Pageviews last month

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Pied Piper, Fact or Fiction

I found a book in the library the other day (a young adult book) called "What happened in Hamelin."  Since I love historical fiction I decided to give it a whirl.  It is of course, based on the story of the Pied Piper.  I remember feeling a shiver, or a thrill at something creepy and not quite right about that story when I was little, and to be honest, I have never really thought much about it.  Since I wanted to read this book, I decided to research the history behind the story.  This how it played out.

There is a replica of a stained glass window from the 1300s in a church in Hamelin, (the original was destroyed) that shows a large group of children following a man in multi-colored clothing playing a flute.  The inscription below, which is from the 1300s reads:

In the year of 1284, on John's and Paul's day
was the 26th of June.
By a piper, dressed in all kind of colors,
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
and lost at the calvarie near the koppen.

So, the meaning of Calvarie or Calvary is really unknown.  It is speculated that it was a place of execution.  But, as Calvary (the hill where Christ was crucified) was also called Golgotha, or the place of the skull, and koppen means head, it could have been a skull or head shaped hill.  What really happened to the children of Hamelin remains a mystery.  There are many stories and theories, for instance some scholars propose that the phrase "children of Hamelin" is figurative and does not mean children in the literal sense, but means people who were born in Hamelin.  These same scholars think that possibly a person trying to recruit peasants to colonize the eastern block, and present day Romania came through the town and talked many of the people into leaving.  As people at the time generally did not leave their home village, this was a strange and traumatic event for those left behind.

Another theory is that a disease, not unlike the black plague swept through the village, killing many of the children and elderly, who would have been the weakest.  In the middle ages, (so I read)  death was often portrayed wearing multi-colored clothing, so this theory would make sense as far as the figure in the picture in the stained glass window.  Although to be honest, I was hard pressed to find such an image of death when I searched.

A third theory poses the idea that this story is about the children's crusade, which actually happened in 1212.  This odd and frightening event started with a boy named Stephen of Cloyes claimed that Christ had personally given him a letter for the king and that he was to lead a crusade of children to the Holy Land to recover the Holy Sepulchure.  The boy must have been very charismatic because thousands of children followed him.  This happened in France and also in Germany, but was led there by a boy named Nicholas.  These children eventually made it to port cities and were sold into slavery if they did not die on the way.  Over 30,000 children went on these "crusades" and never returned home.  It is a frightening example of the instability and zeal of adolescents and the strength of mob mentality.  You can read more about the Children's Crusade here:

It is always possible that these children were led away by some strange deviant who killed them, but such a large number is unlikely.  Of course, one must remember Michael Jackson and Neverland Ranch, a children's paradise created by a very strange and charismatic it is entirely possible.  Never the less, The Pied Piper remains a fairy tale mystery.  In 1284 something very bad happened in the town of Hamelin, but unless some new primary source is found, we will most likely never know exactly what that thing was.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shakespeare's Henry VIII, A Review

I had the opportunity to view Shakespeare's play Henry VIII this past weekend at the Folger theatre in downtown D.C.  While I enjoyed the play itself, it was historically an atrocity.  I suppose it was written to appease Elisabeth I by making her parents look good, but she was dead by the time it was performed so I am not sure what the point of that was really.  The program says that during one of the first performances cannons were fired to signal Henry's entrance and that the cannons caught the roof of the Globe theatre on fire.  Perhaps the Globe could not stand for such a historical travesty to be performed within it's walls.

The play covers a period of 16 years during which Henry executes the duke of Buckingham, divorces Catharine of Aragon, marries Anne Boleyn, and ends with the baptism of the princess Elisabeth.  Henry is portrayed as an innocent victim of his conscience and has no choice but to divorce his first wife so that he can beget an heir.  Anne Boleyn is seen as a mincing innocent who is soooo surprised that Henry has bestowed honors on her and wants to marry her.  Catharine of Aragon is the real showstopper however, she is portrayed as I think she really was.  A kind, intelligent, sensible woman with a backbone of steel.  A capable queen steadfast in her beliefs. 

When Elisabeth is born everyone is thrilled, just thrilled and what celebrations are had to honor the tiny princess.  No mention is made except in passing at the disappointment that she is a girl.  Hmmmm, something is lacking there I think.

Henry was no innocent victim, though he wanted everyone to think he was, and in real life he played his part well, especially at the trial at Blackfriars where the validity of his first marriage was being judged.  He was an intelligent, conniving, lustful man who was in love with another woman.  I truly believe he loved Catharine, just no longer in the way of a wife.  I think it hurt him to be cruel to her, but all too often Henry's pain seems to have turned to anger and she was sent from court to drafty Kimbolton castle and forbidden to see her daughter.  Never mind that he himself caused the whole situation.

Anne Boleyn was no innocent bystander either.  She had had her heart broken when she was forbidden to marry Henry Percy.  Like many young girls who are desperately in love and are forbidden to see the objects of their affection Anne's parents had to resort to changing her bedroom in Hever castle to one that she could not escape from so that she would not run off and find him.  This story repeats even today.  Who has not been grounded and devastated and angry and tried to sneak out?

I think Anne lived life with her whole heart and because of this she was greatly broken when she was not allowed to marry Percy.  Out of this came her love for Henry?  Maybe not at first, maybe not for years, but I think she grew to love him passionately.  Passionately enough to be humiliated when he had affairs, passionately enough to put her whole heart on display for him everyday, be it happiness, anger, or sadness.  She let him have it.  Henry complained that Catharine had never spoken to him thus.  Oh well, you wanted her brilliant light, but brilliant light cannot be contained.  It is said that the candle that burns the shortest time burns the brightest, and her candle burned so very brightly.  At least her candle was not snuffed out at the end of that awful play.  I am sure some kind of propaganda spin would have been put on it.  Blegh.  Viva la Reine!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Did He Really Believe?

I just finished reading Suzannah Libscomb's book "1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII."  This was a great non-fiction read and I finished it in one day.  The book discusses how the year 1536 changed Henry VIII forever.  It was in this year that he lost his first wife, Catharine of Aragon in January.  A few days later Anne Boleyn miscarried another baby boy.  Anne was accused of adultery in May of 1536 and executed in the same month, along with five men, all reputed to be good friend's of Henry's with the exeption of the musician Mark Smeaton.  In July of that year Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy died. Lipscomb argues that the horrible events of this year changed Henry's view of himself and the world forever.  He suffered so much loss during this one horrible year that I imagine he did have a hard time recovering.  He was reportedly close with his son Fitzroy and exhibited erratic behavior at the boy's death, ordering the Duke of Norfolk to bury him in secret and then reprimanding him for following these orders several days later.  Are these the strange actions of a grieving father and a husband who's wife died, a wife he went to the ends of the earth to marry?  Or, are they the early acts of a man who was going insane?

Lipscomb argues that Henry believed Anne Boleyn to be guilty of adultery, that this was the only way, as a sane human being, that he could have turned on her so viciously.  The king and Anne were reportedly "making merry together" in late April of 1536.  What happened in those few days that ended with the death of the love of Henry's life?  I certainly have never met a man who would fight for and wait 10 years on a woman he did not love.  Lipscomb reports that the rumors of the queen's infidelity came from the Countess of Worchester, one of Anne's ladies in waiting.  She was chastised for her own loose behavior by her brother and apparently accused Anne of questionable behavior as well.  These accusations were brought to the attention of Cromwell who brought them to Henry.  An investigation ensued and Anne and several others were arrested.  We all know how the story ends, but is it possible that Henry believed his wife betrayed him?  Did this betrayal put him on the road to madness?  I have discussed Henry's madness in earlier posts, but Lipscomb is right, until 1536, he was not nearly as crazy as he was after that year, at least he did not appear to be.  I think betrayal and divorce is like a death, the death of a relationship and the death in one's heart of the one they loved.  In this case it ended in the very real death of six people, which in reality probably compounded Henry's grief.  If he in fact believed that Anne was guilty then he was most likely already mourning her and the person he thought she was.  His grief most likely turned to fierce anger and ended up with him ordering her execution after her sham of a trial.  Libscomb writes that Henry took a morbid interest in the practical arrangements of Anne's execution such as the building of the scaffold and the hiring of an extrememly expensive executioner from Calais.  I would almost call this his final act of love as this French executioner cost more than most men made in a year and was reputed to be very skillful, killing his victims in one stroke of the sword.  This would have been a wonderful alternative to the axe, a form of execution that was often botched and saw the executed literally hacked to death.

