The Great Picture
Great pictures can come in all manner of shape and size. What makes it great? That definition is truly in the mind of the viewer, being that art appeals to everyone on different levels. For myself, and this blog, there has to be more; history, villainy, obstacles overcome, the thread that weaves the Great Picture into the fabric of more than one instance. I love finding these nuggets of time, studying the events and digesting the information for my readers.
Let Uther Pendragon do what he can
The Eden will run where the Eden ran.
This unusual triptych, commissioned by Lady Anne Clifford in 1646, celebrates a long battle that was settled through sheer determination, fortitude and the death of others. The family estates, willed by her father, George Clifford, to his brother in 1605, were to revert to Anne only if the male line should fail. Anne was George’s only surviving child. In a tenacious battle, Anne fought to gain control of the estates, falling out with two husbands and resisting an order to relinquish her claim from King James himself. Both of her husbands had to good grace to die long before she did, thus adding by degrees to her wealth.
The artist Jan van Belcamp painted The Great Picture to the Lady’s own design and specification, depicting three points in her life. The left panel of the triptych shows Anne at age 15, the year her father died. The central section depicts her parents and her two younger brothers that died in childhood. The final panel is Anne at age 56, Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery, standing in front of portraits of her husbands. This final stage of the drama takes place when she finally gained her northwestern inheritance.
Though she did not succeed in asserting herself over her male relatives in their lifetime, Anne outlived them all, making her mark as a patron of charitable causes and as a family historian. Her close relationship with her mother partly accounts for her dogged self-belief and formidable character. Lady Clifford erected a monument to her mother’s memory on the spot where they last said goodbye in 1616. The monument, erected in 1656, is located near Penrith, England.
One of the properties in this contested portfolio is Pendragon Castle. According to legend, Uther Pendragon and a hundred of his men were killed here when the Saxon invaders poisoned the well. The castle was attacked twice by the Scots, in 1360 and 1541, leaving it in a ruinous state, until extensively repaired in 1660 by Lady Anne. She added a brewhouse, a bakehouse, stables and coach house. It remained one of her favorite properties until her death in 1676.
Lady Anne’s successor, the Earl of Thanet, had no use for the castle and removed everything of value, including the lead for the roof. By 1770 the second story had collapsed and gradual decay furthered the building to become the romantic ruin seen today.
This little vignette of history is just a small entry, with many, many more to be offered on these pages. Do you have a favorite story of history? I look forward to chatting with you about the microcosms of history where you find inspiration!