‘Soveraigne Receipts’ and the Politics of Beauty in The Queens Closet Opened

Edith Snook
University of New Brunswick

Edith Snook. "‘Soveraigne Receipts’ and the Politics of Beauty in The Queens Closet Opened." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 15 (September, 2007) 7.1-19 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-15/snooksov.htm>.

You may finde in History, as in a Confectionary, soveraigne Receipts, choice Electuaries to cure all maladies. Whatsoever is defective in you, may be heere supplyed; and whatsoever is in some small measure perfected, may be more fully accomplished (Braithwait 388).

  1.  For Richard Brathwait, history and recipes are not entirely unlike forms. They are each efficacious, even absolute, in their curative power. Certainly not derided, the knowledge contained in recipes is comparable to that in history books, for both are culturally and morally significant. The Queens Closet Opened, printed first in 1655 and many times thereafter, similarly aligns history, power, and capacity. This collection of cosmetic, medical, and food recipes – ‘Incomparable Secrets [...] as they were presented to the Queen By the most Experienced Persons of our Times’ – is published with reference to a court at which material culture had a political valence. R. Malcolm Smuts argues that while the reign of Charles I saw the development of a culture of art collecting and patronage, this innovation coexisted with an older court culture in which the display of power was effected through public ceremonies. ‘On the eve of the Civil War,’ he writes, ‘splendour at court continued to mean much the same thing that it had in the reign of Henry VIII. It meant gilt barges, embroidered cloths of state, yeomen of the guard in resplendent liveries, tables piled high with food, and rooms crowded with people in opulent clothes and jewels’ (107). Food and clothing, moreover, were the special purview of women. Thus, a recipe collection, like The Queens Closet Opened, is uniquely able to bring together the forms of culture Smuts identifies—collecting, patronage and ceremonial display—and to configure the queen’s closet as their central repository. Critics such as Karen Britland, Melinda Gough, Erica Veevers, Sarah Poynting, Sophie Tomlinson, Julie Sanders and others have shown that Queen Henrietta Maria played an active role in fashioning the political aesthetic of the Stuart court, particularly through the masques in which she performed. The Queens Closet Opened recalls the queen’s role as patron and collector of recipes, a function that can be likened to her better known literary contributions to court life.

  2. Scholarly interest in receipt books has grown considerably in recent years, inspiring a number of doctoral dissertations, as well as work by more established scholars; this research is showing that the publication of recipe books is often political.[1] Indeed, Madeline Bassnett has argued that, in general, cookery receipt books published in the 1650s, including The Queens Closet Opened, had a royalist slant. The Queens Closet Opened does not begin in an argumentative tone, however. W.M., the volume’s editor, explains that the recipes were ‘transcribed into her book by my self, the Original papers being most of them preserved in my own hands, which I kept as so many Reliques’ (A3v). Along with a pro forma apology for publishing his mistress’s secrets because of the putative circulation of two unauthorized versions (A4, A4v), W.M. insists that he has put the volume into print ‘as it might continue my Soveraign Ladies remembrance in the brests and loves of those persons of honour and quality, that presented most of these rare receipts to her’ (A4v). The emphasis on ‘true copies’ (A1), ‘[o]riginal papers’ and the unauthorized version eulogizes the queen’s closet as a place of origin and intellectual authority; from those of ‘honour and quality‘ who placed the recipes there, the collection demands an act of remembering. Jayne Archer has argued that W.M. is Walter Montagu, sometime secretary to the queen and the author of Shepherd’s Paradise, a pastoral play performed by the queen and her ladies in 1633 (21-24). Archer’s attribution is certainly plausible, and Montagu’s involvement fits nicely with my overall contention that The Queens Closet Opened remembers the ideology of court drama. Leah Marcus contends that Interregnum Royalists had a habit of looking back to Stuart rule in this way: ‘royalists and royalist sympathizers coped with the loss of public ritual and festivity by recasting old ceremonies in more private forms and surrounding them with cryptic language and hermetic symbolism—barriers against the intrusion of hostile outsiders’ (213-14). The collection is also a recollection. Significantly, The Queens Closet Opened uses recipes to recall not just the material practices of the queen’s household but also her place of authority in intellectual and social relationships. Recipes generally are evidence of knowledge networks that link manuscript and print culture and male and female practitioners of medicine and cookery; recipes are, as Sara Pennell says, ‘as important to understand in the history of early modern cultures of knowledge as the ways in which their natural philosophical contemporaries deployed such texts at the heart of their experimental revisionism’ (253). What is interesting then about the physic recipes in The Queens Closet Opened is the way that the knowledge networks it makes evident are also hierarchical and political. Knowledge itself is produced through social processes, illustrating the involvement of the state, class, and patronage in what Ludmilla Jordanova calls the ‘social construction of medical knowledge’ (362-63). These recipes become knowledge because they are treasured royalist relics.

