Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sir Jeffery Hudson, Small Person Extraordinaire by Katherine Pym

Sir Jeffery Hudson

I like reading about 17th century England. There’s all sorts of great info that comes from that era, like Jeffery Hudson.

Born in 1619 to normal sized parents, Jeffery was nineteen inches tall with proportionate features. As a child, there are all sorts of differentials on his actual height, from one foot, seven inches (48 centimeters) to three feet tall.

Being small had its disadvantages. Once when he washed his face and hands, he fell into the basin and almost drowned.

Jeffery with the Queen

He was, of course, bullied throughout life. One story recalls how some kids killed an old lady’s cat, skinned it then dressed Jeffery in the pelt. The old lady had guests at the time, and when Jeffery walked into her parlor, he brought the party into an uproar.  

Jeffery’s father worked for George Villers, the first Duke of Buckingham. Jeffery was introduced to the king’s court at the young age of eight dressed as a chick who popped out of a pie to the amusement of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta. The Duchess of Buckingham then offered Jeffery to the Queen as a gift. (Pretty heartless on the part of the parental units, methinks.) Henrietta was delighted, and that’s how Jeffery went into service for the Queen. 

Jeffery was pampered and made fun of, took part in Court entertainments. On occasion, he was matched with the Court’s giant, a William Evans who stood well over seven feet. Once, to the joy of the cavaliers, William pulled out a loaf of bread from one pocket and young Jeffery from another. William put the two together and pretended to eat. Many titters and polite applause met this trick.

With the English Civil Wars, Jeffery went into exile in 1643 with the queen where he resided in France. While there, he became a serious young man who no longer took teasing in stride. It was unlawful to duel in France, but as a joke, a gentleman challenged Jeffery to one. Full of fun, they were to fight their duel on horseback, the gentleman with a squirt full of water. He planned to douse our dear Jeffery, not kill him, but Jeffery was of a different mind. He shot the fellow dead which sent the French court into angst. His actions upset Queen Henrietta and he was expelled from France.

An attack by Barbary Pirates

While aboard a vessel crossing to England, Barbary pirates, who were known to roam up and down the coasts of Spain, France, England and Ireland, captured the ship. Jeffery was taken into slavery where he toiled in North Africa for twenty-five years.

After King Charles II’s restoration, his queen’s dowry included ports of call around Africa and into the East & West Indies. Charles sent a delegation to Algeria and Tunis to ransom captives. Jeffery happened to be one of those rescued. While in slavery he had grown an unprecedented forty-five inches and reached the height of nearly four feet. 

Christian Slavery

He was no longer an item of interest.

Once back in England, Jeffery’s life took a downward spiral. He was Roman Catholic in a non-papist England. In 1679, he was arrested and thrown in prison for three years while Titus Oates scavenged the land for pope followers.  Once released, he died a pauper at the age of 63. No one knows for sure where he is buried.

Many thanks to: 
Wallechinsky, David, Wallace, Irving. The People's Almanac, Doubleday & Company, 1975
Wikicommons public domain


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