The following supposed eyewitness description of Lady Jane Grey is from a 1909 book, Lady Jane Grey, by Richard Davey: ‘”This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. … The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines [clogs] to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.”‘ (Davey, Lady Jane Grey, 1909, p. 253)
As many of you will be aware, this alleged description by a certain Benedict Spinola has been shown to be a fake by the Jane scholars Leanda de Lisle and John Stephan Edwards. This Benedict Spinola seems not to have existed. I was therefore surprised to find the following in a book by Agnes Strickland:
‘In regard to the person of the Lady Jane, her features and her form were alike diminutive. Our Italian authority, Luca Cortile, who was in England during her lifetime, asserts: – “Jane was beautiful, but very small.” Her sister, Lady Mary, was a dwarf. Disraeli the elder, in one of his clever works, mentions gilt chopines, a sort of cork shoe, about four inches in height, worn by Lady Jane Grey to raise her to a more majestic altitude.’ (Strickland, Lives of the Tudor Princesses, 1868, p. 138)
The elder Disraeli must be the father of the prime minister: Isaac D’Israeli (1766–1848), who wrote some historical works. Did he really mention the chopines? Strickland wrote some 40 years before Davey, and did Davey use her book for his Spinola ‘eyewitness report’?
And who was Luca Cortile, the man Strickland quoted as speaking of Jane as ‘very small’? Eric Ives mentioned him as Luca Contile, and he apparently wrote or edited a version of an Italian text otherwise known as being written by Giulio Raviglio Rosso. Rosso, however, apparently only plagiarized a report by the papal envoy to England during the summer of 1553, Giovanni Francesco Commendone. Since Rosso was a Ferrarese diplomat and there were also Ferrarese diplomats called Cortile in the later 16th century, Luca’s surname may indeed have been Cortile.
Eric Ives: Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (2009)
Leanda de Lisle: The Sisters Who Would Be Queen (2009)
John Stephan Edwards: somegreymatter.com