Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Karma Can Be A B-word

Instant karma's gonna get you.
Karma - if only it worked this quickly all the time . . .

 Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, lived a secure and pampered life as the darling 'placeholder' heir to the English throne - until her daddy the king fathered a (legitimate) baby boy.

Years passed.
1517, 1518, 15119 . . . like sands through an hourglass, thus go the Days of Our Lives. . .
An illegitimate baby boy came along when Mary was a toddler; the king glommed onto him and gave every sign of considering the boy, Henry Fitzroy, as a possible heir to the throne.
Henry Fitzroy was Threat #1 to Princess Mary.
"But I don't WANT a bastard brother! Only just ME!!"
Catherine of Aragon, past her child-bearing years, could only wring her hands

and wish things were different; she'd borne many children but only Princess Mary survived the vicious Tudor-era infant mortality rates.

Enter, Anne Boleyn.
 reaction the tudors natalie dormer anne boleyn
This young woman entered the court scene in service to Catherine of Aragon and it was there she caught the eye of Henry VIII.
Long story boring, she and the king married after splitting the country off from the Roman Catholic church rule, and together they produced another princess.
Princess Elizabeth was Threat #2 to Princess Mary.
"But I don't WANT a bastard sister! Only just ME!"
Princess Lady Mary could only wring her hands and wish things were different; she'd done nothing wrong yet had been jettisoned most rudely from the inheritance line.
Her mother - sent off to a series of increasingly damp, cold, living quarters in the most hostile climates England can boast - was cut out of Mary's life.
Cold? Check. Damp? Check. Malaria-potential? Check. Okay, send her there. . .
That was the 'kill 'em without laying a finger on 'em' approach favoured by the Tudors - if benign neglect didn't bring a subject (or a queen) back into line with the monarch's thinking, the monarch upped the ante and made the neglect much, much less benign.
An extra blanket?
Food that's edible?
Wood for the fire? 

Princess Lady Mary, forcibly kept from seeing her mother, received some harsh treatment herself at the hands of the hands of her father's chosen caretakers.
She suffered verbal abuse, most of her influence as the daughter of the king was turned to a mockery as 'disrespect' became the buzzword for how to treat her, and she was demoted to serving her half-sister in Princess Elizabeth's household.
Anne Boleyn had no sympathy for Princess Lady Mary; Anne Boleyn was too busy yanking Roman Catholicism from the hands of the devout (which was everyone) and replacing it with a new, non-Pope faith.
That made Princess Lady Mary hate her even more.
Princess Lady Mary was devout in her faith.

Flash-forward another seventeen years or so; Princess Mary had offed the competition for her throne in a matter of weeks and now, after the death of her half-brother Edward VI, she sat on the throne of England.
Finally. FINALLY!
And here is where karma enters the picture.
Mary I wasted very little time settling scores on the basis of religion.
By God, England would return to Roman rule if Mary I had to destroy every one of her (newly) Protestant subjects.
She got busy burning 'heretics.'
There's no way to excuse her actions.
Of all the ways there are to die, burning at the stake is quite possibly the worst.
Bound to a pole, firewood stacked around, the lick of flames came closer and closer, the scorching heat an inferno, and if that weren't enough, it took as long as a couple of HOURS to die. 
Holy shit.
Was the queen taking revenge on those who followed the religion formed when her parent's marriage went bust?
'Cause burning someone to death is certainly the act of a pathologically psychotic mindset.
Oh, hi, Aileen. Meet Mary.

If the executioner had been well-paid by the prisoner, he might deign to affix a packet of gunpowder to the throat of the victim prisoner.
Use your imagination. 

Back to Mary I and the karma - and if you're squeamish, here is where you have your chance to back out.

The burnings were done in the name of the queen.
She has responsibility for anything over-the-top that happened in her name, as she instigated the whole 'burn heretics' order.
So, on the day in 1556 when a pregnant woman was burned as a heretic and her baby (alive) was chucked back into the flames after she split open (don't say I didn't warn you) the blame is square on Mary I.*

The God who Mary I was convinced authorized her to burn heretics (Jesus jumping Christ, I mean, REALLY?) turned around and gave Mary I the big F.U. when she desperately tried to conceive a baby - which would have allowed her reign to go forward in the hands of her son/daughter. 
God's will?
"Here's me, expressing myself. And I don't need fifteen pieces of flair to do it."
I'd like to think it's a little of both.

Mary I had at least two 'phantom pregnancies' - she was convinced there was a bun in the oven (sorry) to the point where her abdomen became enlarged; when it was time for the 'baby' to arrive, instead of the healthy squall of a newborn infant, all that anyone heard was . . . crickets.
The God whom she'd decided she was acting on behalf of never gave her a kid of her own.

