

Could the Serpent's Mirror referred to in the title of Deb's new book be Nostradamus' magic mirror, rather than John Dee's?  Nostradamus supposedly used a mirror to show Catherine de Medici images from the future which included  her sons taking the throne of France.  Philip of Spain called Catherine de Medici - Madame la Serpente.

Once Catherine de Medici surfaced in the research, it brought to mind this little exchange between Diana and Ysabeau in ADOW:
“It is better now that the saddles have two pommels,” Ysabeau said. “Before, all sidesaddles were good for was being led around by a man.” Her disgust was audible. “It was not until the Italian queen put a pommel and stirrup on her saddle that we could control our own horses. Her husband’s mistress rode astride so she could go with him when he exercised. Catherine was always being left at home, which is most unpleasant for a wife.” ADOW  p316

Along with her modification to the side saddle, Catherine took to riding with her ladies in waiting.  They were said to be a bevy of seductive beauties and have been referred to in the literature as L' escadron volant ("the flying squadron") and "the flying goddesses". They were purported to be "spies of the couch", practicing a decidedly female form of espionage, seducing and bedding influential nobles in order to gain information and influence for Catherine. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the extent of the sexual licentiousness of Catherine's ladies may have been exaggerated by Catherine's opponents  - regardless, it makes for a great story for Daemon purposes.

 The Flying Goddesses are even more interesting for our purposes because one of the most notable of them is Isabelle de Limeuil, a beautiful blue eyed blonde with a rose-pink complexion and "vivacious wit".  She seduced several Guise associates before becoming the Mistress of Louis, the Prince of Conde, a leading Hugeuenot.  She was banished to a convent by an enraged Catherine after bearing his illegimate son.  Could this Isabelle be our Ysabeau?  Just some food for thought!

Here are some links for you:

- http://www.floating-world.org/nostradamus.htm
- http://www.angelfire.com/jazz/louxsie/medici.html
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabelle_de_Limeuil
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Giese
- http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O69443/margaret-layton-formerly-laton-painting-gheeraerts-marcus-the/

P.S. If you have something you'd like us to explore on Weekly Geek, contact us! You may find your curiosities addressed on one of our future geekly posts!  You can also post inquiries or thoughts on The All Souls Gathering!

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