Jeffrey Hudson – The dwarf of the English court who rode a horse and shot a pistol

Left: Portrait of Jeffrey Hudson, by an unknown author; Right: Portrait of Charles I, Henrietta Maria and their children, by Van Dycke;

Jeffrey Hudson, the court dwarf of Queen Henrietta Maria, led a turbulent and interesting life.

Even though he was only 1ft 6in tall, he always seemed to strive for more, and his adventures became part of the historical legacy of Great Britain.

It was a custom of the European courts of the time to keep dwarfs for amusement, and the oddity of their childlike appearance and a grown man’s wit attracted kings and aristocrats alike.

Queen Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffrey Hudson by Van Dyck.

As for Hudson, he was born into a family of typical growth, but soon showed signs of a growth hormone deficiency. He was born in Oakham, England, and lived with his parents, three brothers, and a half-sister.

In 1626, on his seventh birthday, Hudson was brought to the Duchess of Buckingham and presented as a “rarity of nature”.

Soon after, the Duchess invited King Charles I and his young wife, Henrietta Maria of France, to come to her banquet. While enjoying the lavish company of the King and Queen, the Duchess of Buckingham planned an entertaining surprise.

She ordered her servants to hide Jeffrey inside a large pie, which was to be served at the time the party reached its peak.

Once the pie was placed in front of the king and queen, Jeffrey broke through the crust, dressed in a knight’s armor made especially for him. The queen appeared to be so amused by this gesture that she decided to take Hudson with her, to be a part of her entourage. The Duchess was glad to oblige.

This was how Jeffrey Hudson became a resident of Denmark House in London, where the Queen lived at the time. She lived separately from her husband, as she was of Roman-Catholic confession. The tensions between the Catholics and the Protestants were at a boiling point at the time and the separate households were considered a necessity.

Portrait of Jeffrey Hudson by an unknown artist.

Within the walls of Denmark House, the dwarfs were treated no better than pets, as their size was always interpreted as a subhuman characteristic. But it wasn’t just the people of short stature who received such treatment. Besides Hudson and two other dwarves who lived at Denmark House, there was a Welsh porter named William Evans, who was reportedly a man of excessive growth, labeled as a giant.

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