Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Worst New Year's Gift

The sentiments of Queen Elizabeth (whom no one will accuse of puritanism), with respect to images, were most decided. The scene between her and Dean Nowell has become most curiously detailed by an eye and ear witness. She applied herself to the unfortunate dignitary in right earnest, and the mixture of character, the combination of scolding-wife and angry-queen temper exhibited by her, renders the dialogue singularly amusing.

'The Dean, having gotten from a foreigner several fine cuts and pictures, representing the stories and passions of the Saints and Martyrs, had placed them against the Epistles and Gospels of their festivals in a Common-Prayer book. And this book he had caused to be richly bound, and laid on the cushion for the Queen's use, in the place where she commonly sat, intending it for a New Year's Gift to her Majesty, and thinking to have pleased her fancy therewith; but it had not that effect, but the contrary: for she considered how this varied from her late open injunctions and proclamations against the superstitious use of images in churches, and for the taking away all such reliques of popery. When she came to her place she opened the book and perused it, and saw the pictures; but frowned and blushed ; and then shut it (of which several took notice), and calling the verger, had him bring her the old book, wherein she was formerly wont to read. After sermon, whereas she was wont to get immediately on horseback, or into her chariot, she went straight to the vestry, and applying herself the Dean, thus she spoke to him:

Queen. Mr. Dean, how came it to pass that a new Service-book was placed on my cushion? To which the Dean answered—

Dean. May it please your Majesty, I caused it to be placed there. Then said the Queen—

Q. Wherefore did you so?

D. To present your Majesty with a New Year's Gift.

Q. You could never present me with a worse.

D. Why so, Madam?

Q. You know I have an aversion to idolatry; to images and pictures of this kind.

D. Wherein is the idolatry, may it please your Majesty?

Q. In the cuts resembling angels and saints; nay, grosser absurdities, pictures resembling the Blessed Trinity.

D. I meant no harm; nor did I think it would offend your Majesty, when I intended it for a New Year's Gift.

Q. You needs must be ignorant then. Have you forgot our proclamation against images, pictures, and Romish reliques in the churches? Was it not read in your deanery?

D. It was read. But, be your Majesty assured, I meant no harm when I caused the cuts to be bound with the Service-book.

Q. You must needs he very ignorant to do this after our prohibition of them.

D. It being my ignorance, your Majesty may the better pardon me.

Q. I am sorry for it, yet glad to hear it was your ignorance, rather than your opinion.

D. Be your Majesty assured, it was my ignorance.

Q. If so, Mr. Dean, God grant you His Spirit, and more wisdom for the future.

D. Amen, I pray God.

Q. I pray, Mr. Dean, how came you by these pictures? Who engraved them?

D. I know not who engraved them. I bought them.

Q. From whom bought you them?

D. From a German.

Q. It is well it was from a stranger. Had it been any of our subjects, we should have questioned the matter. Pray let no more of these mistakes, or of this kind, be committed within the churches of our realm for the future.

D. There shall not.
—Strype's Annals, vol. i. pp. 272, 274.

Interesting to note that Dean Nowell's Catechism opposed such images (See p. 122-126): http://books.google.com/books?id=n4wUbx8fisAC