It is always so sad to bid farewell to Christmas. Though it should live in our hearts year 'round, it is still bittersweet to bring in the new year. Here is a beautiful look at Christmas...
An Enchanted Cottage: The Miracle of Christmas...: And an angel appeared to Mary and said, (Court, Christmas Angel, Nursery School Play, circa 1994) "Rejoice, the Lord is wit...
31 December 2012
Though Catherine was known amongst her people as a smiling queen of hearts, she was inwardly made of steel with a rock-hard will.
Smiling and kindly, is how Catherine's subjects most often would see their queen. But Catherine was actually a dead-serious woman, and though a queen, she found her life to be one of little joy and much pain and hardship. Sent from Spain to a foreign country, married, widowed, nearly abandoned, married again, marriage, pregnancy, loss of children and infertility--these experiences were ones that Catherine endured, some happy, some sad. The unexpected phase in her life where she was informed she was no longer Queen of England, no longer wife of Henry VIII, her daughter no longer a princess, but a bastard, that experience would be the one that would mark the fight of her life.
As Catherine aged, day by day, she was forced to give up the dream of bearing a son, a son to give to her beloved husband. She gradually accepted her station in life, its limitations, and it wasn't a bad one to her. Catherine loved Henry with every fibre of her being, and she adored her only child, Mary. She believed that Henry also adored the pretty little princess he doted on. The middle aged queen's world was turned on its ear by the appearance of a mysterious lady, one who seemed to be French in appearance and mannerisms. A lady who was seductive, witty, intellectually brilliant, a woman who was much younger than Catherine. This new, dark featured beauty, with shining black eyes and shimmering raven coloured hair was one who just might give Henry a son--a woman who had served in the French court named Anne Boleyn.
It wasn't that Catherine hadn't endured Henry's infidelity before. She certainly had; his beautiful mistress Bessie Blount had even borne a son, Henry Fitzroy by the king. Henry took great care to provide and arrange things very nicely for his illegitimate son and his mother, and Catherine responded with rage. This chapter in their marriage caused serious trouble, to be certain. But Henry still remained at Catherine's side; she was still his queen. Mary was still his princess daughter. But this was different; this was no infatuation guaranteed to subside and fade with time. Henry, to Catherine's horror, was not content to keep Anne as a mistress, not even a formal mistress. He didn't want illegitimate sons by Anne; he wanted a legitimate prince by her. And Henry proved that he would do whatever it took to accomplish those means, split his kingdom in half, and destroy Catherine and Mary if necessary Catherine could not have dreamed that Henry would actually divorce her, and then declare their daughter a bastard. It was inconceivable; it was not possible. Catherine was blind sided and absolutely refused to accept her new title as Dowager Princess and her daughter as the Lady Mary. She refused Henry's terms and counselled Mary to also hold her ground, and refuse the king's new terms. But Catherine would find that Henry's new love was also digging in her heels. Anne would not accept anything less than queen; the sons she expected to give Henry must be legitimate heirs.
Catherine, though for all appearances seemed to face her situation bravely, probably felt more than a little frightened of Anne Boleyn and the power she had over Henry. The two women were opposites in every way. Catherine was past childbearing, and had been sickly for years. The new lady, Anne, looked the picture of health. A tallish woman, with an almost athletic build; she appeared youthful and strong. She wasn't conventionally beautiful, but she was vivacious, with seductive French mannerisms, and radiated a sexy confidence. Henry was besotted, determined to make his raven haired sweetheart queen. As time passed, Anne only grew more confident. Catherine worried and fretted constantly, and grew more sickly. Mary was filled with hate and rage toward the concubine, toward anything and anyone who had facilitated the shameful breakdown of her parent's marriage.
Then a new habit began to emerge between Henry and Anne; they began to argue. The stress of the king's great matter, and how the whole scandal was now dragging out into years, was taking a toll on the couple. Anne grew frustrated and resentful. Time was being lost! Time was being lost in which Anne could have made a good marriage and borne sons, she screamed at Henry. Henry may have hoped that Catherine would either give up, or face defeat via other means. But Catherine would never give up. She continued to call herself queen and Henry VIII's "rightful wife." Catherine refused to give in or give up, and held out even as she lay dying, some of her last words expressing her love for Henry.
