Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

Friday, May 12, 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

More on Similar Topics

Friday, May 5, 2017

Damn, Girl- Medici: Lucrezia Tornabuoni

So I've already talked about Medici: Masters of Florence a little bit, but the more research I do into the historical background of the Medicis of this era the more I feel compelled to write about them, particularly about the one of the two leading ladies of the show--Lucrezia Tornabuoni, because honestly, talk about a role model. This lady kicked ass in the political arena, provided significant services for the people of Florence, and was a major artistic patron, as well as an artist herself.

Image result for lucrezia tornabuoni
Lucrezia in her youth painted by Piero Benci
Lucrezia was born into a powerful family, and married into another. Her husband, Piero, was later the head of the Medici bank, and was basically the ruler of Florence from 1464-1469. However, Piero was bedridden, so Lucrezia did most of the legwork--literally. That wasn't all she did though, Lucrezia was known for her charitable works and her writing as well.

As mentioned, Lucrezia did a lot of the legwork during her husband's time as leader of Florence. She settled disputes between citizens, received petitions, and acted as ambassador for the city, not something a woman of her era typically did. Her father-in-law, Cosimo de Medici, openly valued her advice, and admired her decision making skills. Lucrezia fostered good relations with her children and grandchildren, so when her son, Lorenzo the Magnificent, came to power she was able to advise him politically.

Lucrezia did a large number of charitable things during her lifetime. She was known for helping fund convents, particularly for donating cloth for nuns to use for their habits. She provided dowries for impoverished women so they could marry*, and took care of widows and orphans by seeing that their relatives were given church positions so that they could support their families.

She was also a keen businesswoman. Lucrezia owned several properties, and collected rents on shops, farms, and homes. Most notably, she purchased a defunct thermal bath in Bagno a Morbo, and refurbished the dump into a profitable business venture. In addition to this, she managed many of the Medici financial affairs while her husband Piero was bedridden with illness. She was known as a shrewd money manager, and her sons often looked to her for advice in this matter.


But the talents of this amazing woman don't stop there, Lucrezia was also a writer! Her fictional work is almost entirely religious in nature, comprising retelling of bible stories as well as sonnets and lyrical poems on religious topics. Her letters also survive, and can be found here.

Image result for lucrezia de medici
Lucrezia in her old age painted by Domenico
Ghirlandaio
Lucrezia was an incredible woman far ahead of her time. She's the sort of woman that I would want my daughters to be like, and the sort of woman that would be incredibly successful and popular today. One can only imagine what she might have accomplished politically if allowed to run for office!


*On a side note, completely unsupported by historical fact (as far as I know), I really like the idea of Lucrezia being a sort of love vigilante, providing dowries for girls so they could marry their true loves, and helping set people up. (Her mother-in-law, Contessina di Bardi, was known for arranging marriages, and she and Lucrezia were very close, so it's plausible that Lucrezia could have done the same, right?) Just imagine- Lucrezia Tornabuoni de' Medici-- political badass and Cupid's handmaiden. If I was going to write a historical fiction novel about her, this would be the premise.


More on Similar Topics




Sources
Monstrous Regiment of Women
Oxford Bibliographies
Medici Dynasty

Sunday, April 23, 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.

More on Similar Topics





Friday, March 10, 2017

War of the Stray Dog

As we've already established with The War of the Oaken Bucket, humanity is willing to go to war over the smallest things if tensions are already running high. It's hilarious on the surface, but it makes sense the more you think about it. Two parties are already angry and frustrated with one another, and eventually the last insult, no matter how dumb, is just too much. Sometimes these insults are actually insulting, like mass genocide of minority groups or direct attacks on foreign soil. But sometimes wars are fought over buckets and dogs. Like the 'Incident at Petrich' or the War of the Stray Dog.

Image result for petrich
Modern Petrich
So it's post WWI, post Balkan War, and Bulgaria and Greece are both finally free of the Ottoman empire. Problem is, its been so long since either of those places were independent countries, everyone is a bit fuzzy on exactly where the border is. Specifically where Thrace and Macedonia fit into the mix. Both Bulgaria and Greece feel they have a claim to Thrace, and Bulgaria is supporting the Macedonian separatist movement, which Greece isn't too keen on. To add to the border tensions, citizens on both sides keep making informal and unauthorized raids into the rival country.

