Thursday, September 24, 2015

GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Soverign, Elizabeth - B is for Bastard

Elizabeth I, whose parents either were, or weren't, in a marriage sanctified by the Catholic Church, knew the sting of the label 'bastard.' 
Bastardization for Elizabeth could have been a stumbling block for her as she made her way to the throne of England.
The only chair that counts in Westminster Abbey. 
Not necessarily a deterrent, though, as Henry VIII's bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, had he lived longer, was groomed for the job during his short life - of course, Henry Fitzroy was Henry VIII's first-born son to survive infancy.
Image result for YES! baby

Elizabeth's bastardy, though, was the lowest of the low blows aimed at her throughout her life.
It was unprecedented for a king to jettison one wife to whom, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church, the king was still married and had a child - and then claim a second wife, who also had a child on the way, as his as well.
One or the other of the marriages had to be discredited.
As it turned out, both were.

Henry VIII's mid-life crisis, 
Image result for mid-life crisis man
Henry VIII did the exact opposite. . . 
complete with trophy second wife waiting in the wings, was initially met by his starter wife as beneath her notice.
Kings philandered.
It's what they did.
Henry VIII wanted to philander with Anne Boleyn in the worst way - but she, realizing this, held out.
And held out.
And held out.
"No, I  just don't feel right about doing it without being married, Henry." 
Meanwhile, an annulment or divorce from his first marriage just sat there, a political and religious intertwined potato that was far, far too hot for anyone to handle.
 Image result for hot potato
Anne Boleyn got older.
Potato? Still hot.
Anne Boleyn got older still.

Finally, since nobody would stand up and say it for him, Henry VIII stood up and said it himself: I am not married, nor was I ever really married, to my first wife - and so I'm marrying, for the REAL first time.

Princess Mary, Henry VIII and his 'starter wife,' Catherine of Aragon's daughter, was already a teen.
She understood full well that the trophy wife was moving in on her dad, which was bad enough, but the cherry on top of the whole mess was that she, Princess Mary her whole life, was expected to agree to being marginalized as a bastard, illegitimate issue of the 20+ year relationship her mother and father shared.
Image result for "As IF"
As if.

To be bastardized at that late age was an insult that offended Princess Mary right down to the soles of her shoes.
She did what any teen-aged girl would do: she dug in her heels, refused to acknowledge any title but that of Princess (and would not hear of her mother  being called anything less than queen.)Image result for teen girl furious

In a short time, Princess (by then Lady) Mary was given the ultimate grounding - she had to wait on Anne Boleyn's daughter as subservient to this red-headed half-sister of her father's whore trophy wife.
She may have resented being appointed her half-sister's courtier, but she couldn't bring herself to hate her half-sister, who was bright, amusing, and smart as a whip. 
Lady Mary didn't have to toil long in the nursery of the Princess Elizabeth - Anne Boleyn fell spectacularly from the king's favor within three years and was executed.

Princess Elizabeth herself was then bastardized.

Being a bastard meant special accommodation had to be made before the bastard was allowed to have privileges at court; even privileges that ought have been theirs from birth.
In short, no crown in the foreseeable future for either little bastard Mary or little bastard Elizabeth.
Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, did convince Henry VIII to entertain the thought of taking the Lady Mary (sounds so Downton Abbey, doesn't it?) off punishment, un-grounding her, and allowing her to come to court.

Little royal bastard Lady Elizabeth suffered the fallout from her mother's perceived whorish ways.
Her governess, who had the child's best interest at heart, was forced to plead and clamor for the royal purse to provide money to clothe a fast-growing child.
Image result for baby clothes too small
"Looks like my clothes shrunk, Nanny - may I have larger ones, if you please?" 
The governess also ran interference between the governor of the house where Lady Elizabeth lived and his miserly way around the funding of running a kitchen and serving nursery foods to the little girl.
The governor, in an effort to cut costs, decided the child should just join all the adults in the household for meals.
She, he had decided, could just eat what the adults ate.
Her governess stepped in and in an exceedingly proper, yet still stinging, letter to Cromwell, explained that little girls oughtn't to eat spicy food, 
Image result for kid spicy food
"Lady Elizabeth, that's quite enough." 
drink strong wines, 
Image result for kid drunk on wine
"I was THIRSTY!"  
or be exposed to ribald adult conversation
Image result for "This big!"
"I knew a man whose . . . was this big. Oh, sorry, I forgot the kid was at the table." 
 at mealtimes.

The governess won the point; Lady Elizabeth was given allowance to have a childhood, versus being a child catapulted into the world of adult courtiers at the age of three or four years old. 

Being a bastard meant that those who had your back often had it out of a sense of decency and propriety as was owed all well-born children, and not out of love for the actual child.
Being a bastard meant a greasy film of shame over every memory of childhood.
Being a bastard meant yo momma was a ho, if you were Lady Elizabeth, and yo momma got thrown aside, if you were Lady Mary.

Before Henry VIII died, his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, had encouraged him to enjoy the company of all of his children; Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth, as well as Prince Edward.
The repairing of familial relations worked!
Henry VIII left his order for who succeeded him on the throne as:
1. Edward.
2. Edward's male children.
3. Lady Mary
4. Lady Mary's male children
5. Lady Elizabeth

The greasy film of bastard shame stayed squarely on both Mary and Elizabeth.
Image result for shame
When Elizabeth, in an unlikely and seemingly pre-ordained series of events, ascended the throne in 1558, having outlived her parents and half-siblings, the bastard label was still stuck to her, like gum on the bottom of your Chuck Taylors. 
No big deal, really, but damn! So annoying! 
Her position was to ignore the label, but to also steer all conversations in which it might come up directly away from the subject. 

When, as Elizabeth I, she said she'd not make windows into men's souls, she said so for a very good reason: if the men were Roman Catholic, they believed as a bastard, she was unqualified to be on the throne.
If the men were Protestant, they believed Elizabeth I was on the throne because God put her there.
It was a touchy subject. . . but allowing Catholics to pray their way in private, while reinforcing her Protestant subjects that she was the queen God Himself had selected for the job, she diplomatically skirted the topic. 

In the end, of course, Elizabeth's bastardy didn't amount to much more than a footnote to her reign. 
The circumstances of her birth, the 'is she legit, or isn't she legit?' questions didn't seem worth mentioning in the face of her formidable political and tactical excellence among her fellow monarchs in Europe.
Her glorious reign spoke for her. 
Image result for Gloriana Elizabeth I
Yup. That's my legacy, deal with it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment