Saturday, November 28, 2015

W is for Wyatt Family The ABC's of the Reign of Our Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth

The Wyatt family had a generations-long link of service to (certain members of) the Tudor dynasty.
Henry Wyatt,,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg
Henry Wyatt - saddest, most knowing eyes ever captured on canvas.
of Welsh descent, got the ball rolling when he refused to serve Richard III, and Richard III gave Henry Wyatt serious Tower Time, complete with Torture on the Rack upgrade. 

According to legend, not only did Henry Wyatt get Tower Time,
"Welcome to the Tower of London!"
and rack time,
"Just a little bit more, fellas, then I'll be as tall as Tom Cruise!"

Henry Wyatt was given the special, anorexics-dream-come-true diet
One chilly day, a kitty suffering from the cold appeared at the window of his cell.
He held the cat until it warmed up.
That darn cat
Grateful cat. Shame about the pigeons, though. . . .
was so grateful it brought Wyatt dead pigeons to eat, thus saving his life.
(Or maybe the cat just liked its pigeon cooked over a candle? Who knows. At any rate, it's a good story.)

Once Richard III was dead in a fashion most brutal
and disposed of
Henry Tudor became Henry VII, and as King of England, he hotfooted it over to the Tower to spring his loyal friend, Henry Wyatt. 

Henry Wyatt, face mangled from having been pulled apart most rudely during a particularly rough torture session,
still managed to find a bride and start a family.
He also, thanks to his grateful pal, the new King of England, had enough do-re-mi
to buy Allington Castle in Kent, and make it his new cozy home.
Allington Castle - location, location, location - when one's home was in Kent (dangerously close to France) the king trod less heavily on those whose defensible fortresses could be counted on to help out in case of invasion of the French.

His first-born son
First-born = gets ALL the goodies.
Thomas Wyatt, perfection on two feet, grew up to be a poet, an ambassador, and a lover of Anne Boleyn.,Thomas(Sir)01.jpg
Best. Poet. EVER. :-)

Like his dad, he also got some Tower Time
"Welcome to the Tower of London!"

when Henry VIII felt the need to make believable his plan to off his trophy wife (Anne Boleyn) who *forgot* to produce a living son.
When arrested along with six other men, all accused of adultery with the queen, Wyatt was nonplussed.
"The king knows well what I told him before he was married," he said - which sounds an awful lot to me like, "Uh, I told him I got there first, so he should keep his hair on."
After Anne Boleyn and five of the seven accused men were relieved of their heads,
Thomas Wyatt, like his dad, walked out of the Tower under his own steam, and returned home to Allington Castle.
Although unhappily married, Thomas Wyatt managed to produce a son named . . . . Thomas Wyatt the Younger.,Thomas.jpg
Thomas Wyatt the Younger.

That made the first Thomas Wyatt 'the Elder.' 

Thomas Wyatt the Younger was an impulsive sort of guy.
Able to work himself up over issues about which he felt strongly, he could go off like a rocket.
That's what happened when, upon hearing Mary I (Elizabeth's half-sister) was set to marry a Spaniard, Thomas Wyatt the Younger led a rebellion intended to dump Mary I off the throne, and to replace her with Elizabeth I.
The rebellion failed.
Elizabeth ended up with some of the failed rebellion mud on her face.
Thomas Wyatt the Younger, gentleman to the end, died professing her innocence of any knowledge of his plan, and he did so in a LOUD VOICE.
“And whereas it is said and whistled abroad that I should accuse my lady Elizabeth’s grace and my lord Courtenay; it is not so, good people. For I assure you neither they nor any other now in yonder hold or durance was privy of my rising or commotion before I began. As I have declared no less to the queen’s council. And this is most true.”

All the onlookers heard him just as he'd intended - which put Mary I in a pretty pickle.
For her to prosecute Elizabeth after a man with his neck on the chopping block screamed Elizabeth was totally, completely, blamelessly innocent would have looked like sour grapes of the worst kind. 

Wyatt's head, displayed on a gibbet, was stolen six days after his execution.
Who does that? 

The Wyatt legacy went on after the execution of Thomas Wyatt the Younger; his son, George Wyatt, wrote the first biography of Anne Boleyn.
While at the British Library last month, I had an unparalleled experience when, in the Treasures of the British Library room, I saw Thomas Wyatt the Elder's handwritten poetry on display.
I turned to the next display case, and there I saw a signature on a letter that I recognized in a heartbeat:
Elizabeth I Enthroned in Norlin | Inside CU | University of Colorado ...
I cried.   

Friday, November 27, 2015

V is for Virgin The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth

Did she or didn't she?
Elizabeth I made much of her decision to 'live and die a virgin.'
Wrong virgin.
Getting closer . . .

