Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Girl King

"The Girl King" is a 2015 drama focused around the infamous Queen Kristina of Sweden, and her love affair with the countess Ebba Sparre.

Image result for the girl kingFirst, it must be said, I LOVED this movie. Not only is this a film about a badass lady, but it's about a badass sapphic lady, one of my favorite types of badass ladies.

Now, in case you're confused about the term 'sapphic', let me explain. 'Sapphic' is a broad term used to describe women (including trans women) who love women (also known as wlw), be they lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, or any other sort of gay. In case you're wondering about the etymology, 'Sapphic' gets its root from Sappho, the famously gay ancient greek poet, whose island home of Lesbos also sired the word lesbian.

"The Girl King" opens on a dramatic scene. Kristina's arguably insane mother, Dowager Queen Maria Eleonora is weeping over the corpse of her deceased husband, King Gustav II. She imperiously orders her daughter to kiss her father good night. That's when Kristina's uncle, Carl, and the Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna burst into the room, and rescue Kristina from the clutches of her mother. The movie then skims over Kristina's childhood, showing brief scenes of her extensive education and grooming to become Queen of Sweden. There is particular focus on Kristina's indifference to Protestantism (the ideal her father died fighting for) and her admiration for the philosopher Rene Descartes.

The movie really gets going when Kristina is crowned queen on her eighteenth birthday. In the span of a single day she is crowned, announces her intentions to turn Sweden into an academic paradise, meets the love of her life, and turns down a marriage proposal. It's a busy day for the young queen, but that doesn't stop her from running around with a sword, and leaving quite the impression on the beautiful Ebba Sparre.

Kristina (right) and Ebba.
From there the movie details Kristina's struggles against the stubborn conservatism of Sweden in the age, and her attempts to educate the people, and broker peace between the warring Protestant and Catholic nations. Along the way her hero, Rene Descartes, arrives in Sweden, and along with the French ambassador and some unscrupulous churchmen, convince Kristina of the virtues of Catholicism. That's pretty worrisome to Kristina's nobles, but more worrying is her refusal to marry, and her suspicious closeness with Ebba.

And, indeed, they had cause to worry. Kristina and Ebba were in love, sharing a bed, kisses, and other more intimate moments. In a move spurred by politics and jealousy Axel's son arranges to have Ebba abducted and forcibly married. Kristina is less than pleased.

By this point Kristina has been ruling for ten years, and she's sick of it. Her love is gone, her friend Descartes dies, and Sweden resists her attempts to bring the Enlightenment north at every turn. Additionally, she's decided to convert to Catholicism, and leave Lutheranism behind. All of these things combine to make her realize that she can no longer rule Sweden. So she plans for her abdication. She adopts her cousin Carl Gustav, then abdicates in his favor. She leaves Sweden for a better life.

Now, as for historical accuracy, this movie does pretty well. Kristina did have a love affair with Ebba Sparre*, and she certainly struggled against the ignorance of Sweden in that era. She did adopt her cousin, and abdicate in his favor.

However, there are a few inaccuracies. One of the recurring themes of the movie is the philosophy of Descartes, and his friendship with the queen. In reality, Kristina couldn't stand Descartes, and they were, by no means, friends. Additionally, Kristina became queen at sixteen, not eighteen.

Overall, this was a fantastic movie about a fascinating woman. I highly recommend watching this, and this is, by no means, the last time I write about Queen Kristina.

*Anyone who wants to insist Kristina and Ebba were just 'gals being pals' can meet me in the Target parking lot at midnight, and we'll fight it out. I try to limit my personal biases, but I have no patience for queer erasure in history, so bring a knife.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Medici: Masters of Florence

Image result for medici masters of florenceSo I mentioned back in this post that I wanted to do a regular feature where I watch historical tv shows, and then compare them with actual history, and I'm happy to say I've finally done it!

Well, at least I've done one. My next historical show is The Magnificent Century, and it's got like 50 episodes, so it'll probably take me the next twelve years to watch it all, but let's focus on the show at hand!

Medici: Masters of Florence is an Italian show set in 1400s Florence. It focuses around Cosimo de' Medici, and his family as they battle against the Albizzi and Pazzi families for control of the city. On the side Cosimo struggles to solve the mystery of his father's death, as well as various family issues with his wife Contessina, his brother Lorenzo, his son Pierro, and his daughter-in-law Lucrezia.

First, I do need to say that I loved this show. It was very well written, the plot kept its momentum, and, most of all, it surprised me. The show subverts a lot of the typical period drama tropes, and it was refreshing. I appreciated Cosimo and Contessina's fidelity to each other (such as it was), and the fact that sex was not the main theme of the show. Additionally, I haven't fallen as hard for a leading lady as I did for Contessina in a long time. The girl was badass, and I'm sad she won't be back for season two (probably).

Contessina, the woman who has stolen my heart.
But, down to the history! So, I'll admit, I didn't know much about the Medici's of this era until after I watched the show, and I was expecting to find the show riddled with errors, but, for the most part, the show is true to history. But then again, Renaissance Italy was pretty nuts on its own, it doesn't need much spicing up. There are, however a few glaring anachronisms. So, in no particular order:

  • Giovanni de Medici wasn't murdered, at least not that we know of. He appears to have died of old age.
  • Contessina never rode a horse into the Signoria, sword in hand fire blazing in her eyes, to rescue her husband. It's sad, but true. Contessina was given a much bigger part in the show than she had in real life. Not to say that her real life wasn't good, she was known for being a shrewd money manager and for arranging advantageous marriages for couples in Florence.
  • Lorenzo the Elder was not murdered either. He too appears to have died of old age.
  • It was a loss of money to the state of Florence that prompted the lifting of Cosimo the Elder's exile, not a bloody, totalitarian coup.
  • Rinaldo Albizzi was not murdered. 
  • Cosimo and Contessina had a second son-Giovanni
  • While Cosimo did have a twin brother, Damiano, his twin died shortly after birth. Cosimo was in no way responsible for his death.
  • .

  • Piero didn't play as big of a part in the affairs of Florence as the show portrays due to his poor health. (He was known as 'Piero the Gouty', which, honestly, rude.)
Related image
Cosimo seems to only have one expression, and this is it.
And while I'm sure there are many more anachronisms in dress and other details, these are the main plot anachronisms. As I mentioned, the show stays pretty close to history, they just added more murder and some angst to make things more interesting. Overall, it was a fantastic show, and I can wait for season two! 

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