Lipscomb's book provided a unique and often untapped perspective on the change in Henry VIII after 1536.  I also enjoy her theory that Henry believed Anne to be guilty, othwerwise how could so great a love turn so quickly to so much hatred and malice?  I would fear to think that Anne was not savy enough to see all of this coming if in fact Henry was vindictive and nutty to begin with.  I don't think she would have gone for that after loving a man so gentle as Henry Percy.  She does not strike me as the type of girl who is so blinded by love that she sees no faults in a man.  I think she saw plenty of them, and told him about them all.  From all written accounts it does not appear that she held her tongue often.  Maybe she would have, the truth is, we really don't know.  All that does appear obvious is that something went horribly wrong and Henry turned on his wife like a mad dog turns on it's master.  From 1536 on he appears to sink deeper into madness and tyranny. 

The video below shows Anne and Henry considering the downfall of their marriage.  Pure sadness.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anne Boleyn in Fiction: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This summer I decided to go back and re-read The Other Boleyn Girl, the book that drew me into historical fiction as a genre, well, really the only genre that I want to read.  I think that this book in particular drew many people into reading about the past, whether in novels or non-fiction books, this book, and the horrible movie made from it is what I feel started a passion for Tudor fiction in readers everywhere.  The book was excellent, a page turner until the end, just as I remembered.  What I also found to be true in this book is the fact that I despised Gregory's portrayal of Anne Boleyn.  The Anne in this book had almost no humanity, no softness, no weakness which could be related to.  She was all nerves and steel with a fake til you make it attitude and she did not mind stepping on anyone to make it.  This Anne was conniving, self-centered, mean spirited and driven with some sort of inner tornado.  This Anne was a horrible, spiteful person who loved no one, except her brother George.  He a little too much it is suggested as he and Anne reference going to "the gates of hell itself" to get an heir for England.  This Anne is a hard, dark person to me.
So, I started thinking about Anne in other books that I have read over the years.  I liked Anne Boleyn in "Secrets of the Tudor Court" which is told from the perspective of Mary Howard, Anne's cousin.  This Anne is sharp, nervous, quick to sting, but also quick with kindness.  Mostly she just seems a nervous wreck, a dignified one, but a nervous wreck.  Who could blame her?  Her husband was cheating on her, she was losing babies, rumors were flying, and her own family was spying on her to make sure she behaved in a way that would benefit them.  She knew she would be betrayed and she was.  This Anne I liked.  This Anne was human.

I liked Anne in Dear Heart, How Like You This told from the point of view of Thomas Wyatt.  She was lively and full of life, but was broken when she lost Henry Percy.  She became vengeful and angry and won Henry as a means of revenge.  This Anne just makes me sad.  An Anne that I loved was the Anne in Brandy Purdy's "The Boleyn Wife."  This Anne mocked Jane Rochford from the grave, something which I thought was appropriate to do to the woman who helped bring about her death and the death of George.  I loved her black humor in this book and how she taunted Jane by removing her head and putting it back on in one of Jane's hallucinations.

My favorite Anne of all time is Natalie Dormer on "The Tudors" but a close second is the Anne in Nell Gavin's "Threads."  This Anne is introspective, sad, alternately sympathetic and angry, and had a fully developed, well rounded character.  At times I thought she was more of a girl than a woman, but I loved her insight and how much she grew and changed during her many lives.  The insight she gained was invaluable and she learned how she became Anne Boleyn, and how this affected all of her lives afterwards.  This Anne, she was amazing and how I like to think Anne Boleyn would have been.  The story is complicated, allowing Anne to view many of her lives after her life as Anne Boleyn has ended and she comes to understand the complicated relationship she has with Henry.  She learns to appreciate the simple, worship-like love that Henry Percy has had for her through several lifetimes.  She finally understands that she and Henry are soul mates, and destined to be together over and over and over, forever, until they make it to heaven.  It is a beautiful story with an amazing Anne Boleyn as the main character.  This is an Anne that I can love.  I can't wait to read more, no matter how many times you meet a character in a story, they are always different, never the same person.  It's one of the best pieces of magic that books have to offer!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Book Review and Some Great New History!

I just finished reading "Secrets of the Tudor Court" by D.L. Bogdan and it was a truly unique book.  The book is told from the perspective of Mary Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.  The book focuses on Mary's relationship with her father, the Duke, and it's difficulties.  Poor Mary is a child and a woman who craves parental affection, something she is never given.  Her life is filled with difficulties and disillusionment, starting with the discovery that her father and her governess are having an affair and that her father is horribly abusive to her mother. 

She is placed in the court of Anne Boleyn and becomes a spy for her father hoping to win his affection.  She is devastated by the loss of Anne and horrified at the King's shocking betrayal of his wife.  She is married to the King's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy but never allowed to live with him as his wife.  She is later informed by her father that this is because he knew that Henry VIII was planning to poison the boy and he did not want her endangered.  This further complicates Mary's relationship with her father because he kept her away from a man she loved to protect her.  She both hates him and loves him, it's never easy with him.

She goes on to become a maid in Katherine Howard's court and is again crushed by her death.  She leaves court, raises her brother's children and later dies.  I won't say this was a happy story, but it was a very good story.

Two fascinating pieces of history have come to light in the past week, one being the discovery that the most famous portrait of Anne Boleyn was commissioned by someone who knew her and was painted within living memory of her, so perhaps it is a good likeness.  The other is that the location of the battle of Bosworth field has been discovered, this is the battle which brought the Tudor dynasty to the throne and in which Richard III, the last Plantagenet King was killed.  A boar badge, Richard's symbol was one the things dug up on the field by archaeologists.  Can you imagine getting touch such a piece of history?  Richard distributed the badges to his nights, can you even dream about how amazing it would be to touch something that Richard III may have touched?!  It gives me chills!  You can read more about these discoveries over on the Anne Boleyn files, run by the amazing Claire Ridgeway! ( )

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Centuries of Lies? Part 2

So, when we left off Richard III had named himself King of England.  His son and heir was named Prince of Wales and everyone seemed to be happy, more or less.  However, plots to dethrone Richard and put the young Edward V on the throne began to develop.  Elizabeth Woodville, conniving queen that she was, plotted with Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor to bring Henry back into England from France with an army he would raise on the continent and together with the Duke of Buckingham and his forces and those raised by other lords Henry would take the throne of England and marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV.  This would not make Elizabeth Woodville's son king, but it would make her daughter queen.  This plot was discovered, however, and the discovery, in addition to rain which flooded much of the north of England prevented Henry Tudor's forces from moving south towards London.  Buckingham was arrested and inevitably executed.  Everyone else seems to have been granted clemency, including Margaret Beaufort, who was married to Lord Stanley, a powerful lord who owned so much land in England that his eventual abandonment of Richard on the battlefield at Bosworth would lead to his downfall.  Such powerful landowners commanded legions of troops and their allegiance could make or break a king. 

Time passed and later that year Richard's only son died followed by his wife, Anne Neville.  Anne and Richard were cousins who grew up together and he most likely mourned the loss of a wife he truly loved.  More time passes and a second rebellion against Richard is raised by Woodville and Beaufort.  Henry Tudor came into Wales with his uncle Jasper Tudor, who himself was a great lord in Wales.  The Tudors marched down through England collecting troops as they went.  They met Richard's army at Bosworth where the king himself was leading his army.  At the last minute Lord Stanley ordered his troops to switch sides and start fighting against Richard and his men and Richard, who had been unhorsed, was killed.  It is said he went down fighting and yelling for a horse.  Henry Tudor rode into London in triumph after being crowned king Henry VII on the battlefield.  Five months later he married Elizabeth of York and united the red and white roses of England, or the houses of York and Lancaster, Tudor and Plantagenent. 

Henry quickly moved to have the act of Titulus Regius destroyed, not repealed, but destroyed.  If the act were left in existence it would draw into question the legitimacy of his wife, and if it was repealed it would declare Edward V to be the rightful king of England.  It was a double edged sword for Henry.  So he did the only thing he could do and obliterated the memory of such a law.  He passed a bill of attainder against Richard III accusing him of tyranny and cruelty but supposedly not of killing the two princes.  I have not been able to verify this fact, but if it is true and the princes were in fact missing and had been killed by Richard why would Henry not charge him with the crime?  It would be his biggest smoking gun and would make people loathe Richard and gladly accept their new king, whose claim to the throne was tenuous.  Anyhow, Henry's queen Elizabeth gave birth to Prince Arthur after they had been married for about a year and the succession was safe.

