Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Match Made in Hell-King George the IV and Queen Caroline

Royal marriages of times gone by weren't the fairy tale royal romances of modern years. Up until the past few years, royal marriages were political and economic transactions, and little more. While most couples weren't in love, they were expected to remain civil, and many became friends. Some royal couples, however, were royal disasters. But no couple was quite so disastrous as the marriage between the dissolute George IV and his German cousin, Caroline of Brunswick-L√ľneburg.

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Caroline of Brunswick
By age 17, George IV was a known troublemaker. He was fond of women, wine, gambling, and all sorts of immoral flim-flammery. His parents, King George III and Queen Charlotte had quite given up on him, and he was running wild around the country. He was a notorious womanizer with a preference for older women, and liked to build elaborate and ornate palaces (Like the Brighton Pavilion  which was constructed in 1787). In 1785 George contracted an illegal marriage with the twice widowed Maria Fitzherbert, and within the decade was 630,000 pounds in debt.

George was desperate for funds, and the only way he could get parliament to pay his debts was to marry and provide an heir. His marriage with Maria had ended in about 1793, and so on the urging of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, George agreed to a marriage with his cousin Caroline, whom he had never met.

Caroline was a vivacious and bubbly young woman with some unfortunate hygiene habits. According to contemporary sources Caroline liked to talk and gossip, and enjoyed a good joke. She was very friendly, but was prone to talking about things outside of what was considered appropriate. This alone, wouldn't be a big problem, but she had a bad habit of not changing her underwear, and once sent the English ambassador a tooth she had had pulled. Despite these shortcomings, Caroline was both a protestant and a princess, and was therefor a suitable bride for George.

Their first meeting was on the same level of disaster as the first meeting between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Upon being introduced to his cousin, three days before their wedding, George turned to his friend, Lord Malmesbury, and asked for a glass of brandy. He then left the room, calling for his mother, the Queen. Caroline was equally unimpressed, informing Lord Malmesbury in French that George was not nearly as handsome as his portrait.

The couple's rocky start can be attributed not only to a mutual lack of physical attraction, but to the fact that both parties were in love with, or at least involved with, other people. It was an open secret that George had married Maria Fitzherbert, and though he had left her eight years after he was attached to Lady Jersey, and he wasn't going to get rid of her. Caroline, though the identity of her suitor is unknown, definitely had a different man she wished to marry. Upon being asked her opinion on her marriage, she replied:
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George IV
“I am indifferent to my marriage, but not averse to it; I think I shall be happy, but I fear my joy will not be enthusiastic. The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing, and I resign myself to my destiny.” 
Note the "The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing" part.

Despite their lack of attraction and the fact that they were both romantically interested in other people, the couple might have had a decent go of things. Unfortunately, George was an immature dick who was determined to make his new wife miserable right from the very beginning. He installed his mistress, Lady Jersey, as Caroline's Lady of the Bedchamber, and showed up drunk to their wedding. He later demanded the return of several of Caroline's wedding jewels, and gave them to Lady Jersey, who flaunted them in Caroline's presence. On their wedding night, George was so drunk that he passed out on the floor before performing his marital duties.

Despite George's obvious distaste, the couple evidently had sex at least once, because in January of 1796, almost exactly 9 months after the wedding, George and Caroline's only child--Charlotte--was born. Shortly afterwards George sent Caroline a note informing her that though they were required to remain married they would no longer be living together. This was reportedly quite fine with Caroline. However access to her daughter was heavily restricted, and she was only able to see Charlotte in the presence of others. She wasn't quite as fine with this. In 1811 her access to Charlotte was cut off entirely. There wasn't much for Caroline in England, so she left to tour the continent in 1814.

While abroad Caroline lived the way she wanted. She took an Italian lover, adopted multiple children, and was fond of dancing half naked. She was very happy, but in 1820 when George III died and George IV became king she returned to England to claim her rights as Queen.

This was, as it turns out, a terrible idea. Princess Charlotte had died in 1817, and George was scheming to divorce Caroline and remarry so he could have an heir. He used scurrilous tales of Caroline's time abroad and false accusations of her having an illegitimate child to persuade parliament to open up an investigation into her. The House of Lords introduced the 'Bill of Pains and Penalties', which, if made law, would have dissolved their marriage.