  3. The beautifying recipes in The Queens Closet Opened are especially intriguing because beauty is such a key component in the construction of the identity of Queen Henrietta Maria. Diane Purkiss maintains that the printing of the collection is ‘not an apolitical move’ precisely because of its beauty treatments, which, she says, ‘signify a kind of ‘colouring’ stigmatised in pre-Civil War criticisms of the queen and the king she ruled’ (77). But by looking at such recipes, not as paint, but as ‘beautifying physic,’ at their connection to other dramatic representations of the queen’s beauty, especially in Salmacida Spolia, and at the social connections between monarchs and medical culture evident in both recipe collection and masque, this essay will argue that the collection has a rather different political posture. Kevin Sharpe has warned against equating royal absolutism with decadence, immorality and the court and puritanism with sobriety, aesceticism, godliness, and the country (Criticism 3-22), and The Queens Closet Opened certainly disrupts this dichotomy. Eschewing overt, artificial, and gaudy display in the name of ‘true,’ natural and healthy nobility, the recipes situate beauty and fairness as signs of a vital constitution and natural power. Recipes stand among the queen’s epistemological contributions to balance and order, in the body and in the nation.

  4. The recipes for beautifying physic remedies are actually unexceptional, in that they are of the kind commonly found in medical treatises of the day. In The Queens Closet Opened this type of recipe appears without distinction from the others in the section ‘Physical & Chirurgical Receipts.’ Primarily herbal cures for heat, the recipes address redness or dryness in the face: ‘To make the face fair, and for a stinking breath’—a mixture of white wine and rosemary that can be drunk or used to wash the face (53); ‘For heat in the Face, and redness, and shining of the Nose’—a cloth wet with morning dew to wash the face (53-54); ‘An excellent Oyl to take away the heat and shining of the Nose’—an oil of almonds and gourd seed (54); two recipes ‘For heat or pimples in the Face’—one a face wash made of liverwort and the other a distilled face wash of several herbs, strawberry leaves, and milk (54,173); ‘For Sweating in the Face’—a herbal steam bath (55); ‘To make the Face fair’—a distilled face wash from bean blossoms (115); and ‘For heat or scurfe in the face’—an ointment made of cream and camomile (174). Within the humoral system of Galenic physiology heat is a problem that must be addressed to restore balance to the body, and thus a concern for the appearance of the face is not simply aesthetic.[2] The 1618 Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, which listed the preparations sanctioned by the College of Physicians in London, provides many similar cures for pimples, freckles, morphew, and sunburn, as does Nicholas Culpeper’s contemporaneous and extremely popular The English Physician. More particularly, the recipe in The Queens Closet Opened to make the face fair and the breath sweet is in Thomas Vicary’s The English Man’s Treasure (74) and Peter Levens’ Right Profitable Booke for all Diseases, called, The Path-way to Health (23). John Partridge’s Treasurie of Hidden Secrets (F4) reprints the recipe (it is also in his The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits), along with other waters to make the face white or fair, to remove high colour, heat or pimples, and to make the hands white and fair (F2v).

  5. Neither are marks, like freckles, merely aesthetic affairs. The Queens Closet Opened contains a recipe ‘To take away Freckles or Morphew’ (146)—a face wash based on May dew and oil of tartar—as well as two medicines to prevent the scars from small pocks (137-38), based on sperma ceti and bacon, respectively. A recipe ‘For a knock or bruise in the Face’ (144) involves brown paper and beer. Such marks, even freckles, seem to belong to the same category of problem, as things ‘foul’—marks of corruption or putrefication in the body that can be remedied by ‘cleansing.’ Nicholas Culpeper refers often to foulness in The English Physician; the root of briony, for instance, ‘cleanseth the skin wonderfully from all black and blue spots, freckles, morphew, Leprosie, foul scars, or other deformity’(35), which suggests that cleansing is not just the simple removal of dirt but a more substantial medical operation. The fairness that is the intended result of these concoctions is certainly not aligned with artifice, sexuality, or luxury, but with health and nature. They tend to the restoration of a bodily order disrupted by imbalance. Moreover, the ingredients in the recipes are primarily herbal and are not particularly expensive or rare. The processes involved are neither as complicated nor as esoteric as for the cosmetics published in Sir Kenelm Digby’s A Choice Collection of Rare Chymical Secrets and Experiments in Philosophy (1682), which rely on chemical ingredients and complex production processes (132-36, 236-38).[3] The most intricate beautifying receipt in The Queens Closet Opened is ‘An approved Medicine to beautifie the Face, or to take away pimples or heat in the face,’ a distillation of mercury, egg whites, lemon juice, milk, almonds and rose water (180-81). Yet even the use of mercury, a chemical ingredient, is common to the medical practices of both Galenic and Paracelsian medicine. Thomas Vicary, for example, recommends ‘quicksilver killed with fasting spettle’ as part of a cure for the ‘coppered face’ and mercury and quicksilver, ‘well killed,’ in other topical medicines, such as ‘An Unguent to heale the Serpigo’ and ointments for ‘the Morbus,’ an itch, and a ‘Scurffe’ (74, 160, 163, 206, 210). Andrew Wear observes that ‘Whilst [physicians] accepted that [mercury] produced dangerous side-effects for the patient, they swore by it’ (270), and even the approved cures in Pharmacopoeia Londinensis use mercury repeatedly.[4] Although mercury was not without its detractors—as Culpeper’s persistent criticisms in his translation of the Pharmacopoeia show—when the recipe in the queen’s collection employs the word ‘medicine,’ the usage is entirely legitimate according to standard health practices. The recipes for beautifying physic enclosed in the pages of The Queens Closet Opened conceptualize beautifying as an essential part of a regime of health. Beauty is a sign of a balanced physical order. Providing a way of reading the portrait of the queen that accompanies the volume, the recipes demonstrate that the beautiful queen who possesses such recipes is neither vain nor trivial. But she is beautiful, for despite her widow’s garb, she is also, according to Knoppers, wearing a costume similar to the one she wore in Tempe Restored (469)—where, interestingly, she played Divine Beauty herself. 

