Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On This Day in Tudor History

On July 28, 1540, Thomas Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Hill.

Thomas Cromwell, born into a poor family, rose quickly to prominence in the court of King Henry VIII.

Although once a close patron and supporter of the Boleyn family during their rise to power through Anne's relationship with the king, Cromwell shrewdly supported Henry in disposing of Anne Boleyn and replacing her with Jane Seymour. During his years as the King's chief minister, Cromwell created many powerful enemies for himself.

His final downfall, however, was caused by the haste with which he encouraged the king to marry Anne of Cleves. This enterprise became a disaster when King Henry found Anne of Cleves to be unattractive and never consummated the marriage. Henry told Cromwell to get him out of the marriage by legal means, but the king was obliged to go ahead with it or risk losing the vital German alliance. The disaster of the king's marriage to Anne of Cleves was all the opportunity that Cromwell's opponents, most notably the Duke of Norfolk, needed to orchestrate his fall from grace.

Even though he was made the 1st Earl of Essex by the king in April 1540, Cromwell became very suspicious that his downfall was coming, because he had never been so officially high in the king's graces. Cromwell's fears were to be proved correct. Whilst at a Council meeting on June 10, 1540, Cromwell was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Cromwell was subjected to an Act of Attainder and was kept alive by Henry VIII only until his marriage to Anne of Cleves could be annulled.

He was executed at the Tower on 28 July 1540, the same day that the king went on to marry Catherine Howard. After his execution, Cromwell's head was boiled and set upon a spike on London Bridge, facing away from the City of London. Edward Hall, a contemporary chronicler, records that Cromwell made a speech on the scaffold, professing to die, "in the traditional faith" and then "so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged Boocherly miser whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the Office".

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Children Christened at Anne Boleyn's Burial Place

This is incredibly cool! (to me) Queen Elizabeth II granted permission for a family to christen their two children at St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

Warrant Officer second class Neil Miller and his wife Rebecca christened son Finlay, two, and daughter Elsie-Jae, eight weeks, on Sunday at the historic chapel.

To be able to use the chapel, which dates back to 1100 and is probably best known as the burial place of Henry VIII’s executed wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, they had to apply in writing to the monarch.

The tower, where more than 130 men and women were executed for treason, is the headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, to which Neil is attached.

Neil, 38, said: "Being allowed to have Finlay and Elsie-Jae’s christening there was a really special event and a moment the family will treasure. The chapel is stunning.

"It has monuments to residents of the Tower and its prisoners, including those executed, and uses a font dating back hundreds of years.

"You can really feel the history of the place and the strong links to my regiment."

Originally a parish church, the chapel was incorporated into the walls of the castle during Henry III’s reign. It has been rebuilt at least twice, once in the reign of Edward I, and then again in its present form during Henry VIII’s reign.

Also buried there are Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford Dudley, the Duke of Monmouth, and the Scottish lords, Kilmarnock, Balmerino, and Lovat, who were beheaded for their share in the rebellion of 1745.

The last burial in the chapel was that of Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Constable of the Tower, in 1871.

I visited the Tower in May 2009 and took these photos myself. I can attest to the feeling that Neil described when visiting the Tower. I felt the history to my core and was moved to tears in one room in particular. I felt every imprisoned and executed soul. I spent four hours walking around the Tower and still want to return for more!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 19, 2010

On This Date in Tudor History

On July 19, 1553, King Henry VIII's daughter, Mary, was proclaimed Queen of England after Edward VI's chosen successor, Lady Jane Grey, who had claimed the monarchy for nine days, was deposed. After initially being forgiven by Queen Mary I, Lady Jane Grey and her husband were imprisoned and later executed for high treason.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, July 16, 2010

On This Day in Tudor History

On July 16th, 1546, Anne Askew (née Anne Ayscough) was burned at the stake as a Protestant heretic. Anne was an English poet and notorious Protestant, with well-known and royal friends, who was persecuted as a heretic. She is the only woman on record to have been tortured in the Tower of London before being executed.