Unfortunately for George, Caroline had the popular support of the people. While the Bill of Pains and Penalties passed in the House of Lords by nine votes, the House of Lords knew that the bill would never pass in the Commons, so they dropped the affair, leaving George furious.

File:How to get Un-married, - Ay, there's the Rub! by J.L. Marks.jpg
Political cartoon put out in 1820
George, however, was the king, and he had a few cards he could still play. On July 19, 1821 Caroline was barred from his coronation. When she tried to enter Westminster Abbey the men at the door would not let her in, and slammed the door in her face. She died a little over two weeks later.

The real legacy of George and Caroline's disastrous union was the introduction of tabloid coverage of royal life. During the investigations into Caroline's behavior, two penny broadsheets advertised every detail. Rivalries sprung up between newspapers that supported the queen and newspapers that supported the king. For the first time in English history, the public was immersed in every detail of a royal scandal, a tradition that continues to the modern day.

Sources
The Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Caroline
The Queen Caroline Affair, 1820
George IV
Caroline of Brunswick-Luneburg
George IV and Queen Caroline: A Disastrous Royal Marriage
The Trial of Queen Caroline in 1820 and the Birth of British Tabloid Coverage of Royalty
George IV: the Royal Joke?
Caroline of Brunswick, Wife of King George IV of the United Kingdom

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Documentary Review-The Secrets of the Tower of London

Image result for the tower of londonPBS' The Secrets of the Tower of London is a delightful documentary that would have won my heart for the footage of ravens doing raven things to jazzy music alone. But in addition to some awesome raven footage, this film also uncovered some of the little known ceremonies and secrets of the Tower.

This was an awesome film, and I don't want to spoil it, but just to give you an idea of why this is worth watching, let me just give you a short list of awesome things you'll see.
  • Bones hidden in the Tower walls.
  • Gargoyles getting their teeth brushed. (I'm serious)
  • Recently discovered medieval artwork.
  • The ceremony of 'The Queen's Keys'
  • The living quarters of the chief Yeoman Warder
There were also mentions of secret Beef Eater ceremonies, which you bet I will be researching.

There was also a random detour to Tower Bridge. Now Tower Bridge isn't part of the Tower of London, but it's right next door, and apparently it was designed to fit in with its medieval neighbor. The documentary shows much of the original Victorian engineering at work as the bridge raises.

This was a great documentary. If you're looking for something light and enjoyable to watch, I can't recommend this more.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Damn, Girl-Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison is one of the most famous British Suffragettes. She was outspoken, volitle, and completely fearless She became a public symbol of the Suffragette movement after martyring herself for her cause. Though she never saw women achieve suffrage in her lifetime, her contribution to women's rights in turn of the century England was enormous.


Image result for emily wilding davisonEmily was very well educated. She attended both London College and Oxford, but, as women were unable to earn a degree in that time, she never took a degree. She was employed as a private teacher when she became involved with the suffragette cause. Not long after, she quit her job to become an activist full time.

Passive and peaceful resistance is not a protest tactic Ms. Davison would have understood. She had no qualms about resorting to violence to achieve her ends, and more than once she attacked male political figures. She was arrested no less than seven times over the course of three years, and she is known to have broken into Parliament at least three times.

What Emily is best known for (aside from her death), was her behavior in prison. Suffragettes of the time would often go on hunger strike to protest the fact that they had not been classified as political prisoners. Emily took this to the extreme. On two separate occasions she was released from prison early because of her antics. Eventually, the prison wardens got sick of women going on hunger strike, and decided to force feed them by putting a tube down their throat. To avoid this and protest the force feedings, Emily barricaded her prison door with furniture. The prison guards then thought it would be a good idea to fill her cell with icy water (wtf?). The door eventually broke down, and Emily successfully sued her captors.

The moment she will always be known for, however, is the moment of her death. At the 1911 Epsom Derby Emily became a martyr for her cause. During one of the races, Emily jumped in front of a horse belonging to King George V. She was struck by the horse, and died four days later.

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An image of Emily being hit by the horse.
Whether or not Emily's plan was to commit suicide or not has been debated since long before she was cold in the ground. Both sides have good arguments. On the one hand, Emily had bought a return train ticket, she left no suicide note, and she had plans to attend a suffragette rally later that day. On the other hand, Emily had often said that her cause needed a martyr to rally around, and this was, by no means, the first time she had attempted to martyr herself. She had jumped off an iron staircase while in prison just a few months prior to her death. And while suffragettes certainly rallied around her after her death, her demise did little to inspire public sympathy. She was widely regarded as a madwoman for some time, and public sympathies were more with the horse and jockey than with her.

