Speculation that there exists – or once existed – a clandestine organisation named the Order of the Rosy Cross has been ongoing since the early 1600s.

As mentioned in my novel, The Rosicrucian Prophecy, the origin of this bizarre tale can be traced to 1610–16. The first tangible evidence is three strange pieces of literature published in the cities of Kassel and Strasbourg concerning a group of enlightened men in possession of rediscovered ancient knowledge and intent on using it to deliver universal reforms. Over the coming decade, the impact of these publications, coupled with the release of several others, succeeded in cementing the society’s place in European history.

Not to mention, conspiracy theory.

Definitive evidence concerning any possible brotherhood is scant to say the least. The three manifestos do exist, the first of which, The Fama Fraternitatis, described the discovery of a bizarre tomb illuminated by an inner sun, and inhabited by one Frater CRC and a mysterious manuscript entitled Book M. It also discussed the importance of Kepler’s supernova of 1604, and how its sudden appearance, coupled with the discovery of the tomb, would have a profound impact on European civilisation.

Within a year of the Fama’s release, a sequel followed. Building on the Fama, the Confessio further highlighted their aims of establishing a society in Europe while expanding on their philosophies, including the significance of Adam. The third manifesto, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, was different in style and content and, coupled with being published in a different city, has led some to believe it was the work of a different author. As opposed to considering reforms or ancient knowledge, the story follows the activities of the key character, Christian Rosenkreutz, who undergoes a journey of initiation on being invited to a mysterious castle.

Accompanying the manifestos were often a series of ‘replies’ or ‘tracts’, some of which have also influenced public perception. One manuscript of particular importance was another mentioned in the novel: the 1623, Paris-released A History of The Frightful Compacts Entered Into Between The Devil and The Pretended Invisibles, which entered circulation within a year of a series of posters appearing in the French capital insinuating the society’s clandestine presence there. Intriguingly, The Frightful Compacts also made the shocking claim that no less than thirty-six Rosicrucian brothers were operating throughout Europe and were pulling the strings behind most of its major cities. Crucially, this was also the first mention of the society as ‘invisibles’: something that would be of great importance following the emergence of the Invisible College.

Christian Rosenkreutz

Firmly at the centre of the Rosicrucian legend is their mythical founder. Named for the first time in the third manifesto, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, the same character has understandably been identified with Frater CRC from the Fama.

Born in 1378, Rosenkreutz was allegedly a monk and physician who travelled throughout the Middle East, becoming an expert on the kabbalah and other aspects of esoteric wisdom. Aged just five, so the Fama tells, he entered monastic life to be educated in Latin and Greek before leaving with one Brother PAL and journeying to the Holy Land. While PAL died in Cyprus, CRC proceeded to Damascus, where he met some wise men from Arabia, who were impressed by his knowledge of medicine. Aged sixteen he entered Damcar in modern Yemen, and it is there he began to translate the mysterious Book M into Latin before heading for Egypt and subsequently Fez. Incidentally, Yemen was almost certainly the real-life home of the Queen of Sheba, which offers a direct connection to Solomon and potentially Enoch.

It was in Fez CRC became acquainted with the mysteries of the four elements. Boosted by his knowledge of the old ways, the German mystic departed for Spain, where he was shocked to discover his teachings fell mainly on deaf ears. Lamenting the European ways, he returned to Germany with dreams of a society of Europe. Without the financial clout, he instead made do with the founding of his brotherhood, whom he sent out to cure the sick free of charge, a feat more than a little reminiscent of Christ’s apostles. According to the Fama, he also predicted the discovery of his own tomb, which supposedly occurred precisely 120 years after his death.

The very year of Kepler’s supernova.

Fascinating though the story of Rosenkreutz is, evidence that he was a real-life figure is non-existent. Taking the manifestos at face value and accepting he lived for 106 years is difficult enough without stories of his tomb being discovered in perfect condition and at the very moment CRC had predicted. His name itself, literally speaking, means Christ Rose Cross.

Tempting though it is to search for a historical mystic, far more likely is the suggestion his story was intended as some form of allegory. The years 1378 to 1484, as mentioned in the novel, were of great importance to the line of Welsh princes, not least the resumption of their rule with the emergence of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. The Great Schism of the Western Church also occurred in 1378, whereas 1484 was important for a number of reasons. Intriguingly, in Florence, philosophers Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino were eagerly attempting to push the importance of Hermes.

