Clime, complexion and degree

Clime, complexion and degree

A review of Miranda Kaufmann’s Black Tudors: The untold story for The Times Literary Supplement.

In August 1600, Abd-al-Wahid bin Masoud bin Muhammad al-Annuri arrived in England as an ambassador from Morocco and stayed in the Strand in London for six months, having his portrait painted as he waited to meet Queen Elizabeth I. His was not the first Moroccan embassy to visit England – there had been one eleven years earlier – and, in 1600, Al-Annuri and his advisers were also not the only Moroccans in town. Just down the road in East Smithfield lived one Mary Fillis. She had been born in Morocco in 1577, as the daughter of a basket-weaver and shovel-maker, and had arrived in England at the age of six or seven, when she became a servant of the Barker family, in the London parish of St Olave’s, Hart Street. She was not the only African in the household – twenty-year-old Leying Mouea and a man called George…

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