History of elephants in EuropeThe history of elephants in Europe dates back to the ice ages, when mammoths (various species of prehistoric elephant) roamed the northern parts of the Earth, from Europe to North America. However, these became extinct several thousand years ago, and Europe subsequently went for a long time without any elephants.
Louis IX of France gave an elephant to King Henry III of England, for his menagerie in the Tower of London in 1224/5. Drawn from life by the historian Matthew Paris for his Chronica Majora, it was the first elephant to be seen in England snce Claudius' war elephant. It is supposed to have died in 1257 from drinking too much red wine. It is carved on a contemporary miserichord in Exeter Cathedral.
(Henry III's elephant may be the inspiration for the heraldic device 'Elephant and Castle,' the arms of the Cutlers' Company of London, a guild founded in the 13th Century responsible for making scissors, knives and the like. Its heraldry survived in an 18th century pub sign that in turn gave its name to a largely modern district in South London).
In the 1470s, King Christian I of Denmark founded a chivalric order, the Order of the Elephant, and had it confirmed by Pope Sixtus IV. The order is named for the battle elephants which symbolized the Christian Crusades. Today, it continues to be awarded under statutes established by King Christian V in 1693, amended in 1958 to permit the admission of women to the order.
Suleyman the Elephant, a present from the Portuguese King to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (1459-1519) had his portrait drawn by the German artists Hans Burgkmair the Elder (1473-1531), Albrecht Altdorfer and Albrecht Dürer.
Suleyman the Elephant, a present from the Portuguese King John III to Archduke Maximilian (later Holy Roman Emperor) arrived in Valladolid in 1551, was then shipped to Genoa, and travelled overland to Hall, sailing from there on 22 January 1552 with Maximilian on the Inn to Vienna, festively entering the city on 7 May 1552. A wave of "elephant enthusiasms" followed, and Suleyman was a popular subject for artists and poets. He was installed in the menagerie of Schloß Kaiser-Ebersdorf, but died in December 1553. Maximillian had a commemorative medal by sculptor Michael Fuchs issued. His front right foot and part of a shoulder-blade were given to the mayor of Vienna, Sebastian Huetstocker, and the bones were fashioned into a chair that currently resides at the Kremsmunster abbey. The rest of the body was stuffed and exhibited in Kaiserebersdorf until Maximillian, as Emperor, presented it as a gift to Albrecht V in Munich. After standing more than 100 years in the Old Academy, the body was transferred to the Bavarian national museum in 1928. The mummy deteriorated during World War II.
Hanno, or Annone, was a white elephant presented by King Manuel I of Portugal to Pope Leo X on the occasion of his coronation in 1514. He died, probably of an intestinal obstruction misdiagnosed as angina, with Pope Leo at his side in 1518. His story is told in Sylvio Bedini's The Pope's Elephant (Nashville: Sanders 1998).
"They Called him Suleyman: The Adventurous Journey of an Elephant from the Forests of Kerala to the Capital of Vienna in the middle of the sixteenth Century", Karl Saurer & Elena M.Hinshaw-Fischli, collected in Maritime Malabar and The Europeans, edited by : K. S. Mathew, Hope India Publications: Gurgaon, 2003 [ISBN 8178710293]