Veritas Temporis Filia
By Richard Bishop
"Here is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven"
Between 1552 and 1572, hundreds of skilled craftsmen were employed on the decoration of the St. Janskirk in Gauda. In the North Transept can be seen the magnificent King's Window, which took two years to complete. In one panel Solomon is offering a sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem. The sacrifice has burst into flames, a sure sign that the offering has found favour in the eyes of the Lord. In one of the ten banderols that bear inscriptions the following can be read. 'The most illustrious Philip, son of the invincible and most exalted Emperor Charles V, by the Grace of God King of Spain, England, France and the Two Sicilies, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Gelderland etc., Count of Flanders, Hainault, Holland, Zeeland, etc., and Lord of Friesland, etc., Father of our Fatherland, the meekest and most pious of Sovereigns, donated this glass to decorate this church. May his throne, filling the entire world like the sun, stand for all eternity. In the year of Christ our Saviour, 1557.'
In another scene nearby is the Last Supper. The disciple Philip has just put his request to Christ, 'Lord, let us see the Father and we shall be satisfied', to which Christ replies 'To have seen me is to have seen the Father.' In front of the table, kneeling on the floor, is the 'meekest and most pious sovereign', Philip, and behind him kneels his wife, Mary Tudor, Queen of England
For four years the Most Catholic monarch rejoiced in his title King of England, but the powers the title should have brought remained a tantalising prospect, never a concrete reality. When his father, the Emperor Charles V, first heard that a marriage contract had been signed he is said to have exclaimed 'now the Kingdom of England will come to Spain.' By the time the great windows in the Janskirk were completed Queen Mary was dead, and the 'meekest and most pious' Philip was no longer king of England. The small island kingdom, briefly a part of the realm that filled 'the entire world like the sun', had somehow eluded the Habsburg's grasp.
Negotiations had begun in 1552. On November 6th that year Charles's ambassador in England, Simon Renard Sir de Bermont, advised his master that the Queen's council was against a Spanish marriage. Renard had been warned by his friend, Bishop Gardiner, that the English were consumed by 'the very fear of a foreign match.' It was this fear that had persuaded the dying King Edward to nominate the newly married Lady Jane Grey as his successor, in preference to his two older, but unmarried, half-sisters, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth. At least that was the argument put forward by the Duke of Northumberland, and for a brief time it seemed the country might agree with him and accept Jane as Queen. But within days public opinion had swung in favour of Henry VIII's eldest daughter. Blood was thicker than water, and Mary entered London in triumph. The hapless Jane, Queen for only nine days, was placed under close arrest and lodged in the Tower.
To his delight the Emperor discovered that Queen Mary was very much in favour of the Spanish match. In Spain the Marques de las Navas was entrusted with the mission to take the lavish betrothal gifts to England. Among the countless items of silks and embroideries, jewels and works of art, one piece won the admiration of all who saw it. This was 'La Peregrina', a fabulous pearl, reputedly the largest pearl in the world, set as a pendant, described by Andres Mu..oz, servant to His Serene Highness the Infanta don Carlos, as 'A great diamond with a fine large pearl pendant from it. They were the most magnificent pair of gems ever seen in this world, and valued at over 25,000 ducats.' Queen Mary was to be especially pleased with this gift, and she wore the jewel, near to her heart, in preference to all others, until the day she died.
News of the agreement caused consternation back in England. Despite Mary's protestations that she was the bride of England first and a bride of Spain second, armed uprisings broke out when the marriage was proclaimed on 14 January 1554. The main problem, as many had foreseen, was that to the Tudor mind a husband inherited all of his wife's worldly goods and titles, and even if provision was made for the Queen to retain use of these for her lifetime, there was the question of inheritance. What if the Queen gave birth and died while the child was still a minor? Would the Spanish King become Regent? Even if the Queen lived to a ripe old age, was it not inevitable that her small island kingdom would eventually be swallowed up by the throne that was already 'filling the entire world like the sun'?
Mary showed great courage at this moment of crisis. She appeared before the London mob and vowed that she would never marry at all unless all her 'sogettes shall be content'. She promised a Parliament that would not merely ratify the marriage settlement, but would safeguard England's interests. The rebels were defeated, but the mood of the country was very clear. Parliament duly ratified the Marriage Settlement, but in April the same Parliament published 'An Acte declaringe that the Regall power of thys realme is in the Queen's Maiestie as fully and absolutely as ever it was in anye her moost nobl progenytours kynges of thys Realme.'