Also on this day, July 16th, 1557, German noblewoman and fourth wife of Henry VIII of England, Anna of Cleves died. Anna was Queen of England from 6 January 1540 to 9 July 1540--just enough time for Henry to annul the marriage. The marriage was never consummated, and she was not crowned queen consort. Following the annulment, Anne was given a generous settlement by the king, and thereafter referred to as the King's Beloved Sister.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nothing Like Fabricating Controversy to Pump Book Sales

A new biography of Anne Boleyn claims that, far from being framed for adultery, Henry VIII’s second queen may not have been innocent of the affairs for which she was sentenced to death.

The widely held view among contemporary historians is that the charges brought against Anne – that she committed adultery with five lovers, including her brother – are too preposterous to be true, and were either trumped up by one political faction to do down another, or invented by Henry as a result of his desire to marry Jane Seymour, after Anne had failed to give him a son.

But George Bernard, professor of early modern history at Southampton University and editor of the English Historical Review, believes that the queen could well have been guilty of some of the charges laid against her – or at the very least that her behavior was such that it was reasonable for Henry to assume she had committed adultery.

Examining a 1545 poem by Lancelot de Carles, who was then serving the French ambassador to Henry’s court, Bernard concludes that the poem, entitled “A letter containing the criminal charges laid against Queen Anne Boleyn of England,” offers strong evidence that Anne did, in fact, commit adultery. She was accused of “despising her marriage” and “entertaining malice against the king”, with her indictment claiming that “by base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations” she seduced men including the musician Mark Smeaton, chief gentleman of the privy chamber Henry Norris, and her brother George, Viscount Rochford, “alluring him with her tongue in his mouth and his in hers”.

All five men, and Anne, were executed.

De Carles's poem, says Bernard, explains how Anne's affairs came to light, following a quarrel at court between a privy councillor and his sister who, on being accused of promiscuous living, points to "a much higher fault that is much more damaging" in the queen. Bernard identifies the lady as Elizabeth Browne, wife of Henry Somerset, second earl of Worcester, and her brother as the courtier Sir Anthony Browne, and says that clues offered in the poem can be supported by remarks made in contemporary letters.

"It's not that I've discovered the poem for the first time – but on the whole scholars have dismissed it because it's a literary source," said Bernard, who speculates that a reason for Anne's adultery could have been to try and produce a son for her intermittently impotent husband. "But it seems to me that [it presents] a plausible scenario – we can identify the accuser as the countess of Worcester, and we can link her to the queen."

Of the conclusions he draws from this latest evidence, Bernard says, "It's a hypothesis – not a proof. In a court of law you might not condemn her for the crime, but I don't think you'd acquit her either."

His biography, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions also disputes the view that Anne held back from sexual relations with Henry until he agreed to make her his queen, claiming that it is "highly implausible". He believes that it was Henry, not Anne, who held back, on the grounds that he wanted their children to be his legitimate heirs. "He would, I suspect, have been astonished and horrified to discover that later generations have supposed he did not sleep with Anne in those years because she would not let him," Bernard says.

***Admittedly, I haven't read this book. While I don't have as much of a problem with the use of a poem as a source (poetry was used very differently in 16th century England than it is today), I cannot possibly agree with Bernard's assessment that it was Henry who withheld sex from Anne. Men are men--whether they live in the 16th or 21st century. They always want sex and don't think about the consequences of an illegitimate child, whereas women have practiced using sex as a bargaining chip since the first day we discovered they wanted it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Advertisement Showing Queen Mary I as a Zombie Banned in England

A poster advertising a show at the London Dungeon has been banned after terrifying children by showing Queen Mary I of England turning into a flesh-eating zombie.

The digital poster, which was placed on escalators on the London Underground, showed the infamous Queen sitting passively on a chair before suddenly turning into a member of the undead and turning to face towards tube passengers.
Four people complained that the zombie - complete with bloody gashes on her face, rotting teeth and red eyes - had terrified their children.

One man said his eight-year-old child was left terrified by the moving digital poster and another complainant said he had watched scores of kids reel in horror when they saw the poster.

The London Dungeon in south London was promoting a new show called 'Bloody Mary' - the daughter of Henry VIII who reigned between 1553 until 1558.
During that time she had 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake, earning her the title 'Bloody Mary', and dungeon bosses said the object of the ad was to 'show the dark side of her personality and portray her as a villain'.

