Friday, July 31, 2015

Quick Pic to Brighten Your Day: Scottish Thistles in California - Their Color Is Worth Celebrating

Thistles, long a symbol of Scotland, ninja'd their way to Northern California by hitching a ride there years ago inside bags of crop seeds, according to the local Conservation League. 
Thistles have a peculiarly spiky beauty, and an almost ethereal color.
The pictured thistle grows near a secret-garden sort of park nearby; secret-garden because the only people who know about it are longtime residents and the passing-through homeless who camp out there until the cops move them along.
The plant may get little love by locals in California because they're an invasive species, but it's hard to dismiss a tough little beauty like the thistle.

Did Henry VIII Love All or Any of His Wives? An Opinion In Six Parts. Part I:

Did Henry VIII love all, or any, of his wives?
  • He loved one.
  • He was unhealthily obsessed by one.
  • He felt cleansed by one.
  • He rejected one.
  • He was infatuated with one.
  • He relied on one.
The One He Loved:  Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon, gentle wife of a guy who turned out to be real ass. 
Henry VIII's first wife, whom he married when he was just on the edge of the age of eighteen. 
This lovely princess dropped into Henry VIII’s life when Henry was a ten year old royal 'spare' to his older brother Arthur's 'heir." 
Henry had two sisters and had spent a large part of his childhood in a feminine-dominant household. He was familiar with females, but to him, the Princess Catherine of Aragon was an entirely different matter.
Catherine was his brother Arthur’s betrothed; an arranged marriage between an auburn-haired Spanish princess whose delicate beauty enchanted, but belied the stern stuff of which she was made. 
Catherine left her home in Spain in May, 1501, fifteen years old (Sophomore in high school age. !!!) and hopped aboard a ship bound for England, where Prince Arthur, now her husband of two years (!) since a1499 proxy marriage had been held in England, waited to finally meet his bride. 
The fiance to the next in line to the throne was just as interesting to the English people in the sixteenth century as it is today: 
twee twee twee
It wouldn't be unusual to think of her as a perpetual first-wife victim of hubby's wandering eye when hubby spotted a potential Trophy Wife. 
That would be a mistake. 

Her marriage to Prince Arthur, the 'heir,' took place on November 14, 1501. 
Five months later, Arthur died of some kind of respiratory sickness, leaving Catherine a widow.
All she had in her strange new homeland was her new title of Princess Dowager.

The young widow was truly without a country as her own father and King Henry VII parried back and forth over her still only half-paid dowry. 
Henry VIII's father, King Henry VII, held her hostage in order to avoid re-payment of her dowry.
Henry VII was notoriously skinflint and had deep trust issues. 
Poor Catherine's poignant letters to her father explaining her living conditions are very sad indeed - she had to feed herself and all her servants on whatever she could scrounge financially by selling off things she'd brought from Spain.
Her mother, appalled and heartbroken over her daughter's shit treatment, wore all black all day all the time to display her grief over her little girl, unofficially locked up for who knew how long?

Seven years later, in 1509, Henry VII died.
Prince Henry, former spare, ascended the throne and became Henry VIII. 
He immediately freed Catherine from her genteel prison and Henry wasted no time charging up to the altar with her.
They were married, despite a small religious hiccough (which would rear its ugly head later) involving Catherine’s having been married to Henry’s brother. 
While she insisted she and Prince Arthur had never ‘done the deed', due to Arthur's young age, and because if a married couple was youngyoungyoung, it really wasn't that uncommon for them to wait until they felt ready to consummate the marriage. 

(Catherine was a very pious Catholic girl, so later, during the ugly divorce case after Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, when Catherine testified she was still virgin on her wedding night to Henry VIII, it's believable.)

Over the twenty-plus years they were married, Catherine behaved as she’d been brought up to do; she acted as a charitable, loving Queen to the English people.
In 1513, when Henry VIII was in France with his army, James IV of Scotland thought with England's King out of the country, it would be a dandy time to invade. 
Catherine, who was pregnant at the time, rallied the English to battle and beat the crap out of the Scots. 
James IV went down most harshly; but, in the tradition of war back then, his face was left unmarked. 
His bloody coat Catherine sent by courier to France to Henry VIII; she would have sent his body, but ‘the hearts of Englishmen would not suffer it.’
What. A. Boss.