This battle would have no winners. All involved would pay terrible prices, as well as affect countless innocent people. Catherine would die an excruciatingly painful death in a lonely faraway castle, if the dreary and cold habitation she was sent away to can be called that. Henry and Anne would marry, but it would end horrifically, ultimately with Anne holding out hope for a pardon almost until the very end. The years of anxiety and anger would take a terrible toll on Mary, who became extremely unstable, and would exact a terrible vengeance on her subjects years later.
at 11:23 Posted by CR Wall
30 December 2012
Mary was actually Philip's aunt, and he sometimes referred to her as his Tia Amada. This is not a romantic pet name as it means beloved aunt. They were related in that Mary was the granddaughter of the late Queen Isabella of Castile; Philip was her great-grandson. Strange as this might seem to modern thinking, marrying within families was considered ideal and a good way to keep political objectives, not to mention wealth, on a straight course.
Philip was not exactly a spectacular male specimen; he had odd, spindly legs and was and quite short. Mary was very short herself, having inherited none of her father's incredible height, and Philip stood over her slightly. But Mary had eyes of blind love for her betrothed, and all she could see was a handsome and dignified man, with a fine featured face and attractive light hair. As far as Mary was concerned, Philip was nothing short of splendid. Philip took care to present himself with meticulous manners and pleasant disposition. If he was disappointed, and he was, Philip took pains to not let it show in in his face. It was essential that Mary not know how Philip really felt about their first face to face meeting.
But Philip was disappointed. Though Mary was attired in a black velvet gown, dripping with large jewels, Philip did not find her at all pleasing. In Mary, Philip saw a woman who was thin, but not in a flattering way,
very pale, and who had a deep resonating voice. But it was some of Philip's men who described Mary so cruelly. They described Mary as sagging, her skin lacking firmness. It was crude of Philip's men to voice such things, but it was true. Mary was physically older than her years. Time had taken its toll on her always frail constitution. Years of chronic depression, anxiety, menstrual difficulties, and digestive problems had ravaged her, and Mary was already in her late 30's. If Mary could have known what Philip thought, and what his men said about her, she would have been crushed. Mary believed that her Philip was just as enamoured with her, as she was with him. Philip knew that Mary would not be a young maiden in the bloom of youth, but he was surprised to find her even older looking than he had believed.
Mary was flush with love after that pleasant first meeting. It was the day before the wedding. She showered Philip with expensive and wonderful gifts. There were finely tailored suits of brocade with diamond and pearl buttons, one of the suits a lush crimson brocade. Philip did not put these gifts on and instead wore a fine purple brocade suit of his choosing. Mary and Philip talked and exchanged kisses. Sadly it was all perfunctory for Philip, something he felt was obligatory, a duty; Mary was walking on clouds.
The actual wedding was a splendid affair. No expense was spared for the nuptials of Queen Mary to her handsome prince. Gorgeously arrayed, Mary shined bright on that day. The wedding day was a rainy one, 25, July. It was a beautiful wedding at Winchester Cathedral. Philip truly looked the Shining Knight as he was dressed that day. He dazzled all in his white breeches and doublet. Philip wore a mantle of gold and crimson, adorned with precious stones. Mary wore a dream of a gown, purple satin set with pearls, French style with wide sleeves, white satin kirtle, high collar, and a train.
The couple must have looked ethereal to their wedding guests on that long ago day. After the ceremony, the newly-weds walked to bishop's palace, where their wedding reception took place .Again, Mary's bliss can only be imagined. She must have believed that the day would begin a whole new life for her, and the end of the misery which had plagued Mary for so many years. The reception fare was pure luxury, with about 140 people in attendance. After the meal, there was a dance, and Spaniards seemed less than impressed by the English ladies there. The Spanish men found the English ladies immodest and distinctly lacking in beauty. Yet by other accounts, many of the English ladies present at the wedding dance were considered beautiful. Clearly, personal biases were at work. The tension between the Spaniards and the English courtiers was already making itself very obvious. The wedding dance ended relatively early, and Mary and Philip left separately to have a final supper. Gardiner blessed the marriage and Mary and Philip were finally left alone.
