All of our Serial Box serials have such dynamic casts that we thought it was high time we got to know some of them a bit more personally. To that end, we are very excited to kick off a new feature here on The Back of The Box: Meet the Character! Our first guest is incomparable Jenny of Whitehall – a servant to our Queen Catherine and a young woman who stands out for her gumption and loyalty. Enjoy!
My da was an English soldier and met my mum in Spain. I know Spanish from my mum, and I want to see the world like they did. My mum may be happy enough living in a port and never seeing the world, but from the time I was a girl, I looked at the ships and the grand people meeting the ships, and I wanted to see the big world. The Duke of York hired me, I saw our little Queen–and I knew I wanted to be part of the Court, working for her. And so I am!
What are the advantages to you in working at Whitehall? Is there anything that gives you worry?
I never thought I’d be so lucky – to live in London in a great palace. All my dreams come true. I hear and see everything that goes on – I saw those folk from Muscovy, in their great furs like walking bears! And I love the queen, it’s an honor to serve her. And it puts you in the way of meeting so many people. I even advise the apprentice to the queen’s own tailor, on what will look well on her. He’s quite nice, the tailor’s apprentice. He has the loveliest smile. Bit of a flirt but then that’s nice too… I’m sorry, what was the question?
Oh, yes, anything that worries me. Well, I shouldn’t complain. But it’s a big strange place, Whitehall, and London servants have a rough side to their tongue. They don’t like me, for being from the country, and half-Spanish, and that close to the queen.
You see, they don’t love the queen yet. I’m sure they will – they must only get to know her.
Are there any foods you have to prepare that we might not be familiar with?
There’s a strange new kind of a drink, that our Queen Catherine brought from Portugal. ‘Tis made from leaves, if you can credit, that look a bit like ordinary dried leaves but are rare and precious, brought from far lands that Portugal owns. Her Majesty keeps it in special boxes.
You heat water until it boils, then put just a bit of the leaves in a special pot, then pour the water over them and let them stew until the water turns brown as Thames-water. ‘Tis not foul, but very refreshing, though the Court ladies do not like it. (I have drunk it myself, but you must not say so.)
And I have learned to put herbs in the tea-water to give the Queen relief in her sicknesses.
What’s it like to help dress the Queen?
When Her Majesty come to England, she and all her ladies wore the farthingale. ‘Tis a great creaking sailing ship of a petticoat, made all of wood, and shows nothing of the shape of a lady. My lady was shy of our English fashions to start with, but I have an eye, and when she’d come out in a great gawking skirt, she started to look at me. When I looked like I felt, not much, you know, for that’d be wrong of me, but just a bit, she’d say “I won’t wear this today,” and she’d wear something different, that’d draw the King’s eye.
It’s a bit of a help that the tailor’s apprentice knows how to make her fine dresses of the right sort, and I’ve been able to put a bit of business his way. And he’s a fine handsome young man, Thom is.
Any royal gossip you can share?
It would be as much as my place at court would be worth, to gossip! Do you take me for a raw fool? But…. Have you heard about Lady Castlemaine..?
Give it to us straight – just how handsome is King Charles?
Oh, what a question, to talk of the king so! Though indeed he is very dark for an Englishman, and I know there are those that like their gentlemen white and pink, but he reminds me of my Spanish uncles, and they are all proper handsome men. And he is tall, amazingly tall. In short – if you won’t think me forward, I will admit he is quite as handsome as a king should be, and I think my lady queen a very fortunate lady. Thom is dark too, and not shy of height…
Finally, let’s play our favorite game: Two truths and a Lie. Tell us three statements and our readers will guess which is the lie!
I’ll tell you three truths and you can keep the lie.
I love the Queen.
I love adventure.
I don’t know if there’s room in my heart for anything else. Or anyone.