17th Century Anagrams

I’ve been reading about Dame Eleanor Davies and her time in Bedlam. She was committed to the asylum on December 17th 1636.

She had been tried in 1633 for treason against King Charles 1. The charge levelled because of her self-proclaimed status as prophetess and, more damaging, her prophecies about the deaths of Buckingham and Charles.

Dame Eleanor played a popular 17th century game of anagrams but her’s was more dangerous. When she realised that John Davies (the name of her husband) was an anagram of JOVE’S HAND, she put on widow’s weeds and publicly declared that her husband would be dead within a year.

John’s response was – ‘I pray you weep not while I’m alive, and I will give you leave to laugh when I am dead.’

Eleanor laughed before the year was out.

At her trial, a chaplain played the Dame at her own game by demonstrating that Eleanor’s name made the anagram ‘NEVER SO MAD A LADIE’

This all got me thinking about my own characters names and anagrams and I tested a few.

My main character is called Marie de Rohan – DRAMA HEROINE

Louis de Bourbon – DUBIOUS NOBLE OR

Cardinal Richelieu – A CLINICAL RUED HEIR

Gaston d’Orléans – A GRANDNESS FOOL

Walter Montagu – NATURAL GEM – WOT.

I’ve decided to rename my novel. It’s now A SAVAGED MANY FLOWER VOW by QUEEN JIGGLY ARC.

Keep your eye out for it!

17th Century Gossip Column

from Tallemant, sieur des Réaux 1619-1692…


One of M. d’Orléans’ followers was Sauvage. He was a very agreeable fellow, whose god was his belly. He used to give admirable imitations of the songs of the Pont Neuf.


When Monsieur had gone away to Lorraine, he was anxious to seek him out, and, in order to get hold of boots cheaply, he ordered a pair from each of ten or twelve different shoemakers, giving them different hours to call. To each one he declared that one boot was too tight, and then gave them all one time at which to bring them back. When they came – they found nobody!

From Brussels Sauvage used to send gazettes full of inventions to spike the wheels of Renaudot, whose Gazette de France was beginning to circulate. (1631) The gazette of Sauvage was much more popular than the other. Moreover, for the sake of diversion, he used every day to contrive some imposture or other.

It was he who had engraved the representation of a fish which he styled ‘the Adriatic Carp,’ in the body of which had been found, according to the inscription, I know not how many muskets, halberds, crosses etc. This circulated throughout France.

His last imposture was an edict of the parliament of Grenoble, whereby a certain child was declared legitimate, although the mother confessed that it was conceived during her husband’s absence, on the grounds that it was done by the force of imagination, she thinking that he was living with her. The names were given, and those of the doctor and midwife too.

Plenty of good folk believed it.

It was written in the true style of Grenoble, and the Procurator-General of Paris wrote to that of Grenoble concerning this edict.

The parliament there issued one against the author, whereof the latter only made mock.

In the medical schools the question was debated whether the force of imagination could suffice to produce a conception.

Sometimes Sauvage concocted also satiric gazettes, as that one in which he said: ‘The God of the Charente who appeared to Balzac has arrived here, as little of a God as ever.’