at 10:21 Posted by CR Wall
27 December 2012
It might have been almost laughable had it not been so sad to describe Anne of Cleves as malodorous, as by this time Henry was suffering from chronic boils and sores which were festering, and by all accounts, horrific smelling. Boils are very painful, and the misery and physical anguish the king was enduring can only be imagined. However, it should be noted, that more than a few members of the court did find Anne of Cleves less than fresh smelling. Before we grow too disparaging of her, the times and conditions in which the Tudors lived must be considered. The whole issue of availability of water is important. Water was of such poor quality for the Tudors as to render it undrinkable. Indeed, they subsisted on ale and beer in order to hydrate themselves. Bathing was a difficult matter and the masses were not particularly clean. Obviously, Anne of Cleves had every resource at her disposal as Queen of England and could have ordered a bath to be drawn as she pleased. But certain cultural beliefs were also in place, such as the superstitious belief, (and this one persisted for 100's of years,) that bathing left the pores open and left the newly washed person in imminent danger of absorbing bad air and thus contracting plague and other horrid diseases. Thus, Anne of Cleve's possible lack of hygiene should be considered within its proper context.
Was Anne of Cleves so truly so unattractive as to resemble a Flanders mare? Modern historians are mostly in agreement; Anne of Cleves was not unattractive, in fact, many people are of the opinion that the discarded queen was rather pretty. Delicately featured, with almond shaped eyes, a finely shaped long nose,
and a perfectly nice mouth, it might have seemed: What wasn't to like?
The case of Anne of Anne of Cleves, however, was more complicated than it seemed at first glance. (And aren't all things in life just so?) The styles of the Cleves sisters, reflecting those of their own Germanic world, were decidedly unappealing to the lusty men of the English court. Their tastes ran to the gorgeous form-fitting velvet and brocade gowns worn by such beauties as Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary. The French hood, which showed a good deal of a woman's face and hair was also very attractive to the male eye. Anne of Cleves wore an entirely different style of clothing, and it is clear that Henry found it decidedly unappealing from the word 'go.'
But let us return to Henry's claim that his new bride was ugly. It was thought by some at the time, and still , that perhaps Hans Holbein had slightly flattered Anne of Cleves when he painted her portrait at Henry's request. But had he? Perhaps, after all, many monarchs and nobles, eager to present younger, more pleasing faces to the world, had often encouraged those who painted their likenesses to made them look as nice as possible. It is doubtful, though, that Anne of Cleves would have made any such statement as she was quite silent through the entire negotiations process prior to her nuptials. Did Holbein think Anne to be so lacking in attractiveness he felt the need to embellish things a bit? Had Cromwell made such a request?
It may help to consider the opinion of a non-biased contemporary source, and this was Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador. After first seeing Anne of Cleves, his opinion was that Anne of Cleves appeared to be about 30, tall and slender, and "of middling beauty." And so, Anne of Cleves may not have been looked as young as she was, (actually 24,) nor as pretty as the people had hoped. Anne may not have been a radiant beauty, at least in Marillac's eyes, but the description of "middling beauty," is a far cry from looking like a horse!
It is far more likely that Henry's rejection of the likable Anne of Cleves had much more to do with a disastrous first impression, than any of Anne's supposed personal defects. (And we all know what is said about first impressions.)
Lady Anna traveled to England with foremost in her heart, a desire to please her king. She was determined that Henry find her pleasing in all things. Fifteen Clevian ladies arrived with Anne, to the annoyance of some in Henry's court. (Remember that it was already clear that these ladies and their mannerisms and styles were not pleasing to the English male courtiers.) The weather grew foul and the ship was tossed but Anne of Cleves remained sweet and kind to all around her. Anne of Cleves even asked if someone might teach her the manner of card games which would please her new husband. The Earl of Southampton did this and reported that Anne played with "good grace" and as any noble lady should.
