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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

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Tudors Season 4, Katherine Howard

Season 4 of "The Tudors" started last night, I couldn't let that go by unnoticed.  Tamzin Merchant, an actress I have never seen before does a wonderful job of playing a teenager who should never have been queen.  What was Henry thinking?  Ok, I know what he was thinking, sex, but really? Although we will never know the day to day temperment and actions of this young queen the charachter designed by Michael Hirst fits much of what I think she would have been like.

Merchant plays a young, frivolous girl with no grace, no bearing, no resemblance to any of Henry's other wives in terms of dignity.  She was not raised to be a noble woman, much less a queen and it shows.  She has no idea how to behave, court etiquette is foreign to her and dignity is something she could only pray to possess.  She is a skinny little thing, all elbows and knees, and shoulder blades, pretty, but meant to appear awkward.  Merchant does a magnificent job playing this petulant, ridiculous queen who met a tragic end. 

Some people refuse to learn from the past and the mistakes, or said mistakes of others.  You would think Katherine would have been wary enough after the death of her cousin Anne and would have behaved herself.  But no, she slept her way to her death.  She also trusted Jane Rochford, who was instrumental to Anne's downfall, how stupid was that?  But it's a C minus world right?  Watch the video below to see Katherine in a showdown with princess Mary.  Watch the ridiculous posture, the flouncing about and the hand on the hip.  It's great, but not if you're a queen.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Special Thanks

I just wanted to say a special thank you to Claire Ridgway, owner and author of The Anne Boleyn files at for stopping by and giving me some suggestions for the improvement of my blog!  She also said the content was great!  Thank you Claire, that means a lot coming from someone with such an amazing site!

Henry VIII, Sadistic Killer, Nutjob, or Your Average Every Day King?

  This post is about Henry and Anne.  I think we look at their situation and many of us see the same old story, he got tired of her, he beheaded her, blah blah blah.  There are funny songs written about it, parodies done by musicians at Ren faires, but who really stops to think about this?  I think many times even historians look at it from a purely historical perspective and stick to the facts, speculation is left out and left to novelists, and even they fail to capture the raw emotion and the confusing events that surround the death of this woman, for that's what she was, not just a queen, not a living embodiment of evil, not a martyr, she was a person, a girl who grew to womanhood in a swirl of intrigue and rivalry.  Who was Henry?  I read a comment in a USA Today article on "The Tudors" that said that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were not the great people we think they were, they were vicious killers.  True, they were, and so were most world leaders, and are they not today?  Do they not hide behind agencies like the KGB or the CIA, or not hide at all like Saddam Hussein?  The question I asked my husband this morning was "Do you think power corrupts or do you think that the only people crazy enough to take power, to fight for it, were nuts to begin with?  Interesting question isn't it?  Though I am sure that Anne Boleyn would not have liked to think of her daughter as a vicious killer.  Some would say that to be a ruler you must make hard choices, and this is true.  All potential competitors to the throne had to be eliminated, especially in times of unrest.  Hundreds of years before Henry ruled England the real MacBeth did not kill Duncan's children, he allowed them to escape to England.  He realized his mistake when Duncan's son came for him, killed him, and took the throne of Scotland.  Pity and mercy could mean the downfall of a ruler in this time so it's hard to say if kings and queens regretted killing or not. 
 What could possibly make Henry hate Anne so much?  Hate her enough to have her executed?  He fought to marry her for ten years, changed the religion of his country, had some of his closest friends killed or disgraced.  Poor Wolsey, his chief advisor, disgraced because he could not convince the church to grant Henry a divorce so that he could marry Anne.  Thomas More executed because he would not recognize Henry as head of the church.  Is this part of it?  Did the killing of his friends somehow make him think that it was nothing to see his wife executed as well?  Did he blame her for these deaths when really, it was his choice?  Wolsey died a natural death, although it was no doubt hurried along by his being banished from court.  At the end of his life Henry had executed so many people, including two of his wives.  He had signed an arrest warrent for his last wife, Katherine Parr, but it was dropped and was picked up by one of her ladies who quickly brought it to her.  She was able to change Henry's mind, something no other woman had managed to do.  Was he tired of killing?  Was he mad by then?  I think he was mad for much of his life, maybe not when he was younger, but certainly by the time he had Anne executed.  When his third wife Jane died he stayed in mourning and even went crazy enough during this time to think that he could rewrite the ten commandments, a fact that Michael Hirst, screenwriter for "The Tudors" put into the show.  Henry is buried beside his third wife Jane, I've stood on top of their graves.  A pity the great passion of his life Anne was stuffed into an arrow box and buried beneath the chapel floor in the tower.

