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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!