Biography thread


Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
In my lounge there is a reproduction of an drawing of "council of war on board the de zeven provincen "

this battle has a great fascination for me , it was a bit of a shamble with sudden turn of fortune occurring everyday

as the English fleet limped home they were pursued by dutch ships
for several years , many English sailors from the ex- Commonwealth navy had joined their Dutch religious brothers
.....and were paid for a change
they were throwing abuse from the dutch ships at the pathetic papist dogs fighting for James

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Btw Recently a Dutch movie was made about him: "Admiral". Michiel de Ruyter (2015) - IMDb
Unlike other Dutch movies I would really recommend this one (easily the best Dutch movie of the decade, though that isn't saying much). Historically also rather accurate as far as movies go.
And it has that Lannister guy as Charles II ;)
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Jan 2019
Montreal, QC
This is an excerpt from my piece of Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, which can be read here.



Margaret Cavendish – then Margaret Lucas – was born in Colchester, East Anglia in 1623. Her family was a well-established one, as they owned land in the city, and would go on to be prominent Royalists when civil war broke out in 1642. Even though the Lucases were indeed a prominent family, their youngest daughter received no formal education. In 1643, when the royal court picked up and moved from London to Oxford, Lucas convinced her mother to let her join Queen Henrietta-Maria’s retinue. While in attendance of the controversial queen consort, Lucas became familiarized with Platonism, a philosophy which insisted on a transcendently perfect original of all objects, and which relied heavily on “true knowledge and reminiscence.”

This would profoundly impact Lucas’ later natural philosophy. In 1645, the English Civil War was not going in King Charles I’s favour, and the Queen, along with most of her children (save the Prince of Wales and Duke of York), and her Oxfordian entourage, fled to the Continent. Lucas followed her mistress into exile in France. It was her time in Saint-Germain-en-Laye where her future was determined. In spring of the same year, she met William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle (1592-1673). By the end of the year, they married. Cavendish was over twenty years Lucas’ senior, and was a widower with three children, two of whom were older than his new bride. Nevertheless, their “whirlwind courtship” had entertained the exilic court and was made a point of gossip.

With the help of her husband and his brother, Charles Cavendish, Margaret was introduced into the burgeoning intellectual world of the new science. Charles, perhaps, had an even larger influence on Cavendish than did Newcastle. In her 2016 preface to Cavendish’s famous The Blazing World, Sarah Mendelson states that “her interest in the new science was stimulated by a close friendship with her brother-in-law… an accomplished mathematician who was au fait with the latest European scientific discoveries and speculations.” This is not to say that Newcastle was not a considerable influence and inspiration for his wife. Cavendish herself recognised him as a tutor of sorts, and it was he who helped her grow her interest in natural philosophy. In an age of assured patriarchy, men encouraging a woman to chase such lofty pursuits was almost unheard of.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) would later go on to call Newcastle an “ass” for tolerating, let alone encouraging, his wife! And encourage her he did. Cavendish was the centrepiece of her husband’s salons, where all the great minds of the age met to discuss the advancements and controversies in natural philosophy. It was in these salons – organised by Newcastle yet hosted by Cavendish – that she debated with men like René Descartes (1596-1650) and Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655). Discussing mechanical philosophy face-to-face with none other than Descartes himself certainly shows that Cavendish did not exist within an intellectual vacuum. Her philosophic legitimacy has so often been discounted because of the poetical, fantastical twist that she put on it. Many of her contemporaries – and beyond – discredited her on that sole account, stating that her philosophy was singular and negligible. Yet, it was not. She developed her ideas and theories in discourse with some of the most illustrious names of the age. At this point in time, Cavendish did not exist in intellectual isolation. She and Newcastle even possessed a wide variety of scientific instruments, including the microscope that she would later condemn as too fallible and superficial. We can see that, even from the beginning, Cavendish was never an intellectual monolith. She worked and thought alongside her mathematician brother-in-law, sparred with René Descartes, and peered through microscopes before Robert Hooke (1635-1703) would begin his work with them...

Upon reading one of Cavendish’s publications, Dorothy Osbourne (1627-1695) proclaimed that she was “sure there are soberer people in Bedlam.” The ever-reliable Pepys painted the Duchess as a sickeningly eccentric and oddball of a woman, but did admit that she was rather comely. Eventually, she was given the moniker “Mad Madge” – her natural philosophy was so eccentric, her dress so extravagant, her manner so unconventional that it all had to be chalked up to insanity. It was not only her natural philosophic works that alarmed her contemporaries. Cavendish also had a massive output of work, publishing 21 pieces within her lifetime. These were not just works of scientific merit, but plays, prose, and letters, discussing gender, politics, and her own personal life. Although her plays and autobiography attracted much criticism – Pepys was convinced that one of her husband’s plays was hers, saying he found it to be intolerable – it was her natural philosophy that found itself to be such a point of contempt. But, as we have seen, Cavendish’s ideas were not singular. She did not produce her natural philosophy on whimsy, no matter how fantastical it may seem. Why, then, did she have so many detractors? It was partially, if not wholly, on account of her gender. After all, women were the “weaker vessel” and descendants of Eve; they were creatures of fantasy and pretense, never to be taken seriously.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Samuel Pepys had problems of his own with his wife as heavily hinted in his diaries
this most practical of men would have little time for flight of philosophical fancy
much preferring a well done sermon or a well acted theater piece.

as for an eclectic mix of science with fantasy that was pretty much the tone of of the age

The great Newton could be though of as barking mad as far as alchemy was concerned
the brilliant Robert Hooke was a sucker for any charlatan claim of selling moon light dust or such
this was the age ,
women were not ignored either ,
there were some outstanding women having impact on public affairs all over Europe

Milton rubbed shoulders with Hobbes , kings were discussing with republicans
it was like the Russian chaotic melt season when the hard unceasing winter give place to the glory of summer