Finally, on 27 December, Anne of Cleves made the crossing from Calais to Deal. By this time Henry had been waiting for some time at Greenwich, and his patience had worn quite thin, his nerves frayed. A 50 ship fleet including a vessel carrying Anne arrived at Deal early in the evening. Received by the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, the weather was frigid. Lady Anne was taken to the Canterbury abbey of St. Augustine's to rest for the night. Anne spent the night at the abbey and then left for Rochester on 31 December, where she was escorted to Bishop's Palace. Suddenly, and with no advance warning, Henry announced to Cromwell that he would pay his new bride a visit! Henry rode with haste from Greenwich to Rochester, along with several of his men from the Privy Chamber. It was New Year's Day and Henry and his men were attired festively, in multi-colored cloaks. When the entourage arrived Sir Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse, was sent up to Anne's room to notify her that Henry had a New Year's Gift for her. Disguised behind the festive cloak, Henry burst into the room, and Anne continued to watch the bull-baiting from her window. She had no idea who the men were who had entered her room, still knew no English, and said little more than a 'hello' of sorts. After that she turned back to her window. (Her fate may have been positively sealed in the moment.) Then unexpectedly, Henry embraced Anne. She still didn't seem to know who this odd visitor was, and so, she turned yet again to the window. Henry marched into another chamber and donned a purple robe signifying royalty, and returned to Anne who immediately recognized her king, as also others present in the room bowed deeply. Anne of Cleves immediately humbled herself, but it seems the damage was done. While she and Henry were certainly polite with their few words, his first impression of her was ruined. The first thing King Henry said to Cromwell, after leaving the chamber and Anne of Cleves in it was the famous: "I like her not." I
at 14:53 Posted by CR Wall
23 December 2012
Henry VIII's choice of the very young Catherine Howard as his queen was bizarre to say the least. Not only was Queen Cat ridiculously young for the then grossly obese and sickly king, she was entirely unprepared to be the queen of England. And how could anyone have expected anything different?
Catherine Howard was from the powerful Howard clan, but she was decidedly not of a queenly disposition and had a poor upbringing that left her entirely unfit for her eventual station. Given the climate of English politics at the time, and how arbitrary and unpredictable Henry had become, it is little wonder that the poor young queen wound up on the scaffold.
Perhaps it is surprising that Catherine had not thought to tread very softly as the queen of King Henry VIII. Almost predictably, a fatal combination of youth, complete absence of preparedness, and incredible foolishness would lead to ultimate disaster for Catherine. She relied on her youthful beauty and coquetry, seemingly casting off the fact that her own beautiful and brilliant cousin, Anne Boleyn, had perished on the block for supposed adultery and other offenses against the king. While opinions remain divided on Anne's guilt or innocence, Catherine was guilty of brazenly committing adultery with Thomas Culpepper. When at last evidence was presented to the king, as any slightly experienced courtier could have warned Catherine, and she was locked up in her rooms with Lady Rochford, the terrified young girl screamed for an personal audience with her husband and king. Catherine thought that if she could only speak to Henry for a few moments, only gaze in to his eyes, press her hands into his, that all would be well, all forgotten and forgiven. Unfortunately for her, she trusted in youthful romantic notions, and hadn't a clue as to the real and sordid world of politics. Catherine was a child in a cold, adult world.
As one last favor, Catherine asked for the block that she might make practice, learn how to place herself, and "make trial of it." On the cold morning of Monday 13 of February, Catherine Howard, Queen of England was executed. It was said that the young girl, despite the frivolous way she had lived, died with courage and dignity. Catherine was pallid and noticeably weak and faint. But she did manage to give a small and touching final speech. Catherine admitted she had lived sinfully, and asked for prayer for her king. Immediately afterward Lady Rochford would have her turn on the dreaded block.
at 16:30 Posted by CR Wall
The years leading up to Mary's execution were filled with personal heartache, isolation and misery. Elizabeth hadn't known exactly what to do with the tall beauty from the time she arrived as her most unwanted 'guest.' The feeling was quite mutual and both women distrusted the other intensely. Though closely related, the two cousins couldn't have been more different, both in physical looks and personal temperament. A satisfactory understanding would never be accomplished between the two queens. Mary Queen of Scot's claim to the throne was strong enough to make Queen Elizabeth extremely uneasy toward her cousin. Mary was equally resentful as she knew full well that she might sit on Elizabeth's throne had circumstances been different. In typical form Elizabeth veered dramatically in her approach toward handling Mary, and thus confounded her council.