There you go!

Married 'to England.' 

Purity in the sixteenth century was a valuable commodity.
To be unblemished, untouched by (gasp!) man was the societal norm for unmarried women.
The reality then, as now, was less a norm than an ideal.
Certainly there were pregnancies a-plenty conceived outside the bonds of holy matrimony.
Then, as now, 'first children could be born at any time; after that, they took nine months.' 

In an age of unreliable or unavailable birth control, Elizabeth I had only one option - no sexual intercourse.
As a vibrant and sensual woman, that was a heavy toll for the Queen of England to pay.

There were rumours, of course; like gnats buzzing around one's head at a picnic - pesky, difficult to swat down rumours - but, in the end, unproved. 
Some of those gnats rumours persist even in the twenty-first century; that a painting at Hampton Court Palace shows a pregnant queen,
"Oh, Lord, not THAT again. . . "
that she bore a love child, namely Francis Bacon
"Mom?" Not even. . .
and some said she was mother to as many as five (5!) bastards.
"Makes my head hurt, having to defend my reputation all the time. . . "
There is no disputing that Elizabeth played a little slap-n-tickle with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, but did he ever. . . you know . . . uh. . . slip it in?
The queen's body was sacred and Elizabeth I knew just how precarious one's hold on the throne of England could be in the face of accusations and with an eager cousin just north of the border, ready to topple her with no encouragement whatsoever.
(Mary Queen of Scots, a proven-fecund claimant to the throne, proved herself a bit of a slut tainted woman after her second husband was blown up and Mary round-ankled her bad self into marriage with James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell.)
Against Mary Queen of Scot's charms, Elizabeth I chose wisely to hold herself above the pleasures of the flesh and maintained a strict hold on her own hymen. 

So, did Dudley get in there? 
Nope Sherlock 
To keep her country stable and war-free (at least until she and her troops and her navy effing blew the Spanish Armada out of the water, lol, in 1588) Elizabeth I kept her own needs and desires far, far away from the peen of Dudley, or any other alleged 'lovers.'
Because when one is a Virgin Queen whose purity is a mortal reminder to one's subjects of the other famous Virgin of Catholic origin,
Sweet and pure. Always.

one does not 'do' the Earl of Leicester.
One keeps one's knees firmly together.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

U is for Underwear. The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth

In 2013 my mother and I traveled to our motherland - England - and we played tourist in London.
My mother on our trip to London in 2013 - after this Yeoman Warder told her he was an Atheist, Mom (devout Catholic)  told him she'd pray for him. That's the exact moment I snapped this picture. Check out his expression - lol!!!

In Westminster Abbey, we found ourselves in the small(ish) but extremely captivating museum tucked away in part of the undercroft that led to the monks dormitory.
Built in the eleventh century (!!!) by Edward the Confessor, the museum displays costumes and death masks of monarchs (which, come to think of it, would be a terrific name for a metal band.) 

There are wooden effigies wearing the costumes, and any sense of the creepy is entirely absent.
I can't say why.
Even knowing the death masks were fashioned from the actual dead faces of the rulers of England doesn't make them at all creepy.
Henry VII's death mask, according to Andrew Duncan's terrific book, Secret London, still contains little bits of his (Henry VII's, not Mr. Duncan's, lol) actual hair - trapped in the material when the death mask was pulled off

When I visited the Abbey Museum, the undies of Elizabeth I were on display.
Her actual undies.
Not her knickers, but a "pair of bodys." 
A bodice, in other words. 
'Surprised' hardly describes my reaction.

A docent behind one of the sales counters laughed merrily when I asked about the provenance of the 'bodys.'
"It was found when some restoration was done. Quite recently."
"And it *actually* belonged to the queen?" 
"Oh, yes. Made for her effigy, but still hers." And she smiled, then returned to what she'd been doing before I interrupted her.

While the generally accepted theory is that women in the sixteenth century didn't wear knickers, I find that difficult to believe.
Between the normal, monthly courses of woman, and the post-childbirth healing process, it seems (to me, anyway) unlikely that women allowed their body secretions to simply flow down their thighs. 
I believe there was some sort of cloth tied in place to prevent that from staining their clothing; my best guess is a sort of string-bikini-thong garment that tied at the hips.
"You go home and get your scanties, and I'll go home and get my panties, and away we'll go."
Regardless of whether or not Elizabeth I wore knickers or not, you too can see her 'pair of bodys' in 2018 when the new Jubilee Galleries are due to open.

Thank you, 
for information about the bodice of Elizabeth I.        

