THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT

images (4)Writing about Alexander Pope and the restoration court of Charles 2nd yesterday , jolted a nugget of semi-submerged information from my memory chip about the small, but perfectly formed gent, going by the nom de plume of Lord Minimus, who was presented in a pie to King Charles the First. Born in 1619, Jeffrey Hudson was the son of the First Duke of Buckingham`s keeper of baiting bulls; a pastime for which the famous British Bulldog was bred to fight for public entertainment. After a time, it became apparent that young Jeffrey,. although perfectly proportioned for his size, was a sight smaller than his contemporaries, and unlikely to progress much further in the growth stakes. As a considered “rarity of nature” he was presented to the Duchess of Buckingham on his seventh birthday for her amusement; and so taken with him was she, that he was invited to be a member of her household. Several months later, the Duke and Duchess were entertaining the king and his young Queen, and the highlight of the banquet was young Jeff emerging from a crusted pie in front of the monarchs, regaled in full body of armour. The Queen was so stricken with delight, that the Duchess immediately offered little Jeff to her as an amusing present. At a time of abject poverty, and demeaning servile labour to the social elite for the majority of poor, uneducated folk, this offered a passport to a life of pampered wealth and luxury for Jeffrey.NT; (c) Trerice; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationIn late 1626, Jeffrey moved into Denmark House in London, where the Queen maintained her royal household, with it`s myriad number of French attendants and Catholic priests, as well as a number of natural curiosities and pets – both human and animal, which the European aristocracy so loved. Among the ongoing cabinet of human curiosities were a giant Welsh porter named William Evans, two dwarfs and a monkey called “Pug”. Over the years Jeff learned courtly behaviour, and how to entertain by the speed of his wits; because while dwarfs were two – a – penny in European court circles, a perfectly proportioned little man in miniature was a decided oddity and a unique and highly valued rarity. He became famous as Lord Minimus, a gent of no more than 18 to 19 inches in height, who`s presence became part and parcel of elaborately staged costume masques by Inigo Jones, and painted by Van Dyke. He was knighted by the king and enjoyed a charmed life of pleasure and comfort until the biggest, and bloodiest domestic bust up in English history occurred; namely, the English Civil War erupted between king and parliament over who had the right to call the national shots. The court scuttled off to the safety of the royalist stronghold of Oxford, where little Jeff was appointed a Captain of Horse; as the war began to turn against the king, Hudson fled to France with the queen and the household staff. Unknown-man-formerly-known-as-Jeffrey-Hudson-from-National-Portrait-GalleryAbout this time, Hudson started to take himself rather more seriously than as a figure of fun and buffoonery, and took exception to the constant teasing of one of the queen`s favourites, a certain officer called William Crofts. To appease his honour, Sir Jeffrey challenged Croft to a duel, upon which, Croft produced a pair of water pistols; taking a dim view of this charade at his expense, Sir Jeffrey insisted on real pistols at dawn, and consequently did the unthinkable, and shot Croft between the eyes. He found himself expelled from court and without protection from the big bad world, whereupon he managed to get himself captured by Barbary Pirates, and sold as a slave in North Africa, where he spent the next 25 years labouring. It`s not known how he managed to find his way back to England, but several missions during this time were sent from England to ransom English slaves from servitude, and so it`s very likely that Sir Jeffrey Hudson was one such fortunate. On washing back up on Blighty`s shores in 1669, it was noted that he had some how at least doubled his height to everyone`s amazement. He scratched around for several years, recording his memoirs here, and spending time in London there, where he was suddenly arrested during the virulent, anti Catholic activity associated with the `Popish Plot`of Titus Oates, for being a recorded `Roman Catholik`, and imprisoned at the Gatehouse prison, from which he wasn`t released until 1680. About two years later he died of unknown circumstances on an unknown date.tumblr_llnl78Lbr41qghk7bo1_1280

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