Though her tactics were extreme, and though the leadership of her own organization often disagreed with her, you can't deny Emily Wilding Davison's passion for her cause. She was ready to die for Women's Rights, and die she did. She's remembered today as one of the bravest English suffragettes, and, along with Emmeline Pankhurst, is honored as the mother of the women's suffrage movement.

Sources
BBC History
History Learning Site
Biography.com
Epsom and Well History Explorer
Parliament

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Damn, Girl-Chevaliere d'Eon de Beaumont

The Chevaliere*, or Chevalier, depending on who you ask, d'Eon was one of the most colorful figures of the 18th century. Assigned male at birth, and named Charles Genieveve Louisa Auguste Andre Timothee de Beaumont, the Chevaliere is notable for her service in the french military, for being a spy, and for coming out as a female, and living as Lia de Beaumont in the latter part of her life. She was a free mason, a champion fencer, a lawyer, a decorated war hero, and a celebrated author.

Image result for Chevalier d'eonIt was 1755 and, no surprise, the French were scheming. Relations with England were growing uneasy, and King Louis was attempting to put his cousin on the Polish throne. The Russian Empress, Elizabeth, refused to meet with any French ambassadors, and the French government was actively working against itself. It was this environment that the Chevaliere first got her start.

The Chevaliere was sent with the French diplomatic mission to Russia under the guise of a lowly secretary. The truth of her mission, however, was much more complex than that. d'Eon was there as part of le Secret du Roi--Louis' secret spy agency that was so secret, most of the French government didn't know about it. At the time of the Chevaliere's service, the group was dedicated to helping Louis put his cousin on the Polish throne, essentially giving France control of Poland. d'Eon's mission was to get the good will of Empress Elizabeth. There was just one problem, the Empress refused to see any of the French diplomats.

So the Chevaliere and the people back in Versailles put their heads together, and came up with a brilliant idea. d'Eon would be disguised as a woman, and infiltrate the court of the Empress that way. The idea was that Empress Elizabeth would be more open to speaking with a female French diplomat. They were absolutely right.

Seven years later the Seven Years War is going poorly for France. d'Eon left Russia to serve as a dragoon in the French army. She was the Secretary to the French ambassador, and she must have been very helpful at the peace talks between France and Britain, because she was later awarded the honor of the Order of St. Louis, which, I have been told, is a big deal.

After being decorated, d'Eon was sent to London to assist the current French ambassador to England, the Comte de Guerchy. Unfortunately, the pair did not get on. d'Eon's overspending, and her insubordination made her a liability, and she was recalled by the French government in 1763.

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Had the Chevaliere returned to France as ordered, she most likely would have been thrown in the Bastile or worse. That was an unattractive option for d'Eon, so she decided to blackmail the French government. d'Eon was still a member of le Secret du Roi, and was in possession of certain sensitive information. Since the end of the Seven Years War the French had given up their ambitions in Poland, and were working towards an invasion of England. The Chevaliere threatened to expose the duplicity of the French government if they didn't assign her a pension, and let her live in peace.

The French government was, understandably, a tad uneasy about this arrangement, and were delaying their decisions. To hurry them up, and show that she meant business, the Chevaliere published her first tell-all book, filled with secret correspondence she had received as a spy. She promised that more would follow.

France quickly acquiesced to her demands, and d'Eon became an overnight celebrity. Her book was incredibly popular, but it was the mystery surrounding her gender that really had the English people hooked. See, the Chevaliere continued to dress up in women's clothes, even after quitting the court of Empress Elizabeth. She maintained a sense of mystery about her gender, to the point where people made bets about whether or not she was a boy or a girl. d'Eon herself refused to say.

After fifteen years in England, France reached out an olive branch. d'Eon would be allowed to return home on the condition that she assume the role and appropriate clothing of her gender. the Chevaliere jumped on the opportunity, and went back to France.

