My next few posts will be very short posts about people of African ancestry in Tudor England. For example, Henry VIII had a man on the payroll - 100 pounds a year, which wasn't chicken-scratch - named "Peter Negro," said to be a Blackamoor. I wonder what his job was? His pay was too high to be a musician or cook or the other sorts of jobs Africans in England did (I like to imagine he was a spy). Francis Drake had a close African friend who shared in his adventures - the two were fiercely loyal to one another.
This is not to say the folk of Tudor England were especially enlightened. While I am a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, who was obviously at least mildly racist, I've never been able to stomach the idea that we should forgive racism in historical figures because, somehow, they didn't know any better. Thing is, they did. There have always been voices throughout history crying the gospel of the equality of all humanity, in Lovecraft's time (Rex Stout) in Elizabeth's (Drake, and surprisingly, a large number of Jesuits) and even in the American 1800s there were strong voices calling for equality.
Not so Queen Elizabeth I. Despite the reasonably astounding fact that there were more black people in the court of Queen Elizabeth I than there are in the court of Queen Elizabeth II, my favorite monarch had this to say about black people, much to my chagrin and disappointment.
A proclamation of the Lord Mayor of London, issued in July 1596:
"Her majesty, understanding that several Blackamoors have lately been brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already too many here; Her Majesty's pleasure, therefore, is for those kind of people to be expelled from the land."
Well, I never said my favorite monarch couldn't be a bitch when she felt like it.