Saturday, September 05, 2009

Question from Lee - De Lisle article on the Spinola letter

De Lisle has written an article for The New Criterion where she argues that the Spinola letter containing the only detailed description of Lady Jane Grey is a fake does anybody know anything about this?

[Note from Lara - Ms. de Lisle emailed me about this earlier this week, but I haven't had a chance to read the article and write a post for the news blog yet. Feel free to discuss it here and I'll just link back to this discussion when I finally get that post done.]


PhD Historian said...

Ms de Lisle and I have chatted about the Spinola letter, and she was kind enough to share her article with me before it was published.

While doing the research for my PhD dissertation on Jane Grey back before 2007, I ran into the same problems that Ms de Lisle did. That is, the Spinola letter seems to have been totally unnoticed prior to the 20th century. And to date, only one writer, Richard Davey, has claimed to have seen the actual letter, yet Davey fails to reveal exactly where he saw it. And because so much of Davey's book about Jane Grey is demonstrably fiction, I questioned the authenticity of the letter in my dissertation.

Ms de Lisle came to the same conclusion independently and simultaneously. Obviously she and I agree that the letter is deeply suspicious. I have searched extensively for the letter, consulting printed and online catalogues for every archive in Genoa (the city in which Davey stated the letter was held), and corresponding with archivists at those facilities. To date, I have found no trace of the letter. In my own as-yet-unpublished book on Jane Grey, I treat the letter as fiction.

Stephen said...

I to have Been in correspondence with Leanda.My own on line researches have so far produced another "discovery" by Richard Davey on the subject of the finding of bones of the princes in the Tower a marginal note on an old manuscript in his grandfathers (RD's) hand regarding them including a vivid description has also not come to light. An interesting man Richard Davey.
Stephen Jakobi

Tamise said...

Is there any other description of her from letters or sourcs that can be judged reliable? Or has Jane disappeared from view?

PhD Historian said...

I am not aware of any other detailed description of Jane Grey produced by an eye-witness, despite my own extensive searching for one. Those who knew Jane Grey tended to describe her in only one or two words, usually limited to comments that she was "young" and "beautiful." Even Thomas Chaloner's elegy of her uses only very vague terms ("heavenly face" and of course "beautiful").

In fact, it might be argued that the degree of detail offered in the Spinola description can be construed as further evidence that the letter was invented by Davey. Detailed descriptions of women, even royal women, were written down only relatively rarely. The Spinola description stands out for its detail, making it even more suspicious, in my opinion.

lee said...

This now must change thing's in regards to portraits of her as we now have no idea of what she looked like this will now make it even harder for people to find a portrait of her taken from life. Is there any new of your book Phd Historian?

PhD Historian said...

Still working on it, Lee. Submitting to yet another publisher before October 1, but with Ives's book coming out, it's a crap shoot.