    Beauty and Physic at the Court of Henrietta Maria

  6. While the recipes for beautifying physic are fairly typical of such recipes, when they are published as the possessions of Queen Henrietta Maria they become the knowledge of a queen. This is significant because beauty was such a persistent component of the queen’s political identity, especially as it was created by the court masque. Erica Veevers has shown that Henrietta Maria’s performances in the masques embody the spiritual qualities of Beauty and Light, correlatives of neoplatonic and Counter-Reformation Catholic ideals, which also encompassed the Laudian preference for beauty in holiness:
    The Queen is the figure around whom conspicuous Catholic ritual revolved at court, and through the masques the classical austerity and discipline associated with the King are softened and enlightened by joining with the complementary qualities of beauty and light shining in the Queen … [Charles was] restoring the arts to the English Church as well as to the country, and his deepest wish was that Anglicanism should be a religion in which Truth and Beauty were one. The action and images of these masques seem to reflect such an ideal, uniting English moral reform with ‘divine’ beauty, and creating an image, in the union of the King and Queen, of a new and resplendent ‘British’ heaven’ (175, 179).
    Indeed, with the exception of Ben Jonson’s Chloridia (the Queen’s Shrovetide masque of 1631), in which Henrietta Maria takes the role of Chloris, goddess of the flowers, all of the masques in which Henrietta performed and for which we have surviving records saw her play a character for whom beauty was crucial. In Tempe Restored (Aurelian Townsend’s Shrovetide masque of 1632), the queen plays Divine Beauty. Accompanied by her ladies, fourteen stars of a happy constellation, she dissolves Circe’s sensual enchantments and demonstrates the superiority of the rational to the concupiscent. ‘Corporal beauty,’ Townsend concludes, ‘consisting in symmetry, colour, and certain expressable graces, shining in the Queen’s majesty, may draw us to the contemplation of the beauty of the soul, unto which it hath analogy’ (lines 361-364). The Temple of Love (the queen’s Shrovetide masque of 1635 prepared by Inigo Jones and William Davenant) has the queen playing Indamora, Queen of Narsinga, and her ladies, the lesser lights. Their beauty will reestablish the Temple of Chaste Love, which has been controlled by magicians who used it to intemperate ends; her arrival, prefaced by the advent of Orpheus, impresses poets: ‘each princess in her train hath all/That wise enamoured poets beauty call!’ (lines 421-22). Davenant’s Luminalia, performed first on Shrove Tuesday in 1638, has the queen performing as beauty and light to dispel sleep and night and, with the king, ‘making this happy island a pattern to all nations’ (line 37). Dedicated to the ladies of Luminalia, Francis Lenton‘s Great Britaines Beauties, or The Female Glory Epitomized (1638) is a collection of enconmiastic, anagramatical, and acrostic poems praising the queen and the masquers with the language of beauty; their beauty connects the ladies, like deities, to timelessness, noblity, virtue, truth, blessedness, and a chaste but erotic power that brings them influence over husbands, poets, and the observers of the masque. Finally, in Salmacida Spolia—the last of the Stuart masques, the King and Queen’s Twelfth Night Maque of 1639/40—the queen plays herself, dressed in Amazonian habits. As she descends, the song asks: ‘All those who can her virtue doubt,/Her mind will in her face advise.’ Beauty is evidence of her virtue and the source of her power: ‘Why stand you still, and at these beauties gaze,/As if you were afraid,/Or they were made/Much more for wonder than delight?’ (lines 433-36).