Eventually, in a roundabout yet final way, the death warrant for the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots was executed. She would meet her death with grace and a calm resignation. It is not hard to imagine that Mary had likely all but given up having any hope of happiness in her earthly life. Clearly, Mary was looking ahead to the eternal world, having suffered almost nothing but painful disappointment and disaster in her life. Her three marriages had all ended in heartache. She had been separated from her son James almost immediately after his birth. Mary would never see her son again, and the attitude revealed in his correspondence was that of a child who's mother was a mere stranger to him. In Mary's last years her ladies and her beloved pet dog were her true family. Living in close confinement, always watched and monitored, Mary and her ladies were not unlike a lonely widowed mother surrounded by wholly devoted daughters. Mary's ladies were utterly bereft and grief stricken when they lost their mistress in such a horrifying manner.
Controversy still surrounds the queen's death, and her actual culpability is extremely complicated.. One thing was clear: Queen Elizabeth would live to regret her decision to sign the death warrant for Mary Queen of Scots, and she would attempt to distance herself from her own choice.
at 14:16 Posted by CR Wall
22 December 2012
It must be noted however, that Mary is most remembered for two reasons: that she was once the mistress of King Henry VIII, and that she had a dreadful reputation. The actual words used to describe Mary are too cruel and too offensive to warrant mention here.
Did Mary Boleyn earn her reputation? What had she done in her short lifetime to deserve such abusive terms to describe her person?
It is largely assumed that the beginnings of Mary's injured reputation were when she served in the French court, a court infamous for its wanton ways. Francoise I would have been a 21 year old prince at this time and was already known as a hopeless womanizer. Francis likely bragged to courtiers of Henry VIII's court that Mary had been one of the innumerable young ladies that he had conquered. Whether Mary had actually been a sometime mistress to Francis is a matter of debate. We only know with certainty that Mary had, for a time, been a mistress to Henry. The amoral climate of the French court during Mary's time of service to Queen Mary of France was so licentious that English courtiers were shocked when visiting, or at least pretended to be. "Rarely did any maid or wife leave that court chaste," one contemporary famously said.
The view the English courtiers held of the French court certainly did nothing to help Mary's reputation. But it seems that the only suggestion that Mary had been Francoise's mistress during her servitude in the French court, the only one that might give pause, came from Rodolfo Pio, the Bishop of Faenza. He described Mary Boleyn as "a very great whore, and infamous above all." In fact, many contemporary sources described Mary Boleyn has having been so wanton that "she would sleep with anyone on both sides of the Channel." While Mary had certainly not have been a paragon of virtue as was involved in a fairly lengthy extra-marital relationship with the married King Henry VIII whilst she herself was married, the aforementioned description of Mary seems unfair, and likely untrue. Pio was known to despise the Boleyns for being anti-papist and he had made exaggerated claims about the family in the past. Though Pio's attitude toward Mary might be very suspect, it should also be noted that Francis described Mary Boleyn in much the same ugly manner as had Pio. However, if Mary had carried on any dalliance with Francis, it was not well-known, making it more unlikely given the rampant gossip that ran through both the French and English courts at that time.
There was likely another factor in the evil reputation that followed Mary Boleyn, and this would have been the incredible unpopularity of her sister Anne, in both the English and French courts. Anne was hated in England, and often spoken of with vile in France as well. That people would have also described Mary in such shocking tones would not have been surprising.
In truth, there is very little evidence to suggest that Mary Boleyn had done anything to deserve the epitaphs which follow her to this day. It must also be considered that Mary was the mistress of the misogynistic King Henry VIII, and it is almost certain that he would have not taken as a mistress a woman of infamous and foul reputation. Almost certainly it can be assumed that other factors weighed on Mary's acceptance of Henry's adulterous attentions. Henry's subjects were not in the habit of denying the great king anything, and Mary may have also been pushed into Henry's attentions by her ambitious parents. The true origins of Mary's poor reputation were likely of the very same stuff as that which whispered that Anne Boleyn had six fingers, a snaggle tooth, and a huge ugly wen under her chin. Anne Boleyn was viewed as a usurping upstart, a dangerous dark eyed temptress, who had successfully seduced King Henry from his rightful queen, the entirely beloved Katherine of Aragon.
at 16:39 Posted by CR Wall