Tag Archives: Henry VIII

RIP to Reign

When my husband is working late at night and Baby Munchkin is sound asleep, I sometimes tune into a show called Reign on The CW.  It is a show very loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.  The series finale is this Friday, June 16th.

I don’t know why I watch it.  I am fascinated by that era in history, but the historical flaws really infuriate me.  The actress who plays Mary, although beautiful, looks nothing like Mary.  I could live with that if that were the only thing.  They have changed the characterization of some key historical figures, particularly her first husband Francis II of France and her half-brother James Stuart, Earl of Moray.  There is also this really weird storyline about the supernatural (The CW already has a ton of vampire shows).  These are a just a couple of the really obvious ones.

Whenever history goes Hollywood, inaccuracies can be expected.  Braveheart is one of the most historically inaccurate films ever.  The real William Wallace was 6’6″ while Mel Gibson was a foot shorter.  Princess Isabella, who Wallace is shown to have an affair, didn’t even come to England until 1308, almost three years after Wallace’s execution.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers on The Tudors, although a magnificent actor, was the worst Henry VIII ever.  Henry was known for being red-haired and larger than life, not 5’7″ and moody.  All this aside, the thing that really irks me about Reign is its portrayal of Mary vs. her cousin and rival, Elizabeth I.

Full Disclosure: I am and always will be team Elizabeth.

On this show, Mary is all things good, and Elizabeth is the evil aggressor who executes Mary’s bff (also fake).  The writers try to justify Mary’s claim to the English throne.  In my opinion, Mary is the aggressor here, not Elizabeth.  But if your only experience with this era of history is this show, you would think “poor Mary, bad Elizabeth.”

Let’s think a moment about who Elizabeth was.  Her mother was executed at age three.  She saw another stepmother executed.  Her place at court depended on the mood of her father, Henry VIII.  A scandal in her stepmother’s home almost brought about her ruin at age thirteen.  Her brother disinherited her.  Her sister, Mary Tudor (different person), imprisoned her in the Tower of London and was thisclose to signing Elizabeth’s death warrant. Additionally, Catholic Europe, especially Spain was gunning for her.  The fact that she was a woman didn’t get her any points either.

She could have run away or given up but she survived and THRIVED!  What an inspiration she was and could be to a new generation learning to love history.

Elizabeth survived her perilous beginning and her own reign with her intelligence and non-committal attitude.  She never knew security, so when Mary attempted to claim the English throne, I can understand why Elizabeth reacted the way she did.  I get that it’s “not nice” that Elizabeth ultimately imprisoned and executed Mary.  In fact, she didn’t want to do it and was haunted by Mary until her own death in 1603. Understanding Elizabeth’s time period and own upbringing, you can see that she had no choice.

It would have been better to not have Elizabeth on the show at all than to have these superficial plot points involving her.  She was much more effective as a mysterious figure in season two.  Since Elizabeth and Mary never met in real life, it would have worked!

I know it’s just a show, but I wish they would have focused on the wily queen who would have no master.  The girl who survived a terrible childhood to achieve her destiny.  The woman who defeated the invincible Armada.  The queen who wanted to rule absolutely but was progressive enough to “not make windows into men’s souls.”  Maybe she’s not the good guy, but she’s certainly not the antagonist.

Mary followed her heart.  Elizabeth honored her duty above all else and learned from her mistakes/past.  There is something to be said for that.

 

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The LCD

One of the greatest experiences of my childhood was visiting the Tower of London with my family.  That day, history came alive and a lifelong passion was born.  When I returned with my husband in 2012, I was a little bit disappointed in my experience.  While the great structures were still there, many of the exhibits had been “dumbed-down” to make them more interactive.  I really didn’t need to vote on who I believed murdered the Princes in the Tower.  This did nothing to enhance my experience; I didn’t learn anything.  In fact, having the voices of little boys shout “Uncle!?!” actually detracted from my experience.

The same thing happened at Hampton Court.  We rented the audio tour, and what we got was a make-believe, short story about Katherine Parr’s wedding day to Henry VIII.  I would have preferred a straightforward audio tour.  A lot of us, even as children, don’t need all the bells and whistles to make something interesting.  Being in a site with as much history as Hampton Court was riveting enough.

Above Left: Exhibit in question in the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London.  I don’t have a problem with this display but there was an area where you can vote who you think killed the princes.  WHO CARES WHAT I THINK!?!?!  Above Right: Me at Hampton Court in the Haunted Gallery where Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard, ran screaming for the king to spare her life.  Stories like this are fascinating unlike the make-believe audio tour we had!

Unfortunately, this is just a small, personal example of how society caters to the lowest common denominator.

Another example – when I call to schedule a doctor’s appointment, I am often treated like I’m disengaged and unimportant.  I have to fight to get what I need.  My husband, who has experience in this field, says it because they see so many who don’t give a damn about their health and don’t listen to the advice of their doctors.  Just because other people don’t care doesn’t mean that I don’t.  I’ve never heard of just not showing up for an appointment, but apparently it happens multiple times per day!  When I go in for my visit, the doctor is usually delighted that I’m healthy and engaged in my healthcare.