But the question remains, why did he have Anne put to death?  Their relationship is known to have been stormy, Chapuys wrote that "sunshine followed storm, followed sunshine," if this is true then how great were the storms?  How much rage was spewed out between them?  What was said that could not be forgotten or taken back?  His treatment of her after her last miscarriage was terrible, when, not bothering to hide his rage and disappointment he stalked out of her room telling her he would "speak to her when she was up."  Her failure to bare a son surely contributed to the downfall of their relationship, but it's not enough reason to kill someone.  Did he believe the charges against her?  Such hatred is often borne of intense love gone wrong.  Perhaps his hurt turned to rage.  Really, we'll never know.  This post has gone on long enough.  I got a little off track.  More tomorrow I think.  Enjoy this video and decide was he crazy or not after all that blood was spilled?  I love these videos and the music, so I can't resist posting them!

Anne Boleyn by Joanna Denny
The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"The Most Happy" and the most Betrayed

What can I say, how do I even begin to discuss this tragic and doomed marriage?  Nothing I can write, nothing I can say can even begin to convey how I feel about this woman, and her relationship to her husband and what I can only call his savage destruction of their marriage and of her.  I think Natalie Dormer brought Anne's pain to life in a way that no words ever could.  Maybe, after having felt that blinding pain of love gone terribly wrong I know that there is nothing to explain the raw cold of it.  The sense of living in a state of alternate reality, the disbelief, it's horrifying in it's magnitude.  So, today, while I'm thinking about what to say, I'll leave you with another video, if I can't get the whole video to display just click on the video and you'll be taken to YouTube.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Katherine of Aragon, The Good and Humiliated Queen

So, how did Katherine feel about Henry's bad behavior? Though she kept quiet and remained dignified, we can only assume that she was deeply hurt and saddened by Henry's casting off of her as his wife. In 1533 he declared himself head of the Church of England, nullified his marriage to Catherine, made his daughter Mary illegitimate, and changed Catherine's title from "Queen of England" to "Dowager Princess of Wales. Katherine refused to acknowledge this title, and until the day she died she signed her letters "Katherine the Queen."

Katherine must have been devastated, for obviously she adored her husband. Having once been put in the situation of having my husband say he wanted a divorce I know that Katherine must have felt fear, pain, and revulsion. She said as much in a letter to her nephew Charles V in a letter she wrote to him in 1531. Her letter stated that "My tribulations are so great, my life so disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the king's wicked intention, the surprises which the king gives me, with certain persons of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine." Maria Doyle Kennedy's reaction to Henry VIII's announcement that their marriage is no longer valid in "The Tudors" is much how I believe poor Katherine would have reacted. She falls to her knees in disbelief and shock.

Katherine truly believed though that she would be saved by the fact that Henry took his divorce suit before a court of papal legates after petitioning the pope, who was being held hostage by Katherine's nephew Charles V. She knew that their marriage would stand up under church scrutiny, and indeed she was right. The court refused to grant the divorce. But this is not the remarkable part, the remarkable part of the court proceeding was Katherine herself who walked into court, walked up to Henry and knelt and said: "Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman, and a stranger, born out of your dominion. I have here no friend and much less indifferent counsel. I flee to you, as to the head of justice within this realm . . . I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure . . . being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance . . . I loved all those whom ye loved, only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This 20 years or more I have been your true wife and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them from this world, which hath been no default in me. . . And when ye had me at first, I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man. And whether this be true or no, I put it to your conscience . . . Therefore, I humbly require you to spare me the extremity of this new court . . . And if ye will not, to God I commit my cause". She then turned and walked out of court, ignoring the calls of the clerics to come back, ever the royal woman.