However, the transition was difficult for her. She wanted to keep her dragoon's uniform as a symbol of political power, and to maintain the same amount of political influence that she had before. The French government wasn't too keen on this. Several times she was forceably dressed in female clothes, and her political opinions were consistently ignored. She was, essentially pushed to the side, and in 1785 she moved back to England.

d'Eon was able to live off her pension for a while, but in 1789 the French monarchy was abolished, and the Chevaliere was left without a source of income. To support herself, she gave swordsmanship exhibitions, wearing her Cross of St. Louis, and branding herself as an Amazon. The English people welcomed her back with open arms, but as the Chevaliere grew older she grew increasingly more isolated. When an injury made her stop fencing in 1796 she moved into a flat with another old woman, and rarely left her home after.

Image result for Chevalier d'eonAfter her death it was, of course, discovered that the Chevaliere possessed male genitalia. This news, of course shocked the world. Most people believed the Chevaliere to be female, and there had even been court cases that confirmed this, the most convincing argument being that the Chevaliere said she was female.

And there is a large amount of evidence saying that the Chevaliere truly identified as a woman, and that it wasn't a guise she adopted for social and diplomatic purposes. The Chevaliere experienced a religious awakening in her later life, and affirmed that not only did she believe herself to be a woman, but that God had told her she was a woman.

Historian's today waver about d'Eon's sexuality, but d'Eon knew d'Eon best. If she said she was a woman then she was a woman, and while today's gender politics are very different from gender politics of the past, the fact remains that d'Eon identified as a woman, and that identity should be respected.

Gender identity aside, d'Eon was an amazing woman. She was a talented and capable diplomat, and excellent writer, and a colorful person.

*A note on pronouns: since the Chevaliere maintained that she was a woman for most of her life, I have used feminine pronouns to refer to her here. No one would know the gender of the Chevaliere better than the Chevaliere herself, and on while the Chevaliere hasn't appeared to me in a dream saying that she prefers she/her pronouns, it is reasonable to assume that female pronouns are the appropriate pronouns to use when writing about her.

Sources
Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont
d'Eon, the Fresh Face
Charles, chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont
The Incredible Chevalier d'Eon, Who Left France as a Male Spy, and Returned a Christian Woman
The Chevalier d'Eon

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence. Died as He Lived


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George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence was a noted soldier and schemer. He had fought with distinction in the War of Roses, but not always for his brother the King. George aided Richard the 'Kingmaker' Earl of Warwick in an attempt to destabilize Edward after his unpopular marriage. The plot was put down, and George was forgiven, but the King never quite forgot.

Now, what you have to understand about the court of George's brother, Edward IV, was that it was a complete and total disaster. The court was split into two major factions- the supporters of the Wydvilles--the family of the queen, and everyone who hated them.

They Wydville's were new nobility, having obtained their positions entirely from the fact that Elizabeth Wydville married the King. Despite their complete lack of experience in political matters, the Wydville's turned out to be incredibly good at politics, much to the dismay of the old nobility. Using their influence over the King, they managed to obtain almost complete control over Wales, as well as Edward's heir. They were fabulously wealthy, and were getting wealthier with every post, marriage, and wardship they managed to acquire.

Now, George was aligned with the faction opposing the Wydvilles. He didn't like the queen, not even a little bit. He disliked her so much that he tried to pin the death of his wife on her, as well as accuse her of witchcraft. He was, obviously, unsuccessful, and only succeeding in pissing off the Queen. They had a bit of a back-and-forth, where the collateral damage could be measure in lives, until finally George snapped. He stood before the council one day, and denounced not only the Queen, but his brother the King. His claims were of the treasonous and destabilizing sort, and so he was promptly thrown in prison. He was taken before Parliament, and found guilty in a trial that wasn't entirely legal, and sentenced to death.

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George represented in a window at Cardiff Castle
As you might imagine, Edward IV was finding it a bit difficult to condemn his brother to death, and he put off signing to execution order for several days, until his counselors finally pressured him into signing it. Before the act was carried out though, their mother, Cecily Neville stepped in. She made two requests of Edward, both of which he granted. The first being that George be executed privately, and the second that George not be beheaded, but allowed to choose his own method of execution.

George had often joked that he wanted to die by being drowned in a barrel of wine. George was known for being a heavy drinker, and if he requested this method, or if Edward remembered his jokes and decided on the method of execution, this is how George died. On February 18, 1478, George was drowned in a 'butt' or barrel, of malmsey wine.

