The invention of the political cartoon

The first political cartoon is generally thought to be 'Join or Die' which was written by Ben Franklin in 1754 during the French and Indian war.

I had him beat by 170 years in both quality and content.

I started out with a painting of Henry VIII and his family

Tudor Alegory

It was this painting called the 'The Family of Henry VIII Allegory of Tudor Succession' At Sudeley Castle


Actually, I only used the right third of the painting which had princess Elizabeth in it...


me...and then I redrew it in pen and ink as this cartoon, with me as Peace. Notice the instruments of war being crushed beneath possibly the hippest feet of the 16th century.

This was when I was a Chamberlady to Queen Elizabeth and her personal scribe or secretary.* My name at the time was Anne Vavasor but
most people thought it was 'write-this-down'.

Queen Elizabeth liked
my sketch a lot. She called it an allegory of an allegory and concluded that with enough allegories her family started to appear to be normal. (That is a hard thing to do when your father chopped off your mother's head.)

It was actually two years earlier that I started drawing
cartoons. In fact I invented the political cartoon as we know it today with all the common elements including parody, caricature, metaphor, and satire. They were also funny and also had lots of hidden content so I simultaneously invented another form of cartoon. The cartoon that children love which has hidden content. 

This one cartoon has three levels of whimsy added one on top of another other. (I found the cartoon here in probably the best internet collection of Queen Elizabeth's paintings.)


Notice at the bottom there appears to be a line of heraldry, like a coat of arms, signifying the royal nature of the court of Queen Elizabeth except there is no heraldry that is as long as that one. That one extends all the way across the bottom of the drawing and that is unheard of. If you look closer you will see numbers on them like the number '3' on one of them and that means it has to be something other than heraldry.  What is it?

footlightsWhen we used candles for footlights in the theater they went across the floor like in the picture at the right. They were almost, but not quite out of view of the audience like in both pictures. And the numbers? They all had numbers on them so when one candle had to have it's wick trimmed a person called a snuffer did the trimming. However, he was in front (down in the orchestra pit) and could not see which candle needed trimming so one of the actors would hold up fingers to indicate which candle to trim or to have him redirect the lamp like to Juliet's balcony in Romeo and Juliet.

Do you remember these words?:
All the worlds a stage, And all the men and women merely players? Those lights were my way of saying that Queen Elizabeth's royal court was all a production put on for the world. I can attest to the fact that those fancy dresses and the pageantry was all part of a show put on by the world's prettiest and smartest geek.

The world was indeed her stage.

scribeThe style of my drawing was one that I invented where the important issues and themes are made larger than life. They have named this style in the last 400 years and it is now called 'caricature'. My nose, my quill, how Queen Elizabeth leads by the hand. Because these aspects are important each are increased in size until my nose is bizarrely pointed, my quill is the largest in England and Elizabeth is about to pull me right off my feet (which she did to everyone if your feet were not facing the right direction when she took you by the hand and dragged you off to meet someone) .

very phalicSo that people could not ignore the phallic symbolism of the huge quill there was the real implied use of large feathers which were often then as now used for sexual foreplay. Then so that people could not ignore both of those symbolisms look a bit lower and you will notice that my fingers are pointed at my very un real non-symbolic penis,

That thing on it is what we called a mitt or sock. I won't get into it but it was my flag of power and independence.

The slang that went with it was more important. 'A man who doesn't bother to tie his mitt' means a self assured or arrogant man who doesn't worry about getting kicked in the groin.

That also goes for women who drew cartoons.

At his own peril a man might ignore my pen but that penis is hard to ignore. I knew exactly what I was drawing and I was an expert at knowing what effects such elements in a drawing would have on people.

hidden horse headDid you notice the woman in the picture to the right of me and how her hair looks like a horses head made from vegetables? I've outlined it on the right. You can't see all the lines in the original since this scan only picked up the darkest ones and the ink has faded in 400 years. It's both a hidden horse's head and it's made of vegetables which made it a double optical illusion. (which only means that very few people caught it).