In the context of any Rosicrucian society, Rosenkreutz’s life is arguably of limited relevance. True, the character’s mystique may have furthered the movement’s appeal by giving them an intriguing ancient footing, but it’s as a protagonist in the Chymical Wedding Rosenkreutz serves his real purpose. As an ideal, whose story was told at a time of religious complexity, his tale represents the quest for spiritual perfection.

Incidentally, it would be a journey taken up by another of the characters central to my novel.

Elizabeth of Bohemia

Regardless of whether the Rosicrucians ever existed, much of the furore clearly followed the activities of one very historical person. Daughter of James I of England and later wife of Frederick V of the Palatinate, Elizabeth was Electress of the Palatinate and, very briefly, Queen of Bohemia.

Mention of Elizabeth in this book is inspired by historical events. As a daughter of the king, she was famously the gunpowder plotters’ target to take over as monarch should the plot have been successful.

Born in Fife in 1596, her birth was believed to be of great consequence, thanks in no small part to the appearance of the variable star Mira, which was visible in the skies that year. In the eyes of the plotters, it’s also likely the then nine-year-old was seen as the most prudent candidate on offer, especially bearing in mind Prince Henry was likely to have been present at parliament at the time of the explosion, while the young Charles – later Charles I – was a fairly weak child.

Descriptions of Elizabeth’s personality in this novel are also inspired by her true-to-life character. A well-read, educated and intelligent individual, Elizabeth succeeded early on in captivating her future husband, and the two enjoyed a prosperous marriage. The wedding itself was noteworthy for its extravagance, the £50,000 cost nearly bankrupting James. Mention of the wedding in my novel, though in some ways controversial, is largely factual. Inigo Jones, Sir Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare were all involved in their stated capacities. The facts concerning the masque in 1610, I also believe to be accurate.

Further to Elizabeth’s role as electress, her husband’s acceptance, and initially triumphant ascension, of the throne of Bohemia, replacing the fervent Catholic Ferdinand II, was, alas, not destined to last. Unwilling to go quietly, Ferdinand subsequently defeated Frederick within a year of his coronation and swiftly retook the crown of Bohemia, thus beginning the Thirty Years’ War. With this, the king and queen of one winter were destined to leave Prague. Unable to return to the Palatinate either, due to the dominance of the Catholic League and the Spanish, the pair were forced into exile.

As indicated in the novel, they spent most of their later lives in The Hague.

Doomed to a certain ignominy in her lifetime, Elizabeth mothered thirteen children with Frederick. Despite never achieving the ‘star child’ status that some prophesied, her descendants ironically did inherit the British throne in the form of the Hanoverians and continue to rule it to this day.

A Rosicrucian Gunpowder Plot

Suggestion in my novel that the Gunpowder Plot was part of a Rosicrucian endeavour to place Princess Elizabeth on the throne has been rumoured since the 1600s. In her epic investigation into the Rosicrucian movement in the 1970s, the eminent historian Dame Frances Yates concluded that, although the society was almost certainly bogus, a unique Rosicrucian phase of culture was attached to Elizabeth’s early life. Whether or not the circles in which Dr John Dee walked when staying in Bohemia gave rise to the movement that followed remains a topic of debate.
Likewise, that a longer reign of Frederick and Elizabeth in Bohemia could have resulted in a Hermetic paradise will never be known.

Though claims have been put forward that Elizabeth or James could themselves have been Rosicrucians, there is little evidence for this. The suggestion in the novel that Elizabeth was described as a rose in need of protection does have a source. Intriguingly, in 1611 James received a unique Christmas card from Rudolf II’s physician, Michael Maier, which was allegedly of Rosicrucian design. Mention by Simon Studion, as suggested in the novel, that James should enter a triumvirate with Frederick, Duke of Württemberg, and Henry IV of France is also based on fact. Any interest James had in the matter, however, was almost certainly down to diplomatic reasons as opposed to being part of any secret accord.

Strangely, a connection between the Rosicrucian movement and the Gunpowder Plot would make sense. Besides clear intent on the part of Catesby to choose Elizabeth as James I’s replacement, the later intentions of the Fama do match well with Catesby’s desires for reform. Further to this, Gunpowder Plot historians have long been confused by a conversation between Robert Wintour and Guy Fawkes in their cells at the Tower of London, with Wintour recorded as having told Fawkes: ‘God will raise up seed to Abraham out of the very stones, although they were gone’.

Exactly what this meant is anyone’s guess. Quite possibly it was a reassuring message that soon the anguish would all be over and heaven awaited. In other quarters, it has been suggested the words were a coded message to avoid the attention of their gaolers.