At the heart of all this was a fear of foreign domination. It was not a hatred of Catholicism, but a hatred of foreigners that stirred up the passions of the common people. It would have been the same if Mary had set her heart on a Protestant German prince. From the very outset the Spanish were put on notice that England would not become part of the Habsburg dominions without a fight. Under this cloud Philip arrived in England with a small army that included nobles, ladies, and retainers, but not one soldier. The Spanish and Flemish troops that accompanied him from Spain were instructed by the Emperor to remain in their ships. Much to their disgust these troops remained cooped up for weeks until eventually they were sent to help the Emperor regain control of his rebellious Dutch provinces.
The couple were married in Winchester Cathedral on 25 July 1554. The ceremony was conducted by Bishop Gardiner, and a host of the greatest Peers of the realm gave the bride away. It was carefully staged that at every juncture Philip was never in an equal position to Mary. Even at the wedding banquet he sat in a lower place, on a smaller throne, and was served after the Queen. The Spanish observed that in England the monarch was not a true monarch at all, but more like a servant, under the rule of over mighty Lords and every day at the mercy of rebellious and uncouth subjects. The English, it was noted with derision, dressed themselves in coats covered with a superfluity of buttons, and could not dance.
The royal marriage caused considerable confusion. The Queen was still the monarch, and in theory Philip had no independent executive powers and was forbidden by Parliament from acting alone or even from persuading the Queen to act in Spain's interests. But in many ways the signs for the future were not good. Philip was named first on all Royal Proclamations, the style being 'Philip and Mary, by the Grace of God King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol'. More ominous to the man in the street was the redesigned coinage.
Gold Sovereign of Mary, showing the Queen enthroned, holding orb and sceptre, her hair flowing loose beneath her crown.
Gold Angel of Philip and Mary, with the two initials P and M now on the reverse, Philip's initial in the dominant position.
Silver Shilling of Philip and Mary, dated 1554, with their titles as King and queen of England, France and Naples, and Prince of Spain, the king in the dominant position, his name first in the legend, and the English crown suspended ambiguously above them both.
Gold Angel of Mary, the reverse with Mary's initial and the Tudor rose above the royal arms.
Prior to her marriage Mary had issued gold and silver coins with very distinctive portraits. On the gold Sovereign she is enthroned, holding orb and sceptre, and wearing a crown. Her hair is loose and falls down in thick tresses. On the gold Ryal the Queen stands in a ship, holding a sword and shield. Again her hair is loose beneath her crown. On the silver coinage the portrait is in profile to the left, a more realistic portrait, and again the queen's hair flows out from under her crown and down her neck. The loose hair is symbolic. A woman with her hair loose and flowing was a maiden, a virgin, and, it was hoped, fertile. In all representations, painting, sculpture, ceramics, as well as on coinage, this was the case, a potential bride was always depicted like this, and a royal bride was no exception. There were other symbols, the white dress, pearls, etc., but the profusion of thick flowing tresses was a clear sign to the world of a woman's natural potential, regardless of wealth or political position.
After the marriage the design on the coinage had necessarily to include the name and a portrait of Philip. The manner in which this was done dismayed the Queen's subjects. Philip was given a position and style equal to, if not above, that of the Queen. His portrait faced hers, was the same size, on the same level, but he was placed in the dominant position. His name came first in the legend. Most worrying of all, the crown, which all observers knew represented the crown of England, was shown hovering above both of them, mid way between the two. The crown was no longer Mary's sole property. Further, the Queen's portrait was drastically altered. She was now depicted wearing a cap, not a crown, a cap that fully covered her hair and came down over her ears. She had become a matron. She was, it is true, ten years older than Philip, but now she appeared much older, and no longer the powerful independent monarch that England wanted to see. She was transformed into the perfect wife - some would have observed the perfect obedient Habsburg wife. For her part the Queen was clearly happy in her new role. As it says in Ecclesasticus, 'A virtuous woman rejoiceth her husband.' Her husband might rejoice. Her subjects did not.
And then, in November 1554, the Queen announced that she was pregnant. In Spain the Emperor heard the news with joy. His plans were advancing apace. 'Now the kingdom of England will come to Spain.' It is significant that it was at this moment that official portraits of Mary were commissioned. The court portraitist, Antonis Mor was despatched to London to paint the Queen's portrait. On his return to the Netherlands he painted many pairs of portraits of Philip and Mary, several of them surviving today, and the engraver Frans Huys reproduced them as prints and spread the message on behalf of his Habsburg masters. At the same time, grand medals, the grandest medals yet produced for Philip, were commissioned from the Italian goldsmith and sculptor, Jacopo da Trezzo, who was also sent to London. The medal of Mary was to be da Trezzo's masterpiece.