Perhaps the cruelest thing Henry did to Katherine however was deny her the right to see their daughter Mary. As a mother I can't imagine spending years without seeing or speaking to my child. How Katherine's heart must have broken as she yearned to see her only surviving child. After the pain and loss of so many babies, to be denied the joy of being a parent in her last years must have been more painful to bare than any other aspect of her "divorce." How she must have yearned to embrace her child one last time. How she must have worried for her future and feared that she would be harmed by the Boleyn faction. A hole of this magnitude in my heart would have debilitated me, and perhaps, in the end, grief is some of what contributed to her death. She died on January 7, 1536 at the age of 50.

Her last letter to Henry on her deathbed reads as follows:
My most dear lord, king and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles. For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Quene.

Mine eyes desire you above all things, such words of love for a husband who had treated her so horribly.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Betrayal is Betrayal, Even if You Are Royalty Part 1

Keeping in mind yesterday's historical time period today's post will revolve around Henry's betrayals of his first wife, and will be the first in a series of 3. Today women are allowed to villify and divorce cheating spouses and cheating is looked upon with disdain and disgust but in the 1500s it was a different story. Women had almost no rights and faced the spectre of death if they were caught in adultery, no matter how badly they were treated by their husbands. They, however, were expected to be quiet and endure whatever humiliations were heaped on them by the men they were married to. This isn't new information though and not what the focus of the blog post will be. This particular post will take a look at Catherine of Aragon and Henry and give some background information on a situation that got very, very ugly.

Catherine was raised to be a queen, she was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (the sponsors of Christopher Columbus. Isabella was a formidable and spectacular queen in her own right and she raised her daughters to be every bit as regal and intelligent as she was. Catherine received the same education as her brother, learning several languages such as Latin and French, and studying religion and court etiquette among other things. Catherine married Henry at the age of 23 and she was six years his senior. She had been in England for a little over seven years, having been sent to marry his older brother Arthur who died shortly after their wedding. She was virtually held prisoner by Henry VII, who did not want to let go of her large dowry. Only half of the dowry had been paid at the time of Arthur's death and Henry VII wanted the rest of the money he felt he was due. He kept her in England by telling her father Ferdinand that he planned to marry her to Henry, and at one time considered marrying her himself after his queen, Elizabeth, died. Ferdinand, for his part, did his daughter no better. He was preoccupied with trying to wrest control of Castile from his daughter Juana after the death of Isabella. Juana was mad and contented herself with dragging her dead husband's body around Spain in a casket. But that is a post for another time. Back to Ferdinand. He sent Katherine very little money to live on, saying he had sent an exorbitant amount with her as her dowry and that she should live off of her dower funds. These funds, however, were controlled by her father in law, who was not about to give up any gold. The poor girl lived in poverty for seven years before Henry VII died and his son took the throne. Henry immediatly declared that he would be marrying Catherine, perhaps he thought he was the mythical knight on the white horse saving a damsel in distress,and she was more than willing to be rescued. A dispensation was needed from the pope in order for them to marry since Catherine had been married to Henry's brother. This dispensation was granted based on the fact that Catherine claimed she was still a virgin, that she and Arthur had never consumated their marriage. This she would swear to until her dying day. Was it true? No one will ever know, but it would have been the end of her chances at being queen if she ever admitted otherwise. This one detail ultimately proved to be her undoing anyway as Henry used it as the basis for his divorce suit.

Henry and Catherine were married for almost 24 years and by all accounts the marriage was a happy one. Catherine was Henry's intellectual equal and he obviously trusted her and thought her capable as he left her as regent in his absence when he went to fight the French. She proved herself to be a worthy leader as she foiled a Scottish border invasion and presented Henry with the bloody coat of James IV as a gift. Apparently your dead brother-in-laws clothing was considered a fitting gift. The destruction of this otherwise happy marriage came about because Catherine could not produce a son, or any living child except one,a daughter for Henry. Henry was obsessed with producing a male heir, not wanting to leave his kingdom in the hands of a woman, even if she was his daughter.