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the poster ad should not be used again as it had 'terrified' children and breached fear and distress guidelines.

It said: "We considered that the morphing image, and the juxtaposition of a calm face with a very scary one, were likely to startle and frighten young children."
"We noted the switch between the passive and frightening face occurred suddenly and unexpectedly, which could increase the shock value.

"We also considered that when the face morphed into the scary character, the bloody gashes, white flesh, rotting teeth, red eyes and the threatening expression meant it was not suitable for young children to see.

"We were of the view that the ad seemed to be setting out to scare and had overstepped the limit of acceptability in doing so because, although not frightening for adults, the image was likely to be shocking to young children and to cause them fear or distress without good reason.

"We concluded that the ad was inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium."
Richard Sampson, 43, a father-of-two from Islington, north London, said: "These posters are totally unsuitable for children to see.

"They are effectively mini-horror movies showing a perfectly normal looking woman suddenly turn into a zombie."

A spokesman for the London Dungeon said that it had planned to use the digital poster during the rest of summer and Halloween, adding: "Bloody Mary killed over 300 heretics during her reign but was one of Britain's lesser known villainous figures, overshadowed by her notorious father Henry VIII.

"The object of the advertising was to show the dark side of her personality and portray her as a villain."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Tudor-era Business Closes After Almost 500 Years

A 480-year-old British shop announced last week it will close it's doors forever. This shop has survived two depressions, two world wars as well as three
recessions. On Friday, the Daily Mail reported that King Henry VIII was the
reigning monarch when the Gill & Company established its foundations as the
first ironmongers of the country in the year 1530. The shop had its base in
Oxford. Since then it has made a mark and retained the same in terms of one of
the oldest hardware stores of the country. A victim of worldwide recession, it
will be closing down next month month.

Being a native citizen of such an immature country, it is still difficult for me to wrap my brain around modern day people and institutions existing in ancient countries. Likewise, growing up and watching businesses be established, sell
their wares, and shutter their doors--sometimes within a year--makes the mere existence of a Gill & Co. a miracle to me. It sparks my imagination and entertains my brain.

Being human, we can never hope to meet historical figures from 1530, unless there is one hell of a fulfilling afterlife, complete with all our hypothetical dinner party guests. That's why visiting places and touching things that Henry
VIII and Anne Boleyn *may* have touched gives me such a thrill. It's the closest I can get to knowing them.

Gill & Co. began iron mongering in 1530. Let me give you a little perspective in terms of Tudor history, besides just "Henry VIII was the reigning monarch".

In 1530, Henry VIII was wildly in love with Anne Boleyn, lady-in-waiting to his wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon. He had petitioned Pope Clement VII for an annulment and was denied. It was at this time Henry began to consider breaking from Rome and would subsequently name himself head of the Church of England, initiating The Protestant Reformation.

Katherine of Aragon's nephew, Charles V, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1530, further threatening Henry's dream of repudiating his wife and having a legitimate son and heir with Anne. Katherine would live only one more year in the palaces of England.

For her part, Anne had been allowing the king to court her--never giving in to his advances--for the past five years. She survived a bout of the deadly sweating sickness and was now accompanying Henry on progress and hunting. Her greatest political
accomplishment had already taken place in the form of supplanting Cardinal Thomas Wolsey as Henry's closest confidant. Had Wolsey not died of illness in 1530, he likely would have been executed for treason.

It fascinates me that people who lived and reigned in 1530 could have known of Gill & Co. They could not, of course, imagine that almost 500 years later we, too,would know of Gill & Co. and the impending end of their historical business.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Royal Role for Anne Boleyn Madonna has cast Natalie Dormer as Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in a new film on the 1936 Edward VIII abdication crisis, said to be critical of the Queen and sympathetic toward Wallis Simpson, the American woman Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry, the Telegraph reports.

Dormer, known for her portrayal of Henry VIII’s second and arguably most infamous wife, Anne Boleyn, on Showtime’s “The Tudors”, says of her real-life character, “This country tends to remember the Queen Mother as a rather wrinkly 97 year-old, but I am playing her when she was quite an enchanting, engaging twenty and thirty-something. She was quite a savage and savvy game player.” Quite like Anne Boleyn, then–clearly this is a role that Dormer will be right at home in playing.