Then to add another level the horse is eating from a bowl of apples. Yes, it is very important. I have always said that when you catch vegetables eating fruit it should always be immediately brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

Velvet ElvisvegfaceThis part of the drawing is a satire of those absurd old paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo from the 1530's which had vegetables made into faces. I hated them with a passion. It was the pop art of the day and they remind me a lot of those tawdry black velvet Elvis paintings. Oh, you like those? Then you can have your choice of 44 velvet Elvis's here.

People would often serve dinners with the food arranged in happy faces. They even cut the meat in the shape of the animal. Steaks were cut in the shape of cows, rabbits looked like small rabbits with ears of sliced carrots, the fish had fins of oysters, etc. The best were chickens since feathers could be made out of all sorts of sliced vegetables.  

Second Place winnerFairs all over England held contests offering expensive prizes for the best looking piles of fruit and vegetables.

I got so fed up with mans inhumanity to the vegetable kingdom that twice I entered the fairs as a protest. I made my first entry a satire which was supposed to be a mockery of the genre so I had a male friend enter it for me. It was at the second largest fair in London. It was considered the most important fair in England because of it's royal sponsorship and it had a strong regal presence.

When you have sewage being thrown from houses into the streets of London then you also have men taking a short cut and urinating directly out of windows. In London it was a very familiar sight which thoroughly disgusted most women (probably because we were not able to do it).

So I made a mans midsection of fruit and vegetables framed by a window sill of olives. I used two green pomegranates, etc as you can see in the profile (on the left) with a yellow stemmed leek as a penis and pee.

The judges took my entry very seriously. There were about 50 entries and I won second prize.

was exposed when I had to accept the prize. It was a flock of geese which I promptly gave to a home for young widows with children. These were mainly highly eligible young women whose husbands had died of the plague, smallpox and malaria. Their main problem rested with meeting single men. The women took turns herding the geese and used them to meet eligible men (many whose wives had died of disease) in the countryside around London. Dozens of these wonderful women found husbands this way.

I knew what I was doing.

The next year I redeemed myself when I made a fire breathing dragon fighting with a unicorn which won third place. It used chopped up pieces of that new and unique fruit from the new world called 'Red Pepper' for the dragon's fiery breath. Everyone was amazed when they tasted it. It messed up my presentation to do so but I gave out about 600 samples. A few had tasted mustard but it seems only about ten people had ever tasted a pepper. Peppers became common items in the London markets after that.

A horse was my signature image. I put one in all my cartoons until I ended up spending more time figuring out how to integrate horses into drawings than I spent drawing the rest of it. I got even with the people that insisted on me putting them in by making them so hard to find that they had to spend a long time locating them. 

It is like men now spend hours looking for the bunny ears on each Playboy
Magazine cover. My hidden trademark beat out Playboy by 350 years and the scantily covered male genitalia beat out Playgirl by 370 years.

There is one other hidden item.

King Henry VIII allegoryTudor allegory of allegory King Henry VIIIOn the left in the background of the sketch (left) is a young Edward handing a sword to a large tapestry which covers the wall but in the original Edward is actually bowing to King Henry VIII (right). If you look closely at that tapestry in the sketch you will notice that it is actually King Henry VIII complete with sleeves but minus his physical hand. That is symbolic of the reputation of Queen Elizabeth's larger than life father, the great King Henry VIII, looming over everyone. She and others (including yours truly) swore that his spirit was almost always around her court. It was also said that his spirit drove Queen (Bloody) Mary insane when she did not live up to his reputation. However, that was before my time therefore I cannot confirm such speculation.

His reputation was not really larger than life since his achievements were real. His feat at the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold' was one example. Using a long bow he repeatedly hit a target at 220 yards which only one of the highly trained French archers could ever equal.

