Later this month in the U.S., we will be all about the turkey and fixings and football and preparing for Black Friday sales, but in the U.K., turkeys are a more traditional dish for Christmas. Why might you ask? We can blame that particular fact on one William Strickland, a 16th Century navigator and explorer, who supposedly, in 1596, brought turkeys back to his home in Yorkshire from America.
Strickland was an English landowner, who reportedly sailed on early voyages to the Americas. In later life, he was an important Puritan Member of Parliament. The son of Roger Strickland of Marske, a Yorkshire gentleman and a member of the Stricklands of Sizergh faction of the family tree. The English surname Strickland is derived from the place-name Stercaland, of Old Norse origins, which is found in Westmorland to the south of Penrith. It has been used as a family name at least since the late 12th century, when Walter of Castlecarrock married Christian of Leteham, an heiress to the landed estate that covered the area where the villages of Great Strickland and Little Strickland are now. [ Peach, Howard (2001) Curious Tales of Old East Yorkshire, p. 53. Sigma Leisure. Includes illustrations of Strickland’s coat of arms and the lectern.]
Strickland sailed with one of Sebastian Cabot’s [Son of the Italian explore John Cabot, Sebastian Cabot conducted his own voyages of discovery, seeking the Northwest Passage through North America for England. He later sailed for Spain, traveling to South America, where he explored the Rio de la Plata and established two new forts.] lieutenants. Strickland is credited with introducing England to the turkey. When Strickland was presented a coat of arms in 1550, it included a “turkey-cock in his pride proper” upon it. The official recording of the crest in the archives of the College of Arms is thought to be the oldest surviving drawing of a turkey in Europe.
Supposedly, Strickland bargained for six turkeys by trading with Native Americans on his 1526 voyage. He brought them back and sold them in Bristol’s market for tuppence each.
With the proceeds from his many voyages, Strickland purchased estates at Wintringham and at Boynton in the East Riding region of Yorkshire. He lived out the remainder of his days at Place Newton, the Wintringham property and is buried there, but he had the Norman manor at Boynton rebuilt as Boynton Hall. His descendants have resided there for centuries. The church at Boynton is liberally decorated with the family’s turkey crest, most notably in the form of a probably-unique lectern (a 20th-century creation) carved in the form of a turkey rather than the conventional eagle, the bible supported by its outspread tail feathers. The village church, in which William Strickland is buried, is adorned with images of turkeys. It has stone sculptures on the walls, stained-glass windows and a carved lectern.
Although Sir William Strickland felt deeply honored that Edward VI allowed him to include turkeys on his coat of arms as a mark of his pioneering role in facilitating their importation, the ‘elite’ quality of turkey meat was impossible to preserve. Everyone wanted it. In 1560 laws had to be passed to prevent turkeys bred for slaughter from being allowed to roam through the streets of London and it was amid such turkey-based chaos that the bird began to emerge as an ‘aspirational’ staple of the Christmas dinner table.
According to Charlie Emett in Walking in the Wolds [Cicerone Press Limited, 1993], in 1558, Strickland was elected to the Parliament of England as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Scarborough, and seems to have proved an able and eloquent advocate of the Puritan cause, earning such nicknames as “Strickland the Stinger” from his political opponents, though the anonymous author of the Simonds d’Ewes diaries described him sardonically as “One Mr Strickland, a grave and ancient man of great zeal, and perhaps (as he himself thought) not unlearned”.
“Strickland does not seem to have been particularly prominent in his first two parliaments, but came to the forefront in the parliament that met in 1571, in which the Puritan faction was stronger than previously. This time he found himself at the centre of a constitutional crisis, one of Parliament’s earliest assertions of its privilege to conduct its proceedings without royal interference with its members.
“Strickland spoke on both the first two days of the session, 6 April 1571 and 7 April 1571; on the second of these he put forward a motion to reintroduce six bills to reform the Book of Common Prayer, which had been defeated in the previous parliament; the Speaker allowed the bills to be read, but the Queen had previously directed that Parliament should not debate such matters, and this earned the house a royal reprimand. Then on the last day before the Easter recess, 14 April 1571, Strickland introduced his own bill to reform the prayer book – among other measures it proposed to abolish confirmation, prevent priests from wearing vestments and the end of the practice of kneeling at the Communion. The bill was given a first reading against the vigorous opposition of the Privy Counsellors present, but after further argument the House voted to petition the Queen for permission to continue discussing the bill before any further action was taken, and the House adjourned.” (William Strickland, Navigator)
Eventually summoned before the Privy Council, Strickland was forbidden to resume his seat in Parliament. Some reports of his imprisonment exist and some say rumors existed of his being brought up on charges of heresy. The members disapproved of Strickland’s removal unless by order of the House itself. Heated debates followed on how Strickland should be treated. The following day, Strickland was permitted by the Privy Council to return to his position, where he was promptly nominated to one of the committees. He was not reelected in 1572, but again knew success as MP for Scarborough in 1584.
