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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Small Moments Make up a Life

Yesterday I found this and I thought it was beautiful.

Absolutely, totally beautiful.  A beautiful tribute to "The Tudors" but more than that an amazing compilation of "small hours" from Henry's life.  I wonder if that's really the sort of thing that went through his head towards the end of his life when he was ill and knew he was going to die.  Did he dream of the wives and friends he had lost?  When he closed his eyes did he see Katherine in all of her quiet dignity?  Did he see the beautiful young princess he had married or the old woman she became?  I'd like to think that he remembered the best of her, when she was young and sweet, and he was in love with her.  Did he see Anne, standing regally on the scaffold?  Did he see Catherine Howard smiling and dancing?  Was he haunted by the quiet martyrdom of Thomas More, the pleading of Cromwell or the tears of Wolsey?  God I hope so.

I think what gets me so much about this video is that when you watch it you see how odd Henry's life really was.  He had so many different "lives" and "families."  Who does that?  Generally, when you look at the course of a person's life, even a king's life, they have one person who was their mate for life, maybe two or three, but not six.  If you take the time to think about it, how strange must it have been for him to go from being married for twenty years and being sure of your wife and who your child is to a new wife and a new daughter, and then another wife and another child?  I was talking to someone a few years ago and at some point they said to me that something they had done "was with another wife and another family."  I remember thinking at the time how odd it was, you have one life that you are used to and one set of children, and then, 20 years later, you have another?  Something about seeing Henry's whole life strung together like that made me so very sad.  You can really see how he made some people truly happy, and how he was so viciously cruel to those same people in the end.  It has always broken my heart how he turned on his closest friends and most loyal servants, More, Wolsey, and Cromwell.  I don't know that I would have liked these men in life, but their sadness when he turned on them is painful.

I hope, after Henry became the evil man that he was when he died that every time he slept he dreamt of someone he had wronged.  I hope his last memories caused him to feel regret.  I love that the last thing he dreams of in this video is three of his wives begging him for mercy, for that must be a truly horrible thing to remember, especially little Catherine Howard screaming his name while running towards the chapel in a desperate bid to gain his forgiveness.  Since her ghost is said to repeat this scene almost daily it obviously left an emotional impression somewhere in time, either in the minds of those who recorded the scene or on the veil between this world and the next.  Somehow though, I think those he rid himself of got the last laugh, as they watched his spirit moving in a decidedly downward direction!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Memoriam...Katherine Howard

Today in 1542 Henry VIII executed a second wife, his infallible "Rose Without a Thorn" Catherine Howard.  My heart goes out to this child who walked out to her death on Tower Green on a cold February morning.  She had been abandoned by her husband, what little family she had, and her lover Thomas Culpepper had been executed.  She was truly alone, and left the world with a reputation as a harlot. 

Lady Jane Grey was executed in the same spot several years later, on February 12 1554, completing a trio of queens executed on the lawn of the royal palace turned prison.  Jane left this world under Henry's fanatical daughter Mary, and died with the reputation of a sainted martyr.  She too, however, was alone.  Her husband had been executed and her parents had gone back to the country, leaving her to die.  Her father, fool that he was, more or less brought down the axe on her head by trying to raise a second rebellion in her name after she was imprisoned and Mary had been declared queen.

Two girls, near to each other in age, who died a day and 12 years apart in the same spot, and yet they were so different, but found themselves in similar situations.  Catherine had a reputation as an empty-headed wanton and Jane was a pious scholar.  Both were trapped in marriages that they probably did not want, at least in the sense of loving their husband.  I think (and this is just my opinion) that Catherine loved Henry in some sense, but not with the passion and exhilaration that a young girl feels when they first fall in love.  That first blush of infatuation and the crazed things that teenagers will do for it most likely was not for Henry, but for Culpepper, Catherine's alleged lover.  Jane was forced into marriage by her ambitious parents and married Guilford Dudley, the son of Edward VI's chief counselor.

But this article is not about Jane, it's not that I do not feel sorry for her or do not admire her faith and strength to the very end, but Jane was all that she should be as a young woman of her time.  She was learned, obedient, and a faithful protestant. She  had lived for a time with Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's last wife and had been educated for several years with her royal cousins, Edward and Elisabeth. She was an exemplary young woman and her death was a tragedy.

Catherine Howard, however, was not all that she should be.  She was raised by her grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and was quite experienced in the love of men for her young age.  Some say she was sexually abused, which perhaps she was, but girls married and became mothers at such a young age in Tudor England that perhaps she considered herself of an age to experiment sexually.  At any rate, she was young and pretty and most likely wanted attention from men as her own father had left her to be raised by the Duchess upon the death of her mother.  Today we talk about the importance of a father figure in a young girl's life, and we know that without that guiding influence many young girls seek attention in all manner of unhealthy ways.

