A Sherborne Castle story

During my visit to Sherborne Castle, I happened upon an unusual portrait of someone who resembled like a bizarre child. I did some research and discovered one of the most exciting stories in Stuart England: the story of Jeffrey Hudson, the Royal Dwarf.

Jeffrey Hudson was 1 foot 6 inches tall (about 46 centimetres), and he was brought to the court of the Duchess of Buckingham in 1626 when he was only 7 years old.

The Duchess used him for a “grand surprise” when she entertained King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. Her servants placed Hudson, dressed as a knight, in armour inside a pie that was served to the queen. When Hudson popped out, the Queen was so amused that she decided to take him back with her to her own court where she already had two other dwarfs and one giant. Jeffrey Hudson was treated as a sort of pet, but he did not see himself as one.

When the English Civil War broke out, he was 23. As a joke, Charles I appointed him as a cavalry captain, but Hudson took his new role very seriously, and from then on, presented himself as Captain Jeffrey Hudson.

When Queen Henrietta Maria left England and went to exile in France, he joined her but refused to be treated as a pet anymore. When one of her courtiers, William Croft, insulted him, he challenged him to a duel. Croft, not taking the event seriously, brought with him a toy pistol. Jeffery, on the other hand, brought a real pistol, and shot Croft in the head, killing him.

Duels were illegal in France so for punishment Hudson was banished from the country. His situation worsened when he fell into the hands of Ottoman pirates who held him as a slave for 25 years.

Hudson returned to England in 1669 when he was 50. By now he had doubled his height. He had apparently started to grow taller when he turned 30, and he believed that the reason for his growth was the poor treatment he  had received during his enslavement which had included constant sexual assaults.

Hudson did not return to court, but he did receive a modest allowance from his first “employer”, the Duke of Buckingham until his death in 1682.

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