  7. Salmacida Spolia is engaged with dominant modes of beauty—neoplatonic, Marian, and political—as the other masques are, but it is also interested in recipes and medicine. In this, it connects beauty to the historical function of recipes in ways pertinent to The Queens Closet Opened. The premise of William Davenant’s production is that the world is disordered by envy of the blessings and tranquility long enjoyed. Physic, central to the conflict and its resolution, functions first at the level of metaphor: the nation is a body. Fury ‘stirs the humours’ in the nation ‘overgrown with peace,’ and makes the great suspicious, the rich avaricious, the poor ambitious, and religion vice (lines 138-153). After Concord and the ‘Good Genius of Great Britain’ arrive and go off to incite the beloved people to a cure, an anti-masque arrives, which places recipes quite literally on the stage. In this anti-masque—with an ancient Irishman, Scotsman, and Englishman, a nurse and children, a country gentleman, and others—Wolfgangus Vandergoose uses his medical receipts to attempt to cure the defects of nature. This is not a wholly new dramatic deployment of physic, for the anti-masque of The Temple of Love also includes ‘amorous men and women in ridiculous habits, and alchemists,’ whose place outside the Temple of Chaste Love is determined by the excess in their approach to dress and nature (line 295). Vandergooses’s confections are not as obviously misplaced as the alchemist’s, for his essences, julips, waters, electuaries, and powders seem to have some good effects, entertaining lovers and making eunuchs engender. His ‘Pomado of the bark of comeliness, the sweetness of wormwood, with the fat of gravity, to anoint those that have an ill mind’ (212-13) uses a common beautifying substance—a pomatum (an ointment, often of apples, for dry lips or skin)—in a figurative way. Made of beauty rather than producing it, the pomatum improves the mind, so that Vandergoose’s recipe gives beauty, along with sweetness and gravity, a curative power. His art of physic is surpassed by the knowledge of nature and beauty possessed by the king and queen. Just as in Tempe Restored Circe’s disorderliness was articulated in her call for medicine—‘Bring me some physic! though that bring no health’ (line 122)—Vandergoose’s physic can only be ineffectual because it is limited by his social position; far from august, Vandergoose’s costume is like that of a dwarf antimasquer in Chloridia (Orgel and Strong 434, 767). The effective remedy begins with the beloved people, who turn to their rulers. Led by Concord and the Good Genius of Great Britain, the people address themselves first to Marie de Medici and then to the King, who can calm the storm and cure the ‘epidemic’ of ‘murmuring’ (line 364). The king is the true physician, a natural source of authoritative knowledge: ‘He’s fit to govern there and rule alone/Whom inward helps, not outward force doth raise’ (line 378-79). Finally, the Queen and her ladies, in ‘Amazonian habits of carnation’ (line 393), arrive and the beloved people praise her wise studiousness, her virtue, and her power to inspire good in the people, chastity in lovers, and sight in men. Thus, the queen’s beauty also functions as a cure for the nation’s sickness. She does not instigate fear, but as king and queen join  together in a heaven of deities, subdues all that is harsh and rude, teaches, not forces, obedience, and inspires love ‘even by those who should your justice fear’ (line 482). Her beauty is the perfection of Vandergoose’s pomatum, true physic for a country most healthy when its subjects choose civility, obedience, and love of the royal couple, civic virtues that she inculcates with her appearance.

  8. Both beauty and physic are key components of this drama, although critics have tended to treat them as unrelated elements. Martin Butler contends that the antimasque represents the problems of England, not as a real threat, but as grotesques and follies; the masque itself is an inadequate attempt to ease the strains of the Stuart court, with its ambiguously passive king (59-74). For Graham Parry, the antimasque is ‘of a harmless, sportive nature, suggestive perhaps of the simple recreations that Charles recommended to his subjects;’ Parry, however, sees little ambiguity in the end, for it shows Charles relying on ‘magic: the divine right of kings that James had inculcated in him so thoroughly, the special providence of God that favoured the Stuarts [...] The King’s touch would heal the country’ (201-02). These critics read the masque exclusively in terms of its representation of the king, minimizing the feminine and neoplatonic elements. Butler, for instance, neglects entirely all of the female masquers and does not discuss the arrival of the queen and her ladies as penultimate movement of the masque, although it is this, as much as the arrival of the king, which leads to the resolution of the conflict. Karen Britland and Erica Veevers are more attentive to the role of the queen and her ladies. Veevers concentrates on the depiction of beauty, although the recipes do not figure in her reading. In Salmacida Spolia, according to Veevers, Inigo Jones ‘demonstrat[es] the power of Beauty to appeal through the eye to the soul, and creating for the Queen a Platonic image of great visual force’ (118). Recipes feature in Britland’s approach. Picking up on Enid Welsford’s observation that the recipes that appear in the antimasque of Salmacida Spolia are translations of French recipes that were part of the Ballet de la Foir St.-Germain, performed about 1606, Britland argues the masque is ‘in dialogue with continental forms of monarchical representation, recirculating iconological images in a manner which connected the English court to Bourbon spectacle in France, and to the grand Florentine productions of the Médicis’ (213).

