The Pelican’s Portrait

reginald reginaldsonSir Reginald Reginaldson, the son of a Danish merchant, grew up in the well-to-do mercantile community of Houndstooth-upon-Tweed on High Street in London during the second half of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

An inveterate hanger-on with the minor figures at the edge of the royal court, Reginaldson came to the notice of Elizabeth when he broke his nose dancing into a pillar during a ferradingo celebrating the eve of St. Thurstide’s Day. (The ferradingo, an import from Italy, involved a series of intricate steps, some of which were to be done with the eyes closed.)

“Methinks the gallant’s nose flowed not had his leaps only ebbed,” the Queen said. Thereafter, Elizabeth frequently referred to Reginaldson has “my pelican.”

This miniature portrait by Isaac Oliver, which now hangs in the Stuart M. Wedlow Museum of Fine Art in the Silver Dollar Casino in Reno, Nevada, was executed shortly before its subject’s execution in 1615 for what was believed to be an attempt on the life of Elizabeth’s successor James I.

Reginaldson was accused to attempting to push the monarch off a parapet, allegedly out of anger for the habit of James to refer to him with a corruption of the Queen’s nickname “pemmican.” (Pemmican, a food used by Native Americans and shared with English explorers and sailors, was a concentrated mixture of fat and meat. Indeed, the word means “fat grease.”)

Reginaldson’s defense was that he had tripped.

See “The Pelican’s Fall” by D.W.C. Eaton (London, 1939)

Patrick T. Reardon

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