H is for History

I feel as though every post that I write on here, increases my nerd status. I’m not saying I’m not a nerd. I am. Unashamedly, so.

But there comes a time in a nerd’s life when you have to ask yourself … “am I too nerdy?”

A relatively new addition to the long list of things that makes me ‘nerdy’ is my love of history. It’s not a general love of history, if I’m honest. It is rather localised … to English history … and, though I am generally interested English history as a whole, my real passion and love lies with the history of the English monarchy and, more specifically, Tudor England (I touched on this in my K is for Katherine Parr post, and is quite evident from the incomplete serial – part 1 here).

To this day, Katherine Parr still remains my favourite Tudor. She had quick wit, accomplished many things in her very short lifetime and didn’t let a, frankly, horribly tyrannical husband (and king) push her around. A+ to her!

But I’m not really sure what it is about the Tudors that has me so enthralled. Perhaps it’s their uncanny ability to backstab one another – foe, friend or family is no matter. Or maybe it’s the unchaste society hidden behind a chaste façade. Maybe it’s just because it’s so drastically different to the world we live in today.

My top five favourite events (in no particular order) of the Tudor dynasty are:

  • The first Duke of Suffolk and childhood friend of Henry VIII, Charles Brandon, secretly married a newly widowed Mary Tudor (Henry’s sister) and somehow avoided being sent to the gallows (Henry VIII must have been feeling sentimental that day).
  • Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII), on his deathbed, cut both of his older sisters out of the succession to the English throne and put his cousin, Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Though he was sure that he was doing the right thing (and ultimately giving Jane the greatest gift of all), this act made her queen for nine days before she was imprisoned by Edward’s eldest sister, Mary I, and subsequently beheaded. Ouch.
  • Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves because she didn’t look like her portrait, and instead resembled a horse – a “Flanders Mare”, to be exact. She also couldn’t find the courage to consummate the marriage. But could you blame her?
  • Katherine Parr talked her way out of being beheaded. She was arrested and sent to the tower, but talked her way out of execution. WOW!
  • The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, is rumoured to have been anything but. Whilst staying with Katherine Parr (her step-mother) and Katherine’s new husband (post the death of Henry VIII), Thomas Seymour, it is rumoured that she was caught in various compromising scenarios with the aforementioned man. She is also rumoured to have been impregnated by Seymour at one point in her teens and sent away to have the child in secret. All very scandalous!

Reading about the Tudors, to me, is like viewing Neighbours or Days of Our Lives for others. It’s full of betrayal, manipulations and clandestine relationships – controversy galore!

On the other hand, though, the focus on social courtesy – the curtseying and the bowing and the ‘milords’ and ‘miladies’ – enchants me. I mean, sure, my  husband has ten mistresses and leaves me at home in our country manor whilst he cavorts at court, but I must ensure that I pay calls to all of my husband’s tenants and enquire of their good health because I must uphold the reputation of a good gentleman’s wife.

It’s all about keeping up appearances. We must act as though all is okay, even if the world is crumbling at our feet. It’s an obsession. It’s a necessity. It’s intriguing, to say the least.

The best thing about history though – the amusing bits, anyway – is that it actually happened. Yes, Henry VIII did marry Katherine Howard when he was 49 and she was 19. Yes, Henry VII, after 32 years of warring and bloodshed, did probably one of the most simple yet smart things to permanently end the Wars of the Roses – unite the houses of Lancaster and York through marriage and produce an heir (Henry VIII) who, it could not be disputed, was the rightful heir to the English throne. Yes, Mary I was, most probably, scared of sexual intercourse.

Oh, Tudor family … you were a funny bunch.

A Disinteresting History

I swear Mr Brown aspires to be the most boring person on the planet. His voice sits at one tone for hours. Hasn’t he heard of expression or enthusiasm?

It’s got to the point where I dread going to history class. Who in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to learning about the French Revolution and the Wars of the Roses?  Honestly, I would rather sit in a prison cell and supervise the drying status of a new coat of paint on the interior walls.

Is it possible to slip into a coma from intense boredom?

I yawn involuntarily, my jaw opening wide like a python about to swallow its oversized prey. Bored. So, so bored.

‘Miss Barker, am I putting you to sleep?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Then perhaps you could tell me about the life of Henry VII. Why do we remember him?’

‘Because …’ I desperately sift through my limited historical knowledge, ‘he was … a king?’

‘Not the answer I was looking for, Miss Barker. It would do you good to pay attention.’

And thus, he resumes his droning.

I bet Henry VII didn’t have to do history…

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