  9. Pursuing Parry’s interest in the masque’s concern with national health, Veevers’ in neoplatonic beauty, and Britland’s in recipes, I want to argue that the queen’s beauty counters the false recipes of the antimasque. As much as her beauty is the Neoplatonic embodiment of abstract truth, her physical beauty is also the incarnation of the politicized construction of medical knowledge in the masque—the more absolute version of Vandergoose’s pomado of comeliness. This play gives the queen’s Platonized beauty a specific shape: the Amazon queen. The queen and her ladies don the garb of female warriors, ‘plumed helms, baldrics with antique swords,’ a ‘strangeness [...] most admired’ (lines 394-96; Orgel and Strong 735). Invoking more than the warrior queen, the Amazonian dress invokes its cognate, the Amazon River. Kathryn Schwartz argues that this kind of semantic slippage is common to the word Amazon, which can ‘refer to history or myth or the new world or your queen or your wife’ (22); even in a single text Amazon can be both river and population so that the word cannot signify in a straightforward way (56-57). So in Salmacida Spolia, Queen Henrietta Maria is Amazon and queen and river, a neat metonymic connection since the Amazon river is the sometime geographic home of the elusive race of female warriors. Sir Walter Raleigh’s Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana recounts his search for ‘those warlike women’ and locates them on the south side of the Amazon river (23). In addition to being the home of Amazon women, the Amazon river is—like Salmacis, ‘famous fountain of most clear water and exquisite taste’ (84-85)—a famous fountain of fresh water. Robert Harcourt, whose 1613 account of Guyana is dedicated to Charles I, then Prince Charles, represents the Amazon as ‘the great and famous river,’ a ‘mighty streame of fresh water’ that can change the salty sea to water ‘as fresh and good as in a spring or poole’ (4)—a claim that John Smith repeats in his True Travels (51). Precisely the same transformative, regenerative power is given to Salmacis; the stream reduces fierce natures ‘to the sweetness of the Grecian customs’ (92). The queen herself becomes a river—a river then of Amazonian powers—when the beloved people in the masque tell the Queen Mother, ‘the stream from whence your blessings flow, you bred’ (318). And like Henrietta Maria, the Amazon River is a queen, an imperial and feminine locale. A Publication of Guiana’s Plantation, which reworks Harcourt’s material, calls the Amazon, not just ‘that great and famous River’ but ‘the Empresse and Queene of all the Flouds’ and the greatest River [...] of the whole world’ (7). As a queen, the Amazon is an English possession, for Harcourt had gained a patent from Prince Henry for the coast of Guyana and ‘the famous River of Amazones, to him and his heires’ (Smith 49). The Queen is a river, the river is a queen, and both are powerful, sweet, regenerative, and governed by a patriarchal, English monarchy.

  10. The propitious powers of the Amazon extend beyond its freshness to encompass physic itself. Raleigh’s Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana catalogues amongst that nation’s treasures, the fruits, flowers, and trees that line the Amazon river, ‘sufficient to make ten volumes of herbals’ (45), medicines that counteract poison, quench fevers, and heal internal wounds (57), and cosmetics: ‘for painting, all France, Italy, or the east Indies yeeld none such: For the more the skin is washed, the fairer the cullour appeareth, and with which, even those browne & tawnie women spot themselves, and cullour their cheekes’ (95). Speaking generally of the area, he asserts, ‘both for health, good ayre, pleasure and riches, I am resolved it cannot bee equalled by any region eyther in the east or west’ (94). A Publication of Guiana’s Plantation reiterates this point, characterizing Guyana as ‘both healthfull and pleanat [sic]; for God in wisdome hath so ordered the heavens in their horizon, as that by meanes of a brieze (or fresh gale of winde) blowing in the day time, it quallifieth the heate, and maketh the climate much more temperate, as with us if often felt the like in heate of summer’ (14). Robert Harcourt adopts a similar stance, including medicine in his list of Guyana’s commodites: ‘[f]or phisick there be also many excellent Druggs, [...] Druggs and simples also of strange and rare vertue, in these parts unknowen’ (33-35). The Amazon then is not only powerful, feminine, and English, it is also a temperate source of health, and as such, an extremely compelling analogy for the queen in a play about a stream and the country’s ills. Curing the nation’s ‘sickness epidemical,’ the Amazon queen ultimately becomes a bridge over a river, a link between divine and human, which the people can pass over. Beauty is powerful, and it is also medicinal.

  11. Walter Montagu’s translation of Jacques Du Bosc’s The Accomplished Woman—the Walter Montagu who is potentially the W.M. of The Queens Closet Opened—also appeared in 1655. It, too, recalls the religious, philosophical and political approach to beauty that had dominated royalist discourse about Queen Henrietta Maria.[5] The translation does not condemn a concern with beauty as vain or frivolous, but commences its chapter on beauty with Platonic and theological justifications and a rejection of those who are too austere, and thus immoderate in their approach: ‘Those that adore or despise Beauty, either offer too much or too little to the image of God’ (102). The text does criticize painting, saying that it deserves ‘nothing but aversion’ (107), but endorses natural beauty for political reasons: ‘all the world payes a duty to such as nature hath thus advantaged’ (103). Moreover, art is sometimes necessary to produce that natural beauty: ‘I do not believe that there is any more harm to beautifie faces, then to set precious stones, or polish marble’ (118). While this position is not necessarily logically coherent—beauty cannot be natural and the effect of art—it is politically consistent in its acceptance of the utility of beauty’s political sway. Inherently belonging only to the elite, beauty is not tainted with the religiously suspect veneration of the image nor with being the morally suspect sign of vanity, for as an accurate representation of divinely inspired goodness its effect is powerfully aligned with social control. The production of beauty through physic recipes can be likened to more overtly ideological productions. Eschewing the artifice of ‘paint’ in the name of health, akin to Du Bosc’s polishing of marble, the beautifying receipts printed in The Queens Closet Opened are a form of social manipulation. They are a testament to the production of a balanced physical constitution suited to governing and a means to effect the fair nature to which the world can pay homage.