Other Articles of Interest Related to Strickland’s Tale
SNEAK PEEK AT MY LATEST JAFF TALE, ENTITLED “IN WANT OF A WIFE.” [ Enjoy, but please ignore any typos or misspellings. The story is not quite ready for an editor.]
“Open your eyes, Elizabeth,” a voice near her ear demanded, but she could not seem to find the strength to lift her lids. A pain so intense that the idea of her willingly encountering it caused her grimace.
“Come on, love,” the same voice insisted. It was a very nice voice. Smooth baritone. Cultured. A slight accent buried within the words.
Even so, a hint of fear skittered up her spine. She attempted to shake off the idea, but pain—immediate and excruciating—had her squeezing her eyes tighter. Instinctively, she reached for her head, but he stopped her, catching her hand in his, bringing it to his lips. The warmth of his breath across her knuckles was comforting in an odd sort of manner; yet, she knew she should not be permitting him to continue to caress her fingers. She gave a little tug, but he enclosed her hand in his two.
“Easy,” he cautioned. “You have injured your head. My personal physician has treated the laceration and applied a bandage. Just know, you are safe now. I will protect you. Nothing or no one will harm you again.”
Despite his assurances, she did not feel safe. Instead, foreboding crept into her chest, constricting her breathing. She attempted to recall what had happened to her, but she could recall nothing of the details. Questions. What felt to be hundreds of them scampered through her mind, but none she could name, except one. She cracked one eyelid open and then the second, attempting to focus upon his features. Forcing moisture to her lips, she rasped, “Who are you?”
The effort exhausted her, and her eyes drifted closed again.
“Surely you know me,” he protested. His words sounded as if he held his emotions tightly in check. “I am William. Your husband.”
She thought to protest, but the darkness had caught her other hand and was leading her away from him. With one final attempt to correct his assertion, her mind formed the words, but her lips would not cooperate. Her dissent died before she could tell him: I do not have a husband!
* * *
The next time she woke, she was alone in what appeared to be a finely furnished room. Even without turning her head, she could view the yellow and green flounced on the bed drape and the bright sunlight shining through the window. Tentatively, her hand reached for what felt of a bandage wrapped about her forehead. As the man had told her previously, she had been injured. But how? When? Why? Another shooting pain crossed behind her eyes, and she winced, squeezing her eyes shut.
Seeking a calming breath, she again attempted to remember how she had come to this place. Slowly, she lowered her hand and opened her eyes. A memory flitted closer: A voice called to her in urgency. Elizabeth! Lizzy! And the same voice saying: I am William. Your husband.
The idea frightened her, for she knew, without a doubt, she could have no husband. Her father would never—. Her father? Who was her father? She glanced to her hand where a very prominent emerald ring rested on her finger. “That is not right,” she whispered in labored syllables. Yet, as her lips formed the words, another memory—this one of the skies filled with a torrent of rain and flashes of lightning and the crash of thunder—raced across her mind. A strong hand held hers. A man’s hand. A gold band upon his finger. His hand soothing her and his voice—the same voice as the stranger—pleading with her to stay with me.
She knew instantly she did not belong with him. She had to escape from wherever she was now. She had to leave before…before what? Try as she may, the memory remained out of reach; yet, without conscious thought, she knew whatever it was that she attempted to recall, it would change her life forever and not for the better. And not simply her life, but all those she loved.
* * *
It was several days before she could open her eyes without experiencing the continued pain in her head and the feeling of despair plaguing her thoughts, but today the harsh white pain had lessened substantially, and her vision had cleared. With care, she turned her head to the side to examine the room further. A large vase of flowers filled the gentle breeze from the open window with the scent of a spring day. She could see more than two dozen yellow roses—her favorite—mixed with bits of greenery.
Turning her head to the opposite side of the room, she realized she was not alone. The same man as previously sat in a nearby chair, one leg crossed over the other, a book upon his lap. His strong profile stole her breath away. Like it or not, he disturbed her. Although she had yet to view him standing, she could tell from his perfect posture, he was quite tall. His jacket, a dusty black, nearly gray, spread across his wide shoulders as if it would never tolerate a wrinkle in ne plus ultra. She studied his averted profile and realized he was classically handsome: His hair was the darkest of browns, his brows the same rich shade of russet. His features square and angular. A strong, straight nose.
Despite the distance between them, she sensed his power—his complete control of his world. He raised his head. Their eyes met and held. Strangely enough, she could not look away. His eyes threatened to steal her breath away. They were a pale silver and unsettling in a manner that had her wondering if he had judged her and found her wanting.
She knew she frowned, but she could not prevent her reaction. He had told her his name, but she could not recall it. His was not a face easily forgotten, and she was certain she did not know him. Even so, as there was no one else about, she cleared her throat to say, “Could you assist me?”