The portrait of Mary is similar to that on the new coinage, possibly because da Trezzo was responsible for them both. The Queen is shown in profile facing to the left. She again wears her cap, not her crown, and the cap is so firmly secured under her chin that it appears almost uncomfortably secure. Her flowing locks are nowhere in sight. The Queen does not wear any royal regalia, no ermine robe, no Garter Badge, no wide ruff, but she sits stiff in a tight fitted heavily brocaded dress with a high collar. As in the various painted portraits, Mary wears a single jewel, her favourite, La Peregrina.
Gold Ryal of Mary, showing the Queen standing in the ship of state, holding sword and shield, again her hair loose and flowing down over her shoulders.
The reverse is a magnificent allegory. A draped female figure, wearing a radiate crown, sits on a curule chair. The crown is a symbol of Divine authority, and the Roman curule chair is the seat of worldly government. In her right hand she brandishes high above her head twin branches of olive and palm. These too are symbols of the Divine and the Worldly powers. (Contemporaries were well aware of the symbolism, the olive branches thrown down by the crowds as Christ entered Jerusalem, from the east, by way of the Mount of Olives, at the beginning of Passover week, and the palm branches carried aloft in solemn procession before the Roman Procurator Pilate as he entered Jerusalem from the west at the same time.) She twists slightly, for she is a woman of action. With her left hand she sets a flaming torch to a trophy of arms, thus actively bringing about peace. She kneels on a tilted cube, a heptagon, the symbol of the sacred number seven of the ancient philosophers, called the Telesphoros because by it 'all in the Universe and Mankind is led to its end.' On the tilted cube are two clasped hands and below that lies a pair of scales. This refers to the foundations of Civic Government, as Cicero explains in his De Officiis, 'fundamenta rei publicae, concordiam primum… deinde aequitatem' (the foundation of the Commonwealth is first Concord… then Justice.). The woman towers over the other figures that crowd about her. On her right are several agitated men, the most prominent being a bearded man dressed in he style of a member of one of the 'Reformed' churches, clasping his hands over his ears, and next to him a half naked man looking up towards the central figure, an intent expression on his face. At her left side a woman stands (or kneels?) meekly before her, recalling, by her posture, the Virgin Mary of the Annunciation with her submissive 'be it done to me according to thy word'. Other figures look on, and beside them is a large classical temple in which scholars are debating. Below her there is water, while immediately above her the heavens are brightened by rays. The legend reads 'CECIS VISVS TIMIDIS QVIES', 'Sight to the blind, tranquillity to the timid.'
This crowded and complex scene presents us with a figure of great significance. There is not a single religious reference, and this is important. The woman is Sacra Philosophia, Sacred or Natural Philosophy, the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and at this time increasingly regarded by many religious thinkers as the true basis of Good Government. Sacra Philosophia was the Church's answer to the claims of the Moral Philosophers, the Humanists, as well as the various religious Reformers, who challenged the authority of the Church of Rome. Her authority is of Divine origin, she forms a bridge between heaven and earth, she rules with justice, she rests (here she literally kneels) on the foundations of philosophy, she actively brings about peace, and she rules over all mankind. Some of her subjects are tortured by doubts and false doctrines, while others passively accept the Divine Will. Only the Moral Philosophers, enclosed in their Temple (emphasising how they are trapped by their own circular arguments into forever building their own impractical worlds), refuse to join her company. All other peoples, of all shades of belief, can be embraced by Sacra Philosophia. Even heathens, who are ignorant of Christianity, are subject to her laws, since they too are subject to Divine Providence. This was at the heart of the newly evolving concept of government in a Habsburg Empire that now included half the Americas, 'filling the entire world like the sun'.
The image of a Woman representing Wisdom was not new. The Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament introduced her as the fitting bride for the King. The king was widely held to be Solomon himself. The Song of Songs developed and enriched this idea with vivid and at times highly sensuous imagery. Boetius introduces a majestic figure of a powerful Woman representing Philosophy in his hugely influential 'De Consolatione Philosophiae' (The Consolation of Philosophy). Throughout the Middle Ages Philosophy is always represented as a woman, eventually becoming a Queen, though Da Trezzo certainly found the inspiration for this particular depiction of Sacra Philosophia in Italian sculpture, such as the figures on the great bronze monument to Sixtus IV in the Vatican Grottoes, completed by Antonio dal Pollaiuolo in 1493.