I'm not sure that Catherine was empty-headed either.  Though we will never know one way or the other, I think she was a typical teen, and she still possessed the idea of "it won't happen to me."  Teenagers today think that pregnancy won't happen to them, that car accidents will not happen to them, that alcohol poisoning will not happen to them.  They think this because they are so young, and death is such a foreign idea to them.  The mind of an adolescent is till growing and changing, so rational thought is not always something they have the ability to produce.  Catherine simply thought she would not be caught when she had an affair with Culpepper.  She was probably in love, and felt that she would do anything to be with him.  Who among us cannot remember sitting by the telephone, praying that it will ring and that special boy or girl will be on the line?  The euphoria that came with that phone call beat out all other feelings did it not?  I'm sure it was the same for the doomed young queen, contact with Thomas thrilled her, and she threw caution to the wind.  Poor child, she thought her crazy, tyrannical husband would forgive her anything, that he adored her that much.  She was wrong.  She should have taken the example of her cousin Anne to heart.  A wife that caused trouble for this king, especially in any way that unmanned him had only one fate.  Death.  The video below shows Anne Boleyn's spirit watching over Catherine, and I like that idea.  If Anne was with her, then she was not alone.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tudor Vampires?

I know with the release of the Twilight series came plethora of vampire books, but I am not sure what I think of Anne Boleyn as a vampire and Elisabeth as a slayer. I think that maybe just takes it a little bit over the top for me. But, who am I to criticize published authors right? I read their books and they made money off of it so hey, I guess they are one step ahead of me. The book advertised at the top of the blog entry "The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer" is, in my opinion actually pretty good for what it is. It is well written, with subtle hints at Anne Boleyn (Elisabeth's mother for those of you who don't know) and a very well developed main character. Weston's Elisabeth has believable feelings and desires, and she does a good job of portraying the farce of queenship. Always having to smile, always having to appear entertained by every idiot ambassador who comes through the door when really she wants to die from boredom. The plot of the book is well thought out and based in the mythology of King Arthur.

Arthur's son, Mordred made a pact with a group of vampires that came to England during his father's reign. He agreed to let them rule England with him as their king if they would help him fight off the Saxon horde. Mordred is in love with Morgaine, the daughter of a knight who died in Arthur's service, but she becomes a vampire slayer, and therefore, cannot be with Mordred. Morgaine dies fighting him and hundreds of years later she visits Anne Boleyn in the chapel at Saint Peter ad Vincula to tell her that the child she is carrying is not a prince, but a girl who will inherit of all of Morgaine's slaying powers. Anne eventually ends up being buried in Saint Peter's and her daughter is taken there on the night off her coronation where she is visited by Anne and gains her slayer powers. She then goes on to be both attracted and repelled by Mordred. She knows she must defeat him, that is her destiny, and so on. I won't reveal the ending, but the book is worth reading. I liked that Elisabeth got to have a small moment with Anne, the mother she most likely could not remember. Since she wore a ring all of her days as queen that secretly carried her mother's portrait in it I'm sure she longed to know her. She could never say it in public, for that would be acknowledging that she was the daughter of a convicted traitor, but Anne was her mother, and no matter what she would have loved her. I have always wondered what Elisabeth was told about Anne. Henry tried so hard to eradicate anything that would remind him of her, but he could not dispose of the daughter who grew to look more and more like her with each passing year. In fact, as the most famous portrait of Anne has now been determined to have been painted within living memory of the dead queen, and commissioned by someone who knew her, Elisabeth may have looked more like her mother than anyone ever knew. Check this out:

Honestly, though I don't want to imply that I wanted Henry to think ill of his daughter, I hope it galled him until the day he died. She was every bit her mother's child in temperament and intelligence and she had her black eyes, though she had Henry's red hair. A living reminder of the woman he had loved so fiercely, and so cruelly destroyed.

But I digress, the topic of this blog entry is Tudor vampire books. The second of this strange new literary genre that I read was "Boleyn, Tudor Vampire" by Cinsearea S. This book has Anne Boleyn hanged instead of beheaded so that she can reawaken in her grave as a vampire. She then digs up her brother George, who is more like a zombie than anything else and he becomes her undead servant. Next she raises Mark Smeaton, who decides that does not like bumbling about the country as a zombie who is falling to pieces, so she reburies him and he returns as a ghost. Anne and her crew spend the next year or so terrorizing Henry, Charles Brandon, and anyone else they run across. Thomas Wyatt is their willing accomplice and he himself becomes part vampire. I have to admit, I loved the idea of Anne, Mark, and George doing things to purposely annoy and torment Henry after what he did to them, it satisfied my need for revenge in terms of wanting fairness for everyone, and really, revenge is just plain fun at times, isn't it? The book is pretty gory and I would not recommend reading it while eating. Don't expect a great story, but if you want a sort of ok zombie-vampire read, it will suffice. It's not great literature, but then, what do we expect of Boleyn vampires and zombies?