The Horn of Windsor

The Horn of Windsor was a unicorn horn (alicorn) owned by Elizabeth I. The corpus of material surrounding both the Martin Frobisher voyages and unicorns links the Horn of Windsor to the alicorn found during Frobisher’s second voyage to Canada in 1577.

Settle’s Description of the Horn of Windsor

Dionyse Settle recorded the discovery of the horn in A true reporte of the last voyage…by Capteine Frobisher. Settle’s travel narrative describing Frobisher’s second voyage to Canada was typical of the period.  He narrated the path of the ship, described the natural resources found in northern North America, and highlighted English encounters with Native Americans in both trade and war.

Settle described seeing two shorelines, Asia in the east and America in the west.  On the western shore of America, the men of the Frobisher expedition “found a dead fishe floating, whiche in his nose a horne streight & torquet, of lengthe two yeardes lacking two ynches, being broken in the top where we might perceiue it hollowe, into which some of our Saylers putting Spiders, they presently dyed. I saw not the tryall hereof, but it was reported vnto me of a trueth: by the vertue whereof, we supposed it to be the Sea Unicorne.” According to Settle, the horn they found had to belong to a sea unicorn because it looked like one (straight and torqued), and it killed a poisonous animal (spider). The sea unicorn was probably a narwhal and the horn its tusk. This 70 inch twisted and torqued horn was most likely the Horn of Windsor presented by Martin Frobisher to Queen Elizabeth I. ”

Dionyse Settle
Description of the Sea Unicorn from Dionyse Settle, A true reporte of the laste voyage into the west and northwest regions (London: 1577, 30).

Hentzer’s Description of the Horn of Windsor

In 1598, a German named Paul Hentzner plagiarized a description of the Horn of Windsor and Windsor Castle written by another German named either Emmanuel Demetrius or George Hoefnagle. What remains of the Hentzner/Demetrius/Hoefnagle description of the Horn was translated by Richard Bentley and Horace Walpole in the 1790s and is found in Harl. MS., No. 367. In 1858, Robert Tighe and James Davis transcribed the Walpole manuscript for their work entitled Annals of Windsor, being a history of the castle and town. The description of the horn was:

“We were shewn here among other Things the Horn of a Unicorn, of abouve eight spans and an half in length, valued at above 10,000l.” If a span is considered 9 inches, then the Horn of Windsor would be 76.5 inches long.

 

So from what I can gather, the Horn of Windsor was a 72-76.5 inch long narwhal tusk, believed to belong to a sea unicorn, and was valued at 10,000 pounds in 1598.

Primary Sources

Below, you can browse through Dionyse Settle’s and Tighe and Davis’ works:

A true report of the laste voyage into the west and northwest regions (London, 1577). The description of the Sea Unicorn horn is found on page 30.

Annals of Windsor, being a history of the castle and town (London, 1858). The description of the Horn of Windsor is found on page 41.

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