Do you think drowning in a cask of wine would be a good way to go? What would you choose to drown in? Make my day, and leave a comment below. :)

Sources
The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
Encyclopedia Britannica
English Monarchs
Windsbird

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Documentary Review-Secrets of Westminster OR Why I Now Wish To Become a Janitor

I usually get good ideas of things to write about from documentaries, it's one of the main reasons I watch them. This documentary was no different. I got an idea for at least a couple of posts, as per the norm. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was for the documentary to leave me with an intense desire to examine every nook and cranny of Westminster.

Image result for secrets of westminsterYou probably noticed in the title how I said I wanted to become a janitor, well, that's only half a joke. While I enjoy cleaning, I don't want to do it professionally. What I do want is the unparalleled access to places that janitors get, because there are so many treasures of Westminster that aren't open to the general public.

I should first note that this documentary got permission to film in a lot of these restricted areas. I tell you this, because the documentary will mention this at least once every fifteen minutes. The camera crew takes you into some pretty amazing places though, so it's well worth the annoyance.

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Westminster Abbey
The documentary starts off at Westminster Abbey, the place in which every British monarch has been crowned for hundreds of years. Notable parts of the tour included showing the throne on which every monarch is crowned, and the place underneath where the stone of destiny sat for hundreds of years.

The Stone of Destiny was the stone upon which every Scottish monarch was crowned. The English stole it from the Scots, and kept it in Westminster Abbey until it was stolen by Scottish Nationalists in the 1950s. One of the fantastic parts of this documentary is that it has a short interview with the man who stole it. He explains in detail how he and his friends managed to steal the stone, and smuggle it over the border into Scotland.

Next they go to the Houses of Parliament. The documentary explains the quite frankly ridiculous pageantry that the queen has to go through before she can formally open parliament each year. Guy Fawkes' attempted destruction of the Houses of Parliament is mentioned too.

Lastly, the documentary takes us up inside Big Ben. One of the first things that's explained is that, much like how Frankenstein isn't the name of the monster, Big Ben isn't the name of the clock. Big Ben is the name of the bell, and, interestingly enough, the bell is named after a favored prizefighter of the bellsmiths who made it. The documentary interviews one of the clockmakers in charge of maintaining the bell, and he explains his process for adjusting the clock to keep it running exactly on time.


Overall, this is a fantastic documentary. The 'Secrets of' documentaries usually are, and this one is no exception.  If you want to watch an entertaining film explaining the history and workings of some of England's most memorable landmarks, this is the movie for you.
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Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII-In Summation

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII is an eight part series outlining, you guessed it, the wives of Henry VIII. It was going to be all one post, but then it turned out to be...not so brief. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about these ladies.

I'm not very good at conclusions, I never have been. I can't tell you how many rough drafts of papers I turned in that ended with: 'In conclusion, yes.' But since this isn't a first draft of a college paper, I will attempt to be more cohesive and coherent about this.

This conclusion is extra hard to write, because how do you close the book on such an extraordinary group of women? I've only scratched the surface here, there's so much more that could be said. I don't know exactly what it was, but something about being married to an unstable, tyrannical, king turned six seemingly ordinary girls into strong, admirable women, who will be spoken about forever.

Catherine of Aragon might still have been famous without Henry, she was the daughter of the brilliant Queen Isabella of Castille and Leon after all, but the story of her bravery and stallwartness in the face of Henry's persecution sets her apart from not only Henry's other wives, but from all Queens in history. She was brilliant, pious, and loving, and certainly deserved better than she got. She was a metaphorical saint to the point that there's a movement to canonize her so she can be a literal saint.

Anne Boleyn's ambition and drive spurred the English Reformation, and put England on a path that would change the face of history forever. She held the attentions of a capricious King for nearly a decade, and managed to enact enormous social change during that time, something none of Henry's other Queens did. She's controversial, sure, but you can't deny that without her not only would England not have her most illustrious monarch--Elizabeth I--but England may have forever remained a Catholic nation. She used her beauty and intelligence to shape history, not bad for a daughter of the minor nobility.

Jane Seymour was known for being gentle and kind, and as being the Queen that Henry loved the most. She gave birth to Henry's only son--Edward--and managed to bring a sense of peace and prosperity to the English court. Jane made a home, and brought calm. You could say that she cleaned up Anne Boleyn's mess. She isn't known for having any great political power, or bringing about any great change, but you can't deny that she had an enormous emotional impact on Henry and the people around her.