In Tudor times, the queen was expected to know her place (either the birthing chamber or, alternately, rallying the troops in absence of her husband) always quietly, and without opinion of her own, to keep to that place. 
Catherine of Aragon held up her end of the deal.
When Henry VIII slept around, she pretended it didn't involve her.
She sewed his shirts.
She acted like a lady.
Henry VIII, on the other hand, did not keep his end of the deal.
He flew like a moth directly into the flame that was Anne Boleyn, and Catherine was shipped off to England's equivalent of Siberia - a series of cold, drafty castles in colder and colder locations until she died of poor health and, I believe, exhaustion from putting up with Henry's shit.

Did Henry VIII love Catherine of Aragon?
Like anyone taken for granted, he didn't realize how much until he was faced with her replacement, a smart-mouthed, sarcastic beauty who didn't know enough to shut it once she'd won the crown and the wedding ring.

Next time: Anne Boleyn - First English Queen to Lose Her Head To A Very Sharp Blade.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lettice Knollys - Granddaughter of The Other Boleyn Girl, Pain In the Ass For Queen Elizabeth I

You *may* recall Lettice Knollys who was re-named and portrayed in the movie 'Elizabeth' (Cate Blanchett & Joseph Fiennes version) as the red-haired Elizabeth doppelganger who dies after Elizabeth's frustrated boyfriend, Robert Dudley, has her wear one of Elizabeth's dresses. Bad luck for her that an enemy of the Queen had laced the fabric of the dress with fast-acting poison. (Historical accuracy alert: never happened.) 

Here's the real story:
Lettice Knollys was the daughter of Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary Boleyn. 
Lettice *may* also have been the granddaughter of Henry VIII. 
Mary Boleyn was most certainly doing the old slap'n'tickle with him around the time of Lettice's mother's (Catherine) conception, but Mary Boleyn was married to a man named Henry Carey at the same time.
Due to a distinct lack of availability of inner cheek-swabbing for the purposes of DNA testing at that time, it's anyone's guess as to which was the paternal parent, although Henry VIII wouldn't have been cool with his mistress sleeping with anybody else, not even the mistress's own husband.
Henry VIII definitely provided Mary Boleyn-Carey's husband with perks and properties right around the time both of her children were born; that suggests perhaps the King was rewarding Henry Carey for keeping his mitts off his own wife while the King dallied with her. So it's a pretty good bet that Catherine Carey
Steven van der Meulen Catherine Carey Lady Knollys.jpg
Catherine Carey
 was not only Queen Elizabeth's cousin, but was her half-sister, as well. (I know, I know. It officially blows my mind, too.) 

Lettice Knollys was born to Catherine Carey in 1543, making her exactly ten years younger than her future rival, Queen Elizabeth I.
Darnley stage 3.jpg
Elizabeth I
Catherine Carey was much favored by Elizabeth once Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558; she was appointed Elizabeth I's Chief Lady of the Bedchamber. 
(Note: in Tudor palaces, rooms occupied by the monarch were public, semi-public, private, more private, very private indeed, totally private, and, in the case of a bed chamber, utterly double-secret-probation private. 
And that is the level of privacy Catherine Carey Knollys enjoyed with the Queen of England; more a role for a half-sister than a cousin, wouldn't you agree?)

Lettice Knollys1.jpg
Lettice Knollys

Catherine's daughter, the luscious, lovely, flame-haired (Tudor hair, anyone? LOL!) Lettice came to court at a slightly younger-than-was-usual age.
A high-spirited young lady, Lettice thought very well of herself; she thought less well of her cousin, the Queen, but Lettice was smart enough to keep that information to herself. 
For awhile, anyway.
She did her court duties.
In the manner of nice young ladies of nobility at court, she made her marriageable qualities known.
All that yummy, kissin' cousin to the Queen, royal look-alike deliciousness (and didn't she know it!) as a single lady paid off; in time, the nineteen year old Lettice married Robert Devereux, a fellow nobleman with fair holdings and good prospects. 