The Medieval mind conflated the ideas of Divine Wisdom, Philosophy, the perfect Woman, The Virgin, and even the Pearl, which becomes a symbol of all these others. As the Pseudo Macarius, describing the pearl in the diadem of the Empire, explains 'the king alone may wear the pearl, image of the ineffable light of the Saviour. Those who posses the Pearl will live and reign with Christ for all eternity.' And in the New Testament Jesus gives us this memorable image. 'Here is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. A merchant searching for fine pearls found one of very great price. So he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.' The Pearl was a symbol of Wisdom, and the Queen of England treasured the Pearl of Great Price her Spanish husband gave her above all other gifts.
Cast and chased silver Medal by Jacopo da Trezzo.
For Philip was another Solomon. In his progress through the Netherlands in 1549 numerous Triumphal Arches and tableaux vivants emphasised this, usually to the sound of trumpets. Cardinal Pole in a speech at Westminster in 1554 refers to Philip as Solomon, 'Rex Pacificus', and the great King's Window in Gauda reminds us of this yet again. Solomon built the Temple, Philip was to build the Escorial. Solomon was often depicted with the Queen of Sheba, who visited him to see for herself his splendour and to hear at first hand his wisdom. Philip and Mary are Solomon and Sheba in the painting by Lucas de Heere for the celebrations of the 23rd Chapter of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Ghent in 1559. Sheba recognised the Divine source of Solomon's wisdom, and she acknowledged him as her superior. In the words of the Old Testament, after the Queen had witnessed Solomon's glory 'there was no more spirit in her.' And so Mary wears her Pearl, and her matron's cap. Her once flowing hair is bound up and hidden, but she has been given a greater gift to treasure, the Pearl of Great Price.
The Emperor Charles remained firm in his belief that 'England will come to Spain'. When he heard that the English Parliament proposed to put Mary's name first when their joint titles were proclaimed he was enraged and forbade it, writing that 'no Law, Human
or Divine, would allow him (Philip) to be named second.' Andmeanwhile the rule of Sacra Philosophia would not only hold sway in England, but would bring about, eventually, the dream of the Emperor Charles, the reuniting of Christian Europe. Da Trezzo's great medal is a superb piece of Habsburg propaganda, a fleeting vision of what might have been if all had gone according to plan.
But Mary died, childless, in 1558. Her persecution of Protestants made it inevitable that England would eventually reject for good the Catholic Church. Philip did not give up immediately. His first diplomatic move after Mary's death was to propose marriage to her Protestant half sister, the new Queen of England, Elizabeth. But as Elizabeth had told Philip's envoy, her sister 'had lost the affection of the people of this realm because she had married a foreigner.' Now England had another Queen with free flowing hair, and this time history would not repeat itself.
In 1555 the Emperor Charles retired to the small monastery at Yuste near Cárcares in Spain. He also died in 1558. The numerous nations of the New World that were now under Spanish rule might eventually be accommodated by the new concepts of government, but nearer home his diplomacy had been a failure. The Habsburg lands were partitioned, and in Europe, as in England, divisions were hardening. The Council of Trent would condemn, among others, those who argued for a 'Double Truth' and so Philosophy should no longer be separated from Religion. The Humanists, such as Erasmus, as well as the followers of Averroes, such as Siger of Brabant, would be sent into oblivion. Their works would soon appear on the Index, the list of condemned books. The University at Louvain, the Collegium Trilingue, now the centre for Humanist studies in Europe, would be investigated by the Church, its lectures censured, its books burnt, and its teachers dispersed (some to lead Protestant communities in countries outside the Empire). For the Catholic Church, Sacra Philosophia would rule. This was the beginning of the Counter Reformation. In Spain the position was greatly altered by a major political and religious crisis that was unleashed 1557-1559 when whole communities of 'Protestants' were discovered in Seville and Valladolid. The archbishop of Toledo was arrested, and the Inquisition held two grand autos-dafé. The dream of the Emperor Charles of a united Christian Europe would soon become for his son Philip a blinding vision of a united Catholic Europe.
The medal remained as a reminder of what might have been. A similar allegorical scene was to be used fifty years later, to adorn a Triumphal Arch in Antwerp that greeted the Archduke Ernst of Austria in 1595, but in a different milieu the original meaning was lost and by the time it made its appearance in print the scene was completely misread. The strong and active figure of Sacra Philosophia was mistaken for the usually meek figure of Peace, and the Temple of Moral Philosophers was mistaken for the Temple of Janus. This was the meaning wrongly given fifty years after the event by Typotius in his Symbola divina et humana, printed in Prague 1601-3 with engravings by Aegidius Sadeler, and by Francisco Gomez de la Reguera in his Empresas de los Reyes de Castilla y de Leon, printed c.1632. Gomez had clearly not seen the medal and must have been guided by a verbal description, for his accompanying engraving makes a nonsense of the scene. He places the crowd well apart from the central figure, and he is unsure why there is a temple and so he adds 'de Jano?' This is an easy mistake to make if you have not seen the medal, for Peace was indeed sometimes depicted setting fire to a trophy of arms, as in a medal for Philip II by G. Paolo Poggini. In this case however the attribution is certain, for Peace wears a wreath, holds a full cornucopia, and the temple of Janus is depicted with closed doors, exactly as it is on Roman coins of the same subject. Even the motto tells us 'PACE TERRA MARIQ COMPOSITA'. On the medal of Mary not one of these important attributes is present.
