Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Question from Aaron - Margaret Tudor's monkey

In the portrait of Queen Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mytens, does anyone know the story of the monkey the Queen is holding? What type of monkey was it, where was it from, how did it arrive in Britain, was it her personal pet, etc.? How common were such monkeys as pets, were they exclusive to royalty?

4 comments:

PhD Historian said...

The animal in the painting is almost certainly symbolic. Portrait artists of the period commonly placed small animals in their pictures as visual clues to the identity and personality of the sitter depicted. Monkeys symbolized foolishness. In this instance, that symbology might not be most appropriate. Do you have any reference describing the animal as a monkey? To my eye, it appears to be a Scottish Highlands Red Squirrel, known for the furry ears (See www.scottishsquirrelssurvey.co.uk). Squirrels were symbolic of obedience and personal restraint, a much more appropriate reference for a daughter of a Tudor king and wife of a Stuart king. Whichever animal it is, it is certainly symbolic and imaginary rather than an actual pet of Margaret Tudor.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Phd Historian, but to address your other questions, monkeys were very rare as pets, and were limited mostly to female royalty. They were regarded as an exotic novelty item. A miniature of Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Horenbout shows the queen with her pet monkey, brought from Spain.

GarethR said...

Monkeys were kept by several women of the Royal Household and it is definitely a monkey in the Mytens portrait; I believe it's described as such? It's probably to show Margaret's own capabilities in purchasing such an exotic and expensive animal. What exactly happened to said pet is unknown; we do know that Katherine of Aragon's monkeys either went with her or were farmed out to other courtiers (as the peacocks were to Sir Henry Norris), because Anne Boleyn disliked them.

Anonymous said...

I ACTUALLY HEARD THAT SPANISH WOMEN IN THE 11TH CENTURY ... ADORNED MONKEYS TO CONTRAST THIER BEAUTY, HOPEFULLY THEY WOULD BE THE PRETTIER OF THE TWO,, FORGOT WHERE I HEARD IT .. SORRY..