Although Henry had many affairs during his marriage to Catherine, including Anne Stafford, Mary Boleyn, and Bessie Blount (perhaps he was the Tiger Woods or Jesse James of his day?). She, for the most part was the epitomy of the dignified queen and she kept her pain and her anger to herself. Though she loved Henry, really, truly loved him, she knew that none of his mistresses was a threat to her power and Henry respected her position as queen and did not flaunt his indiscretions. The one exception to this may have been Bessie Blount, who bore him a son in 1519, but she and her son were housed and cared for away from court. Henry named his bastard son the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, titles that Henry had held as a child. Katherine was angered by the boy's titles, and angrily objected. Henry reacted by sending away three of her Spanish ladies,something he had done once before when she had objected to one of his affairs. Perhaps these types of reactions were another reason she kept quiet.

By 1526 Katherine was nearing the end of her childbearing years and Henry still had no heir. It was around this time that Henry met the young, black-eyed Anne Boleyn. Henry's ten year quest for a divorce from Katherine is legendary and it changed the official religion of England, all this for the love of a woman who was not his wife. Henry's desire to marry Anne consumed him, and led him on a mad quest that saw the death of his chief adviser Wolsey, his excommunication from the Catholic church, and the death of his friend Thomas More. Henry reasoned that he was king, and as such he would have his way. But in the end, was he really any different than any other husband who strays? Men cheating with multiple women has been in the news lately with the Tiger Woods and Jesse James scandals, but this isn't a new phenomenon, it happened 500 years ago and it's happening now. Today we have electronic media to help demonize these men who sleep their way through a slew of women, and a term for it, "sex addiction." In the 1500s all they had were scandal sheets, pamphlets printed and distributed that told of the scandalous actions of the nobility. Maybe Henry would have behaved better if he had been shamed on television. No matter what you call it though, betrayal is betrayal, even if you are the king.

Great Harry by Carolly Erikson

Tomorrow: Catherine's feelings about Henry, the good, the angry, and the sad.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cult of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, the name conjures up images of ghosts, a beheaded wife, and scenes from the Showtime series "The Tudors." Anne is who inspired me to create this blog so my first post is dedicated to her. In conversation this past week the phrase "Anne Boleyn? But she's dead!" was uttered. The response was "I can assure you, she is alive and well." So she is, she lives on in the hearts and minds of people everywhere who revere and idolize her. I used to wonder if I was the only person out there who had an obsession with European history and with Anne specifically, but over the past few months I have discovered a whole world of Anne Boleyn fans, people whose thoughts are just as dedicated as mine to this amazing and misunderstood woman.

YouTube has a plethora of videos dedicated to Anne, most of them music videos set to clips of "The Tudors." Making these videos is no small task I can assure you as I made something similar for my best friend as a wedding gift and I can only imagine how hard it is to get a song to line up with specific moments in these clips of the show. Videographers like Alyxandra, who goes by the name of CastigatedX or BloodyJasi who has a channel called "Ascending the Scaffold" have created amazing videos that bring Anne's sadness and anger to life. Websites like have sprung up on the internet all created by fans of an outspoken, strong, betrayed woman who died over 500 years ago. I have included some of my favorite videos below,two of which are made by the two ladies mentioned above. Please, watch and enjoy Natalie Dormer's amazing performance, for though the show may be full of historical inaccuracies, Natalie's portrayal of Anne broke my heart and fully brought to life this amazing queen. It took me over a week to get up the courage to watch the episode of the "The Tudors" in which Anne is executed and I have to say Natalie's portrayal of Anne hit the nail on the head, watching her walk to the scaffold so bravely and so elegantly had me crying like a baby. Watch as she stops and gathers her courage to mount the scaffold stairs, her facial expressions as she speaks and gives her jewelry to her ladies, all of these things are so small, but so vital to the character of Anne. Natalie captures Anne's elegance and dignity in her last moments in a way that is unrivaled in my eyes. Hope you enjoy the videos and the blog! Come back tomorrow for more!