Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Question from Carlyn - Elizabeth's Horn of Windsor

Hi everyone,
I am trying to illustrate a scene showing all the different poison antidotes used in the 16th century. One section has Elizabeth’s Horn of Windsor. Does anyone have a rough idea of what it looked like? I am not sure if Elizabeth’s “alicorn” was a rhino or narwhal horn. They look significantly different. The Narwhal is long and thin while the rhino is short and thick.


Foose said...

The little information I have been able to find on it seems to indicate it was presented to the Queen by Martin Frobisher, a New World explorer. This would tend to support the theory of a narwhal's horn, rather than a rhino's -- also I think the narwhal's horn would be vastly larger and more dramatic in visual impact than a rhino horn, justifying the alleged value of 10,000 pounds.

Lara said...

I looked in a few books I have that I thought might have something but without any success. I'm really curious about it too, so I'd love to know.

PhD Historian said...

My brief research turns up much the same information that Foose found. Sixteenth and seventeenth century accounts indicate that the "Horn of Windsor" was found by Martin Frobisher during his third voyage (1578) in pursuit of a shorter route to India via a northwest passage around the Americas. In an area of Baffin Island, Canada, now known as Frobisher's Bay, his men discovered a large dead fish washed up on shore with a long spiraling tusk protruding from its head. They believed it was a sea unicorn, and brought the horn back to England for presentation to Elizabeth.

So it sounds like the horn was indeed a narwhal tusk.

The horn was deposited in the Royal Wardrobe and Treasury for safekeeping, where it apparently remained until the Civil Wars and the Cromwellian period. Thomas Fuller, writing in the 1660s, alleges that the horn was "embezzled" and destroyed by Cromwell's Puritan followers because of its association with magic and witchcraft.

Holly Tucker said...

thanks everyone for the info. If Martin Frobisher was a New World explorer then it had to be narwhal. Imagine paying half a kingdom for a washed up horn. Interesting stuff. I am sure kids will enjoy that part. thanks!