At first, the marriage hummed along; a couple of little Devereuxs showed up in the nursery and the couple seemed happy enough - then Robert Devereux began spending time in Ireland.
A lot of time.
The Earl of Leicester,Robert Dudley (oh, yeah, THAT Robert Dudley - Elizabeth I's favored 'Sweet Robyn') and Lettice Knollys Devereux, wife of the now-Earl of Essex, began canoodling fairly openly.
Little 'Devereuxs' continued to come along, so naturally, one or two of them had a touch of that paternity problem endured by Lettice's own mother; the "is your papa really your papa?" condition. 

There are reports from that time naming Dudley as the father of Lettice's son, Robert Devereux. 
(Her husband and lover both being named Robert certainly made it easier for Lettice to convincingly shout the name during passionate moments; there was no getting it wrong. Convenient!)

Time marched on; then in 1575 Lettice's husband, Robert, who by then had become the Earl of Essex died unexpectedly in Ireland.
Rumors flew through the court that he'd been poisoned.
Robert Dudley Leicester.jpg
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, notorious two-timer.
By his wife? her lover? not poisoned at all? None of the rumors were ever substantiated.

With her husband conveniently out of the way, and equally conveniently, having left her with a comfortable amount of money, The Widow Devereux a.k.a. "Lettice with Two Roberts" got competitive and upped the ante with her cousin the Queen. 
She began to make a game out of going to Court to tweak Elizabeth I's nose over their shared lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
She faked out her own carriage entourage to fool people into thinking that, with security and ladies in waiting all over the place, she was the Queen.
As she was ten years younger than Queen Elizabeth, she made snotty, sneaky remarks about the Queen's age. 
Within two years, she went for the win and on the down-low, married Robert Dudley. 
The Queen found out months later, and predictably flipped a biscuit. 
A real girl-on-girl fight broke out; name-calling and ear-boxing ensued - although it was a one-sided fight as only a complete idiot would smack around the Queen. 
Lettice pretty much had to stand there and take Elizabeth's fury-driven, jealous bullshit.
Elizabeth I forgave Robert Dudley pretty quickly.
Not being a girl's girl, though, she carried a stubborn Tudor-style grudge against Lettice for the rest of her life.
When they were both old ladies, and Lettice, through the treasonous actions of one of her sons, went into serious debt, she begged Elizabeth to please, please, pretty-please forgive her. 
Elizabeth had none of it; not only did she refuse to even meet with Lettice, she dunned her for the outstanding money with vicious vengeance topped by a big dollop of gloating and a cherry-sized 'fuck you' right on top. 
Elizabeth never again laid eyes on Lettice.

The similarities in temperament, intensity, quick wit, cunning, competitive nature, vying for the top seat at all costs are striking when comparing the two women.
- Mary Boleyn, Lettice's gran, and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mama both had sexual relations over an extended time period with the same man; Lettice and Elizabeth I both had long-term intimate relationships with the same man. 

- Anne Boleyn was expert at promoting her family's brand at Court through her impeccable personal appearance and clothing chosen for its ability to catch, and hold, the eye of everyone who beheld its magnificent wearer. 
- Elizabeth I inherited her mother's ability to pick a kirtle (dress) and matching sleeves that not only packed a visual punch, but transmitted all kinds of messages to those who beheld its magnificent wearer. 
- Not to be left out, Lettice ALSO inherited a love of clothes - and wore them to transmit messages to one woman who beheld their magnificent wearer: Elizabeth I - kinswoman, cousin, (possible niece as well) and romantic competition for the heart of the same man. Lettice flounced and flouted a lush new wardrobe at Court,thoroughly pissing off Queen Elizabeth I, and prompting the Queen to immortalize Lettice by throwing shade at her in a famous quote.
 "As one sun lights the sky, we will have one Queen of England!"
(Note: When Elizabeth said, 'we will have one . . .' she was using the royal 'we,' meaning Elizabeth the Queen and Elizabeth the Human Being. Try calling yourself 'we' for awhile the next time you're feeling lonely. It's like always having your own best friend right there in your head!) 
Since Elizabeth made it very, very clear she would never marry, her lover, Robert Dudley, did the next best thing - got it on with Lettice, who not only looked like Elizabeth, but also had all those Boleyn inherited traits of brains, looks and being terrific on the dance floor. 
Sort of a creepy sister/sister thing.
So, here's a question for you; did Robert Dudley use Lettice as an Elizabeth substitute? 
Or was Elizabeth solely a gateway to favors, appointments, properties, honors, titles and a life of leisure while Lettice was the real love of his life?
Weigh in below in the 'Comment' section.
I'd love to know what you think.
For reals. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Moon Over the Bay