In 1489 Henry suddenly had Elizabeth Woodville put away in a nunnery, perhaps she started asking too many questions about her sons.  Prior to this he had granted her a hefty annual income and all of the rights and privileges of a dowager queen.  Around this time, in 1502, a man named Sir James Tyrell was arrested for treason and executed.  After his death a "confession" was published saying that he had been sent by Richard III to the tower with two other men to kill the young princes.  He relieved the constable of the tower, one sir Robert Brackenbury of the keys to the fortress for one night and the two hired thugs killed the young princes.  He supposedly buried them under a set of stairs.  The skeletons of two children were found in the 1700s and they were believed to be those of the princes.  It has never been proven however, but they are interred in state in Westminster Abbey.  They were not the only two skeletons found in the tower though, there is a tale from the time of Elizabeth I of the skeletons of two children being found laid out on a table in a walled up room.  What became of them is not known however.

So, was Richard guilty of the murder of his nephews or not?  Did only one of them die?  In the time of Henry VII a young man named Perkin Warbeck appeared on the international scene claiming to be the younger prince, Richard, Duke of York.  He was believed by many people in high places, but his claim remains unsubstantiated one way or the other.  All accounts of Richard as a murderer were written under the Tudor regime, the regime that usurped Richard's throne.  So who was the real killer?  Richard?  Henry Tudor?  Neither one?  I don't know that we will ever know but it makes for a really great mystery!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Centuries of Lies? Part 1

The subject of today's post is the guilt, or lack thereof, of Richard III.  Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Richard III from Shakespeare's play or from your world history books.  Perhaps you have seen one of the various movies about him.  He is generally portrayed as a murderous, hunch-backed fiend who killed his nephews in order to become king.  However, in reading a book this week I have discovered that this may be all propaganda brought about to discredit the Yorkist claim to the throne by Henry VII.  But back to the beginning and where it all started.

Richard III was the youngest brother of King Edward IV of England.  He was known for his loyalty to his brother the king and his great valor in battle.  George and Edward had another brother, George, Duke of Clarence, who was executed by Edward's order due to the fact that he raised multiple rebellions against his brother the king, making his own bid for the throne.  George and his heirs were disinherited before his death and were not re-instated for some time.  Edward IV died unexpectedly in 1483 leaving behind a wife, two sons, and five daughters.  The older son and heir to the throne, Edward V was in Wales at the time.  The queen, Elizabeth Woodville, fearing an uprising, took her younger son and daughters into Westminster Abbey and took sanctuary there.  She ordered her brother, Earl Rivers, who was the boy's guardian, and her son by her first marriage, the Marquise of Dorset, to bring the new boy king back to London.  The party was supposed to meet up with Richard III and his men somewhere in the north of England and proceed to London.  Richard had been named the Lord Protector of the young prince until he reached manhood.  This gave him full rights to the body of the prince, in today's terms he had legal custody of the child.

Rivers and his men did not meet up with Richard's party, who was coming down into England after fighting the Scots, instead forging ahead and leaving a messenger for Richard.  Richard promptly caught up to the Prince's party and arrested Rivers and Dorset for not handing over the young king.  He proceeded with him into London where he housed him at a bishop's palace while he himself stayed at his mother's family home at Baynard's castle.  He began to plan a coronation for the young king and asked that his younger brother Richard, Duke of York be brought out of sanctuary to keep the young king company.  The two boys were moved to the Tower of London, still a royal residence at the time, for safekeeping.  It was traditional for monarchs to sleep there before their coronation.

The coronation, however, never took place.  During a council meeting in June of that year Stillington, a priest in the Plantagenent household told Richard that he could not in good conscience allow Edward V to inherit the throne because he was in fact illegitimate due to the fact that the late King, Edward IV, had been secretly married to a lady named Eleanor Butler, who at this time was in a nunnery or possibly dead, (that is unknown) and therefore his marriage to the queen was bigamous.  The next in line to the throne was Richard's other nephew, the Earl of Warwick, his brother George's son.  Since the child had been disinherited Richard overlooked him and named himself heir to the throne.  Instead of his nephew being crowned he himself was crowned.   He quickly sent for a large force of soldiers to hold the city of London because he feared the boy's mother, the dowager queen, would encourage her many relatives at court to stage an uprising in favor of her son, which, in all likelihood she would have.  She was hated by many in power for bringing her relatives to court when she became queen and having titles bestowed upon them.

Anyhow, Richard is crowned, his wife and son are brought to court, and Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters come out of sanctuary.  The family, by all contemporary accounts seems to be getting along well, at times living in the palace and the princesses attended many palace functions.  No mention is made however, of the boys who are still locked in the tower one supposes.  Surely if they were missing scandal would have broken out, especially with a mother like Elizabeth Woodville on the loose.  There are no contemporary accusations, however, that the boys have disappeared or that Richard has done anything to them.  If I was a mother I would not keep quiet about my children having disappeared.  I would not come out of sanctuary with my daughters, I would sail quietly away to France in the middle of the night and raise an army on the continent.  None of this happened.   Everything went along normally.  The only rumors at the time seem to have appeared on the continent, where many of Richard's enemies fled upon his accession to the throne.  Most notably John Morton, the man who provided the information to Thomas More, who wrote a history of Richard III.  It is important to note that More himself, though a great man and a great mind, was a child in 1483, so he is not a contemporary historian and he was writing under a Tudor regime, a regime that usurped the Plantagenent one.

More tomorrow, more evidence, more treachery, more lies?

Sources: Richard III Society

Sunday, June 20, 2010

And So It Ends...

The last episode of the Tudors ends with Henry's approaching death and his view of himself as
king.  He stands before Holbein's great portrait in the chapel and sees his life flash before him.  His death is not seen, but foretold by his dream of a pale horse with death as a rider coming for him.  For those of you not familiar with the symbolism death rides a pale horse when he rides with the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The pale horse is just yet another of Hirst's beautiful use of imagery and symbolism in this epic series.  He used it before when Anne Boleyn was executed.  There was a flash of swans and feathers as she died.  Swans are said to burst into song before dying, thus the term "Swan Song" to describe the end of something.  Crows or ravens also flew from the top of the tower after she died.  Crows are said to carry the souls of the dead to the other side.  Hirst is truly an amazing writer and director.

The other fabulous thing about tonight's episode were the visits Henry received from three of his four dead wives.  Katherine of Aragon came first.  She chided him for being cruel to their daughter Mary and for not allowing her to marry and become a mother.  She also told him that she was his true wife in the eyes of God when she was alive and still was.  Needless to say, he was not happy about this, but I liked that she got that barb in one final time.

Anne Boleyn came next.  She appeared to him in the night as he was preparing for sleep.  He appears to be preparing some sort of tincture no doubt for his health, but one must wonder if he thinks he is losing his mind.  He asks her why she has come and she says to see her daughter.  She tells Henry she is so proud of her, how clever she is, how strong, how beautiful.  She asks Henry if he is proud and he admits that yes, indeed he is but that he cannot always love her because she reminds him too much of Anne and what she did to him.  Anne is shocked and replies that she did nothing to him, that she was innocent and the accusations against her were false.  Then she looks at him and says "I thought you knew."  It is not clear if he knew or not, but he does now.  She also tells him that poor Catherine Howard lies in the ground next to her and that what happened to her was not her fault either.  Anne looks at Henry almost with pity, but she still has that amazing strength that will not allow her to give in to the emotion.  He turns and speaks her name and asks her not to go, but she is gone.  He had not spoken her name in years.  He is left to live with the fact that he killed an innocent woman, a woman he dearly loved, and that he never got the chance to apologize, which he does not deserve.  Let him die with the guilt.

Jane Seymour is the last to appear and she tells him that all of his coddling of Edward has killed him.  He will die young and he never lived much of a life shut away from the world.  Henry is devastated by the news and turns away from his most beloved wife.  He then orders his council to bury him next to her.  Guess he really didn't have any choice since he either divorced or executed all of his other wives that were no longer alive and he knew his current wife would outlive him.