Anne of Cleves and Henry may have been married less than a year, but she was the smartest out of all Henry's wives. She knew when to yield, and doing so bought her a life of wealth and independence, as well as the dubious honor of being close to the King. She lived a happy life, and died peacefully. Not something that any of Henry's other wives can say they did.

Catherine Howard was young and naive. She was thrust by uncaring relatives into a world that was much too complex for her, and she was crushed underneath the weight of it all. She was an unexceptional Queen of England, but her story is by far the saddest.

Catherine Parr managed to have Mary and Elizabeth restored to the line of succession, ending a civil war years before it began. It's thanks to her that England was able to enjoy the political stability of the Elizabethan era. She was clever and pious, and managed to weather the storm of Henry's dissatisfaction. She was married almost as many times as Henry himself, but never quiet managed to find happiness. She was the first of England's queens to publish under her own name, and served as role model to both Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey.

Henry VIII married six different women. While he definitely had a type--smart, pretty, musically talented--the women he married definitely were not carbon copies of each other. Each of these women had a distinct personality, and each of them had a distinct impact on Henry. While not all of them made large political marks, all of them influenced the monarchs of the Tudor era.

Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight  

What are your thoughts on Henry and his wives? Who, in your opinion, is the most interesting? Make my day and leave a comment below. :)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII-Catherine Parr-Survived

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII is an eight part series outlining, you guessed it, the wives of Henry VIII. It was going to be all one post, but then it turned out to be...not so brief. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about these ladies.

It is very likely that Henry's final queen was named after his first. Catherine Parr's mother, Maud, was a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, and the then queen was named godmother to Maud's baby.

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Catherine Parr
Royal associations aside, Catherine was destined to live the first part of her life in obscurity. She was married a grand total of four times, with Henry as her third, and most prestigious, husband. We'll focus on her other marriages in the series 'The Four Husbands of Catherine Parr', but for now we're going to focus on her relationship with the ageing and ailing Henry VIII.

The year was 1543. Henry had just ended his disastrous fifth marriage, and Catherine's second husband, Lord Latimer had just died, leaving her widowed for the second time, this time with two young stepchildren. Being the resourceful woman she was, Catherine decided to call upon the Princess Mary, and use her connections with the late Catherine of Aragon to secure a place in Mary's household. It was there that she caught the eye of both the King and Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Jane Seymour.

Catherine was in her early thirties, which was a bit like the Renaissance equivalent of today's mid forties, but she was still quite the catch. She was very intelligent, speaking four languages (in addition to English), and by the time of her marriage to Henry had already published one religious book anonymously, and was on her way to publishing a second. She was also, as all of Henry's wives were, reportedly quite beautiful. Smart and beautiful, two of the top things that Henry looked for in a woman, is it really any surprise that he proposed?
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A surviving copy of
Catherine's book Lamentations of a
Sinner

The couple were married in July of 1543, and Thomas Seymour, Henry's rival, was discreetly sent on a diplomatic mission to the continent. Henry had already had enough brushes with adultery.

Henry and Catherine were only married for about two and a half years, but during that time Catherine managed to accomplish some pretty big things, like:
  • Finishing the work of Jane Seymour, and restoring Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession.
  • Publish another book
  • Act as Queen Regent, one of only two of Henry's queens to do so, while Henry fought another fruitless war with France. That entailed:
    • Raising troops and money
    • Managing the situation with Scotland. As history shows, managing the Scots is never easy.
    • Signing at least five royal proclamations 
  • Personally overseeing the education of the young Elizabeth
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The original of this portrait hangs in Sudeley
Castle, where Catherine died and is buried.
Most importantly, she managed to bring the Tudor clan into a sort of semblance of a family, building trust and goodwill that would come in very useful to Edward and Mary at the beginnings of their reigns. 
If you've ever taken a history class, you've most likely heard the rhyme, "Divorced, beheaded and died; divorced, beheaded, survived.". Well, Catherine 3.0 survived. She outlived Henry by an entire year. (Anne of Cleves survived by more than that, but Henry divorced her, so she doesn't really count?), and this, in itself, is a miracle, because like so many of Henry's wives, at one point Henry grew tired of her, and tried to have her arrested.