    The Queens Closet Opened and its Vandergooses

  12. The Queens Closet Opened performs royal authority as Salmacida Spolia does, effectively drawing physicians and their receipts on stage to demonstrate the monarch’s authority over their knowledge. Scholars of English literature are accustomed to thinking about the impact of patronage on literary production, but we are less aware, perhaps, that medicine was affected by the same social practice. The recipes for beautifying physic in The Queens Closet Opened occur in pages marked by more and less famous names and these evoke the social context in which the recipes were produced and exchanged. There are recipes attributed to kings, queens and princesses, such as King Edward, Queen Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of Charles I.[6] By listing Charles I as a contributor, the index of the 1658 edition makes him the purported source of ‘The Kings Medicine for the Plague’ (30) and the recipe on the opposite page, ‘A Medicine for the Plague that the Lord Mayor had from the Queen’ (31) is said by that index to have been approved by Queen Mary (A5), Henrietta Maria herself. As in Salmacida Spolia, the king and queen, concerned with the health of their nation, offer cures for a ‘sickness epidemical’—not murmuring, as in the masque, but the plague. This task is consonant with traditional configurations of royal authority. As Elizabeth Lane Furdell writes, ‘As an anointed monarch, the ruler claimed both inherent sacred gifts that enabled him to cure the sick and exalted prerogatives that gave him mastery over all the medical world’ (Royal Doctors 1). If the king can touch for the king’s evil, the opening of the queen’s closet, too, can offer cures.

  13. But along with offering cures, the monarch also authorized them, as Furdell says. This is particularly evident in the physicians’ contributions which appear alongside recipes from royalty and from elite men and women who served Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I (Archer 19-20; Knoppers 481-83).[7] Among the eighty three men and women identified as ‘prescribers and approvers’ of the recipes, The Queens Closet Opened includes recipes attributed to twenty five physicians (along with four surgeons, an oculist and an apothecary) who practiced medicine through the Elizabethan and Stuart periods.[8] The physicians’ names appear in the list of approvers directly after royalty, suggesting their consequence as contributors, the preeminent physician being Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, the contributor of a purge (180). A French Huguenot physician, he became chief physician to James I, was knighted by him in 1624, and then was appointed physician to Queen Henrietta Maria (Trevor-Roper). Incidentally, although Mayerne does not appear in The Queens Closet Opened as the contributor of any beautifying receipts, one of his case books, An original record book of cases and consultations of Sir Theodore Mayerne (Royal College of Physicians MS 444, ca. 1607-1651), contains fifteen pages of cosmetics receipts for Queen Anne And Queen Henrietta Maria, in a section entitled, ‘Cosmetica à me proescripta Regin: Magnaoe Britann: Anna & Henriettae Mariae ab anno 1612 ad 1643.’ The beautifying physic of queens is the concern of their chief physician.

  14. Although not all of the other medical practitioners who contribute recipes to The Queens Closet Opened were licensed physicians, and so do not appear in William Munk’s The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 1518-1800, those for whom I could determine identities were employed directly by the monarchs of England or were recipients of other forms of aristocratic patronage. Some also held prominent positions within the Royal College of Physicians in Elizabethan and Stuart England. The recipes testify to patronage relationships, to conflicts between intellectual and social authority, and most of all to the monarch’s role in medical culture. Explaining these clashes, Margaret Pelling contends that the president of the College of Physicians had some power, but he could become ‘a mere go-between of the College and Court; the President and College might have to make concessions to royal physicians (82). For their part, powerful members of society could protect or advance unlicensed practitioners and other physicians whose activities were questioned by the College; patrons could also attempt to facilitate the promotion of physicians as candidates or fellows of the College, outside influences which the College itself sought to thwart, while also maintaining such relationships to buttress their own authority (Pelling 234-45, 315-31).

  15. The role of patronage in constituting medical knowledge is evident in The Queens Closet Opened. The ‘Dr. Gifford’ who contributes amber pills for consumption (3) is one of either two men, both presidents of the College of Physicians. Roger Giffard was physician to Queen Elizabeth and President of the College (1581-1584); his name also appears in the list of gentlemen who received and gave New Years gifts to the Queen in 1588/89 (Munk, ‘Roger Giffard’). A perhaps less likely candidate, Dr. John Giffard, was president of the college in 1628 and attended William Camden in his final illness and death, Camden being the historian, author of the Britannia and a king of arms (Munk, ‘John Giffard’). Dr. Atkins, the source of four recipes (65, 73, 74, 83), is Henry Atkins. He served the Earl of Essex in 1597, was president of the College in 1606-1608, 1616, 1617, 1624, 1625, and was physician in ordinary to both James I and Charles I (Munk, ‘Henry Atkins’;Moore). He served James by bringing the sickly young Charles from Scotland to England in 1604 and, according to Elizabeth Lane Furdell, was a ‘regular conduit between court and the College (Royal Doctors 108). ‘Dr. Bates his Medicine against a Consumption’ is the work of George Bate, physician to Charles I when the court moved to Oxford and author of a 1648 defence of the king—something which did not stop him from becoming physician to Oliver Cromwell and his being named again as first physician with the Restoration (Munk, ‘George Bate’; Furdell, Royal Doctors 144-45; Furdell, ‘Bate’).[9] Dr. Wetherbotn (89), also spelled Wetherborn (1658, A5v), is probably Sir John Wedderbourne, who was one of Charles I’s physicians in ordinary and a doctor of medicine at St. Andrew’s University; he accompanied Prince Charles to Holland in 1646 and 1647 and was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1649 and knighted for his service (Munk, ‘Sir John Wedderbourne’; Furdell, Royal Doctors 123).