Once, six of his guards were killed by two assassins who invaded his castle in order to assassinate him late at night. He heard the sword fight outside of his bedroom door and realized there were only two of them. He also realized they must have been the best swordsmen in Europe since they had killed his own guards who were  the best in England. Rather than escape out his hidden passageway or try to defend himself with a sword he hid behind the door with the heavy 7 foot tall (3 ½ feet longer than the invaders swords) wrought iron candle stand that normally took two men to move. When the two assassins burst through the door King Henry VIII used the candle stand as a giant club and beat both of them to death! His reign was a tough act to follow and the tapestry was symbolic of it.

The queen liked these cartoons. At least for awhile until she saw one I was in the process of drawing showing her riding bareback with too big of a smile on her face but it wasn't even near finished when she snatched it from me. The problem was that I had not put the horse in yet and she thought it was going to involve a man. Like I said, I was running out of horse ideas and it made real horse sense for me to add her mount later. 

I think that was pretty much the end of my career as the world's first political cartoonist.

If I did this cartoon work today I'd just be another one of 10,000 cartoonists, but nobody else drew cartoons 400 years ago.

join or dieIt is hard to even get a grasp on how earth shattering these cartoon were when they were first seen. Nothing like cartoons of kings had ever been seen before. Nobody had a perspective or knew what to even think about these pen and ink insults within a diagram.

Words could get a ruler very angry such as if you talked about a kings pregnant unmarried daughter. You could end up on trial and then find your head on a chopping block but what could that king do when his unmarried daughter was in an English cartoon showing a bulging waist and a midwife standing near her? Where did he go from there? Words could start a war but what about the picture of the preggers daughter made by the personal secretary to the Queen of England?

I made them of Spain's Royalty, the French's, the German's even the Swedes and a few Russians. Then I gave them to the ambassadors... of their biggest enemies. Then the German Ambassadors kept wanting cartoons of their own rulers which took half the fun out of it.

England was considered a dead end assignment so the Ambassadors often hated their own rulers. The Germans were no exception.

Elizabeth Sketch

Here is another sketch I drew. It is now in the British Museum. I found it on the same page here. This is only about half finished so there is no horse. Did you notice that her shawl is a fishes tail? And that there is a phoenix in the background but what I mainly want to point out to you is the ermine, the snake and the puppy on the column. I put them there so that I could add leaves to hide them. The ermine and the snake were to become vines while the dogs ears were to become leaves. That is how you hide animals in pictures. You draw them first and then add other elements to confuse the eye instead of putting in the animals as a finishing touch.

This drawing is unfinished. It got left behind and then lost when we went hunting stags across the English countryside. At the time I wondered what had happened to it.
Say, you don't suppose the British Museum would want me to finish it for them?

Until I wrote this page nobody really knew who had drawn these sketches. 
They were attributed to Federigo Zuccaro by Horace Walpole in the late 1700's but that is not Zuccaro's style. I'm backed up by the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs which states very emphatically: 

"A similar careless statement by Wadpole lead to the bulk of the fine portraits in the reign of Elizabeth being attributed with absurd recklessness to Federigo Zuccaro."  Here


"Many anonymous portraits of the period are improbably attributed to him."  Here

It just amazes me how credence is given to a statement like that of Walpole, who obviously was trying to make a name for himself when it was only made a bit over 200 years ago and 250 years after the fact. He made a guess based on absolutely no logic which became a hard fact in just about everyone's mind. It is obviously untrue. Unfortunately almost everyone seems to be closed off to more conclusive evidence that I was when I was Anne Vavasor.

ZuccaroAll you need to do is look at any one of Zuccaro's known sketches (left) and you will see it is simply not at all his style. He could not have made them. His style is closer to Botticelli's and lacks the detail that is evident in my sketches.

For lack of a better way to describe them my sketches are far more petite and detailed than Zuccaro's.

They date these sketches at 1574 because that was the only time Federigo was in England and they were attributed to him by Walpole because he is the only person in Queen Elizabeth's court known to have drawn sketches.