Hirst also did an amazing job of directing the cast.  Princess Mary stands strong with her hands clasped as her mother always did.  She has that backbone of steel they both inherited from Isabella of Castile.  Elisabeth though is truly amazing.  She has her mother's dignity and that way of thrusting her chin forward and holding her head high when she hears news that is not to her liking that Natalie Dormer as Anne perfected.  The gestures of these two actresses are so similar that they really appear to be mother and daughter.  A truly amazing series has come to an end.  It goes out while a pale horse approaches from behind.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Life Lived Misunderstood is Still a Life Lived

I was reading a book this evening about Anne of Cleves.  Anne of Cleves is Henry VIII's fourth wife and they were married about six months.  Henry called the poor woman "The Great Flanders Mare" and famously said "I Like Her Not!" upon meeting her for the first time.  No one knows why this meeting went so badly, perhaps she was sick from a long sea voyage.  Perhaps she was dressed oddly in Flemish clothing.  Perhaps he did not like her because she had dark hair and her name was Anne, reminding him a little too much of Anne Boleyn, his great love and the most hated woman in his life, as far as appearances go anyway.  Perhaps he did not like her because she did not realize the great fat man in front of her was the king and her husband dressed as a commoner so that he could surprise her.  Who knows.  Her portrait, painted by Holbein, is not ugly by any means.  She looks quiet and attractive, and perhaps that was her downfall.  Henry liked his women to sparkle, to be conversationalists and knowledgeable, not quiet and sensible.  Although, his beloved Jane Seymour is said to have been "mousy."  Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard certainly sparkled, Katherine of Aragon fairly glittered, so this woman from Cleves who studied all things practical but not much as far as the arts were concerned must have been quite a change for him.  However, by all accounts she was a kind and loving person.  She continued to mother his children even after Henry divorced her, she agreed to the divorce amiably (although she did manage to keep her head this way) and she maintained a good relationship with Henry, Mary, Elisabeth and Edward until her death. 

So, as context, or the need to use the past to understand the present is my greatest strength according to "Strength Finders", intellect coming in second, I realized something while I was reading this afternoon.  Today I saw someone that I have not seen in quite a while.  This person causes me to roll my eyes often as they talk non-stop about work and we have butted heads several times.  However, when I was reading I realized that I have misjudged this person.  Anne of Cleves was a woman denied a chance at marriage and motherhood, something women of her time wanted very much.  I realized, while speaking with this person today that I actually really enjoyed our conversation, which is somewhat a new phenomenon for me.  Thinking back to my past encounters with this person I remembered that once, only once, I saw her smile fade and I saw her tears.  Tears of frustration at another wedding that was not hers, another child born to friends that would not be hers.  This, I realized is why she talks about work all the time, to hide what is lacking.  Stand on your strengths we are told, and so she does, she is good at what she does.  She loves her job and this is what is important to her so this is what she talks about and this is ok.  She, like Anne, has thus far been denied marriage and children, something women want both then and now, but she smiles and continues to love life.

Thinking more I thought about how I know that I am often misunderstood.  I work in a very pro-cheerful environment, but one that I love dearly.  Not being an over the top cheerful person, I think many people think that I am bitter and old before my time.  Cynical too perhaps.  This is not true, I just have nothing to match the enthusiasm which comes from four cups of coffee and several diet cokes a day.  If I drank all of that caffeine my heart would explode. I sometimes wonder what is behind the smiles of the super happy, I know there are other emotions.   Am I happy?  Yes.  Am I super duper chirpy happy?  Umm, perhaps on a Europe bound flight or at the Pink concert earlier this year, otherwise, I am just living in reality, and reality for me is a calm, sedated place where bad things do exist, I can't pretend they don't.  But every day life includes so many small joys, and I experience and love them, I am just quiet about it.  I am who I am, and that is ok.  Those who are always cheerful are who they are, and that is also fine.  I think we exist in mutual acceptance and humor.  I have a dry sense of humor, sometimes it is rather black, I talk ALOT and if someone is lucky enough to get into my heart, I will love them forever.  But I also battle depression, it's a battle that never ends, and I do the best I can.  I am reminded of that old commercial about "This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs, any questions?"  I feel like, this is me on drugs that help me not live in blackness, So some days I live in light and some days I live in grey, any questions?  But it does not mean that overall I am unhappy.

I compare myself to Anne Boleyn frequently, as I think she was much like me.  She was smart, not beautiful but not unattractive, had a temper, and was very misunderstood and much maligned.  A great smear campaign was conducted after her death and she became seen as a social climber, a shrew, and a mean spirited person.  I don't think she was.  She set up many charities to help the poor, I think she very much wanted to be liked and wanted to be a good queen.  She had a personality that was very strong, and she either drew people in all the way, or pushed them away beyond reach.  People either loved her enough to die for her or they  hated her enough to ensure her death, there was no gray area.  I have this type of personality, I am either loved or loathed, nothing much in between.  Some say I am lazy, or become displeased because I do not do as they wish.  Perhaps though, they should examine their own actions, who wants to feed those who bite your hand?  I think Anne felt much the same way.  She did not make much effort to charm those who did not like her.  In fact, for several weeks she took as her motto "Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne" which translates to "Grumble all you like, this is how it's going to be."  She had it embroidered on her servant's livery, just to make sure everyone got the message.  You have to love her somewhat dark wit, I must admit I laughed a good bit when I read this.  I think the difference is, however, I have learned to back down, internalized some of my frustration, and chosen to ignore the slights of those who wish me ill.  I know I have those about me who love me, and for this I love them, so to me, it is very simple.  I often find myself thinking "Grace of a queen, you will sit here with the grace of a queen," though at that time I am thinking more of Katherine of Aragon than Anne.  I often wonder how much I should endure though, before I run the risk of being put away, pushed away, not seen as valuable.  Silence is not always healthy, but I try to pick my battles carefully.  I wonder, however, how strong and careful I would be if I were left to stand on my own as Anne was.  I would probably react somewhat the same way and lash out in fear and sadness, that appears to be anger.  I know my friends and their love and acceptance give me strength to deal with difficulties.  Anne did not have so many friends, she was closest with her brother, and people twisted this in order to do away with her.  How wrong to twist the love of a brother and sister and true friends.  Poor woman, misunderstood until the end.

I also have to admit, I did not want to take the Strengthfinders quiz and there was much grumbling and eye-rolling about it.  I had to do it for work.  However, I loved the outcome and how accurate it was.  I love that it brought this strength to light, or articulated it so well for me.  I guess it's something I always knew about myself but never put into words, figuring others would find it weird.  But it's not weird, apparently it's somewhat common as it is listed in the results of this test that people pay to take.  I like that it brought that to light.  I also liked that it recognized empathy as one of my strengths.  Maybe I don't show it everywhere, but the phone rings here day and night with my friends and their problems, because I love them, without judgement.  Who knows when I could be in whatever their situation is?  Like I said, once you are in my heart, I will love you forever, with a fierce loyalty.  But that's my view on myself, my strengths, and how I need the past to understand it.  Below is Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves.  It hangs in a small alcove in the Louvre.  I love her quiet serenity.  She looks kind and pretty.  Nothing like a Flanders mare.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Been Away for a While

It's been a while since I've posted, almost two weeks!  I have spent a lot of time trying to write a post about Jane Rochford but I just can't figure out exactly what I want to say.  I have been bored with the Tudors lately, Henry is married to Katherine Parr, and his complacency is boring.  I know it's about to get more exciting with a protestant burning and I am beyond absolutely beyond thrilled that Anne Boleyn is back and talking to Elisabeth in the last episode, how amazing!

I am looking at going on a trip next year called "The Anne Boleyn Experience" and I am so excited!  I will update again when I get something good written.  Check out the video below, Thomas Wyatt's poem "These Bloody Days" runs throughout it.  It is beautiful and sad and heart wrenching because he did love those who died so, especially Anne and he watched them all die.  Survivor's guilt probably killed Henry Percy, he died not long after Anne.  Perhaps Thomas's poetic soul allowed him to vent his grief and kept him from an early grave.  Regardless, the sadness is palpable in his words.  Hearing them read aloud by his character from "The Tudors" makes it even more powerful.  What a beautiful soul he had.

Monday, May 17, 2010

When You're 15, or 17, or 22...