You see, Catherine was not only a very intelligent woman, but a woman extremely interested in religion as well. The three books she published were all religious in subject. She was a staunch devotee of the Church of English, but the Church of England straddled a fine line between Catholic and Protestant, and her views tended to swing too far Protestant for the tastes of both Henry and the Catholic faction at court. The fact that she liked to argue religion with Henry didn't help her either. It didn't take much coaxing from Henry's Catholic counselors to convince him to have Catherine arrested on the grounds of being a Protestant sympathizer. After all, rumors were flying that Henry had his eye on a new wife...

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Catherine Parr's tomb at Sudeley castle.
Lucky for both Catherine and anyone else who has ever undertaken the task of documenting Henry's marital exploits, Catherine got wind of the warrant for her arrest before it was put into action. She immediately humbled herself before the king, and in the biggest move of catering to fragile masculinity in the history of womankind, she managed to convince Henry that she was merely arguing with him to distract him from his pain, and so that she could be instructed by his wisdom. This thinly veiled bullshit put Henry at ease, and spared Catherine's life.


It wasn't long after that that Henry died. He left Catherine the title of Queen Dowager, and 7,000 pounds a year. But most importantly, he left Catherine free to marry once again, this time to a man she loved.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six  Part Seven  Part Eight

What do you think of Henry's final queen? How close of a relationship do you think she and Henry had? Do you think she was happy with marrying the king? Make my day, and leave a comment below. :)


Sources

englishhistory.net
tudorhistory.org

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review-The Princes in the Tower

So this book has been near the top of my history book to-read list for several years. I'd started it several times, but never had time to finish (the curse of the public library). But recently I finally bought it, and sat down to finish. And, goodness, am I glad I did.


Image result for princes in the tower alison weirThe Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir is the sort of book that makes revisionists cry, and the Richard III Society sweat. Weir leaves no room for doubt that Richard III was responsible for the demise of the Princes in the Tower. She examines not only Richard's motives, but how he could have accomplished the black deed, and, in my opinion, comes to some pretty airtight conclusions.

Now, admittedly, it was written several decades before the skeleton of Richard III was discovered in a carpark, so obviously some of the speculations on the manner of Richard III's death, as well as the cause of his crooked shoulders have been proven incorrect, but overall this has no bearing on the conclusions that Weir draws about the demise of Edward V and his brother, Richard Duke of York.

In the book Weir examines the characters surrounding the court of Richard III (including the Duke of Clarence, our wine obsessed friend.), as well as the politics of the time. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the Plantagenet dynasty, you won't get lost reading this book. Admittedly, though the book is named after them, it doesn't focus too much on the princes themselves, because they're dead about a quarter of the way into the book. But you do learn an awful lot about their parents and sisters, and how they influenced the political environment of fifteenth century England.

And thanks to this book I finally, for the first time, understand where Henry Tudor fits into the whole mess of the War of Roses. This book explains the merits of his claim, as well as how Elizabeth of York strengthened his claim (or the claim of whoever she was considering marrying that week). I still don't quite understand the War of Roses, and quite frankly, I'm pretty sure I never will, but this book brought me one step closer.

Overall, it's a very academically sound and entertaining book. It's the sort of in-depth political history book you can read for pleasure (I did), and not want to kill yourself halfway through. And even if you know nothing about Richard III, this is a good starting point. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII-Catherine Howard-The Midlife Crisis Queen

A Brief Overview of the Wives of Henry VIII is an eight part series outlining, you guessed it, the wives of Henry VIII. It updates every Thursday.


Image result for catherine howard
Catherine as painted by our dude
 Hans Hoblien
If we were to introduce the wives of Henry VIII a la Great Comet, we would sing 'Catherine was young', because Catherine 2.0 was very young, most likely a teenager when she married Henry. The exact date of her birth was never recorded (The Howards had a lot of kids, alright?), but it is estimated to be around 1521, making her barely more than twenty when she was executed in 1542.Catherine was, by all accounts, pretty, flirtatious, and full of energy. After Anne of Cleves, Catherine would have been a fresh breeze through Henry's life. However, contemporary accounts also agree that she was silly, poorly educated, and somewhat free in her *ahem* "affections", which made her a piss poor choice of a wife for Henry.

Catherine had been raised in the household of her grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk, who had more grandchildren on her hands than she knew what to do with. Catherine's childhood was largely unsupervised, leaving her almost completely uneducated. She was vulnerable to the sexual advances of her music teacher, the much older Henry Mannox. Catherine swore that their relationship was unconsummated, but said that:

"I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require..."