Of Wintour’s real intention, we will undoubtedly never know.

Dr John Dee

Central to the themes around which my novel, The Rosicrucian Prophecy, evolved, Dr John Dee was a historical character who came to prominence in the reign of Elizabeth I. Born around July 1527, a stone’s throw from the Tower of London, Dee was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge before becoming a founding fellow at nearby Trinity. It was here as a reader in Greek he began to make waves with his academic talents. So excellent was his reputation as a young mathematician, he was invited to lecture on the geometry of Euclid at the University of Paris, aged just twenty-four.

Rarely swayed by offers of advancement, Dee devoted much of his life to the study of mathematics and the developing sciences, travelling regularly and spending his time among like-minded individuals. On reaching saturation point, his interests evolved to those of magic, astrology and Hermetic philosophy, inspired by hopes his new approach might one day prove the gateway to unifying the war-torn continent. As his career advanced, Dee became highly thought of by Queen Elizabeth I, whose religious beliefs were of apparent similarity, Elizabeth once stating: ‘there is only one Jesus Christ . . . the rest is a dispute over trifles.’

A few years earlier, however, Dee had endured far more strained relations with Elizabeth’s elder half-sister, Mary. Following a time travelling the continent, during which time the fires of heresy began to cast their awful glow over Marian England, come 1555 the Privy Council initiated their own witch hunt against Dee, accusing him of ‘calculating’, ‘conjuring’ and ‘witchcraft’, predominantly in connection for his casting of horoscopes concerning Mary, Philip II and Elizabeth.

Reputedly the one for Mary was so bad, Dee had been reluctant to reveal it.

A year after successfully exonerating himself before the Star Chamber, Dee’s frustrations with Mary reached a new height when his request to create a library royal as mentioned in the novel was not taken up. Instead, he endeavoured to complete the task himself, turning his Mortlake cottage into arguably the most excellent private collection in Europe.

With Elizabeth succeeding Mary to the throne, Dee’s fortunes showed signs of improving. After disappearing for five years, he made contact with William Cecil in 1563 to confirm he had obtained a copy of Steganographia in Antwerp, and pleaded with him for funds, as he had acquired the title in service of the nation. A year after his return, and no doubt inspired by his trip, Dee wrote his famed book The Monas Hieroglyphica, a detailed explanation of his glyph of the same name, which combined not only magical ideas and things both major branches of Christianity considered Pagan, but joined with elements of astrology, numerology, mathematics and the kabbalah. The exact meaning of the symbol, which originally appeared on the title page of Dee’s Propaedeumata Aphoristica, is now unknown thanks to the loss of the book. Apparently the design was inspired by Dee’s belief that every symbol could be combined into one, a variant of mercury, thus implying the unity of the cosmos. Not for the first time in his career, it would arouse the intrigue of Elizabeth I, who would later become a ‘sacred witness’ of the mystery.

While Dee usually found himself in Elizabeth’s favour, even to the point he was appointed her astrologer, he wasn’t without enemies at court. As a student of the stars, Dee considered himself a Copernican, still a somewhat controversial matter at that time. Intriguingly, Dee’s other theories have more than a little in common with that of his famous successors. His belief that everything in the universe possessed the ability to repel or attract remains relevant in modern physics, while his work on the ebb and flow of tides was comparable in many ways to that later practised by Kepler and Newton. Reputedly the work of Galileo, the premise that two bodies of unequal weight would fall to the ground at equal speeds was also known to Dee.

Much of that mentioned of Dee in my novel was based on fact. When in England, he spent much of his life in Mortlake, surrounded by his magnificent assembly of books and keepsakes. On turning his attentions to the supernatural, he had been absorbed by the greater mysteries for at least fourteen years when on 8 March 1582 the sky above Mortlake was said to have turned the colour of blood.

It was only a few hours earlier he had met a man whose questionable activities sadly tarnished his reputation ever since.

Edward Kelley

Exactly who Edward Kelley was, if indeed that was his real name, remains a matter of controversy. Born around 1555 in Worcester – at least that was Dee’s conclusion on composing Kelley’s horoscope – Kelley was well versed in Greek and Latin and may have attended Oxford. He also seems to have understood Hebrew, which was rare for an Englishman. Like many of his time, he left university without obtaining a degree.