In my last post I discussed the death of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's 17 year-old fifth queen.  I think, in previous posts I have been rather hard on the girl, calling her frivolous, which she was, and undignified.  I think though, I have been guilty of the sin I railed against my own mother for, forgetting what it's like to be young.  Although this girl was totally unfit to be queen at 17, she was just that, only 17.  She was a young girl coming into what was not a young court.  Perhaps if she had been Henry's first queen, when he was but 17 himself it would have been different.  Henry filled his court with young and interesting people.  He patronized musicians and entertainers and spent loads of money on lavish feasts and dances.  How I think Katherine would have loved being his wife at that time and how I think she would have enjoyed this court much more than the one she presided over.  Instead she was the wife of an aging, fat man with a festering leg in a court that was not so bright as it once was.  I think it was still a magical and malicious place but it no longer held the glimmer of youth.

So many monarchs came to the throne at a young age, Juana of Castile married Felipe the Fair at the age of 16, he was all of 17.  How can a girl so young approach marriage to a young handsome man without falling totally in love with him?  She fell a little too in love and went mad after his death but, so did her grandmother.  When I think back to myself at 17 what did I know?  I thought I knew everything and I got into loads of trouble but if I had been queen would it have been different?  The answer is no, I don't think so, not so much.  Youth does not bypass someone just because they are slated to be a monarch, or are thrust into the situation as Katherine Howard was.  She thrived on the thrill of meeting Culpepper in private, she loved keeping secrets and she loved being in love.  When young girls fall in love they do so wholeheartedly, their entire world revolves around the object of their affection, there is no one else.  This I remember.  Poor Katherine Howard, her love was forbidden to her, and like most teenagers, whatever is forbidden only becomes more attractive.  Most of us, however, don't have to pay the ultimate price for it.  It's like the song says "When you're 15, and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them.  I didn't know who I was supposed to be at 15."  Or at 17, or at 22, that's why young monarchs make so many mistakes.  Henry VIII executed many of his father's advisers, why?  Because he could mostly.   He married a woman several years older than himself never thinking of the future, not such a great idea in the end.  Poor Katherine Howard believed Culpepper loved her, and maybe he did, we'll really never know.  She didn't know who she was supposed to be either, she was a lonely girl left to her own devices for much of her life, suddenly told she was to be queen.  She had no idea what that really meant or what was expected of her.  She was much deceived I do believe.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

So, a new episode of "The Tudors" aired tonight and we saw the execution of Katherine Howard.  Poor ridiculous girl.  What can one really say except that?  She was practically fed the opportunity to save herself, Bishop Gardiner was almost begging her to say she was precontracted to Derham, and she would not say it.  (This really happened by the way.)  She didn't get it.  The execution of Derham and Culpepper was sad, if only because it had Katherine's voice behind it as narration.  The poor girl was practicing her dancing while they were being executed.  It was one of the only things she was good at, one of the only things she truly enjoyed.  It almost seemed like she didn't know what else to do.  Derham, horrid little man that he was, he didn't need his fingernails pulled out and his intestines ripped from his still breathing body, but such is the death of a traitor.

Lady Rochford was executed before Katherine, and she had little to say.  A law actually was passed in England allowing those who were insane to be executed just so that she could be put to death.  She is said to have gone mad in prison, and at some point saying she deserved death for bringing down her husband and his sister and unjustly accusing them of incest, thereby ensuring their deaths.  If you ask me, she got what she had coming.  Remember how I feel about karma?  Well, it came for her.  One woman brought down two queens.  Hardly seems possible, but jealousy twists the heart until it turns black from lack of blood or love. 

Katherine spends the night in the tower, one night it seems, but I am sure it was more than that.  Master Kingston is still there, I wonder how he felt about having to take charge of the executions of two of Henry's queens?  One a dignified and much maligned woman, and one, her cousin, a foolish and panicky young girl?  I think his heart broke for Anne and he could not let it do the same for Katherine.  Plus, Katherine does not inspire the same loyalty or love that Anne did.  Katherine repeated Anne's speech in her first words to the crowd "I am come here to die."  But she goes on to say that she dies a queen but would rather die the wife of Culpepper.

Katherine was never crowned queen and had no powerful faction standing behind her.  She was not afforded some of the dignities that Anne was, at least in this show.  No ladies to attend her, no cloak of ermine and crimson velvet, no swordsman from Calais.  Katherine was, however afforded justice in real life.  The whole affair of the queen's indiscretions was discovered in November but she was not executed until February 13, 1542.  Anne was arrested at the beginning of May and died on the 19th.  No justice there, her death was a foregone conclusion.  Katherine died a girl and Anne died a queen crowned, but neither deserved the death they were dealt.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Day is Coming...

As we draw closer to the anniversary of Anne Boleyn's death many writers are marking the countdown with a play by play of what happened each day this month in Anne's history in the year she was arrested.  Today is May 6th, and a letter dated May 6th, purportedly from Anne was found sometime in the 1600s.  Many people think this letter is a forgery and it is often debated because of the handwriting, which is different from Anne's.  The signature also reads "Anne Bullen" instead of Anne the Queen or Anne Boleyn.  I think the queen knew how to spell her own name, but perhaps it was a copy, perhaps it was dictated, who knows.  I do love the letter however, in it she tells Henry that she had suspicions of his feelings for Jane Seymour, who she never mentions by name.  She also tells him that if he must slander her name as well as execute her she will pray to God that he will be forgiven for his great sin on judgement day, where she will be found innocent.  I love it because if she did write it it shows that she did not go down without saying her piece.  That is who I like to think Anne was, an intelligent, strong woman who did not take any crap from anyone, least of all her philandering husband.  Vive la reine.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Tudors Season 4 Episode 4

And so it begins...the downfall of yet another of Henry's queens.  Last night Katherine Howard was forced to hire Francis Derham as her personal secretary and gentleman usher.  I say forced because he blackmailed her into it by threatening to reveal his carnal knowledge of her.  Poor man, he doesn't realize that this will lead him to the block.  One does not simply waltz into Henry's court and say "Dude, I slept with your wife way back when."  Derham really is an idiot or a rash drunken fool because he brags about his exploits openly to the rest of Katherine's household, going so far as to say to her other gentlemen ushers that he "has had the queen by the cunt!"  What an idiot.  All those around him are begging him to keep quiet, they like their cush jobs, but he won't.  What an idiot.

Prince Edward became very ill in this episode and Henry rushed to his bedside only moments after finding out that he would not be meeting the King of Scots, his nephew James, who he keeps referring to as his cousin.  He manages to ride from the north of England to Windsor in one day on horseback and sleeps at his son's bedside.  The next morning when the prince wakes from his feverish sleep and plays with his father's hair to awaken him we see for a second, maybe two, Henry as a worried and relieved father.  He looks just like any other man who loves his child and is greatly relieved that they are returned to health.  Then the king comes out in him again and he calls for a celebratory mass for his son to be said in the chapel royal.  Rhys Myers does a wonderful job displaying these little flashes of humanity in his otherwise monstrous character.  We see them at other times when he looks at Elisabeth and pauses, in his mind seeing Anne Boleyn.  We saw it when he comforted Anne after her fist miscarriage, and for a brief moment when he gladly welcomed Anne of Cleves to his court for New Years.

At the end of the episode a letter is dropped on Henry's chair by an unknown person.  This is the letter that will lead to Queen Katherine's downfall.  Poor Katherine, young, foolish, graceless girl.  She will meet a bad end for her foolishness.  I was speaking to a friend this morning about the difference in Katherine Howard's arrest and Anne Boleyn's.  Henry had Anne arrested and taken to the tower immediately because she had a powerful faction at court, and she was very intelligent and I think he knew that if he did not remove her from his sphere completely she would plot a way out of her fate.  With Katherine, he has her placed under house arrest.  She had not enough friends or supporters at court to cause him any trouble, she was only a silly girl.  He knows Norfolk will not dare cross him twice, so he worries not.  Katherine is nothing to anyone except Culpepper, she never was.  Henry is the only man who ever loved her, and even he looked down on her.  Everyone else in her life abandoned her, tolerated her, or used her to their own ends.  It is sad to see that Katherine is learning some grace here, at the end of her life and reign.   She had the good sense to remove her ladies a few times from Derham's undesirable company.  She behaved in a queenly manner in church and on progress.  Too little, too late.  Henry has already realised that she does not possess the dignity of her predecessors.  She bores him outside of the bedroom and is unable to bare children, a huge mistake in his eyes.