  16. Other physcians whose recipes appear in The Queens Closet Opened have less direct connections to the monarch but are the recipients of aristocratic patronage and/or prominent members of the College. Like Wedderbourne’s receipt, ‘Dr. Reads Perfume to smell against the Plague’ (39) might have come from a Scottish physician, in this case Alexander Reid, named a fellow of the College in 1624. His brother Thomas Reid was Latin secretary to James VI and I (Munk, ‘Alexander Rhead’; Vance; Furdell, The Royal Doctors 123). [10] Dr. Read might also be a Simon Read, who was an irregular practitioner imprisoned by the College of physicians and the recipient of the patronage of a Lady Howard (Pelling 238). A ‘Dr. Twines Almond Milk’ (82) must be the work of Thomas Twine, who practiced medicine in Lewes under the patronage of Lord Buckhurst, Thomas Sackville, first Baron Buckhurst; a friend of John Dee with an interest in astronomy and poetry and a translator of the Aeneid, Twine became a licentiate of the college in 1596. Lord Buckhurst asked that Twine be made a fellow but that did not happen before his death in 1613 (Munk, ‘Thomas Twine’; Clark 136). A Dr. Brasdale is said to be a contributor, with Drs. Fryer and Atkinson, of a recipe for a broth for the cough and lungs made for the ‘Lord Treasurer’ (59-60), surely William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Given that Munk’s Roll dates to 1585 the admittance of Christopher Atkinson to the College of Physicians as a licentiate, Dr. Fryer is likely Thomas Fryer, a Catholic fellow of the College from 1572, and Brasdale, William Baronsdale, a censor of the College in 1581 and its president for eleven consecutive years, beginning in 1589 (Munk, ‘Christopher Atkinson’; --- ‘Thomas Fryer’; ---William Baronsdale’).[11] ‘Dr. Mountfords Cordial Water’ (290) probably comes from Thomas Mountford (or Moundeford), admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1593, its president in 1612-1614, 1619, 1621-1623, and a contributor to the Pharmacopoeia. He dedicated his published work to James I (Munk, ‘Thomas Moundeford’; Moore).

  17. Other contributors identified as physicians seem likely to have been irregular practitioners, but again the recipients of royal patronage. The first two recipes in The Queens Closet Opened come from a Dr. Butler (1-2, 293-94), but no Butler was admitted to the College before the 1680s. However, a William Butler, a Cambridge practitioner styled as a doctor although he never actually took the degree, had documented royal and court connections, including Lord Burghley, who interceded with the College on his behalf (Clark 140). Butler attended to Henry, Prince of Wales, before he died, and James I in 1614 and 1615 and received special dispensation to visit patients in London; he was, according to John Aubrey, ‘the greatest Physitian of his time’ and a rival of Mayerne (Cooper; Clark 140; Furdell, The Royal Doctors 109-10). Another possibility for Dr. Butler’s identity is George Butler. Clark reports that he had a license to practice surgery and necessary medicine that came from the archbishop of Canterbury, eventually taken away under pressure from the College (206, 263-64). His activities were repeatedly challenged by the College between 1617 and 1633, but he appears in the Annals of the college as a king’s servant and as extraordinary surgeon to the king, which afforded him some protection until 1630 (Pelling 89, 160-61). Whatever the identity of Dr. Butler, he was almost certainly an irregular practitioner whose recipes document his patronage relationships with aristocratic members of the court, including the monarchs themselves.

  18. Indirectly then, these recipes mark royal authority. If the recipes demonstrate the medical knowledge of the practitioner, an authority grounded in the experience alluded to on the title page of The Queens Closet Opened, the recipes are also bids for royal and aristocratic favour and for social and professional advancement, a power that rests in the hands of the socially elite. Looking at the identities of some of the contributors, Laura Lunger Knoppers sees the volume as a kind of bridge, through which the queen can be ‘assimilated [...] into a multigenerational social network, distinguished above all, by its Englishness’ (483-84). The volume does function in this way, and as such, is interestingly akin to the final image of Salmacida Spolia: the bridge. But the social network made visible is more than just historical and English. It is also hierarchical, a ladder on which the rungs are sites of competing types medical authority. Ultimately, the queen has accepted and kept, and so approved, the physicians’ recipes, and in this she demonstrates, as the king and queen do in Salmacida Spolia, the monarch’s triumph in the contest of knowledge between court and physician.