Of his activities up to the point he met Dee, little is known for sure. Certain accounts suggest he left Oxford abruptly, possibly for some form of misdoing, and was later pilloried in Lancaster on charges of coin counterfeiting. He was also reputedly found guilty of forging title deeds, which tallies with reports he had worked as a notary in London. It’s possible both crimes made their mark on his appearance, as one witness claimed at least one of his ears had been lopped, while he also relied on the use of a walking stick. Added to his regular appearance of wearing a cowl, it’s not difficult to see why the arrival of such a figure on a day when the sky should burn blood-red should have been regarded as somewhat foreboding.

Regardless of his exact crimes, accusations of a dodgy nature would follow Kelley throughout his life. Entering Mortlake under the name Edward Talbot, Kelley was already aware of Dee’s attempts at contacting angels and spirits through the help of a medium or scryer and was initially accepted into the Dee household. Evidence from Dee’s diary suggests he was particularly excited by recent developments. During this time, Kelley apparently made contact with the archangel Uriel, who was mentioned in the Pseudepigrapha – formerly part of the Bible. The suggestion in the novel that Uriel and Michael buried Adam’s body is based on the real legend, and Uriel is also credited in the book of Enoch as the angel who forewarned Noah of the Flood and for earlier revealing the secrets of the ‘heavenly luminaries’ to Enoch. Incidentally, mention in the novel of the existence of the book of Enoch by Guillaume Postel is also based on fact.

From these early exchanges came the sequence of events that would forever colour both Dee’s and Kelley’s reputations. The suggestion in the novel that they conducted their experiments in an attempt to learn the celestial language is known fact, as is their belief its discovery would bestow on them divine knowledge. On learning of Uriel’s alleged presence, one of Dee’s first questions was to enquire of the Book of Soyga, which intriguingly went missing from Dee’s library a year later. Two copies have since turned up and survive in the British Library and the Bodleian.

Despite their initial success, by July the endeavour came to an end, Dee recording in his diary that Talbot was not to be trusted. Yet, come November all seemed to have been forgiven and Talbot, now Kelley, returned to Mortlake, at which point they resumed their ‘spiritual conferences’. From this point onwards, Dee recorded everything in the Book of Mysteries. Within a year, Kelley’s activities further whetted Dee’s appetite after bringing before him a strange book and scroll in addition to a red substance believed to be a sample of the philosopher’s stone.

Over the coming months, the conferences between Kelley and Uriel continued, during which Dee was apparently promised a dictated copy of the book of Enoch, in addition to an ongoing search to get to the bottom of the apparent treasure map concealed in the scroll. Come June 1583, Dee became introduced to one Polish prince, Lord Albert Laski, which would lead to Dee and Kelley upping sticks and embarking on a long journey to Krakow. It was around the time Dee became acquainted with Laski a ‘new spirit’ came to the party, a young girl of around nine named Madimi, whose mischievous ways would further cloud Dee’s later reputation.

Dee arrived in Krakow in March 1584, followed a few weeks later by Kelley. Whereas delivery of the celestial language had been stop-start in England, since arriving on the Continent, the ‘conferences’ had been far smoother. This, however, came to a stuttering, and potentially dangerous, halt as the supernatural occurrences threatened to become violent, and by the middle of August Dee and Kelley had arrived in Prague, now the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. Not for the first time, the visions brought significant developments, notably the reappearance of Madimi, now far from the sweet child she had first appeared. Worse still, darker portents from Uriel concerned the wider reformation.

Just as back in England, news of Dee’s endeavours was not without scepticism. While certain figures plotted Dee and Kelley’s end, in a bid to counteract the new opposition, Dee was persuaded by the apparent spirits to destroy all he had recorded since Kelley’s arrival, followed by the book and powder Kelley had discovered back in England. Intriguingly, three weeks later Dee reputedly found three books beneath a tree, having been led there by a supposed spirit posing as a gardener. Among them was the book of Enoch.

Following that, so reappeared everything Dee had willingly burned.

Irrespective of the strange tale, stories at court continued to spread that Dee was both a conjurer and a spy. Banished from Prague for a time, Dee and Kelley spent a two-year sojourn in Trebon – approximately midway between the Czech and Austrian capitals – during which time their experiments became more alchemical. Dogged by accusations of being a charlatan back in England, news of Kelley’s talents were now far-reaching, even prompting attempts by William Cecil to lure the reputed alchemist back to England.

Dee, curiously, shared none of Kelley’s abilities, despite a clear interest in the subject.

It was also at this time the angel conferences took a disturbing turn. Whereas up to this point proceedings had predominantly involved their bid for spiritual knowledge, the return of Madimi culminated in the bizarre command for Dee and Kelley to wife swap. Despite Dee’s initial concern and his wife’s objections, it was recorded in his diary the act was done.

