Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It All Started with the Pie

In reading about the history of pie, I discovered an amazing story, the life and times of Jeffrey Hudson.

Jeffrey Hudson was born in England in 1619 with a birth defect—he was born a pituitary dwarf and would grow to be tiny but perfectly proportioned, "a rarity of nature." As a seven-year-old boy who stood only 18 inches tall, he caught the attention of the Duke and Duchess of Birmingham, and his family basically handed him over to them.

In those days with royalty wanting to find amusement in every little thing, kitchen staff would bake big pies and stuff the crusts with living things like birds and bunnies that would fly or hop away when the crust was ceremoniously cut at the table—four and twenty black birds baked in a pie and all that. Not long after Jeffrey came to live with the Duke and Duchess, he was presented in such a pie at a dinner to honor Queen Henrietta. Being one to collect oddities like giants and monkeys, the Queen added Jeffrey to her menagerie and made him her mascot, calling him Lord Minimus.

Jeffrey grew in age if not in height and lived with the Queen for several years being amused and amusing. He was educated and raised as a Catholic, and having fought in a civil war between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians, Jeffrey proved he could be more than a court jester. When it seemed the Royalists were going to lose the war, he followed his Queen to France and took on a more serious role. He would not be the jester anymore, and he would not take crap from anyone cracking jokes about his height.

Someone had a laugh at Jeffrey's expense, and during the duel that followed, he shot his opponent in the head. Because duels were illegal in France, the Queen was forced to dismiss her sidekick from her household as punishment. Jeffrey ended up at sea where his ship was attacked by pirates. He was sold into slavery in North Africa, and he worked as a slave there for the next 25 years until he was rescued in a negotiation.

Sometimes people with pituitary issues suddenly grow, and Jeffrey grew 45 inches while in captivity. Now back in England at his new height, he was no longer a marvel or oddity. He was just short and unremarkable, and no one cared if he was amusing or smart or well-traveled or had been through hell. They did care that he was a Catholic, though, and put him in prison for it. Jeffrey died penniless and unknown.

And it all started with the pie.


dive said...

Wowee! Your research is as always impeccable, Robyn! What a startling story!
Alas for poor Jeffrey. And alas that in this world we still have heightists, the disgusting aristocracy, parasitical royalists, religious bigots and slavery.

Hoorah for pie, however!

Shan said...

Veeery interesting indeed!

MmeBenaut said...

OMG, I hope that they baked the pie crust separately and didn't put the animals and poor Jeffery in the oven!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...


Alifan said...

Robyn as usual a great tale from history......I learn something everyday...

Yes hoorah for pies from me as well!!!

lynn said...

Blimey, Birmingham had a Duke and Duchess?

Great research. How interesting Robyn - and sad.

I'm about to cook myself. Er, well, you know what i mean. Not a pie, but a bread pudding. Do you have that there Robyn?

pabees said...

I can see this story with a modern day twist. Jeffrey won't be a victim of his pituitary glands, but stunted by a rare disease caused from ozone depletion. Think it will fly?