Everyone's a little pissed off and itching for a reason to fight when a Greek border guard's dog gets away from him. Like any responsible pet owner, the guard goes after the dog, and ends up accidentally stepping into Bulgarian territory. A trigger happy Bulgarian, obviously expecting an imminent invasion of Greeks chasing dogs, shoots the man.

As you might imagine, the Greeks weren't too happy about this. The Greeks and the Bulgarians exchange fire for a bit, until a Greek officer steps forward under a white flag to negotiate a peace. The Bulgarians were either colorblind or just didn't care, because they shot the officer as well. *

This sparked outrage in Greece, largely because of Greece's new political leadership. Theodoros Pangolos had just been installed as dictator, and he wanted to establish a reputation for being a hardass, Nothing says 'fear me' quite like winning a war against your neighbor, so Pangolos set out to make a mountain out of that molehill. He instructed the press to leave the dog out of the story, and instead claimed that the Bulgarians had attacked a Greek military outpost for funsies with no good reason. Outraged, Pangolos demanded that the Bulgarian government pay 600,000 drachmas, prosecute the soldiers involved, and make a formal apology within 48 hours. The Bulgarians, predictably, refused.

Image result for league of nations
First session of the League of Nations
The Greeks decided that if the Bulgarians weren't going to pay up, then they were going to invade. They appealed to Serbia for help, then started merrily shelling the city of Petrich, and capturing outlying villages.

The Bulgarians, for the most part, evacuated the area. The government then went to the League of Nations, the beta version of the UN, and asked for help. The League of Nations was more than happy to assist. The League told the Greeks to knock it off, and get out of Bulgaria. Additionally, Greece needed pay the Bulgarians recompense of 45,000 pounds. To encourage the grumbling Greeks, they sent out military forces from France, Italy, and Britain to make sure that everything went smoothly. Under the eyes of their more powerful neighbors, the Greeks couldn't help but comply.

When it came down to it, the war lasted ten days (October 19, 1925- October 29, 1925), and had a death toll of less than 100. The Bulgarians emerged the victors, and League of Nations got a chance to prove that they were necessary and relevant. The dog was never heard from again.

*The Bulgarians didn't care about the white flag. There's no such thing as white/anything colorblindness.

More on Similar Topics





Sources
League of Nations
Military History Now
History.Com
War History Online

Thursday, March 9, 2017

World War I Ended in 1919, but Andorra Fought On

If you define the end of a war as being when all parties have signed the peace treaty, then World War I didn't end until 1958 when the small European state of Andorra finally made their peace with Imperial Germany.

Image result for andorra located map europe
There it is!
'Where is Andorra?' you ask. Well, Andorra is a teeny-tiny, blink and you'll miss it, doesn't even have its own airport, country in Europe nestled between France and Spain. The entire country is less than 500 square kilometers, and home to only 85,000 people. For reference, that's significantly less than the least populous US state, which is Wyoming with 585,501 people.

Now that we have that established, let's talk about WWI. So, early 1900s, everyone's declaring war on somebody. Germany has declared war on France, France has declared war on Germany, Austria has declared war on Russia, &c, &c. WWI was a mess. So, not wanting to feel left out, the tiny mountainous nation of Andorra decides that they want to hang out with the cool kids too, and declare war on Imperial Germany.

Unfortunately, no one really noticed, because Andorra didn't actually send any soldiers to fight the Germans. The declaration of war was more of symbolic moral stand than anything. Of course, that might also have been because Andorra did not, and still doesn't, have a standing army. 

Despite the lack of Andorran forces, Imperial Germany lost the war. But, when it came time for everyone to settle down and sign the Treaty of Versailles, Andorra wasn't there, because someone forgot to invite them. Which, honestly, rude.

Image result for andorra de vella
Modern Andorra
So Andorra continued in a state of belligerence against Germany. They didn't fight in WWII, maybe because they were still busy 'fighting' World War One, or perhaps because they realized they didn't have a standing army, so what was the point of alienating anyone? This last theory seems more plausible, as Andorra served as an important smuggling route through France and Spain during the war.
WWII ends, and everyone goes home, Russia's being a bit of a dick, but other than that Europe is pretty peaceful. Except for Andorra, who is still, technically, at war with Imperial Germany, a country which no longer exists. Where they didn't actually have an army, there wasn't any bloodshed going on, so I imagine this 'war' mostly consisted of the older generations grumpily complaining about the Germans, while everyone else forgot they were at war. 

Finally, in 1958 Andorra finally made its peace with Germany, and WWI was officially over for everyone.


More on Similar Topics






Sources