Thursday, 14 February 2013

Royal Changelings

Changeling accusations were not just thrown at the public.  Royals were also accused and this was not what can be called a rare occurrence.  Those considered disabled or 'ugly' were often branded changelings.  Some of those in the British history of royalty to be accused of this are below.

Charles I (Original)
Charles I
One little known tradition is that Charles I was a changeling.  As a child, he was described as irritable and bad-tempered, with his parents complaining of his restlessness during the night while they stayed at Dumfermline Palace.  The folk of Dumfermline claimed that his Scottish nurse cried out on one such night, with King James running in to ask her what the matter was.  She told him that ''there was one like a auld man come into the room and threw his cloak owre the prince's cradle and syne drew it till him again, as if he had taken cradle, bairn and a' away wi' him.  I'm feared it was the thing that's no canny.''  This statement told the King that she believed the 'auld man' was a fairy that had kidnapped the young prince, leaving in his place a fairy changeling. 

Charles' temperament was cause for rumour.  Restlessness and bad-temper alone were linked with changeling children.  However, the King and Queen dismissed the nurse's fears as imagination, but among the public, rumours continued and the tradition of Charles I being a changeling began.

James I (Original)
James I
King James I was also regarded as a changeling, which can be traced back to his birth and was encouraged by Protestants.  His relationship with Esme Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox, caused many a rumour to fly, with some regarding him as a homosexual.  James I's appearance also caused people to claim that he was a changeling.  He was not the most attractive of children, being short and walking with a rolling gait suggestive of rickets.  James' eyes were somewhat bulbous and he apparently had problems swallowing, meaning that he frequently drooled.  This last affliction affected his speech which, at times, was slurred.

Rumours from the time tell us that his mother, Mary, Duchy of Modena, had given birth to a stillborn and that the changeling had be brought into the birthing room in a warming pan in order to prolong King James II's Catholic rule.  While this accusation was false (there were around 200 witnesses in the birth chamber), the privy council's investigation disagreed, and the rumour was a contributing factor in the Glorious Revolution, where James II was disposed of and was replaced by Mary II, his eldest daughter from his first marriage to Anne Hyde, and her husband, William III of Orange.

Edward 11 (Original)
Edward II
In 1318, a man named John of Powderham claimed that Edward II was a changeling, and that John himself was the rightful King of England.  Edward was greatly amused by this incident, welcoming John and greeting him as 'my brother'.  He was so amused that he wanted to appoint John court jester.  However, Queen Isabella and his barons didn't see the funny side of this situation and disagreed with Edward.  John of Powderham was, instead, hanged.

Richard III (Original)
Richard III
Richard III's life is a controversial one and, as a child, there were some accusations that he was a changeling.  This accusation all stems from how different he was to his siblings.  Richard was the youngest of seven children who survived infancy.  Where they were fair, Richard was dark.  Where they were chubby, healthy children, Richard was undersized and sickly.  These differences were enough to contribute to the rumours of him being a changeling child.  Queen Margeret made note that Richard was born with teeth; an indication that he was not human.  He was born feet first, and his mother commented that he was a difficult wretch every step of the way.  In Shakespeare's play, Richard III, Margaret says:

Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog,
Thou that wast seal'd in thy nativity, 
The slave of nature and the son of hell,
Thou slander of thy heavy mother's womb,
Thou loathed issue of thy father's loins (1.3.227)

In modern English, this tells us that Margaret was suggesting that Richard was a changeling who was more like an animal than a man and that his birth was unnatural.  He was marked as ugly because he came from hell and was no blessing to his parents, in that, where their relationship should have been a loving and natural one, they had only hatred and loathing for their son.  Richard was considered unnatural.

Next time: We will look at the story of the Cottingley Fairies.