One Wedding and a Funeral

 

All eyes will be on St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle next Saturday, May 19, 2018 as Prince Harry ties the knot with his American princess, Meghan Markle.

The event has been dubbed the ‘wedding of the century’ – much in the same way the wedding of Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer back in 1981 was the ‘wedding of the (20th) century’.  These nuptials, however, are filled with controversy.

In case you have been living under a rock, or missing the News, I will fill you in on the juicy details.

Former bad boy and beloved troublemaker Prince Harry – AKA Henry Charles Albert David Windsor, Prince of Wales – announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle on November 27, 2017.  Harry’s former outrageous antics include underage drinking, pot smoking, dressing as a Nazi for a costume party, and being photographed naked after he lost at a game of ‘strip billiards’ in Las Vegas.

Prince Harry Blames Wild Behavior On Princess Diana's Death

But now!

In making Meghan his bride, Harry the rebel is breaking with tradition, big time!

First of all, Meghan is an ‘older woman’. (Only by three years. But still.) Second of all, Meghan is a divorcee. (Not such a big deal, considering Harry’s father is also a divorcee who married a divorcee.) Meghan was an actress. (Gasp! Luckily she quit that scandalous profession.)  She is an American, she is of mixed race and a commoner.

Meghan is not the first American commoner to enter the Royal Family. Before her there was Wallis Simpson, who in 1936 famously caused Kind Edward VIII to abdicate his throne in order to marry her. (Read more about Wallis Simpson HERE.)

Neither is Meghan the first woman of mixed race. Before her there was Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married King George III in 1761.  Charlotte was a direct descendant of  Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House.  Harry is also a descendant of Queen Charlotte, so technically Harry is part black too. Albeit some 250 years past. (Read more about Queen Charlotte HERE.)

Perhaps the most controversial thing about Meghan is that she was raised Catholic. Prior to 2015, the law would have forbidden Harry from marrying outside the Anglican Church. The new law declared that the reigning monarch would be considered ‘defender of the faiths’ rather that ‘defender of The Faith’ (meaning only the Anglican Faith). Hence Catholicism is sort of okay.  Although Henry VIII is perhaps turning in his grave. Read on.

Some people are welcoming this new, 21st century style marriage with open arms, while others have condemned it. And yet! There is one more, less talked about ‘controversy’ that everyone seems to be ignoring, except those of us who are (like me!) rabid Tudor fans.

The glaring elephant in the room here is… NOT Meghan’s background. Consider this: The royal wedding will occur on PRECISELY THE SAME DATE that QUEEN ANNE BOLEYN was BEHEADED AT THE TOWER OF LONDON!!

Cue eerie organ music.

What were they thinking? This is surely bad luck. The ghost of Anne has been known to haunt various locales in and around London. These include:

  • Hever Castle, her childhood home
  • Blickling Hall, her alleged birthplace
  • The Tower of London, where she was executed
  •  Windsor Castle, where Anne and Henry resided during their marriage

Was it unwise of Harry and Meghan to choose this ominous date? Are they stealing Anne’s thunder in doing so? Will there be consequences?

Maybe not.  After all, Anne, like Meghan, was a bit of an ‘outsider’ herself when she decided to wed the still married King Henry.

Anne Boleyn became a lady in waiting in the court of Henry’s wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, in 1521. Henry was anxious that Catherine (also an ‘older woman’ being six years Henry’s senior) was unable to bear him a son. By 1527 Henry was questioning the validity of his marriage and set his sights on the younger and presumably more fertile Anne.

Henry begged Catherine for a divorce. She said no way.  Henry began a relationship with Anne, flaunting her in public and taking her on various outings. In the meantime he started bugging his religious people, Cardinal Wolsey in particular, to figure out a way that he could get a ‘legal’ divorce from Catherine. Wolsey petitioned the Pope. The Pope said no way.  England was a Catholic county, divorce was impossible.

Henry and Anne got married anyway, in a secret ceremony which took place on November 14, 1532. Henry was of course, still married to Catherine.

Anne soon became pregnant. There was a second wedding service, which took place in London on January 25, 1533. Henry was of course, still married to Catherine. Eventually Henry decided to break from the Catholic Church and create his own church where he was essentially the Pope.

And you thought Prince Harry was controversial?

To make a long story short, Anne gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth, but ultimately failed to give Henry a son. So… Henry needed to get out of that marriage too. He got his legal counsel to nail Anne and several men on charges of adultery/ treason. These so-called adulterers even included Anne’s brother George Boleyn. All were arrested, taken to the Tower and executed. Anne was the last to die, thus leaving her to witness the long line of bloodbaths. She was beheaded on May 19, 1536.

But the restless spirit of Anne is far from dead. According to eye witness accounts, Anne has been known to haunt the Tower of London.