It would prove the end of their partnership.

Dee and Kelley

Ten days before Christmas 1589, Dee and his family returned to Mortlake, finding his cottage ransacked. The excellent library and apparatus he had acquired prior to leaving with Kelley had vanished. Whether the work of William Cecil or looters or both remains unclear.

Of the works that resurfaced, many had Dee’s signature removed and replaced by that of one Nicholas Saunder.

Accusations against Dee and his activities were by no means isolated. A pamphlet published by exiled Catholics in Antwerp in 1592 pointed fingers at Raleigh’s ‘School of Atheism’ and the ‘conjuror that is master’, potentially a reference to Dee.

In the years that followed Dee’s death, a man named Sir Robert Cotton excavated the site around Mortlake and found several documents Dee had buried, many of which concerned his activities on the Continent. His son Thomas then passed on the discoveries to the scholar Méric Casaubon, who published them in 1659, bearing the unfortunate title: A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr John Dee and some spirits. This, perhaps unintentionally, damning publication of Dee’s spiritual diary would begin a chain reaction that would set his reputation back over three centuries.

As for Kelley, on leaving Trebon, he returned to Prague and within a year was made a baron of Bohemia. Greatly enriched from being graced with Rudolf’s favour, his alchemical experiments continued, leading to further attempts to entice him back to England.

Inevitably, the accusations that had followed him soon resurfaced, leading to warrants being put out for his arrest. Tipped off and already absconded, he was discovered in a tavern in southern Bohemia. Imprisoned, released, imprisoned again, he apparently met his end after a botched escape. Alternatively, the suicide was faked.

Either way, like the spirits, he vanished from history.

Throughout the ‘spiritual conferences’ Kelley himself was often sceptical of his visitations. Never admitting to producing them fraudulently, he was frequently fearful that the entities with which he dealt were more likely to be demons than angels. In the early days, Dee seemed to possess more legitimate concerns, yet clearly not enough to halt proceedings for any prolonged time.

Of the facts, history is vague. In academic circles, the conferences are invariably dismissed; however, it’s easy to forget the modern world is so different to the old. The accounts Dee provided are generous in detail, even to the point of reporting strange physical sensations, ranging from heart palpitations to apparent scars resulting from alleged poltergeist activity. Whether they were the work of spirits, for now at least, perhaps in some ways it comes down to faith. Either the duo succeeded in crossing a divide that conjurors, scientists and others alike have been trying to cross for centuries, or the reputed fraudster succeeded in carrying out one of the strangest cons of all time.

Johannes Valentinus Andreae

Reputedly the author of the Chymical Wedding, Andreae was a German theologian and member of the so-called Tübingen Circle, which included the Anhalts, Adam Haslmayr and Heinrich Khunrath. Born in 1586 to revered Lutheran parents, Andreae was following in big footsteps, his grandfather having been a pioneer of the Reformation. In his autobiography, he claimed responsibility for penning the third manifesto in 1605 as a form of satire and later mocked the Fama in the parody mentioned in my novel.

Irrespective of Andreae’s connection with the Rosicrucian furore, he was a prominent member, quite possibly the founder, of the protestant utopian movement that spread throughout Europe in the 1620s. In keeping with the suggestion in this book that the Christian Unions later led to the formation of the Invisible College, it is widely known that the movement spread into England under the guidance of Samuel Hartlib, thus confirming a connection.

Famous Rosicrucians

Inevitably with such organisations, it’s hardly surprising that over the years several famous people have been rumoured to have been members. One of the most memorable was Walt Disney, who did belong to the AMORC: a neo-Rosicrucian society based in California. Less convincing, however, are claims that many Disney films served as a vehicle for delivering the broader Rosicrucian message – not that I’ve ever watched The Little Mermaid that closely!

Robert Fludd was a prominent 16th/17th-century English physician, astrologer, alchemist and mathematician renowned for his interest in the occult. Like Ashmole, Fludd was fascinated with the Rosicrucians and wrote publicly of them. As a scientist, his approach in many ways followed that of Dee, and he was stout in his belief real wisdom would be found in the learning of natural magicians. At times, his views led to a passionate debate with Johannes Kepler.

Kepler was undoubtedly one of the most influential scientists of the era, famed for his contributions to mathematics, astrology and astronomy. He is perhaps best known for his theory of planetary motion, which would go on to have more than a passing influence on Sir Isaac Newton.

