blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


ELIZABETH KING | Clockwork Prayer


Now, just a few threads to tie up.

What was Don Carlos doing on those little-used stairs? He was certainly not on his way to a clandestine rendezvous with his father's new wife, the young Elizabeth of Valois, who was Don Carlos' same age. Nor was he preparing to depart for the Netherlands to lead an insurrection against the Spanish Crown. These are Verdi's conceits, and Schiller's before him, and before Schiller the seventeenth century French writer César Vischard de Saint-Réal, and yet other legends before that. [70] In fact, according to William H. Prescott, Don Carlos was sneaking down to a tryst with the daughter of the garden porter. [71] And King Philip's well documented grief over the fall: how do we reconcile it with his arrest of his own son six years after the miracle, for which he was in the midst of efforts to win sainthood for Friar Diego? Only now are we beginning to extricate truth from myth concerning the death of Don Carlos. The latest version of history is carefully told in the book mentioned above, Philip of Spain by Henry Kamen.





fig 23

In 1980, the Smithsonian changed the name of its National Museum of History and Technology. It would now be called the National Museum of American History. And some changes started to take place, subtle ones at first, but in recent years there have been shifts in institutional priority that have alarmed many historians and scholars. For one thing, the monk, as of December 1997, is now removed from view. The old instrument and timekeeping displays have been redesigned with a new theme in mind: the meaning of time to Americans and its influence on American life. But it isn't just politics as usual: not only is the monk unAmerican, he slips through all kinds of identification parameters. He isn't a clock, he isn't a calculator, he isn't a sculpture, he isn't an icon, he isn't a plaything: he doesn't fit anywhere! We still don't know how to look at him. And he troubles us.

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