July 28, 1540, Part 2 - As Thomas Cromwell Dies Horribly on the Scaffold, Henry VIII Marries a Teen Aged Trophy Wife

Henry VIII had an odd sense of timing.
On the very same day his former best friend, lawyer, adviser, Thomas Cromwell took three (not one, not two, but THREE) chops to the neck, (that's two more chops than anybody deserves) Henry VIII married Catherine Howard.
Pretty, pretty Catherine Howard.
No more than seventeen to nineteen years old Catherine Howard.
Curvy, giggly, makes a man feel young again Catherine Howard. 
Henry VIII's 'rose without a thorn.' 
She was this kind of rose:


Thwock. Thwock. Thwock. It's Tudor Tennis!

Ah, tennis.

Harbinger of summer, satisfier of the urge to smack something around, sport of the fleet of foot.
  Singles, doubles, or just lobbing balls off the door to the garage – the satisfaction of well-placed shots are the sporting equivalent of bubbles rising in a fizzy drink; there are many of them in the glass, with each cause for a mini-celebration.*
Real Tennis. Played by Real Sixteenth Century Men.

Lawn tennis (as most of us play now, regardless of grass/clay/other type of court) is the familiar game we recognize as contemporary tennis. There are tennis-like offshoots: squash, paddle tennis, handball (for the hardcore among you) and then there’s the standard for the game, Real Tennis.
It’s actually called that – ‘Real Tennis’ – and it is a fast-moving, strategic game played with a solid ball and a racquet with a smaller face than is used in Lawn Tennis.
Prior to the sixteenth century, the ball was filled with clay and/or sand.
If you’re thinking, “Gee, that sounds dangerous!” that’s because IT WAS.
A well-placed shot could take out an opponent. (!!!) 
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the core of the ball was replaced with animal hair and sometimes human hair, making it lighter, bouncier – and less lethal.
With a slightly offset face, a Real Tennis racquet looks oddly inadequate to the task, but that small racquet face can take the impact of the heavier tennis ball.
To grip it, the hand is placed near the halfway point of the neck, in keeping with the tight, fast movement of the game.
Real Tennis balls can be played off any wall, and even the roof. The strategy of the game was more involved than that in Lawn Tennis; the terminology, the rules, the layout of the playing area are described quite well on this website:

Betting was common among spectators of the tennis games played in the sixteenth century; women didn’t play but could watch (and make wagers!)and following the game meant knowing its many rules.
While Lawn Tennis played today has strategy and rules, a Real Tennis game made Lawn Tennis look like McDonalds food next to a five-course gourmet dinner.
Do we in the twenty-first century do ourselves a disservice by allowing rules and standards to slip away?
No worries, though, there is a strong community of Real Tennis players who take to the courts at Hampton Court Palace and other Real Tennis courts (27 in all) in clubs across England.
In the United States there are ten Real Tennis court(s), mostly along the East Coast.
Sadly, Chicago is as far west as the Real Tennis game is played here in the States. (BOO.)
Real Tennis has a poignant moment that, in retrospect, feels a bit like a knife to the guts.
On May 2, 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn was called away from a tennis game for which she’d wagered money.
Ordered to appear in front of the King’s Council, she joked that she’d not collected her winnings yet and there was money owed her.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter.
She was arrested later that day and taken to the Tower of London.
Seventeen days later, the roar of cannon fire announced her death by beheading.
Sixteen miles away, at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII received the news of her death.
It is reported that when he received that message, he was in the middle of a game of Real Tennis.