The supernova of 1604 was discovered by Kepler and was believed to indicate the start of the latest of a long line of epoch-marking events, the possibility of which was mentioned in The Rosicrucian Prophecy.
Simon Studion was another influential German, remembered primarily as a Latin teacher, poet, historian and author. His most famous work was Naometria, whose prose concerned the importance of the star of 1604. He is often credited as being Tobias Hess’s most considerable influence.

Not mentioned by name, Daniel Mögling was another famed court physician, alchemist and astronomer. Published in 1618 under the title Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum, translated into English as The Mirror of the Wisdom of the Rosy Cross, which went into detail concerning the founding of the organisation and their early experiments, Mögling’s account offers unique evidence the Rosicrucian movement took its inspiration from the ancient Egyptians.

Sir Francis Bacon

Reputedly a Rosicrucian grandmaster, Sir Francis Bacon was one of the most prominent statesmen of the Elizabethan and Jacobean age. Famed for his talents as a philosopher, jurist, orator, writer, scientist and legal mind, he would serve as both attorney general and Lord Chancellor.

Much of that mentioned in The Rosicrucian Prophecy about Bacon has some basis in fact. Though by no means an open advocate of the occult or astrology, Bacon’s theories often compared with those of Dee. Having witnessed the demise of Dee’s career, not least his being seen as a conjurer, it can’t be ruled out Bacon’s interests stemmed deeper, only having the good sense to avoid being caught up in any dubious activities publicly.

Further to his contributions to scientific method – in later years Bacon was even dubbed the ‘Father of Empiricism’ – it has often been suggested Bacon could have been the author of the first two Rosicrucian manifestos. Despite a likely, in some cases definite, interest in the subject matter, there is no proof of this. That the manifestos were published in Germany and written in the same language makes this further unlikely. Undoubtedly Bacon was known to own both a scriptorium and a printing press, neither of which were common in Europe and which would have been of notable use to the Rosicrucians.

Better evidence concerns Bacon’s recorded writings, notably his famed work New Atlantis, which was published a year after his death. There has been speculation that Bacon was still alive at the time and his ‘death’ was a political move. Intriguingly, his body has never been found, and his tomb is ceremonial.

Irrespective of Bacon’s exact end, New Atlantis was released in 1627. In it, he explored the future of humanity, not least the discovery/creation of a utopian land in the Pacific Ocean whose people lived according to Rosicrucian ideals. Whether or not that can be considered proof Bacon was an actual Rosicrucian is less conclusive. As discussed by Dame Frances Yates, Bacon’s views on the advancement of learning can be regarded as in unity with the German Rosicrucian movement without a necessary overlap.

Other mentions of Bacon in the novel are on a more secure footing. Bacon is known to have entertained guests at his York House in London and was well known to many of the key players. The painting mentioned in the novel of a character, believed to be Dee, passing a lamp to another man, believed to be Bacon, does exist as a woodcut. Whether or not the event happened, physically or allegorically, is unclear.

Irrespective of the existence of the Rosicrucians, the suggestion that Bacon was a member, and closely affiliated with alleged members, of some form of clandestine organisation can be found.

Elias Ashmole

Remembered for founding the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Elias Ashmole was a historical figure. Born in the city of Lichfield in May 1617, Ashmole studied Latin, Greek, poetry and arithmetic at school, setting him up well for a varied life that included roles as a politician, astrologer, student of alchemy and, perhaps most famously, an antiquary.

Mention of Ashmole in this novel is mostly accurate. His interest, at times obsession, with alchemy and astrology, is well documented, and reference to him as Mercuriophilus Anglicus, or the English mercury lover, definitely occurred. The story concerning his coming into possession of John Dee’s Book of Mysteries – which catalogued events from December 1581 to May 1583 – really happened, and it’s more than likely his founding of the Ashmolean was his way of establishing Dee’s library. In 1651, Ashmole came into possession of an extensive collection of texts, including those by Heinrich Khunrath and Michael Maier concerning alchemy. In 1659, his collection was swollen by the benefaction of John Tradescant. His priceless treasure of books and keepsakes would serve as the main contents of his first museum.

Equally well documented is Ashmole’s criticism of the Dissolution, not least due to the loss of invaluable manuscripts. Being entrusted an essential secret by his neighbour and ‘father’ William Backhouse is also recorded as having happened; it has been speculated the ‘father’/‘son’ process was inspired by the relationship between Hermes Trismegistus and his key pupils.

Exactly what secret Backhouse entrusted to him, alas, remains unknown.

