Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Clare College & Vindemiatrix

Clare College in Cambridge, which is the second oldest of thirty-one colleges, was founded in 1326 and generously endowed in 1338 by Lady Elizabeth de Clare, a granddaughter of King Edward I.

A Cambridge guide would tell you the story of her wealthy marriages which left Lady Clare a triple widow by the age of 27 – quite an unusual score even in those violent times. When I heard this, my immediate thought was about fixed star Vindemiatrix – the “widowmaker” star, which “frequently marks the death of one’s partner”.

At present, Vindemiatrix is located at 10th degree of Libra, but since fixed stars are shifted in zodiac for about 1 degree and 20 minutes per century (due to general precession of about 50 arc seconds per year), 700 years ago the star was on the zodiacal boundary between Virgo and Libra. Certainly, I expected to find something peculiar in Lady Clare’s chart in that region. I came home and cast the chart for her birthday, which I found to be September 16, 1295:

As you can see, there is conjunction of Sun and Mars exactly in that point, the first degree of Libra. This is not just death of partners, but some kind of violent death (involved Mars). Indeed, her first husband, John de Burgh, was murdered after five years of their marriage. Her second husband, Theobald de Verdun, died of typhoid just five months after the wedding. And only her third husband, Roger d’Amory, simply “died in captivity” – again after five years of the marriage, which was arranged by King Edward II (and Roger was said to be “reckless and violent”, good description of conjunction Sun-Mars). Lady Clare took a vow of chastity after the third husband’s death and enjoyed long and fruitful widowhood. Perhaps she felt it was better to avoid further marriages.

Marcus Manilius wrote in “Astronomica” in the 1st century that the native would be directed by Vindemiatrix to study and would train his mind in the learned arts. As it is said in the Clare College foundation statutes, ‘the knowledge of letters... when it hath been found, it sendeth forth its students, who have tasted of its sweetness, fit and proper members in God’s Church and the State, to rise to diverse heights, according to the claim of their deserts.’

Whatever happens on Earth, whichever times pass, the influence of stars seems to be unchangeable.


Anonymous said...

WOW, breathtaking architecture, and the quote was so good, that I was smitten to write it down! Thanks, valerie P.

Valerie Livina said...


Yes, this is the classical Old Court of Clare college, built in the XVII century (after the fire of 1521), and it is nicely complemented by King's College nearby.

In fact, the most famous Cambridge photos are taken in that area, with views of the Cam river, Clare College, and King's College chapel.


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