Thursday, December 08, 2011

Question from Eva - Falconer Mary of Canterbury

I need historical information about Queen Elizabeth's Grand Falconer, Mary of Canterbury. I hope to write a novel based on the Falconer's life.

Where can I find any information about her?


kb said...

Hi - Can you tell us where you found out about this person in the first place? That could help us point you in some interesting directions.

Henry Carey, baron Hunsdon was Elizabeth's Master of the Hawks. He was appointed to the post on 31 Oct 1560. This information is from the Calendar of Patent Rolls.

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist Turned Author said...

I found the information from falconry history pages(several mention this) online. I'm also involved in falconry and have heard this by word as mouth as well.

Thanks for letting me know about Henry Carey. Perhaps there was a woman somehow involved during her reign. Do you know how I can pursue more info about Henry Carey?

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist Turned Author said...

Thanks. I found the information about Mary of Canterbury from various falconry history sites online. I'm involved in falconry and have heard about her from people involved in the sport.

How do I find more information on Henry Carey, baron Hunsdon?

kb said...


I think I might be the expert on Henry Carey as I did my doctoral dissertation on his family. If you would like, ask Lara to connect us via email.

You might want to contact English Heritage. They often stage historical days at the various heritage sites in England including falconry and hawking. I saw a wonderful display at an English Heritage day at Old Sarum near Stonehenge.

They may be able to connect you to some more specific resources.

In terms of original archival sources perhaps the best, but most overwhelming, place would be the UK National Archives. You would be looking for payment records to establish how long and where she worked. --- Possibly in the Lord Chamberlain's accounts.

You might also want to look for some sources on hunting. There are a few books on horses and hunting for the period that might include more information about falconry as well. Just a guess.

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist Turned Author said...

Thanks KB. Yes, I would love to connect. I'm on facebook if that helps. But will ask Lara.

Bestiary Parlor: The Musings of a Zoologist Turned Author said...

Thanks KB. I e-mailed Lara. I'm also on facebook.

Foose said...

The oldest English reference I could find for this in Google Books was Bailey's Magazine of 1896, which cites no source but has one line on the subject, "Queen Elizabeth ... appointed a Lady Mary Canterbury as head huntswoman and superintendent of her mews." The name and title sound like a joke - it's the sort of name you might give the court dwarf.

I found a number of brief references in 19th-century German works, but again, no source was cited. Finally I found a detailed report in volume 6 of the Allgemeine Forst und Jagdzeitung for April 10, 1830. Unfortunately, it's in German and printed in thick Gothic type that reproduces so poorly on Google Books. It's very difficult to read.

The reviewer for this magazine recounts that "Lady Marie Canterbury" was the daughter of an English nobleman who lost his two sons and made a pet of his remaining child, who accompanied him on the hunt and became accomplished in all the hunting arts - "becoming more youth than maiden." Queen Elizabeth notices this prodigy and appoints her to the post of "Oberjaegermeisterin" (Chief Huntswoman) and head of the falconry mews. Lady Mary perishes after a fall for her horse; her grave monument can be seen in the church in the town of ... (and I can't make out the town's name, confound it).

The reviewer cites this story as coming from one "John Erskun" (possibly Erskine, or Erstun, it's again very difficult to make out the name). I Googled the various possibilities, and found a "John Erskun" mentioned in the same magazine as having authored a series of literary "portraits" of great hunters, including biblical figures like Esau, famous Greeks and Romans, legendary people like Semiramis, European historical personages like Catherine de Medici and of course Lady Mary Canterbury. I think this work was probably a mixture of genuine anecdote and popular invention, but I can't find any other record of it - not the title, the date, or the actual name of the author. If you want to pursue this, it would be worth getting a German speaker familiar with the old Gothic lettering to take a look at the Allgemeine Forst entry.

Hence I think Lady Mary is apocryphal - clearly there was no noble family with the surname "Canterbury" and if Queen Elizabeth had appointed a woman to such an important court post, there'd be a lot more evidence in English.

Possibly Lady Mary Canterbury preserves a mangled memory of Queen Mary of Hungary, Emperor Charles V's sister. An ardent aficionado of the chase, she appointed herself Chief Huntsman (grand veneur) of Brabant during her tenure as regent of the Low Countries.

kb said...

Foose - As always your research is astounding! So cool.

Sandra Gulland said...

Dear Foose,

I am attempting to write a novel about "Mary of Canterbury" and I am following up on your excellent reference to volume 6 of the Allgemeine Forst und Jagdzeitung.

However, I can find no entry for April 10, 1830.

There is one entry for April 10 in Vol. 6, entry 43, but it's for 1837.

Here is the URL, but it's from Google Books Mexico (where I am now) and I don't know if the link will work for you:

Any links you can provide to help me track down this information would be very much appreciated!


Sandra Gulland