There are two more things I want to talk about in this episode.  The first is the disconnectedness of the arguing between Katherine and Culpepper.  Why is she angry with him?  Why did she react so strongly when he touched her and asked her to rid herself of Derham?  I didn't get it, it was like in season 2 when Anne suddenly turned on Henry Norris.  It took me a while to get that too, it just seemed out of place where it was, with not enough leading up to it.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is Charles Brandon and his growing regret for his past actions.  At the beginning of the season he was waxing nostalgic for Thomas Boleyn, his old enemy.  I think he enjoyed the sparring and genuinely missed him and his argumentative ways.  Now he is seeing Lord Darcy's ghost.  Lord Darcy who he was forced to turn on during the Pilgrimage of Grace.  The court has stopped at Pontefract castle, Darcy's former home, during their progress and Brandon is now seeing, and talking to ghosts.  I think he is a kind man forced into being a monster and it is catching up with him.  His wife no longer loves him, he has killed and betrayed many and he realizes his soul needs saving.  It might be too late...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Odd Little Tidbits from Tudor History

I' ve been doing a lot of nonfiction reading over the past few days, which is unusual for me to do in such long spurts but I have to say I am actually enjoying reading Alison Weir's book "The Children of Henry VIII."  There are some odd errors in it, don't know if it's a misprint or not but she said Henry married Jane Seymour in 1537, um no, I'm pretty sure he married her on May 29, 1536, 10 days after Anne's execution.  Strange little errors like that.  I decided to compile a list of some interesting facts I have picked up from this book and other books and put them up here.  Some are funny, some are disturbing, and some are just odd.  Enjoy!

*Anne Boleyn adopted a motto other than her well known one "The Most Happy" for several days.  It was "Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne" which apparently translates to "Grumble all you like, but this is how it's going to be."  She had this sewn to her servant's livery and they walked around wearing this slogan for several days before she had it removed and replaced it with her other, more dignified motto.  When I read this I laughed out loud.  What a way to get her point across, somewhere a score board was showing "Anne Boleyn: 1, Courtiers: 0."

*Apparently Mary Tudor was quite the innocent, never having heard the word "whore" until she was already queen.  How that could be when the whole of England referred to Anne Boleyn as "the King's Great Whore" I don't know, but a story was told of her calling one of her ladies a "pretty whore" after overhearing a heated exchange between a lusty courtier and another lady.  She claims she meant no offense and did not know what the word meant, only that it appeared to be pleasing to the lady when she was called that.

*Remember my post on crazy breeding crazy?  Well, Edward VI was a disturbed little man, once, in a fit of rage he grabbed a falcon perched in his room, plucked out all of it's feathers, and then tore the thing into four pieces.  Can you say "sadist in the making?"

*Elisabeth I's menstrual cycle was well known to the court and those who tried to find her a husband as a young woman and it was of great concern.  While I know breeding an heir is important, I would hate to have the whole world knowing about my cycle, thanks.

*Mary I may have had seasonal affective disorder as she grew ill with a number of psychosomatic conditions every autumn of her adult life.

I also learned that I have a new reader this week, my friend Grace, who can be visited over at  Thanks for reading Grace!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Tudors, Season 4, Episode 3

Hmmm...this season is taking some interesting twists.  Henry wants to sleep with Anne of Cleves and he has decided he does like her?  Never heard that one before but adds to the story I guess.  Also, Jane Rochford is sleeping with Thomas Culpepper, never heard that before either, but I think it just makes her look even more bitter and crazy then she already was so sure, why not.  The fact that she also likes watching Culpepper get it on with Katherine Howard is different, but I guess all of this is thrown in to add sexuality to the show, like it was lacking.  There are more naked bodies in that show then Sex and the City. 

The dynamic between Henry and Katherine is getting interesting too.  Henry seems to be realizing that maybe marrying a 17 year old when you are in your 40s is a bad idea. Katherine is not getting pregnant, which is obviously ticking him off.  He is getting angrier and crazier by the day if you ask me, acting like Jesus himself and laying hands on his subjects to heal them.  What's up with that?  Syphilis and illusions of grandeur if you ask me, but it goes unnoticed in a king I guess.

At the end Katherine Howard is getting it on with Culpepper, in the "stool chamber" or the bathroom of the times.  This is right above Henry's bedroom and he is supposedly sleeping.  He awakens however, right about the time of climax for Culpepper, I am betting he heard...heads will roll!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Review of "Threads" by Nell Gavin

I just finished reading the book "Threads" by the very talented Nell Gavin.  I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have ever read.  As the summary on the back of the book reads "In 1536 a woman dies, and the story begins..." and so it does.  The book is an exploration of the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and various other members of their court.  When Anne dies she goes to a place called "the memories" where she is forced to examine her life and see how her actions move her ahead or backwards on the path to heaven.  She learns that virtue and humility bring a greater reward than social status, that no kindness goes unrewarded, and no cruelty unpunished.  She learns that she and Henry are truly soulmates, destined to be together for lifetimes to come and that the people she loves in her life she has loved time and again throughout many lifetimes.  She is tasked with forgiving Henry and learning to love him again, a task that will take hundreds of years and several lifetimes to accomplish as her anguish and rage are too great for her to put herself in contact with him too soon.

The reader gets a view of many of her other lifetimes, one spent as an Egyptian prostitute in the Valley of the Kings, where Henry was her best friend, and also her transvestite neighbor in the tent village where she plied her trade.  She had two daughters in this life and they are Katherine of Aragon and her mother in the life she spent as Anne Boleyn.  She is quite entertained by the discovery that most of Henry's court is present in the Valley of Kings, living as prostitutes or misfit soldiers.  They were not nearly so high and  mighty in this life, but they did learn to be mean and spiteful.  She spends another life, a life she loves, as a traveling acrobat in Flanders somewhere between the 1100s and the 1500s.  Henry is her husband and most of Henry's court is encountered throughout this life.  She has many children in this life, but loses three daughters as payment for leaving an infant girl on a hillside to die in another lifetime.  She lives again in China, again tasked with caring for a female infant that is unwanted, and again she fails, painfully. 

In the 1800s she is a spinster aunt, wanting no more of marriage but desperately wanting a child.  Her prayers are answered in a perverse way when her sister dies and she adopts her orphaned daughter.  She loses this child eventually too, however, and finally understands that children are to be loved, no matter if they are male or female.  She encounters Henry in this life as well, he is a man who is being hanged for rape, and the others who are being hanged with him were those who sat in judgement on her at her trial when she was Anne, and it is fitting justice.  Henry has to learn the lesson of not being prideful, just as Anne has to learn the lesson of forgiveness.

Finally she encounters Henry again in the 1970s, and again, most of her acquaintences from court choose to be together in this life as well.  They are hippies, and enjoy the communal living and feel as if they have come home in some way they can't quite explain when they are all together at Woodstock.  This life is only discussed in the last chapter or so of the book, and I wish it had been elaborated on more, but the book was no less spectacular for it.

Anne's character in this book was in some ways more girl than woman, especially in the beginning, and I hated that she did not love Elisabeth when she was born, but I understand why this was put into the story.  It had to be to explain the lesson of learning to love female children.  Though this is a somewhat different vision of Anne than my own, it was a wonderful book, and it left me in awe.  The video below is in line with the thought of the reincarnation of Anne and Henry, but it uses some clips of "The Other Boleyn Girl" but they have that film strip effect on them, so I think maybe it's meant to show Jonathan Rhys Myers watching the movie trying to figure out what he is dreaming about.  Anyway, the video is worth a watch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So, Perhaps Crazy Breeds Crazy, No?

I thought about writing about mothers and daughters today and I guess I am sort of, I decided to write about Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.  In an earlier post I discussed Henry VIII and the fact that he was quite possibly mad.  Maybe syphillis ate his brain, maybe he was just nuts, who knows.  I mean lets face it, his mother came from the Plantagenent blood line, being the daughter of Edward IV.   His father was Henry VII, whose mother was Margaret Beaufort, a wily, steel hearted old woman, who although she was about the size of most 10-year olds could probably kill you in less than a minute and not think twice about it.  She gave birth to Henry VII at the age of 12, alone, in a house, on the floor.  She survived, let's talk about a will of steel!  Hats off to her! 