In one story, a Captain of the Tower Guard claimed he saw a light flickering in the Royal Chapel one night.  The chapel was locked, so the Captain tried to find the source of the light by climbing up a ladder and looking inside. He then saw a wondrous sight; a procession of Knights and Ladies dressed in ancient costumes were parading around the chapel.  Their leader, he claimed, resembled Anne Boleyn from the portraits he had seen. The procession soon disappeared.

In 1864, a soldier, on duty near the Lieutenant’s lodgings, made another sighting of Anne’s ghost. He claimed to have seen an intruder, the pale figure of a woman. He confronted her but when she refused to respond he plunged his bayonet into what he thought was her flesh.

To his complete shock, the weapon went straight through her. There was another witness to this event; an officer stationed in the Bloody Tower claimed to have seen the whole incident from his window and verified the soldier’s story.

Blickling Hall in Norfolk is believed by many historians to be Anne’s birthplace. Each year on May 19th, Anne is said to return to Blickling Hall in a carriage drawn by six headless horses and driven by a headless coachman. The carriage gallops up the driveway to reveal a headless Anne sitting inside. She is dressed in white and holds her severed head in her lap.

When the carriage reaches the front doors, Anne goes inside where she roams the halls until daybreak.

Also on May 19 Anne’s brother, George, has been seen being dragged across the countryside by four headless horses. His headless ghost then wanders around the grounds of the Blickling estate, pleading for justice.

Blickling Hall is also said to be haunted by their father, Sir Thomas Boleyn. (Sir Tom, it should be noted, dropped the ball on his own children, choosing not to come to their defense when they were accused of incest, adultery and treason. Instead he sided with Henry, mostly to save his own skin and stay in the King’s good favor.)  Some say Thomas Boleyn is the driver of the coach that delivers Anne to Blickling Hall. After dropping Anne off at the front doors at midnight, Sir Thomas continues on. He is pursued by hoards of screaming demons who condemn him for his betrayal of his family.  According to this legend, Sir Tom is forced, as his penance, to drive the spectral carriage over 12 bridges between Wroxham and Blickling for 1,000 years.

But Blickling Hall is safely far away. What about Windsor Castle, where the wedding of Harry and Meghan will actually take place?

Anne’s ghost has reportedly been seen standing at a window in the Dean’s Cloister of Windsor Castle. Henry VIII also haunts the castle — guests claim to have heard his  footsteps echo along the corridors. Henry, who in life suffered ill health and a painful leg wound due to a jousting accident, has apparently brought these ailments with him to the afterlife. The ghost of Henry moans and groans as he miserably drags his ulcerated leg  behind him through the hallways.

And that’s not all.

The ghost of Queen Elizabeth I haunts the Royal Library of Windsor Castle as well.  Bess’ heels have been heard clicking along the floorboards in a steady gait. Her ghost then appears, passes through the library and disappears into an inner room.

Bess’ ghost has been seen standing at a window in the Dean’s Cloister, wearing a black dress with a black lace shawl. Since Anne has also been seen in the Dean’s Cloister, perhaps mother and daughter have reunited in the afterlife.

But all that is old history. Surely the date of Anne’s execution should have no bearing upon the date of this current wedding. Right?

It is interesting to note that Prince Harry is a descendant of Anne Boleyn. How so, you ask? Well…

It seems Queen Elizabeth II (Harry’s Grandma) is related to Anne Boleyn through the children of her sister, Mary. Mary Boleyn, we may recall, is famous for having an affair with King Henry before Anne came into the picture.

The Queen Mother (Harry’s Great Grandma) is descended from Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn.

Furthermore…

Catherine Carey was the mother of Lettice Knollys, the Countess of Essex. Lettice, who was Queen Bess’ cousin, was also her Lady in Waiting. Lettice made the great mistake of marrying Robert Dudley, Master of the Horse, who was Queen Bess’ favorite, and also rumored to be Bess’ lover.

And you thought Meghan Markle was controversial?

Needless to say, Bess disapproved of the marriage.  Lettice was banished from court, never to return again. Bess, however, forgave Robert and restored his position.

But back to the blood line. Queen Elizabeth II, and hence Prince Harry, descend from the Boleyn line through Lettice Knollys. In further controversial news, a very high degree of probability exists that Mary Boleyn’s children, Catherine and Henry Carey, were the illegitimate children of Henry VIII. This is because Mary’s pregnancies coincided with the time she was having an affair with Henry.

Therefore:  the current Queen of England can presumably claim descent from Henry VIII both through her patriarchal line (via Margaret Tudor who married James IV of Scotland) and through her matriarchal line by way of the Queen Mum.

Got that? Prince Harry descends from both the Boleyn and Tudor bloodlines.  With all this haunting going on – perhaps it would have been wise for him to choose a less ominous day for his wedding…

Come what may, Meghan and Harry are very much in love, and they will be married next week. We wish them the best of luck!