Mary I's throne went to her sister, Elizabeth I.
"WOOT!!! Mary I - OUT! Elizabeth I - IN!"
Elizabeth I didn't exactly tolerate all differences in religion; she had to slap down those zany Roman Catholics when they got too close to assassinating her.
Yes, Mr. Craig, we see you. Please go put on the blue trunks now."
"Much better."

Elizabeth I never had any children of her own; that was the price she paid for maintaining her throne and all power due the monarch.

She never had a pregnant woman and an infant burned to death in the name of her God. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ride the Lightning - Tudor-Style

On a morning very similar to this morning (in fact, it was this morning) a distress call came from a family member.
Three-year-old incredibly adorable child was too ill for normal day's activities and required a quiet environment for the day.
Driving away with said three-year-old, there came a small voice - nearly a whisper - from the back seat.
"I'm going to barf."
The child proved himself no liar by doing just that, into a bowl provided by his mother.
Ker-splat. Retch. Ker-splat - and repeat.

A few minutes later while I dumped the contents of the barf bowl alongside the road, Elizabeth I's quote, 'Such a one as would give God the vomit,' popped into my head.
And I felt shame.
Shame over my own near-barfing experience just from hearing a little kid boot in a large mixing bowl. 
Shame that I'd never have made it in Tudor society.
The ability to hold one's gorge while facing the unthinkable seems to have been a given amongst Tudor-era citizens from every walk of life.
"And you do the walk of life."

"Guys, guys, guys, I'm trying to sleep here. . . " *

The Tudor version of 'ride the lightning'* came along every now and then to distract the citizenry from their daily woes.
Life rolled along, month after month, wake up - do chores - pray - eat shitty food - pray - do more chores - pray - sleep, day after day.
So hum-drum; other than seeing the colourful vestments on the parish priest at Mass, there were so very few distractions that really rocked a person.
Then -  BAM! - a courtier or religious type or some other miscreant or scumbag got sideways with the current administration monarch and faced climbing a scaffold in their very near future.

Once sentence was passed the poor slob had a very small amount of time in which to pray like their soul depended on it (as it most certainly did) and also to ask their family and friends to pay off their servants and debts. 
After that - well, as the saying goes, 'one more white shirt'll do ya.'
"No need to pick up my other clothes from the dry cleaners, hon."

And the crowds gathered to witness executions.
"This is an AWESOME execution, man!! Even better than the CombiChrist show last month. . . "

Think of it as reality television taken to maximum effect.
When the hype and gossip of whatever crime had been committed hit the ears of the common man, it's hard to blame that common man for feeling that righteous justice was deserved.
After all, the common man had been browbeaten into knowing exactly to whom one tipped one's hat, to whom one bowed (and how deep a bow) and, most important of all, to not question the authority of one's 'betters.' 
Not ever. 
In some cases, fasho, that righteous justice was deserved.
In others - unfortunately, a miscarriage of justice still held the same agony, whether the accused were guilty or not.

Those lucky (!) enough to be close to the scaffold saw the fear on the face of the about-to-meet-his/her-maker's face. 
No doubt they heard the shuffle of footsteps up the ladder or stairs to the scaffold, the quaver in the voice as the prisoner said his scaffold speech; the small, inconsequential little noises made all day every day by humans - clearing the throat, the pop of knee cartilage when the poor sucker knelt for the blow; heard also the ka-CHING of the slicing and the thump when the axe bit the heading block.

When the blood letting got serious, those up close would have smelt that rotten-olives odor of a pool of blood.
So bad. 

So how did the spectators keep from barfing on their boots?
"Dammit, Harry, I warned you about going to those things!"
People who lived in the sixteenth century survived all kinds of horrors that us twenty-first century wimps can't even wrap our brains around; our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.
They'd seen births, deaths, drownings, plague victims (blech) and had probably done their fair share of bandaging up really disgusting wounds.
Death was always around them.
Maybe seeing someone who'd had the good fortune to know it was headed their way was cause for a good dark laugh or three; maybe seeing a person hung (till not-quite dead) drawn (off with your bits! here, let me wave them in front of your face!) and quartered (four quarters make a dollar an entire person) somehow made up for the lousy diet, the lack of toilet paper, and any of the other hits people in Tudor England took every day of their own mostly miserable lives. 

Maybe their gag level was so high that unless a witnessed execution went horribly wrong (more than two whacks to behead the prisoner, a public burning - speaking of bad smells - that it just didn't make that big an impression.

In any case, a Tudor execution makes riding the lightning seem like a pretty quick and fairly painless way to go.

*Metallica song. Yes. It's that good.