So, poor princess Mary had this coming from her father's side of the family.  On her mother's side, she had the fanatical queen Isabella of Castile, who though she was a magnificent queen and warrior, she was extremely intolerant of other religions and fought to expel the Muslims from all parts of Spain, in the process destroying thousands of years of history and medical knowledge, inadvertently bringing the dark ages back to Spain.  She, I believe, along with her husband also started what became the inquisition.  Their eldest daughter, Juana, was obsessed with having sex with her husband, Phillip, and when he died she dragged his body around Spain refusing to allow any women near his casket, lest they desire him.  Her son, Emperor Charles V finally locked her up.  Unfortunately she refused to relinquish her youngest daughter, so I am sure the poor child grew up to be some sort of necrophiliac prostitute great example of royalty.  The House of Aragon, from which Ferdinand, princess Mary's grandfather came, were related to the rulers of Naples.  These proud royals married their illegitimate children off to the Borgias, kept their victims mummies in a room behind their throne so rumor says, and committed suicide when it looked like battle was imminent. 

So, you see?  There was crazy all around, it was almost unavoidable that given this genetic combination, in addition to the horrible treatment by her father while growing up that she become crazy.  Divorce is hard on kids, it's even harder when mom is exiled and you are forbidden to see her.  You are threatened with death if you don't accept dad as head of the church and you are forced to wait on your baby sister hand and foot but never, ever touch her.  Your father never arranges your marriage, no matter how much you want a husband and babies of your own and you grow old and bitter watching England become a protestant country,  oh those dastardly non-Catholics!

So, when you become queen what do you do?  You fall in love with a picture of your cousin Phillip of Spain, who won't marry you until you behead your cousin Jane Grey, who was proclaimed queen for 9 days and represents the protestant opposition to your rule.  Never mind that she is only 16 and you don't really want to do it, your beloved, whom you've never met, says you must or he cannot in fact come to love you in person. So you do it.  Remember what I said a few days ago about doing away with all rival claimants to the throne?  Well it applied here apparently.  Never mind that poor Jane didn't want to be queen and probably just wanted to be left alone with her books somewhere, she had to go.  What a wonderful way to introduce yourself to your people as a kind and merciful queen.

When husband arrives you begin burning protestants left and right.  You declare that all married priests, who married legally under the previous protestant laws, give up and abandon their families or face the stake.  Never mind that you want a family of your own and would never want to abandon them.   Apparently that does not apply to priests.  Not just protestant burnings will do either, you must also burn Jews and anyone else who is not Catholic, because after all, England must be purified!  You will cry and protest the burnings, but you will order them just the same.  Maybe you should have adopted some of the orphans you created hmm?  Ever think of that one?  How did it feel to lose your mother?  Did you not think of this? 

You begin a smear campaign against your half sister Elisabeth, whom you lead others to believe is not a product of your father's loins, but that of Mark Smeaton, Anne Boleyn's musician who was executed along with her.  You lock her in the tower for participating in plots against you.  But, thankfully, you cannot bring yourself to execute her, your only living family member.  She is too smart for you anyway, she is too much her mother's daughter, though she will never admit it, and has lived her life in fear trying to survive.  She is everything you are not now, young, beautiful to some, and you see your husband's eyes wandering toward her.  Her mother was a harlot you think, so you had better keep her locked away from Phillip, she might steal him.  Anyway, every time you look at Elisabeth you see her mother staring at you out of the black eyes she shared with her daughter, so it's better to keep her out of sight anyway.

Poor Mary, you think you are pregnant, finally a child of your own, only the time for delivery comes...and goes...and no baby.  A hysterical pregnancy, a thing a midwife fears, because if no baby comes the family could say she is a witch, and caused the baby to disappear.  Your husband is not pleased.  It happens a second time, after he has left for Spain, never to return to you, only this time it's probably cancer and it kills you.  The queen is dead, long live the queen.  She is remembered by the nickname "Bloody Mary" because of the inquisition that she brought into England.  Five hundred years later children are still afraid to say her name in front of a mirror in the dark, for her face might appear.  What a terrible legacy. 

Poor Mary, a girl with so much potential, who could have had a happy life.  Instead she had a loveless marriage at the age of about 37 and died alone with few who loved her.  Was she crazy?  As crazy as her father?  Was she cruel?  I personally believe she was a very fragile, conflicted woman who very much wanted to be a good person and a good queen.  She did what she thought was right, but is murder ever right?  Being a protestant myself I can only cringe to think of watching my skin turn black in the fires at Smithfield, watching my daughter cry and wondering who is going to care for her, all because I am not Catholic.  Is there anything more horrifying than a slow death being burned at the stake?  Kind and merciful is not something I think she was.  But, history has a way of twisting things as it is told by the survivors.  So who knows?

If you want a good read from a fictional standpoint that might give you some sympathy towards her try "I am Mary Tudor" by Hilda Lewis.  It's the first in a trilogy and they are all actually very good.  For a good biography I'd try "Bloody Mary" by Carolly Erickson or the book listed above, "The Myth of Bloody Mary" by Linda Porter.  Both are fascinating reads about a sad, strange woman, who was once a sad, lonely girl.


Monday, April 19, 2010

The Tudors, Season 4, Episode 2

I just watched the newest episode of "The Tudors" and I think this season is going a little bit out of the range of reality.  Culpepper sleeping with Jane Rochford?  Looks like Henry is going to sleep with Anne of Cleves next week?  As far I as I know, and I know a lot none of that ever happened.  Yeah, it makes it interesting, but it was interesting to begin with, these little plot twists are mmm...not needed.  Notice Henry's pause and funny look when Katherine says "I'm the most happy" in a sentence, that was Anne Boleyn's motto.  Sort of like his pause last week when watching his daughter Elisabeth.  My beautiful and most dignified Anne is not leaving his mind that easily.

I am also at the moment reading a most wonderful book, "Threads" by Nell Gavin.  It is the story of the reincarnation of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and it is truly an amazing book.  Nell's whole explanation of reincarnation is thought provoking and the character of Anne is quite unique.  Though I think this take on Anne is more girl than woman, I'm not disappointed.  The story is wonderful and I can hardly stand to put the book down.  Any fan of a different type of story should read this book, it's a page turner and you will not be disappointed.  Buy this book off my link on one of the posts below, it makes me money!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Motherhood Is Not Always Joyous

As I am not feeling very joyous about motherhood myself today though I dearly love.  Sometimes motherhood means anger and sometimes it means heartbreak.  I'm sure it was heart breaking for all of the Tudor mothers in the end.  They were all forced to leave their children, whether for untimely death or because of unjust seperation.  In the end Katherine of Aragon begged Henry to be a good father to Mary.  Anne Boleyn said nothing negative about Henry on the scaffold, a final gift to her beautiful girl, I'm sure she was afraid if she said too much Elisabeth would be treated badly.  Jane Seymour died before she could ever mother her son.  I love the video below, the maker managed to show Anne and Elisabeth in very similar physical positions and I love the idea of Anne watching over her daughter telling her to light up.  She sure did light up, she, for all of her faults was an amazing ruler.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Somewhere Between Here and 1536 I Found My Reflection

I started trying to write this post as an article for another website, but I just couldn't get across what I really wanted to say so I scrapped it.  I could not get personal enough in an article to get my point across.  But since this is a blog I can pour my heart into what I'm saying.  I guess I'll start with the source of this blog, Anne Boleyn.  I've always been interested in Henry and his six wives, but something happened this past year, maybe I saw a kindred spirit, maybe a memory was triggered somewhere in my heart, maybe I'm just a raving lunatic, but you know what?  I don't care.  Last year I was looking for episodes of "The Tudors" to watch online on YouTube, and they were there, broken up into 8 minute clips.  Along with them were several music videos.  Not knowing what they were I began clicking on them and in one I saw Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn walking to the scaffold and I felt like somebody kicked me in the chest.  Now, I've seen Anne walk to the scaffold many times, I've seen Charlotte Rampling do it in "Anne of 1000 Days," I've seen Natalie Portman do it in "The Other Boleyn Girl," an excellent book and terrible movie interpretation, I've even seen the infamous Helena Bonham Carter do it in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" but I had never had such a reaction before.

I watched, holding my breath, and then burst into tears, not just small tears, but outright sobs.  Something in me said "Do you see this?!  This, this is what happened are you listening?!  Are you watching?!"  So I went to the video store later that week and checked out season two of "The Tudors" and started watching it.  During that week I used one of the videos to teach a poem to the sixth graders "Oh Death, Rock Me Asleep" rumored to be written by Anne but never proven.  The kids were in awe of the video.  So I watched all of the episodes up to episode 10, the episode where Anne is executed.  I thought about watching it, I touched the DVD a few times, and finally, feeling like I was watching a scene I knew all too well and was dreading watched that episode.  I now own the DVDs and I have only ever watched that episode once.  I can't watch it again. 