What do you think of Meghan, Harry and the hauntings? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Anne Boleyn, Women’s Martyr

 

anne-boleyn_fan_art

On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed by beheading, after being held prisoner in the Tower of London for four days and declared guilty of high treason.  The formal charges against her were adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king.  (Most historians agree these were bogus accusations.) However, Anne’s actual crime was miscarrying two babies and not being able to provide a male heir to succeed King Henry.

As we know, Anne had given birth to a daughter named Elizabeth who later became queen, one of the strongest monarchs ever to rule Great Britain. King Henry, of course, would never live to see this. Henry, in his quest to bear legitimate male heirs, notoriously married six times, broke with the Catholic Church and changed the trajectory of Great Britain’s future. He divorced two of his wives (Catherine of Argon and Anne of Cleves) and sent another two to the block — Anne Boleyn and her cousin Katherine Howard.  All of these woman had committed the crime of not bearing a son.

Why all the fuss over a male heir?

Apparently, the laws had strictly adhered to a thing called ‘male preference primogeniture’ which meant, in essence, boys came first. Girls became rulers only if there were no available boys to take over.

Anne-and-Elizabeth

Females had a slim right to the throne, but it was complicated: “Male-preference primogeniture accords succession to the throne to a female member of a dynasty if she has no living brothers and no deceased brothers who left surviving legitimate descendants. A dynast’s sons and their lines of descent all come before that dynast’s daughters and their lines. Older sons and their lines come before younger sons and their lines. Older daughters and their lines come before younger daughters and their lines.”  — Wikipedia

This archaic practice was in effect for over 900 years. It began with the Norman Conquest and stayed strong all the way up to 2011 (yes, 2011!)  when sixteen Commonwealth leaders finally agreed to change the succession laws. In 2013 a formal a act of parliament changed the established ‘male preference primogeniture’ to ‘absolute primogeniture’, thus allowing female babies an equal part in the royal heritage .

Great Britain, what took you so long?

If only they had been so enlightened 500 years earlier! They would have put an end to Henry’s worries, saved Anne’s head and certainly given Elizabeth a much easier reign…

As it turned out, Anne’s daughter ruled England for over forty years.  She defeated the Spanish Armada, stabilized religion, avoided a lot of unnecessary wars and brought peace and prosperity to the land.

She was known as ‘Gloriana’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’.

red head

Here is an interesting documentary about Anne’s execution. (Running time about 30 minutes.) Hope you get a chance to watch!

 

 

 

 

The April Fool

 

court jester 3

They called me Jane the Foole, but it was they who were foolish, believing as they did in the atrocities of government and church. At Court I stayed close to my Lady Catherine Parr, yet closer still to Elizabeth Tudor, for I knew it was Elizabeth who would one day conquer all.

I juggled, danced and told many a story.  In my raiments of motley and purple, I entertained the greatest of statesmen.  I was merely a jester, yet it was my good fortune to have a room of my own, a canopied bed, the finest of costumes and best of all, access to the royal kitchen.

Truth be told, I did not care much for King Henry. He was an old lecher and I had watched him behead many a woman. In the last days of his life I know he suffered, for the Fates cannot be kind to any man who takes a woman’s love and devotion so lightly.

The poison I gave to Henry’s cook was unknown to all but me. It was an act of mercy, for the man was obese to the point of vulgarity, his leg ulcer constantly inflamed. To make matters worse, he was deranged of mind and smelled badly. Trust me, death was a blessing.

When Henry died his son Edward, a mere boy of nine, took the throne. I disliked Edward, yet I stayed in his household. The boy was not much of a leader, taking counsel from greedy sycophants, lords and earls.  It was only my Lady Elizabeth who was fit to lead, that I knew, sure as I knew the bells on my own headfrock.

At age fifteen the boy king took ill. His symptoms looked to the world like the consumption, but I knew better. Edward was a mere cog in the wheel, a false ruler to be disposed of. And so, when I gave the poison to his cook I was left unfazed. This was my duty to the Crown, a step in my own advancement.

When Edward died,  his cousin, the Lady Jane Grey became queen. Of necessity, her reign was short, lasting only nine days, for she had been placed on the throne against her own will in a conspiracy.  She was declared treasonous and sent to the block. My work in her demise was therefore minimal.

The sweetcake I brought to Lady Jane Grey in her jail cell at the Tower would serve only to ease her pain. “Eat it right before the beheading,” I told her.

She nodded in agreement, for the poor child was bewildered, having served only as a pawn in this deadly game of thrones. I watched her eat the sweetcake, then blindfolded, she faced her executioner. Death enveloped her just before the ax hit her nubile young throat.

Jane Grey

The Lady Mary, Henry’s oldest daughter, then took the throne.

