Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pancake FAIL - Anne Boleyn's Participation in Shrove Tuesday Celebration, 1522

“the third Perseveraunce” (aka 'Anne Boleyn')
On March 1, 1522 a Court masque was held for the entertainment of the King. 
Famously recorded by an eyewitness, Edward Hall, the masque display was a dazzling mix of blazing candle light, beautiful costumed women and handsome men, banners, ‘towers’ tall enough that the participants could clamor around in them, even pyrotechnics (“at whych tyme wythoute was shot a greate peale of gunnes”) to make the night memorable.
To set the scene for something this elaborate and contrived is to contain the essence of the elaborate rituals of the Court system. 
It’s probably inevitable that in any overly-privileged, insular, connected group there will be stretches of merry-making that exceed even the wildest of imaginations.
". . . and I don't care!"

Regardless . . . the irony of Anne Boleyn playing the part of the virtue of Perserverance in a staged scene while in the company of her future husband, Henry VIII, is of course not lost on many of us. 

It’s a joke that almost writes itself.

There she was, Anne Boleyn, coming up in the world, so to speak. 
Her sister Mary was, by this time, sharing the bed of the King (and wouldn’t you love to have been a flea on the wall of the Court apartments when the sisters talked about what Mary got up to of a chilly winter’s evening when the King had that certain look in his eye?) and as was the understandable custom, that meant certain courtesies were extended to the kin of the King’s mistress. 
Meaning: every time Mary laid back and thought of England,
Yes, do that, Mary. ;-)

the tacit agreement was inclusion in Court activities, and that went for her siblings, too.

So Anne was there, with seven other ladies who played the rest of the Graces, dressed in a sassy white satin frock with her name (Perseverance, not “Hi, I’m Anne”) embroidered on it in gold thread – which, when you think of it, means this was a party that took some serious planning.
Not only were there eight Graces, but also eight Vices played by court ladies/eight lords,  and another eight lords (including you-know-who!) who played the virtues of manly court love. Sort of like a sixteenth century Super Bowl Halftime Show, what with ladies spraying rose water and tossing candies while Lords worked their way past the ladies of Vice (“Gossip!” “Disdain!” “Jealousy!” “Unkindness!”) before they claimed victory and led the Virtues by the hand to go shake things up on the dance floor. 
"But you can win the hearts of the fair . . . "

This was a well-planned and well-executed Shrove Tuesday celebration.
Flip that pancake, dude!

Shrove Tuesday, were you in New Orleans, would be called Fat Tuesday – the day before the beginning of the forty day Catholic season of Lent, where penitence and self-denial rule. 

It makes sense that the ladies playing the parts in the tableau had some ‘say’ as to which part they played. 
If that was the case, Anne Boleyn’s choice of Perserverance is especially interesting in light of the connotation of the word in 1522; Perserverance was used to describe the journey of the life of a Christian Everyman in the fifteenth century morality play, ‘The Castle of Perserverance.’
 Anne Boleyn’s steadfast refusal for years to Henry VIII’s overtures, and later, pleadings to sleep with him just *may* have been truly virtuous, and truly religious.
"Really? Truly virtuous and truly religious? LOL!"

Scoff if you will, but this seems a plausible reason for her behavior over the years of her courtship by the King. 

Anne Boleyn representing Perserverance may be more because she actually was steadfast and faithful and religious and that’s why she was chosen for that part.
It may actually have been true, and not just a retroactively ironic joke about her later waiting around for Henry VIII to first jettison his Queen, Catherine of Aragon, and then waiting for permission from Rome, and ultimately to break with Roman rule in order to win a crown. 

What if Anne Boleyn was, initially at least, just a nice Catholic girl who didn’t believe in sex before marriage?'s a kinder version of events than the 'holding onto her maidenhead (lol) in order to sell it to the best marriage partner' version.
And in the end, only kindness matters. 

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