As if released from a cold winter, he rose quickly, permitting the book to drop to the floor. He immediately moved to the bed to sit upon the edge and capture her hand again. He caressed the back of it, silently studying her with close scrutiny.
“Elizabeth, my love,” he said in tones speaking of relief. “Thank our dearest Lord. How do you feel?”
She swallowed hard against the panic filling her chest. He called her Elizabeth. Was that truly her name? Surely he would not call her such if it was not her name, but she did not feel as if the name fit her. Elizabeth was a most proper name. Lying in a bed while a strange man held her hand certainly did not feel proper. Could he have confused her with another? Yet, if Elizabeth was not her name, what was it?
“Elizabeth?” Concern marked his tone. “What ails you? Do you still have a headache? Doctor Nott promised the pain would decrease when the swelling abated.”
“I do feel stronger,” she assured him, although the words provided her nothing of calm. A thousand questions rushed to her lips, but she could not speak any of them aloud, for she was not certain she wished to know the answer.
“You are so pale.” He caressed her cheek, and it was all she could do not to close her eyes and sigh. His touch held great tenderness.
“Where am I?” she asked, attempting to right her memory.
“In our home in London. In Mayfair. You are in the mistress’s quarters.”
“What happened to cause my injuries?”
She watched as indecision briefly flickered across his features before he reined in his emotions. “A carriage accident.”
She attempted to keep her expression as blank as was his. “When?”
“Nearly a week prior. Your head struck a paver stone, and you were kicked in the leg by a donkey pulling a cart. Fortunately, only a large bruise from the stubborn animal. My sister and your maid have taken turns throughout the day, massaging your legs and arms to be certain the blood does not pool because of inaction. The fact you are considered a great walker proved advantageous in this matter. We could have lost you. Everyone was so frightened.”
“Most assuredly. You must know—”
“But I do not,” she insisted.
A muscle jerked in his jaw, and a frown creased his forehead. “I do not understand,” he said after a long pause.
She stilled under his piercing gaze. “I remember nothing of this room. Of my name. Of—”
“Of me?” he demanded.
She sighed deeply, before squeezing her eyes shut for a brief moment. At length, she said, “Nothing of you either.”
He quickly released her hand and stood to pace the open area. She watched as he ran his hand through his hair in what appeared to be frustration. When, at last, he turned to her, his face was in shadow. When he spoke, he enunciated each syllable carefully, as if willing her to remember. “I am your husband. William. Fitzwilliam Darcy. And you are my wife, Elizabeth Darcy.”
“It cannot be—” she began, but the scowl claiming his features silenced her protest.
“This is unacceptable. I realize I was never your first choice as a husband, but it is too late to change your mind. The vows have been spoken. The registry signed. You cannot deny your pledge with this ploy. I will not have it. No matter how often you call out George Wickham’s name, he will never be your husband. I will never release you.”
She closed her eyes, battling the despondency pouring through her. “I know nothing of a marriage to you or a desire to marry anyone named ‘George Wickham.’”
“You have called out for him twice,” he stubbornly charged.
“He means nothing to me,” she insisted. She struggled to conceal how much his accusation bothered her.
“But neither do I.” The bitterness in his tone stabbed her conscience. “I would never have thought you capable of deception. Flippancy and pride and even prejudice, but never spitefulness.”
“Please.” She squeezed her eyes closed to block out his hurt expression. “I never set out to betray you.” She looked upon him again, willing him to believe her. “I do not know the answers to your questions. I cannot provide you the assurances you seek.”
He studied her for an elongated moment before returning to the bed and reclaiming her hand. “We will discover a means from this madness. What is it you require of me? Speak your wishes, and if it is within my power, I will grant it.”
She desperately wished she could give him what he sought, but she truly had no idea how to resolve their dilemma. “I speak the truth. I wish you believed me.” She turned her head so she no longer had to look upon desolation upon his features. Thankfully, before their conversation could continue, a maid showed a kind-looking elderly gentleman into the room.
“I see our patient is awake,” he said. “I am Doctor Nott, Mrs. Darcy.”
Her supposed husband explained, “Mrs. Darcy appears to have lost her memory, Nott. I would have you consult with others who know more of the field of such injuries regarding her care. I wish only the best for my wife.”
“I understand your concern, Mr. Darcy,” the physician said with practiced patience, “but what you describe of Mrs. Darcy’s condition is to be expected after such trauma. The swelling—”
“I insist,” her husband said in stubborn tones.
“As you wish, sir,” Nott declared. “Might I examine her first?”
“Certainly.” To her, Mr. Darcy said, “I will return when Nott is finished.”
“It is not necessary,” she suggested, but the look of disapproval crossing his features cut short her protest.
“It is necessary,” came his dry retort.
She presented him a quick nod of acceptance, but the movement caused her to blanch white from the pain’s return.
“Careful,” Nott cautioned her. “Go, Darcy. Permit me time to examine your wife thoroughly. We will speak later.”