By modern standards, what Henry Mannox did would be considered, at the very least, statutory rape. While the standards of the 1500s were different than today, Henry Mannox preyed on a young girl who was physically and emotionally vulnerable.

Following Mannox, Catherine later took up with Francis Dereham, with whom she had something of an understanding. There was nothing written down, but they had a verbal pre-contract to marry, and, like many couples of the era who intended to marry, they engaged in sexual relations. Dereham later left for Ireland, and Catherine changed her mind about their arrangement. This would come back to haunt her when Dereham extorted her for a position in her household.

Henry was nearly 50 at the time he married her, which is a little late for a midlife crisis, especially given the life expectancy of the 1500s, but if Henry lived today, not only would he have married Catherine, but he'd also probably be losing weight and buying a motorcycle, or a shiny red sports car. Catherine was a dramatic departure from everything he'd ever valued in the women in his life previously. To explain, I made you a crappy Ven Diagram
Why is the background checkered Irene? Why aren't the circles colored in Irene? Why aren't the circle's circular Irene? Why is the yellow circle bigger than the blue circle Irene? Why are the lines so thick Irene? I don't know. I'm technologically challenged. Shut up.

Gosh I love Ven Diagrams.

So, if you're looking at this and wondering what on earth Henry and his advisers were thinking, well, I am too. Catherine was completely unsuited to become queen. She was immature and reckless. She hadn't been raised in the English court, so she hadn't seen the rise and fall of Henry's first two wives. Catherine was completely out of her depth. There's only two really good reasons for why she married Henry. They are:

  1. Catherine was the granddaughter of the Duke of Norfolk, and Norfolks would kill for power.
  2. Henry was a horny, lecherous old man, who should have known better, but decided to ignore all common sense and marry her anyways.

Given the evidence I've provided, I think we can all agree that marrying Catherine Howard was a HUGE MISTAKE. A mistake Henry grew to regret.

Image result for henry viii
Horny, lecherous old man who should
know better.
See, Catherine was, as I mentioned, young and flirtatious. She liked the king, sure, but he was old and fat, and possibly very bad in bed (see the history headlines article below). Can you blame a teenage girl for wanting to hang out with someone her own age? Someone who didn't have an ulcerated leg, and a bad temper?

Catherine certainly didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with entertaining a bit of stuff on the side. She started up an affair with Thomas Culpeper, who was, by all accounts, a terrible person. They carried on for quite a while, to the point that the entire court knew, but Henry was willfully ignorant. He refused to see any of Catherine's shortcomings, referring to her as his 'rose without a thorn'. There's no doubt that he idealized Catherine, and this blinded him to reality. He might have spent the rest of his life in ignorance, except the Protestant faction at court (who hated the Catholic Catherine) shook Henry by the shoulders, and made him see reason (just kidding, they slipped him a letter in church. I do not recommend touching Henry VIII without his consent.).

Henry was devastated to the point that he was ready to kill Catherine himself. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and Catherine was merely placed under arrest.

Here's another instance where Catherine's youth and ignorance worked against her. She was under arrest, and had no idea what to do. Her family were distancing themselves from her, and she had no advisers. And though Thomas Crammer, the archbishop who interrogated her, did his best to point out that her pre-contract with Francis Dereham could potentially save her life, she just didn't quite get it. She ended up confessing to sleeping with Dereham.
Image result for catherine howard
This is the image used on the Catherine Howard
page for PBS' 'Six Wives of Henry VIII'. I feel
like some vital pieces of history, like age
may have been misunderstood in the
casting process.

What comes after that mirrors what happened to her cousin, Anne Boleyn. Catherine was taken by barge to the Tower of London, and later beheaded.

Catherine was the shortest lived of Henry's wives, probably no more than twenty when she died. She was completely and totally unfit to be queen, and this wasn't entirely her fault. She had no idea what she was getting herself into, and, as a victim of CSA, was already predisposed to risky sexual behaviors. Her greatest legacy is her alleged haunting of Hampton Court . She was just a blip on Henry's marital radar, and her story is, perhaps, the saddest of all.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six   Part Seven   Part Eight

What do you think of Catherine 2.0? Victim? Seductress? Make my day, and leave a comment below. :)

Sources