They are wrong and I am about to prove he could not have drawn these sketches by several methods.

Elizabeth rainbowDarnley portriat of Queen ElizabethThe collar on the queen's dress of my first sketch is my most solid proof. That kind of high flat collar did not exist until after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 which was a dozen years after Zuccaro left England. (The defeat of the Spanish Armada gave England the licence to become more extravagant in all things and not just collars.) About 1600 is when those high collars were most in vogue. Just check the collars and the dates on these many dated paintings of Queen Elizabeth and confirm it yourself.  The one in my first sketch is almost identical to the dress that Elizabeth is wearing in her famous Rainbow Painting (see right) which simply everyone at Hatfield House Museum knows is dated at 1600. Federigo left England in 1574 so it simply cannot have been drawn by him.  In 1574 all the collars were small like in the Darnley portrait (see left). Then they started growing about 1582 to an over sized accordion plait about 1586 and then they got even bigger until the accordion plait maximized about 1596. It was only in about 1590 that the queen started occasionally wearing the large thin flat style of collars. All these dates are approximate because I must dismiss the dimension of time in order to transcend time in order to recall another life. It's hard to explain.

The small collar of the second sketch was always in style so I can't use it as proof. Don't get me wrong, Federigo was a nice man and he did teach me some techniques about using oil colors but he did not make those sketches or else I would tell you so.

I recall this information because I was also in charge of the construction of her majesties dresses. One thing I was taught and taught others was to sew between the threads of the weave of the cloth and not just through the cloth. As I recall this was almost always used on the lower hem and less often for the embroidery. As I recall sewing like this prevented them from ever running, tearing or bunching. I think that was done on the majority of her dresses.

In fact although this information doesn't conclusively prove that I drew the sketches my ability to so easily and logically disprove the belief that Federigo drew the first one shows that I could very well have drawn both of them. My intimate knowledge of them shows that I have information that only the artist knows. I guess in the end you will just have to believe me when I tell you that I drew them in a past life when I was known as Anne Vavasour.

If all this is a strain on your mind then briefly put yourself in my position. I am single heterosexual retired male American engineer who lives in Arizona, who has not studied Tudor English History for even so much as a day and never visited England. Yet I just clarified an issue involving art using 400+ year old clothing fashions from memory as my proof. I am possibly more of an expert on Elizabethan fashion (and pretty much everything else from this period of history in England) than anyone else alive today and yet in this life I am totally helpless when it comes to matching or mending my own socks.


*The position was an respectable one of clerk or secretary. The next ruler of England, King James, made this position officially that of a Secretary of State. After we were married Robert Cecil was listed officially as Secretary of State (from July 5, 1590 onward) but the quill in my sketch strongly suggests that I was the queens primary secretary. Queen Elizabeth felt that it would create problems if it were known that I was her secretary. One worry was that I might be kidnapped but the main thought then was that a woman would be too emotional and lack the objectivity to write proper court records.

How absurd, please read this court record I wrote about my ex husband, the Earl of Oxford as found on this page.

On 16 December 1580 Oxford informed on three of his former dining companions, who in turn accused Oxford of murder, pederasty, necromancy, atheism, lying, drunkenness, and sedition. On 21 March 1581 Anne Vavasor, one of the queen's maids of honor, gave birth to an illegitimate son and was thrown into the Tower. Oxford, the child's father, took French leave, but was captured and placed under arrest before 29 April. Here

The three former dinner companions were 'me', 'myself' and 'I'. Since it was his fault that I had to fake my death and change my identity as Oxford's wife Anne Cecil (you can read about that on the 'sideshow' page by going 
here.) he was guilty of murder and while I was at it I lowered my official age and that meant when we first got married I was only 12 years old so he was guilty of pederasty. Since I was officially dead when we made love he was guilty of necromancy The atheism was when he was a young child, the lying was when he was 'lying' down to sleep after he got so drunk he was impotent.

Now what is this about women being too emotional to write accurate court records? 

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