Certain researchers have long pointed out Ashmole’s initiation into the Freemasons in 1646 is one of the earliest on record and that connection with the possible existence of the Rosicrucians and the emergence of the Royal Society is inseparable from the enigmatic brotherhood. Not only did he apply to become a member of the Rosicrucians, but he was also known to have penned a copy of the Fama. It is mentioned in his papers, now kept at the Bodleian, that the ‘Fratres RC: live about Strasburg seven miles from thence in a monstry’. Incidentally, Strasbourg was the same city where the Chymical Wedding was first published. Curiously, another anonymously written document entitled Recherches sur Les Rose-Croix, penned the year of The Frightful Compacts, made a similar, albeit geographically different, claim that the brotherhood consisted of ‘protestant monks, formerly of the Cistercian order, who live on a rock on the shores of the Danube in an almost inaccessible place’.

Whether they did or how he knew of this is also a mystery.

Alchemy/Sacred Mysteries

The word alchemy is believed to stem from an old Arabic word meaning ‘the Egyptian science’. Whether the science of alchemy comes from there or not, however, is subject to debate.

Contrary to popular belief, understanding the exact meaning of alchemy can, like the Holy Grail, perhaps be subject to a certain degree of interpretation. Essential though alchemy was in the emerging sciences, not least the timeless pursuit of turning base metals into gold, there was also an evident spirituality about the process, not altogether dissimilar to that practised by Dee and Kelley. Indeed, in Hermetic philosophy, the perfection of the human mind, body and soul was believed to develop from working with so-called ‘primary matter’ to obtain perfection.

As above, so below.

Since ancient times gold has always been regarded as an essential or ‘noble’ metal. Being resistant to corrosion and oxidation, the noble metals have long been revered for their durability, with gold topping that list for its beautiful appearance.

Before the Age of Reason, not least the establishment of the Royal Society in the 1660s, alchemy was invariably the chief pursuit of the scientific minds of the day and would slowly die out with the evolution of chemistry and physics. That it was completely eradicated, however, is misleading. Unpublished papers by Sir Isaac Newton confirm the English genius’s academically awkward interest in the subject, whereas as late as 1781, the English chemist James Price claimed to have produced a powder that could transmute mercury into gold or silver.

One of the key recurring themes throughout The Rosicrucian Prophecy was mercury. Historically, the importance of mercury in the gold-making process is easily found. As early as the third century, Asian texts talk of the ability of transmuting mercury into gold; incidentally, the Sanskrit word for alchemy is ‘the way of mercury’. Confusing though the various references to mercury can be, the element was named after the Roman god, and one of the astrological symbols for the planet – itself named after the god – is shared with the element. As far as I’m aware, there is no mercury on the planet Mercury, though back in Dee’s time both were thought to possess ‘mercurial’ tendencies.

In the eyes of alchemists like Ashmole, Mercury was viewed as the most powerful planet. Intriguingly, the Aurelius family, possible kin of Augustus Aurelius, are known to have worshipped the Roman god Mercury before they converted to Christianity. It has been reputed, although not proven, that Sir Francis Bacon led a ceremony to Mercury in the wedding of Frederick to Elizabeth, something for which in certain quarters he was criticised.

A Rosicrucian EU

Founded in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community on the back of the Treaty of Paris, and later the European Economic Community following the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the EU has subsequently evolved into a twenty-eight-member political and economic union that has been branded in certain quarters an emerging superpower.

Covering the EU in detail, especially at a time of immense political uncertainty, is again well beyond the scope of this section. In total, there are five presidential roles concerning the EU, the President of the European Commission arguably the most prominent.

As yet, there is no one president of the EU, but that could change.

In my novel, I present the premise that the EU is little more than a synarchist plot created by the Rosicrucians to see the ‘star child’ rule. Whether this could ever happen the way I described is debatable. While the Fama and Confessio certainly press the importance of a ‘society in Europe’, which echoes the views of Dee as a ‘cosmopolites’, and also Studion’s hopes for an alliance between James I, Frederick of Württemberg and Henry IV of France, it’s less easy to equate the developing EU with any specific individual who is yet to be crowned. One could argue the most significant argument against this possibility is that the EU is a secular union and that Christianity, at least in a supernatural sense, is far more watered down than in the occult-believing days of Dee and the Fama.

That the EU matches the idea of the society in Europe is not without foundation. Indeed, should the author of the Fama be alive today, it’s easy to see evidence the ongoing evolution has been in keeping with much of what was originally set out. That the EU was the brainchild of such a group is anyone’s guess. When Robert Schuman first spoke of the importance of such a society, his aims were of stability; something considered vital coming at a time when the Nazis were still on course to win World War Two. In that way, I have no doubt the early union fulfilled much of Schuman’s promise.

