Friday, July 28, 2006
Above, Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Margaret "Peg" Hughes, reputed to be the first woman of English theater – that is, the first female actor to break the all-male tradition of early modern performance, with her portrayal of Desdemona in a December 1660 (Drury Lane?) staging of Othello. Pepys knew her – he knew everyone.
In later years, she became the mistress of Prince Rupert of the Rhine [to the left, in very early youth], dashing cavalry commander during the Civil War and admiral during the Dutch Wars. She bore him a daughter, Ruperta, and, it is said, "brought down and greatly subdued his natural fierceness." (A fierceness, according to the Roundheads, only matched by that of his poodle Boye, whom Rupert brought with him into battle and who some of the more superstitious of the Parliamentary soldiers believed was a familiar. Boye died at the battle of Marston Moor.) In Ken Hughes's hilariously inaccurate (yet for me strangely moving) 1970 film Cromwell, Rupert is played by a painfully young Timothy Dalton.
In his years of exile during the Protectorate, Rupert bounced around Germany (the son of James I's daughter Elizabeth & Frederick V, the Elector Palatine, his first language was German – though he was fluent in perhaps four tongues), amusing himself with experiments in natural philosophy and artistic media. He probably did not invent the mezzotint printing process, but he certainly had a hand in perfecting it. His "Standard Bearer," less famous than "Head of an Executioner," is a fine example of the process.
Posted by Mark Scroggins at 12:17 AM