Saturday, August 29, 2009


I have been a naughty, naughty blogger!

I am in the final days before I return to school for the first time in 20 years in order to start a new career and I have spent most of my time preparing for class and enjoying the freedom of a social life!
I have also been finishing up reading the stash of Tudor books I purchased before I can no longer afford to read for pleasure.

I am happy to report that at least one wonderful thing happened during this downtime...

"The Tudors" and actress Natalie Dormer were nominated for several Gemini Awards by Canada's Cinema and Television Academy. While I would still prefer to have seen Natalie get the nod for awards here or in the UK, I am thrilled someone will acknowledge her incredible performance as Anne Boleyn in season two of The Tudors.
I still go back to my DVDs and replay her brilliant portrayal of Anne upon the miscarriage of her son (and likely savior) and then, of course, Anne's imprisonment and execution. It was this final episode - portraying her beheading - for which Natalie was nominated as Best Actress. (Ep. 2.10)

Among the series' other 10 nominations were the usual: writing, costumes, etc...

For all it's historical inaccuracies and faults, I still believe these few episodes of The Tudors to be the penultimate representation of Anne Boleyn's last days. And no one has moved me nearly as much in the role as Natalie Dormer.

Congratulations on the nominations and I will next celebrate your win!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On This Day in Tudor History:

On August 19, 1561, the 18-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, arrived in Leith, Scotland to assume throne after spending 13 years in France.
Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V. She was six days old when her father died and made her Queen of Scotland. Her mother, Mary of Guise, assumed regency and her daughter was crowned nine months later. She was sent to France for her upbringing and prepared for marriage to the dauphin.
In 1558, she married Francis, Dauphin of France, who ascended the French throne as Francis II in 1559. However, Mary was not Queen of France for long; she was widowed on 5 December 1560.
After her husband's death, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. In 1567, Darnley was found dead and it was rumored that Mary conspired with her next husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, in Darnley's murder.
Mary was imprisoned and forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI in June, 1567. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, whose kingdom she hoped to inherit. Elizabeth, however, ordered her arrest. Mary would continue to be a thorn in the protestant Queen Elizabeth's side because she was Catholic and a blood claimant to the throne of England. In 19 years of imprisonment in England, Mary never ceased to conspire with Catholics to depose Elizabeth and claim the English throne. It would be her undoing.
After a long period of custody in England, she was tried and executed for treason in 1587.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On This Day in Tudor History:

On August 14, 1473, Lady Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury was born - the last legitimate member of the House of Plantagenet.
Lady Salisbury was Godmother and sponsor to King Henry VIII's daughter with Katherine of Aragon, Princess Mary, later Queen Mary I. She was also appointed Mary's Governess until Henry had Mary declared illegitimate and placed in Princess Elizabeth's household.
After Margaret's son, Reginald Cardinal Pole, published a treatise critical of Henry for leaving Katherine and marrying Anne Boleyn, the King systematically dismantled and executed the Poles while Reginald stayed safe over seas.
On My 28th, 1541, Lady Salisbury was executed on the Tower Green.
According to some accounts, Lady Salisbury, who was 67 years old, frail and ill, was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head on it, having to be forced down. As she struggled, the inexperienced executioner's first blow made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. Ten additional blows were required to complete the execution. A less reputable account states that she leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck eleven times before she died. She was buried at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula and beatified a martyr by the Catholic Church.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On This Day in Tudor History:

On August 8, 1503, Princess Margaret of England, eldest daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, travels north and officially marries James IV of Scotland at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. Margaret had actually been considered queen consort since the Treaty of Perpetual Peace was signed and she was married by proxy in 1502.
The couple would have six children, although only one would live past infancy and become King James V. King James IV died at the hands of her brother's army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, leaving Margaret as a pregnant Dowager Queen of Scots, Regent for her sons, and a not very seasoned or clever stateswoman. (She remarried quickly, removing her from power.) Margaret married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (known by his own kin as "witless") and by him had a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas (future countess of Lennox and mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley - future husband of Mary, Queen of Scots). The pair had fled to England, but Angus soon abandoned his wife and returned to Scotland to live with his mistress. Margaret was able to obtain a divorce from the Pope, but was (ironically) heavily criticized by her brother, Henry VIII. Margaret moved on to husband number 3, Henry Stuart, Lord Methven and both became advisors to her son, King James V.
Despite being the elder sister of King Henry VIII, Margaret's children were originally eliminated from the line of succession to the throne of England by Henry VIII. However, when the Tudor Dynasty died with a childless Elizabeth I, the English throne passed through Margaret's heirs. Her great-grandson, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England, thus uniting the crowns of the two countries and conferring on Margaret something of a posthumous triumph.

Also on August 8, 1588, the Royal Navy of Queen Elizabeth I drove the Spanish Armada from the Strait of Dover in the Battle of Gravelines, forcing them to head home. Troops were still held at ready in case the Spanish army of the Duke of Parma might yet attempt to invade from Dunkirk.
On 8 August Old Style (18 August New Style), the Queen left her bodyguard before the fort at Tilbury and went among her subjects, with an escort of six men, in white with a silver cuirass and mounted on a grey gelding. She was flanked on horseback by her Lieutenant General the Earl of Leicester on the right, and on the left by the Earl of Essex, her Master of the Horse.

She gave to them what is probably her most famous speech:
"My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that we are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but, I do assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself, that under God I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and goodwill of my subjects; and, therefore, I am come amongst you as you see at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die amongst you all — to lay down for my God, and for my kingdoms, and for my people, my honour and my blood even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king — and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms — I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness, you have deserved rewards and crowns, and, we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Antonia Fraser is a Funny Lady...

Biographer Antonia Fraser felt the need to respond to an item printed about her in the British tabloid Tatler. I hope you enjoy her explanations as much as I did, especially the one about Jane Seymour!

Tatler got it wrong about me and Marie Antoinette

I do not read Tatler. So it was left to my 13-year-old granddaughter to inform me that I had been placed at No 7 on Tatler's list of "most-invited" people. But I should like to clear something up which might otherwise lead to a period of social stagnation. I do not, as Tatler and Gold claimed, mourn Marie Antoinette for the whole of the first half of October: only on 16 October, the date of her execution. This year I shall be in deepest black, incidentally, at the Cheltenham festival, preparing to talk about Mary Queen of Scots. I mourn her on 8 February.

At least Oliver Cromwell was ritually executed after his death so there's no need for precise mourning. On the other hand, as his biographer, I feel I must pay tribute to him – after all, I have profited from him, as it were, so why should I not make some gesture of respect? The answer with Cromwell is 3 September: the day on which he died in 1658, but also termed by him his "most fortunate day". He won both the battles of Dunbar and Worcester on that date, and in my unsubstantiated opinion, delayed his death to fit in. The anniversary has been taken over by the second world war, so one could sneak into the Churchill Museum incarnating the war cabinet rooms and have a quick pious reflection.

Now to Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, among other decapitated women I have written about and annually commemorate: to save time, I suggest a day-long tour of the six tombs of the six wives of Henry VIII. You begin with the Tower of London for Boleyn and Katherine, first cousins and, respectively, second and fifth wives. On to St George's Chapel where poor old Jane Seymour lies beneath Henry VIII himself: we shall spare a thought for that predicament. On again to Sudeley Castle, near Cheltenham, where lies Catherine Parr. A swerve east to Peterborough and the marvellous tomb of Catherine of Aragon (although her age at death is given wrong). Lastly Westminster Abbey and the tomb of the fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, adjacent to the high altar.

Readers may feel that this is all mourning too far. But I repeat: since I have in a sense been lucky enough to benefit from the lives and deaths of these people, why should I not remember them? Otherwise it's a hard life, with only the parties to cheer one up.