Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Morgan Colman and English royal genealogies

I noted in an earlier post (Drawing family trees as trees) that from 1576 CE Scipione Ammirato, an Italian writer and historian, set up a cottage industry producing family trees for the nobility. Over the years, he was not the only person to try to make money this way.

In the English-speaking world, one of these was Morgan Colman (or Coleman), who produced an impressively large genealogy of King James I and Queen Anne, in 1608. Nathaniel Taylor has commented: "Of all the congratulatory heraldic and genealogical stuff prepared early in James’s reign, this might be the most impressive piece of genealogical diagrammatic typography."

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete copy of this family tree. It was published as a set of quarto-sized bifolded sheets that needed to be joined together. Below is a small image of the copy in the British Library, which gives you an idea of the intended arrangement, and its incompleteness (click to enlarge). Taylor has a larger PDF copy available here.

The WorldCat library catalog lists the work as "Most noble Henry ; heire (though not son)", which is the first line of the dedicatory verse at the top left. Elsewhere, I have seen it referred to as "The Genealogies of King James and Queen Anne his wife, from the Conquest".

It is usually described as "a genealogy of James I and Anne of Denmark in 10 folio sheets [sic], with their portraits in woodcut, accompanied by complimentary verses to Henry Prince of Wales, the Duke of York (Prince Charles) and Princess Elizabeth, and with the coats-of-arms of the nobles living in 1608 and of their wives."

A Christies auction notes the sale of an illuminated manuscript of the "Genealogy of the Kings of England, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth 1", produced by Colman in 1592. The accompanying text reads (in part):
Colman, a scribe and heraldic painter, was steward and secretary to various eminent public figures, including successive Lord Keepers of the Great Seal, Sir John Puckering (1592-96) and Sir Thomas Egerton (1596-1603) who caused his election as MP for Newport, Cornwall in 1597. Heraldic and genealogical compositions were his speciality and in 1608 he had composed, and prepared for printing, genealogies of King James and his Queen published as ten large quarto sheets; in 1622 a payment records his work for James I in producing two large and beautiful tables for the King's lodgings in Whitehall and for making many of the genealogical tables for 'His Majesty's honour and service'. But these successes were a distant prospect in 1592 when he produced the present manuscript: in that year he petitioned for the post of York Herald and a second petition at about this date, possibly to Sir John Puckering, solicits the addressee's continued support for his advancement. This genealogy appears therefore to be part of a campaign to secure employment: the writer ends his summary of contents 'Wherein if the simplicity of well-meaning purpose, maie procure desired accept'on then rest persuaded that the industrious hand is fullie prepared spedelie to produce matter for more ample contentment.' The inclusion of Francis Bacon's arms at the end of his work shows that Colman had hopes of securing Bacon's patronage: by 1592 Bacon's political and legal career was well established, he was confidential adviser to the Earl of Essex, the Queen's favourite, and had hopes of high office. Colman, however, hedged his bets; another copy of this genealogy survives, though incomplete and lacking the arms of a recipient.
Colman apparently petitioned for the office of herald in the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but never obtained it.

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