Lord Minimus: The Extraordinary Life of Britain's Smallest Man

Lord Minimus: The Extraordinary Life of Britain's Smallest Man

by Nick Page
     
 

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In 1628, as the guest of a lavish banquet thrown by the Duke of Buckingham, the newly married Queen Henrietta Maria watched as servants set a large pie in front of her. Before she could cut into it, the crust began to rise and from the pie emerged a tiny man, perfectly proportioned, but only 18 inches tall. Lord Minimus is the story of that man - Jeffrey

Overview

In 1628, as the guest of a lavish banquet thrown by the Duke of Buckingham, the newly married Queen Henrietta Maria watched as servants set a large pie in front of her. Before she could cut into it, the crust began to rise and from the pie emerged a tiny man, perfectly proportioned, but only 18 inches tall. Lord Minimus is the story of that man - Jeffrey Hudson.

Jeffrey's was a life of splendor and riches; of piracy and slavery; of war, treachery, intrigue and death. From the lowest strata he rose to the courts of kings and queens and was celebrated by the finest artists of the day.

As he grew older, his adventures grew even more bizarre. He was captured by pirates, killed an opponent in a duel, served as a slave in North Africa, and was falsely imprisoned. Yet tragically, Britain's smallest man died alone, abandoned by a society which no longer cared and which had long moved on to the next object of fashion.

Lord Minimus is the first complete biography of Hudson. Nick Page draws on original, contemporary sources to weave a tale that is not only a thrilling biography, but also a fascinating insight into the seventeenth century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1626, as King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria enjoyed a lavish banquet hosted by the Duke of Buckingham, a pie was brought before the royal couple. From it emerged a fully proportioned, 18-inch boy named Jeffrey Hudson. Hudson would remain with the queen for the next 18 years, serving as the Queen's Dwarf and witnessing some of the seminal events in British history. Page (The Tabloid Shakespeare) succeeds outstandingly on two counts: first, in telling the extraordinary life of Hudson, and second, in recreating the Stuart court of Charles I in all its ill-fated brilliance. Page handles the political history and social milieu with impressive ease. Readers get engaging portraits of playwright Ben Jonson, designer Inigo Jones and architect Christopher Wren. Page tellingly juxtaposes the manufactured, perfect world of Inigo Jones's court masques with the darker discontent of the Puritans, who would trigger a bloody civil war and end up as king-killers. Throughout, the author goes from larger considerations of Stuart politics and society to the smaller context of Hudson's picaresque life. He was kidnapped by pirates, twice. His portrait was painted by Van Dyck. And then, after nearly two decades living in royal luxury (and becoming quite famous), he spent the next quarter-century as a slave in North Africa. Page's narrative is as fast-paced as a good historical novel. This is just plain fun reading for anyone interested in a different approach to Stuart England. (Aug.) Forecast: This is a fine example of the new trend toward writing history in miniature (so to speak); the book itself is miniature, with a trim size of 4-3/4"7-1/4", and may appeal broadly outside the usual precincts of popular history. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sympathetic retelling of the career of the man known as "Lord Minimus," Page (The Tabloid Shakespeare; In search of the World's Worst Writers) offers a fascinating perspective on the opulent lifestyle of the court of Queen Henrietta Maria and Charles I and on 17th-century social history. Jeffrey Hudson, the 18-inch tall "official dwarf" of the Stuart court, made his first appearance before royalty in 1626 at a banquet hosted by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Hudson, seven years old "the smallest human being that anyone had ever seen, perfectly proportioned and dressed in a suit of miniature armor climbed out of a gilded pastry pie stood shyly on the table in front of the Queen and bowed low." Between that first bow and Hudson's death, in London in late 1681, probably "alone and in poverty, unremarked and unremembered," stretched a journey that included intrigue, banishment, civil war, enslavement by Barbary pirates, and, in 1678, imprisonment for "being known to be a Roman Catholick." Page calls Hudson's life "one of the most remarkable stories of the seventeenth century." Certainly this account offers vivid and remarkable insights into the man and the times in which he lived. Recommended for most libraries. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Charming if occasionally conjectural biography of "the tiniest man in England," a fixture at the court of Charles I who was later lost to misfortune and history. The Duke of Buckingham presented butcher's son Jeffrey Hudson to Charles's young, lonely new queen, Henrietta Maria, in 1626; the seven-year-old "rarity of nature" introduced himself by leaping from a large pie at a banquet. Maria doted on him, and for many years, he traveled everywhere with the queen and participated in the elaborate masques that distracted Charles from the treasonous currents beyond his court (fed particularly by anti-Catholicism directed against Maria's retinue). English writer Page (The Tabloid Shakespeare, not reviewed, etc.) notes that Hudson, who never grew past three-and-a-half feet, depicted in many poems and paintings of the time, was "always seen as a miraculous, almost fictional creature." Yet he was also present for many of the era's upheavals, ultimately at great cost to himself. During the English Civil War, the diminutive Hudson served ably as a captain, then went with Maria into exile in France. In one of many unfortunate ironies to come, he fell from favor when he killed a brother of the queen's Master of Horse in a mounted duel after warnings to cease mocking his stature went predictably unheeded. Then the luckless adventurer was captured by the Barbary Corsairs and most likely sold into servitude at the Algiers market. For 25 years, his whereabouts were unknown in England, and when he finally returned home, he was imprisoned during a resurgence of anti-Catholic bigotry. Although Page acknowledges that some details of Hudson's life are matters of speculation, he does an excellent job ofknitting together the few surviving biographical accounts within the broader framework of European turmoil. Tackling an enduring 17th-century mystery with a mix of close research and historical imagination, Page provides an entertaining, informative account of a physical anomaly's Candide-like experiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312316198
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/21/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
4.48(w) x 7.24(h) x 0.74(d)

Meet the Author

Nick Page is a professional writer, broadcaster, and creative consultant. He is the author of The Tabloid Bible, The Tabloid Shakespeare, and Blue. He lives in England.

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