Monday, November 23, 2015

T is for Tower of London GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign, Elizabeth

There is a prison whose entrance gate is roughly 1/8 mile from my house.
You may have heard of the place.
Dear Incoming Campers: You are allowed to commence to pants-peeing now.
Some weekday mornings, very early, a bus pulls up to the gate.
The bus driver spent the night driving up and down the highways of the state, collecting prisoners from the county lockups.
(That explains the metal bars over the bus windows.)
It's always made me think there should be a "Go Ahead and Commence to Pants Peeing" sign over the gate. 

In Tudor England, the Tower of London's grounds crew no doubt had plenty of puddles to mop once prisoners entered the Tower; facing execution tends to unloose bladders.
'Tower time' was no 'cool your heels and think over what you've done' - no, Tower time meant 'get your affairs in order.'
Yeah, it got hella real in the Tower.
Elizabeth I was on the receiving end of 'Tower time' in March, 1554 when her half-sister, Mary I, decided to scare the absolute shit out of her.
Image result for Ferris Bueller Jeannie scared face
Mary I had major child-of-a-broken-home baggage.
Her mother was Henry VIII's first wife; Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn was his second wife, his trophy wife.

Naturally, Mary - who'd been the third highest-status person in the country until Elizabeth's mother entered the picture - had nothing but seething white-hot fury for Anne Boleyn.
"Am I making myself clear?"
Anne Boleyn retaliated by taking cheap verbal shots at Mary.
Mary responded with perfect and utter dismissive disdain for her father's whore wife.
Things went from bad to worse; when Elizabeth was born, Mary's status dropped further.

The wheel of fortune
does go 'round, however, and in time, Anne Boleyn fell spectacularly from the favor of Mary and Elizabeth's father, the king, and she was arrested, locked up in the Tower of London, and eventually had her head sliced off.
That's not funny!
Elizabeth would have known this; it was a particularly cruel choice of prisons on the part of Mary I, given that Elizabeth's mother was sent to do Tower time - and never walked out, ever again.

Elizabeth's 'crime' was not provable; she'd been implicated in a plot to overthrow Mary I and replace her on the throne.
Mary I, paranoid (and who could blame her?) and vengeful, cared not at all for the feelings of her half-sister; she needed the problem of Elizabeth contained.
What better place than the Tower of London?

Elizabeth tried her darndest to delay/avoid her time in lockup; she dawdled while packing, had her litter
Horse-drawn litter.
move much more slowly than her half-sister in London wished; Elizabeth's delaying tactics were her only defense against the unknown punishments awaiting her when her journey ended.
But delays only bought her so much time - and then time ran out, she was at the intake gate of the Tower on a Sunday morning in March while the skies above pissed down rain on her. 
Into the Tower she went.

The Bell Tower, famous for having shown poet Thomas Wyatt the Elder "such sights/that in my head sticks day and night" also housed Elizabeth.
No using her now-dead mother's apartments which were at that time still in existence; Elizabeth was locked up in the loft-like empty space with exposed brick walls inside the Bell Tower.

The horror of landing inside the Tower of London as a prisoner of the crown was bad enough; for Elizabeth, whose mother famously self-destructed when the shock of arrest caused her to babble uncontrollably, keeping the lid on her feelings was key to her survival.
No hysterics where any secrets might bubble to the surface for her; she proclaimed herself a true subject of the monarch, and not a traitor deserving such low treatment. 

While in the Tower, Elizabeth (who never thought of herself as anything but royal) complained constantly and bitterly to anybody who would listen.
She complained about not being able to take exercise; that her food was pilfered by guards before she had a chance to eat it, that if she ate food cooked by anyone other than her trusted servants it might be poisoned, and? 
Everyone who encountered the queen's half-sister during her incarceration became giddy at her celebrity, her royal stature, her ability to (as every good politician knows) make each person feel she addressed them uniquely.

Mary I, no fool she, realized Elizabeth had that effect on her (Mary's) subjects.

The queen gave special orders intended to lessen the excitement of contact with the flame-haired daughter of Henry VIII; transporting her by water rather than over land, for example.
Didn't work.
Even locked up in the Tower, away from the eyes of the populace, Elizabeth received posies of flowers from a little kid - until Big Sister Mary's guards put a stop to that. 

On the anniversary of the death of Anne Boleyn, Mary I ordered Elizabeth released from the Tower and put under house arrest.
The irony of that date was no coincidence; Mary I wanted it made very clear indeed to Elizabeth that she held Elizabeth's life in her hands.

Walking out of the Tower on 19 May, 1554, Elizabeth was taken by water (lol!) to Richmond, then sent off to Woodstock.
She was still in danger of accusations of treason and trumped-up charges that might have resulted in her assassination or execution, but the hardy young woman survived - and went on to become queen just four years later.