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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
More on "In Search of Shakespeare"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0459  Tuesday, 17 February 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 2004 23:05:30 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Feb 2004 23:05:30 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 2004 18:49:58 -0000
Subject: 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"

 >"On October 26, 1623, a Catholic chapel attached to the French
 >ambassador's house in the Blackfriars district of London collapsed
 >during a celebration of the Mass. .Jesuit Robert Drury..and ninety-five
 >worshipers died. [It was called the] "Fatal Vespers" [and it]
 >corresponded, according to the Catholics' own new Gregorian calendar, to
 >November 5, Guy Fawkes Day" (278).

Thanks Clifford.  Armed with your information I've been doing some
online research.

The 1623 tragedy seems to have been known by a number of different names
- the "Blackfriars Downfall", the "Fatal Vespers" and (to Catholics) the
"Doleful Evensong".  This is from a genealogical page on the Drury family...

"He [Robert Drury] lost his life on Sunday 5 Nov. 1623, at the "fatal
vespers" in Blackfriars. On the afternoon of that day about 300 persons
were assembled in an upper room at the French ambassador's residence,
Hunsdon House, Blackfriars, for the purpose of participating in a
religious service by Drury and another Jesuit priest, and the great
weight of the crowd in the old room suddenly snapped the main
summer-beam of the floor, which instantly crashed and fell into the room
below. The main beam there also snapped and broke through the
ambassador's drawing-room over the gate house, a distance of twenty-two
feet. Part of the floor being less crowded, stood firm, and the people
on it cut a way through a plaster wall into a neighbouring room.  The
two Jesuits were killed on the spot. About 95 people lost their lives,
while many others sustained serious injuries. The bigotry of the times
led some people to regard this calamity as a judgment on the Catholics,
so much was God offended with their detestable idolatries."

The following site has a contemporary Dutch engraving which clearly saw
the calamity as a judgement on Catholics for the Gunpowder Plot...

http://www.geocities.com/Paris/LeftBank/9314/devil.html

I haven't found out exactly where Hunsdon House was situated in
Blackfriars.  Michael Wood writes that the tragedy happened in "the
adjacent building" to the mass house that Shakespeare purchased.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 16 Feb 2004 23:05:30 -0000
Subject: 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0433 More on "In Search of Shakespeare"

There's a more detailed account of the 1623 Blackfriars disaster at this
site....

http://www.genealogysource.com/druryrobert.htm

These two passages are particularly helpful in explaining the layout of
the buildings....

"It was to be held in the third story of a large gatehouse which was
leased by French Ambassdor Leveneur de Tillieres, who as a foreign
diplomat was allowed to maintain a Catholic chapel.  De Tillieres lived
on the ground floor, and leased the second floor apartment to William
Whittingham, a Catholic priest.  The third floor was the largest, in
that the ends hung out beyond the lower floors, at forty by sixteen feet
(the lower floors being 20 by 20 feet). A main beam, 10 inches square,
ran under the floor from end to end.

"What had happened is that the main beam of the garrett-floor had
snapped where mortissed, and a section of the floor 20 x 20 ft. over
Whittingham's chamber had fallen through, bearing its freight of
humanity, which, combining impetus with the weight of those gathered
below, crashed through the solider flooring to the stone-arch gateway -
a total distance of 22 feet - while the floor of Whittingham's chamber,
in turn, fell over the garrett floor....the walls and roof of the
gatehouse remained standing, but but the shattered interior timbers
served in the collapse to bury, transfix, and maim the victims, leaving
'a spectacle of men overwhelmed with breaches of mighty timber, buried
in rubbish, and smothered in dust."

This suggests it wasn't actually the adjacent building after all.  It
was probably the same gatehouse that Shakespeare purchased.

Peter Bridgman

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