Of the EU’s future, irrespective of the UK’s involvement, no doubt this emerging superpower is more than capable of surviving on its own with or without individual states. Nor does it require a shadow government like the Rosicrucians to be on hand to pull any proverbial strings. Nevertheless, an amusing parallel becomes apparent when viewing the EU’s unique ability for continuous rebirth and evolution. What began as a Council of Europe and a free trade area had by the early 1990s become a customs union and single market. By the end of that decade, a monetary union. If the trend continues, the only logical step is federal union, the creation of which has long been muted. Ironically, the only constant of this ever-evolving organism is the circle of stars adopted on the original Council of Europe’s flag.

Whether or not the full transition will occur remains to be seen. Writing at a time of considerable uncertainty concerning the UK’s involvement, questions of the EU are unlikely to be answered any time soon. Of the long-term repercussions of membership or exit, the future, unlike this story, is also unwritten. One thing for sure is the society in Europe that was predicted four centuries ago now exists. One might also argue the author of the Fama will claim it’s had the desired effect. Even if the precise aims of its formation were far from joined, evidence of its power is indisputable.


That the manifestos could present a path to a genuine society has inevitably proven a hot topic. Convoluting the matter further, debate concerning their existence isn’t necessarily restricted to the 1610s and ’20s. In common again with the Templars, modern-day Rosicrucian organisations are ten a penny, the majority based in the USA and dating from the early 1900s. That these modern organisations possess a clear connection to the authors of the original manifestos is highly doubtful. Like many a good tale, the founders tend to begin their story with a visit to Europe, and a heart-pounding initiation in a windswept castle under the watch of hooded onlookers.

That a society concerned with the preservation of ancient knowledge, dedicated to scientific advancement and in favour of bringing an end to over a century of religious turmoil could have existed is more possible. The content of the manifestos can be argued as being somewhat reflective of the circumstances of the time – notably, the ongoing arm wrestle between reformers and counter reformers – and mass circulation of the manifestos was helped in no small part by the development of the printing press. The secretive nature of the subject matter also raises an eyebrow. Irrespective of any organisation’s exact purpose, it is a human trait that knowledge is invariably closely guarded when sensitive, rare or new. If indeed a real society did exist, intent on bringing about widespread reformation and engaging in activities the religious authorities would find dubious, such as angel communicating, the need for secrecy would surely have been of great importance.

A key feature was the society’s links/fascination with the natural or forbidden sciences. That links exist between the Rosicrucians and astrology, ESP and the occult is another theme that has cropped up time and again throughout the centuries. ‘Mysteries schools’, like the one in Augustus’s monastery, are known to exist throughout the world and have often been claimed to be of Rosicrucian connection. A similar story is true of the Thule Society, whose role in the evolution of the Nazi Party in 1920s Germany is well known. Though the Thule Society dissolved before the Second World War, they were influential in the choosing and designing of the swastika. Whether the Vril Society ever existed is another matter.

Exactly who authored the manifestos has also been the subject of extended, and at times hostile, debate. Of the Fama and Confessio, the similar styles and common point of origin gives credence to the suggestion the same person or people were behind them. The name inked on one of the two 1615 editions of the Confessio, which was preceded by a ‘brief consideration’, is one Philippus á Gabella – perhaps meaning Philip the Cabalist – which was almost certainly a nom de plume. Over the years many candidates have been put forward, ranging from the German lawyer and physician Tobias Hess to English statesmen John Dee and Sir Francis Bacon. None so far have been proven.

Of The Chymical Wedding, the evidence is more persuasive. Though a mystery at the time, claim of authorship was later put forward by the German Johannes Valentinus Andreae – himself a contemporary of Hess – who stated he had written it as a form of satire. It has since been speculated Andreae and Hess were mostly responsible for the Fama and Confessio; however, they pressed no claim during their lifetimes. Incidentally, Andreae was behind the parody mentioned in this novel, which now begs the question: Was Andreae telling the truth, which makes the society a definite fake? Was he telling the truth but as a diversion to ensure the society’s members remained a mystery? Or was the author someone else altogether?

Regardless of the answer, one thing known for sure is the uniqueness of the prose, coupled with the development of the printing press, ensured the Rosicrucians would never die. In doing so, Andreae’s own words perhaps serve as a cautionary tale.

What starts as a joke can end as a religion.