It's not like my senior year  of  highschool where I went to see "Titanic" 5 times in the theatre so I could sob about Jack dying, it's different.  Part of it is she reminds me of me, she reminds me a lot of me.  We have a lot in common.  We both have one child, a daughter, who we adore.  We both thought we would have boys and didn't.  We both craved apples like nobody's business during our pregnancies.  Neither of us are classic beauties but I don't mind looking at myself in the mirror most of the time.  But really, it's her temperment.  She was firey.  The relationship between her and Henry reminds me so much of how my own relationship with my husband used to be. 

I can only think that when Anne had Elisabeth and was subsequently pregnant two more times in the next two years and suffered miscarriages her hormones were all over the place.  She must have been grieving for her two lost babies, who she must have loved the minute she knew she carried them, for she did love Elisabeth, and spent large amounts of money furnishing the tiny girl's wardrobe.  It was said that she liked to keep the baby near her on a cushion.  Elisabeth's christening gown was found in the attic at Sudeley Castle in 2007 (can you imagine such a treasure?!) and it is covered in the most beautiful embroidery.  Anne and her ladies must have spent many hours and pricked many fingers working the beautiful designs into the tiny dress.  Mothers don't do that for children they don't love, they hire someone else to, Anne didn't.  There is no record of an order for a christening gown, no payment, so she must have done it herself. 

Anne was no angel by far, her temper and her rages at Henry contributed greatly to her estragement from him, though reportedly he was no better.  I believe, and granted, this is my belief, also discussed by Alison Weir, that Anne was suffering from post partum depression and the more hidden, more secret, post partum rage.   Having been to this dark place, I know what I'm talking about.  I had my daughter, whose middle name is Elisabeth with an "S" like Anne's beautiful girl, and promptly went crazy.  Not just a little crazy, not like cat lady crazy or new mom weepy crazy, but like raving angry lunatic crazy.  Almost every day.  Directed at my husband.  For 14 months.  By the time he said he couldn't take it anymore and wanted a divorce he was broken.  He didn't know what was wrong with me, I was in the middle of it, I didn't know, it's not what people talk about when they talk about PPD, but they should because it happens to a lot of women.  I found out he had been confiding in a very good "friend" who was female, and at the time I remember dropping to the floor and shaking and screaming, and then I had to go to work.  It was a bad day to put it mildly.  How must Anne have felt when she walked in on Jane Seymour kissing Henry?

Now, looking back almost two years later it was the best thing that ever happened to us.  I got myself straightened out, he got himself straight, and we fixed what was between us and I can honestly say we love each other more today then we ever have, because we know what it is to lose the other.  Whether lost to madness or lost to a wandering heart, lost is lost.  I think Anne was lost somewhere in this darkness too.  I don't think Henry would have fallen in love with her if she had not been dignified and affectionate during the 10 years they were together before they had children and were married if she had not shown him love.  Yes yes, she was a conquest and kept him on a string, but he honestly, truly loved that woman.  I have a book of his love letters to her, and her one surviving letter to him, and they are beautiful.  Besides being a madman Henry was an accomplished poet and musician, (but then so was Edgar Allen Poe) and Anne was as well.  They were possibly a perfect match, possibly the worst match in the world for all their anger, but I like to believe they were really soulmates.  And I like to think of Henry as Jonathan Rhys Myers instead of his bloated self, but you know, it's a better dream that way.

Anne's bout with darkness ended on a scaffold in a courtyard of the Tower of London.  Mine ended with medication and two healed hearts who together raise a beautiful little girl in a happy home.  But, there but for the grace of god, go I right?  If they had known at the time what they know now about PPD would Anne's end have come about when it did?  Would she and Henry have led a long and happy life together?  Maybe, maybe not, read my post on karma and you probably won't think so, although, as my husband and I believe, if you do the right thing, you change karma.  He and I have always told each other that we have known each other from a time long before we met, it was instant between us, it was like we had found someone we had been searching for our whole lives.  So when he says to me "I've known you forever in my heart" I answer "Or at least for the last 500 years or so."  I seen in Anne a part of me, who I could have been, what my darkness could have ended in, for it is said that she "took much joy in death," at the end.  I like to think I have repaid my own karmic debt, and hers, just a little, by helping myself and my family.  I wish she had had the chance to do the same thing.  So I hold her close to me in my heart, and try to keep alive the memory of a vibrant, intelligent woman, whose life was taken too soon.

Gentle visitor pause a while,

Where you stand death cut away death cut away the light of many days.

Here, jeweled names were broken from the vivid thread of life.

May they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage,

Under these restless skies.”

-Memorial to the exected, Tower of London-

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Karma Exists, and Yes, She's a Bitch

So, Karma, the idea that what goes around comes around, payment for your sins, whatever you want to call it, you might argue that it doesn't exist, but maybe, just maybe this post will convince you otherwise.  Yes, all of my posts up until now have been about Henry VIII, and so is this one.  Karma really had it in for him, or maybe God did, either way, if you ask me, he got what he deserved. 

First, let's look at his treatment of his first wife.  Poor Katherine was "divorced" and exiled to Kimbolton Castle, where she was forbidden to see her daughter Mary and died in misery, probably of cancer at the age of 50, writing to Henry on her death bed that "mine eyes desire you above all things."  Henry hardened his heart towards her and persisted in his relationship with Anne Boleyn, not waiting until he was divorced, not accepting the church's verdict on the subject of his marriage.  He refused to accept that his marriage to Katherine was valid according to the Catholic church and demanded the submission of the clergy in England to his authority.  His brash behavior resulted in the excommunication of his entire country.  He basically said "to hell with that" and declared himself the representative of God on Earth in England.  Fine, he's head of the church.  His whole goal in this is to marry Anne and have a son.  Karma came back with a vengeance and denied him the son he desired as Anne only ever gave birth to a girl, the future Elizabeth I.  His relationship with Anne also deteriorated and his seperation with her ended in her execution.  Ironic that the woman he fought to marry he had killed.  Karma came for Anne too, bringing the same fate upon her that she brought upon Katherine, she became a spurned queen.

On the day that Katherine died, January 7, 1536, Anne and Henry celebrated.  They actually celebrated her death, the death of an "enemy." They paraded around, Henry wearing a suit of yellow satin and Anne wearing a yellow gown. Henry even hosted a tournament to celebrate. When Katherine was interred in Peterborough Cathedral several days later Anne miscarried the child she was carrying, a male child.  As Chapuy's said she "miscarried of her savior," needing a son to save her place as queen.  Anne's own death came just a few months later when Henry had her executed on May 19, 1536.  Once again Henry paid for this action when fate swooped in and his only living male child, Henry Fitzroy, a bastard child that had none the less been named the Duke of Richmond, died on July 23rd of the same year.  Though I would never deny a parent grief over the death of a child, an unimaginable loss, to this I can only say Ha, and Ha Ha.  He should have known better.  The saying is that you reap what you sow right?  If you sow violence and death, that is what you get back.  If you persist in divorce, which the Bible says that God hates (Malachi 2:16) not just mildly dislikes, but hates, then heartache will come back to you.  It seems pretty black and white to me.  You knowingly do wrong, you get a bad lot in life, really pretty simple right? 

The theory of reincarnation says that you must carry and repay your karmic debts throughout different lifetimes, such is the basis of the book "Threads" by Nell Gavin.  She writes about the reincarnations of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and their attempts to repay their karmic debt to one another, and her debt is learning how to forgive the husband who turned on her and brought about her murder.  Yes, murder, for the execution of the innocent is nothing less.  During her last confession she professed her innocence to Archbishop Cranmer and to quote William Kingston, the keeper of the tower, she  "took much joy and happiness in death."  At that point death was her only way out of a world that was falling down around her.  So, one might ask, what did she do to deserve that?  I don't know, she had already paid her dues several times over, but sometimes life is unfair.  Henry died with a wife who tended and took care of him, his sixth wife Katherine Parr.  How I wish he had died alone, writhing in the blackness of his nightmares with the ghosts of his wives taunting him on his trip to hell.  But then, who knows, God is good and he forgives, I suppose that's probably where I fall short.

The Anne Boleyn Files
"Great Harry" by Carolly Erickson