The prominent Temple of Moral Philosophers is in fact an important element in da Trezzo's allegory. The genre of works on Government, known collectively as 'The Mirror of Princes', discussing the 'great chain of being' and weighing the claims of moral and religious principles on the one hand and political expediency on the other, had been popular since ancient times, but the early 16th century had seen a proliferation of such works, written in all languages, and now brought to the printing presses in all European countries, regardless of religious allegiance. For some there were too many. Thomas Smith complained to the Duchess of Somerset in 1550 of the great number of men who 'kneel on your grace's carpet and devise commonwealths as they like'. Ralph Robinson in his preface to his 1551 English translation of Utopia observes 'every sort and kynde of people in theire vocation and degree, busilee occupied about the commonwealths affairs and especially learned men dayly putting forth in writing newe inventions and devices to the furtherance of the same.' This was nothing new. The Florentine civil servant, Matteo Palmieri, whose Della Vita Civile had circulated in Italy 1440-1450 and was finally printed in 1528, had written dismissively of impractical imaginary constitutions and 'the imaginary goodness of citizens never seen on this earth, such as Plato and other great intellects dream up,' and Machiavelli in his De Principe, written in 1513 but not published until 1532, had felt obliged to state that he was interested in 'the actual truth of the matter rather than the imagination of it.'(insert marytif image with close up of the temple - soojust detail if possible) It was the 'learned men' and 'great intellects' that da Trezzo placed in his circular Temple. Sacra Philosophia rules with Divine guidance and she does not need the abstract arguments of these moral philosophers.
Gomez's misinterpretations go further. He 'corrects' the legend of da Trezzo's medal to read 'CAECIS VISUS' and states that this is Mary's personal motto. In fact Mary did have a personal motto, but a very different one, 'VERITAS TEMPORIS FILIA', Truth, the Daughter of Time. Gomez then concludes that the scene was a compliment to Mary on her defence of Catholicism and her persecution of heretics. When it is remembered that the medal was produced in 1554, this is of course reading history backwards. Others have argued that the allegory refers to Wyat's rebellion earlier that year, which again is imaginative. The proposition that the figure of 'Peace' was in fact meant to be taken as Mary herself is almost a cruel joke. The queen was a diminutive woman, and by all accounts she did not have a commanding physical presence at all, and after one year of rule she had struggled to keep the peace in her kingdom.
Silver Groat of Mary, her long hair falling down her back. The reverse bears her personal motto, Veritas Temporis Filia (Truth the Daughter of Time)
Can a medal become so misunderstood so soon after its production? Certainly a medal can be misinterpreted immediately. In a letter to Cosimo de'Medici dated 28 February 1562, the Milanese medallist G. Paolo Poggini describes another medal he has recently made 'per questo buon re mio signore' (Philip II), and as he explains 'La donna che porta a offerire il mezzo mondo è figurate per la India provincial, come piace al signore Gonzalo Peres. Ma io atribuisco alla fortuna o providenzia, seccondo il motto suo; e detta invenzione fu prima mia..' . (The woman who holds the half globe as an offering represents the Indian Province, thus my lord Gonzalo Peres is pleased to have it. But I prefer to interpret her as Fortune or Providence, with her appropriate motto. The idea was mine in the first place…'). This is the artist, writing from the Spanish court, talking about his own recent medal. Meanings can certainly become obscured very quickly.
The silver medal illustrated here is in the collection of Spink. It is a magnificent early example, cast and chased in high relief. It sits well next to the two silver medals of Henry VIII and Edward VI, both proclaiming the King's Supremacy of the Church in England. This Habsburg medal can be seen as a reply to those two English 'Protestant' medals. Like them there are two examples of the da Trezzo medal in gold. One has been in the British Museum since 1927. The other, in a private collection, was sold most recently for £276,000.
La Peregrina was returned to the Spanish royal treasury, and Philip gave it to his next wife, Elizabeth of Valois. It was worn by successive Habsburg wives until it was sold in the 19th century. It is now owned by the film star, Elizabeth Taylor.