  19. The language of domestic medicine and of appearance are a part of the critique of Charles I, which makes physic recipes in general and beautifying recipes in particular useful polemical tools. The king’s concern for his queen’s health was a sign of his misplaced priorities and subordination within his marriage: he prefers ‘her health before the exigence and importance of his owne publick affaires’ (The Kings Cabinet Opened 43). Marchamont Nedham insists that the opening of the king’s cabinet reveals Charles to be of ‘Lady Cloaca’s Kitchen,’ with the publication of his letters in The Kings Cabinet Opened serving as a form of housecleaning that ensures that secrets can ‘not be trasured up any more in Malignant Chambers and Closets’ (343); that is, publication ensures the restoration of health to the household. And, of course, the distinction between Cavalier and Roundhead hung on a hairstyle (Williams; Fisher 143-58). One royalist response to this critique is a framed set of the king’s instructions for a pious life, in which the king reminds himself that his will should be firm, obedient, and mature, his behaviour discrete, courteous and cheerful, and his apparel comely, clean, and decent (Sharpe, ‘An Image’ 37-39); another, exemplified in newsbooks, is to represent the queen as beautiful (de Groot 204-6). If a comely and clean appearance can aid in the justification of hereditary monarchy, and malignant, unhealthy closets in its censure, The Queens Closet Opened is a coherent, polemical royalist publication. The volume testifies to the healthfulness of her entire domestic life. The volume’s recipes for beautifying physic, for a queen whose power is persistently represented through an ideological configuration of beauty, contend that her beauty is the natural outcome of good health, an ordered bodily complexion created through physical balance; concern for her appearance is neither vanity nor a subversion of hierarchy. She is connected to English (and Scottish) society, and especially to its physicians, and their concern for the queen’s health is legitimate and historically rooted, persisting over several reigns and requiring the attention, not just of men but of institutions, like the College of Physicians. These recipes are indeed, ‘soveraign receipts.’ They are the accumulated knowledge of a queen, and their dispensation seeks to effect a powerful cure, the restoration of the monarchy.

[1] See Knoppers and Pennell, as well as Elaine Leong, ‘Medical Recipe Collections in Seventeenth-century England: Knowledge, Text and Gender,’ diss. Oxford University, 2006; Catherine Field, ‘‘Many Hands’: Early Modern Women’s Reciept Books and the Politics of Writing Food for the Nation,’. diss. University of Maryland, 2006; Madeline Bassnett, ‘Receipt Books and the Politics of Food in Early Modern English Women’s Writing,’ diss. Dalhousie University, forthcoming 2007. For examples of receipt books with a clearly polemical and royalist stance see Theodore Turquet de Mayerne. Archimagirus Anglo-Gallicus: or Excellent & Approved Receipts and Experiments in Cookery [...] According to the French Mode, and English Manner (London, 1658), and The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth, Commonly called Joan Cromwel, the Wife of the late Usurper Cromwell (London, 1664).

[2] For more on this see Copeman and Copeman. As Gail Kern Paster says of the humoural body more generally, ‘Bodily events that in the absence of disease we ordinarily regard as trivial—nosebleeds, for instance, or splinters [we might add pimples or redness]—might in the humoural body be fraught with significance as unwilled alterations of the body’s internal state, as exceptional evacuations or perilous invasions of this porous fragile envelope’ (12).

[3] Sir Kenelm Digby contributes one recipe to The Queens Closet Opened, for aqua mirabilis (290-91). He was an acquaintance of Walter Montagu and chancellor of the queen’s household in France.

[4] For more on the use of mercury in beautifying physic, see my forthcoming article ‘‘The Beautifying Part of Physic’: Women’s Cosmetic Practices in Early Modern England,’ The Journal of Women’s History.

[5] For more on the publication history of this work, see Veevers, ‘The Source.’

[6] ‘King Edwards Perfume’ (272); ‘Queen Elizabeths perfume’ (272); ‘To make a Cake the way of the Royal Princess the Lady Elizabeth daughter to King Charles the First’ (256).

[7] Archer says that the Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Oxford is the author of ‘The Receipt of the Lady Kents Powder presented by her Ladyship to the Queen’, but the appellation seems to be an typographical error, since Elizabeth Grey is the Countess of Kent, and Archer correctly alludes to her as the sister of Alatheia Howard and the author of published recipe collections.

[8] I am relying here on both The Queens Closet Opened (London, 1655) and The Queens Closet Opened, 4th ed. corrected with many additions (London, 1658). This edition includes the list of prescribers. Unless otherwise indicated, I am citing the 1655 edition.

[9] Neither the recipe attributed to Bate nor any of the cosmetic recipes in The Queens Closet Opened are in the published version of Bates’ recipes, Pharmacopoeia Bateana: Or Bate’s Dispensatory (London, 1700).

[10] The recipe for the plague in The Queens Closet Opened is not found in Alexander Read’s published recipe collection, Most excellent and approved medicines & remedies for most diseases and maladies incident to man’s body (London, 1652).

[11] Munk’s Roll lists 3 Fryers: John Frier, Thomas Fryer, and John Fryer (300-3, 67-69, 24-25). For corrections to Munk’s Roll regarding their identities and their relationship to each other, see Goodwin and both articles by White. Goodwin’s article mentions a Thomas Fryer, the father of this John Fryer.

Works Cited


Responses to this piece intended for the Readers‘ Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2007-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).