It’s hard to find a real news broadcast anymore.  Respectable news programs show youtube clips as news.  They report what some clown says on Twitter as fact, and then it turns out to be wrong.  You would be hard-pressed to find many people in my generation who know the actual news, and I’m not talking about Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  I’m sure the average person knows what craziness Donald Trump tweeted early this morning, but do they know what is going on with North Korea or ISIS?

I’m not trying to be political here, but this is concerning.  I’m tired of living in a world where we cater to the uniformed.  We live in a nation where a lot of people think Lena Dunham and the Kardashians have all the answers.

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May 19th

If I could meet any person, living or dead, it would be Anne Boleyn.  I have been fascinated with her since I was about ten years old.  We all know how her tragedy ends.  Today is the anniversary of Anne’s execution, and I would like to write about one, specific trait I find so fascinating about her.

“What His Majesty is denied, he go half-mad to obtain.  What he gets freely, he despises.” – Thomas Boleyn (Anne’s father), Anne of the Thousand Days

ImageWhile the above quote if fiction, from my favorite movie of all time, its sentiment rings true in the way Anne conducted her courtship with the king.  Her sister, Mary, was definitely Henry VIII’s mistress, and her mother may have been, too.  In fact, Mary had a reputation for loose morals, established in the French court as a girl.  When Mary became pregnant, potentially with the king’s illegitimate child, she was discarded and of “no further use.” 

Anne saw the foolishness in her sister’s ways.  She was not going to let her family live off “prostituting” herself to the king.  Back in this time women didn’t have a lot of control over their lives; Anne was going to be forced to court the king.  If she was going to do so, she might as well get something out of it.  So, for seven years, she led Great Harry on a chase until she had her prize – Queen of England.  She refused his gifts.  She did not submit to his sexual advances.  She embarrassed and confused the King of England, who believe his power was absolute and his will divine.  While I believe Anne ultimately grew to love Henry, if she had not been made queen, she would have bailed before sacrificing her virtue.

It is ironic that Anne was called “the great whore” as she was hardly thus.  She clung to her honor when other women would have easily given it away.

For me, Anne was definitely a role model in the way I conducted myself with the opposite sex as a teenager and young woman.  You can be vivacious while still keeping an air of mystery.  While I don’t believe you should play love games, I also believe it is important to protect your honor.  As the saying goes, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?  Don’t sell yourself cheaply.  Don’t sell yourself at all.

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My Nerdy Hobby

I have always been a huge history buff.  In fact, history was my second major in undergrad.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a PhD in history and become a college professor.  I am particularly interested in British history.  This started back at the age of ten on my first visit to England where I feel in love with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and the Princes in the Tower.  Over the last twenty years, I have always wondered who killed those two little boys (if both of them were even killed).

Traitor's Gate

Me standing in front of Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London!

History, which is written by the victors, has indicated that it was their uncle, Richard III, in his greed quest to claim the English throne.  This is entirely possible; however, there are other parties who had equal or better interest in wanting the boys dead.  There are even some conspiracy theories that one or both of the boys got away and live civilian lives in exchange for their sister, Elizabeth, becoming Henry VII’s queen.

Bloody Tower

The Bloody Tower – The area where young King Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were held and possible murdered.

I was even more fascinated when the bones of Richard III were discovered in Leicester last year.  Thomas More, who worked for Henry VII, described Richard as an evil, lecherous, “crookback,” and this view was commonly accepted for hundreds of years.  The bones indicate that Richard was 5’8″ (above average height for the period) and suffered from scoliosis.  There are many historical accounts that show Richard to be a fairly pious and benevolent monarch.  Of course, there were executions he ordered that would make us squeamish in modern day; to hold the throne was a life and death struggle.  He was nowhere near his great nephew when it came to brutality.

Thirsty for more knowledge, I joined the Richard III Society last summer.  I get regular mailings/emails from them not only about Richard but about other historical figures and life in Yorkist England.  It is a great hobby for me, and I am trying to convince the family to move to York, although unsuccessfully, I am afraid.With that said, there have been a couple different sets of children’s bones found, two at the Tower of London and two at Windsor.  The set from the Tower of London, now buried at Westminster Abbey, seems to be the most promising.  It would be very interesting to test the DNA or Richard III’s bones vs. these sets.  Unfortunately, the Church of England will not allow this.  While a negative or positive test would neither condemn nor exonerate Richard, it would be fascinate to know if one or both of those sets of bones belonged to the princes.  I, for one, hope they got away.

Now, for some pictures of one of my favorite places in the world!

Tower Green

Me at Tower Green, where royal and noble executions took place.

Anne Boleyn

Me in Wakefield Tower where many famous prisoners were held.

Tower Entrance

Eric and me at the entrance to the Tower of London.

Raven

A Tower Raven – Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall.

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