The Queen Mary kept me yet at the palace where I continued to amuse and delight.  In the meantime, my Lady Elizabeth was placed in the Tower on treasonous charges against her own sister.  They were false of course, Elizabeth a mere victim in a political plot designed by Mary’s enemies.  Amateurs! The true business was always best left to me.

I made it my duty to visit Elizabeth in her damp and murky chamber. “Fret not my Lady,” I told her. “Plans are set and in place.” I then gave her a sly wink and she knew, in the way only a secretive and powerful woman could know, of my intentions. I dared not utter them, for the Tower was filled with ears and spies.

I bided my time, waiting and watching.

The good of England was only ever in my thoughts. Tho’ I was but a foole, I knew a disaster when I saw one. This monarchy was a disaster, many slaughtered under the reign of Bloody Mary, many brought to the pyre.

There were burnings of devout Protestants, the likes of which the country had never seen before nor would ever see again. I watched it all. The flames as they crept high over the stakes, the victims as they wailed in terror.

burning-at-stake

The lucky ones were given a pouch of gunpowder, so to end their misery sooner. Such uncouth barbarism, never had I witnessed before!  And all in the name of religion, politics and other things, much too foolish to abide.

The Queen Mary was ill of health, a tumor in her chest that grew to large proportions. I watched as she became weaker.  I suspect her conscience was troubled also and her health reflecting it. The poison I gave to her cook was an act of mercy and one I have never regretted.

And so it was, on a blustery day in November, the year 1558, the Queen Mary finally breathed her last and my Lady Elizabeth took the throne.

“I’ll keep you close Jane Foole,” Elizabeth whispered to me, flashing the royal ring in my eyes.  “For I know your power is not merely to entertain, but to dole death as well as life.”

Elizabeth was the one, the only one, who never underestimated me.

The reign of my Lady Elizabeth was long, lasting nigh fifty years. I stayed with her through it all. None noticed, save for Elizabeth herself, and a few of the other servants, that during this time I aged not a day. I watched with amusement as those around me withered and fell. Even the great Queen was unable to stave off the wrinkles of time, much to her dismay. She was a vain sort and begged me give her the potion of youth. Instead I spread her face with crushed eggshells which served to hide her age spots nicely.

Painting of Queen Elizabeth I of England Elizabeth 1_original.j

I told her (and rightfully so) that my potion of eternal youth was not for princes nor noblemen, but only to be used by we, the Fooles, born into this life of jesting and merriment.

When my Queen could no longer kick her heels in a dance, and my Lord Cecil of the privy council had wasted away before us, I continued my jesting. My jokes and story telling, as well as my face were much same as they had been in the court of King Henry years before.  None bothered to question me, for it was assumed I could not possibly be that same Jane. None examined a fool too closely, for we were but ornaments; the entertainment, amusement and artifice taken for granted.

The Queen grew fragile, debilitated by her long years in office. Finally, on a rain soaked day in March, the year 1603, she summoned me with her last request.

The poison I slipped to Elizabeth’s cook was unknown to all but the Queen and myself. Still a troubled soul, she remained standing and fully awake, biting her own fingernails until she took her last breath, the poison finally doing its work.

As for myself, after Elizabeth’s reign I vanished from court. I had no desire to serve under her cousin James.  My work was done. Besides, the golden age of the jester was fading and would soon be forgotten, replaced by the stage, the works of Master Shakespeare and all that would later take to to the fine art of merriment.

My Queen, ever faithful, had left in my name an enormous country estate, the deed and keys belonging to me only.

estate 2

There I have lived quietly ever after.  I have seen the turn of some four hundred summers. Laughter and my own elixirs  being the best medicine, I still have not aged a day.

I have taken seventeen husbands and birthed seventy-one children. All of them became fine entertainers as was appropriate to the eras in which they were born. They scattered to all corners of the earth, bearing offspring of their own who carry on my traditions.

court jester 6

Yet I grew weary of this world.

And so it was.

On April 1st, 2017 in the Year of Our Lord now called Common Era, on the day they have named specifically  for fools, I Jane the Foole played the last of my (very practical) jokes. The poison I gave to my own cook was only known by me. I passed quietly, painlessly, and peacefully into the night.

All I will tell you of the realm I entered is that it is beautiful, a land of summer where the flowers bloom quite indecently. There is always much laughter and merrymaking. There is no poison, no aging, no politics, no religion, no kings nor queens.  And there is, most certainly, never a need for the employment of fools.

flowers 4

 

** NOTE: The real Jane Foole, pictured below in this 1545 portrait, was the only female court jester ever recorded in history. She is believed to have served three generations in the Tudor dynasty.

jane foole

The full painting below features (left to right) jester Jane Foole, Mary Tudor, Prince Edward, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour (posthumous), Elizabeth Tudor and another jester Will Somers.

King Henry