Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Weasel and the Hag

Margaret Beaufort was born at Bletsoe Castle, Bedfordshire, on May 31st, 1443. Her father, John Beaufort, was a great-grandson of King Edward III, through his third surviving son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  At the time of John’s death, Margaret was the heiress to his fortune, being his only child.  In 1453, King Henry VI granted Margaret’s ward-ship to his own half brothers, Jasper and Edmund Tudor.  On the 1st of November, 1455, when she was twelve, Margaret married the 24 year old Edmund Tudor.  Edmund died of the plague while in captivity, leaving behind a 13-year old Margaret, who was 7 months pregnant.

Who was Margaret Beaufort?  Upon Margaret’s birth, her wet nurses described her as voracious and feisty.  By the age of one year, Margaret had uttered her first words….”throne” and “queen”.  By the age of three, she could often be found at the window, staring longingly at the knights as they honed their skills of war.  She could be heard asking her governess if she could take her sword to the battlefield one day.  By the age of 5, Margaret was reciting 100 Hail Mary’s a day, and regularly wore a hairshirt under her gown.  Margaret was very aware of her royal bloodline through her great, great-grandfather, but being a woman, also realized that the only way she would ever feel the power of the throne was by giving birth to a son.

DH1

So young at the time of her marriage, Edmund begged her to wait to consummate the match until her body was ready, but she would not hear of it.  Plying Edmund with fine Burgundian wine, Margaret was determined to plant the seed of her future in her womb.  With talk of war, there was no time to wait.  Margaret led Edmund to her bedchamber, she prayed to the Virgin Mother to grant her a male child, while Edmund lay in a drunken stupor on her bed, now eagerly anticipating a night of passion with his young vixen.  Six weeks later, Margaret found herself pregnant, and giving praise to the saints, she donated a large sum of money to her local priory in thanksgiving.  Upon the death of Edmund, Margaret had no fear, as she knew her future was secured with the child growing in her womb.

After a long and strenuous birth, Margaret heard the words she had longed for: “It’s a boy!”  The boy child was cleaned and swaddled and brought to Margaret, who was eagerly anticipating looking into the eyes of the future king.  But what she saw was a scrawny little weasel.  Margaret had no idea what she did wrong to deserve such a disappointing little twit.  As time passed, the situation did not improve.  The child, named Henry, was short and wimpy, slow to walk, slow to talk and just an all-around disappointment to his mother.  Strangely, once he began his schooling, it was clear that he had a talent for numbers, budgeting and general financial acuity.  Watching this tragedy unfold, Margaret had no choice but to take matters into her own hands.  There was no way she would allow this weasel…son or not….get in the way of her dreams.  Margaret would train.  Margaret would fight.  Margaret would rise.  Nothing would stop her.

DH2

Modern Recreation of Henry VII

During this time, the War of the Roses was in full-swing.  The throne passed back and forth between Edward IV and Henry VI.  With the mysterious death of the Lancastrian King Henry VI and his heir Edward of Lancaster, Yorkist Edward IV finally regained the throne permanently in 1471.  Those loyal to the Lancastrian cause fled to Brittany, where they lived in exile for the next 14 years.  Being a threat to the Yorkist reign, young Henry accompanied his Uncle Jasper into exile.  Margaret remained in England, by now married to her third husband, Thomas Stanley.  She regularly received reports from Jasper, who complained vehemently of Henry’s refusal to train, preferring to do maths with the local schoolboys.

In 1483, Edward IV suddenly died after being poisoned by his up-start wife, Elizabeth Woodville, who longed to see her own son on the throne.  But it would not be….there was another savior waiting in the wings – Richard of Gloucester, younger brother to Edward IV.  Richard was renowned for his kindness, his piety, his loyalty, and his rugged good looks.  Richard had known of the precontract of marriage between his brother Edward and Eleanor Butler.  But loyal to the core, Richard would not reveal this secret while his brother was alive.  But he could not, in good conscious, allow a bastard onto the throne. Seizing his nephews and sending them to Burgundy, and the disappearance of Vaughn, Hastings and Grey, cleared the way for the glorious Richard to take his rightful seat on the throne.

Margaret was shattered.  In no way could her twerpy son compete with the now-Richard III, who could only be compared to an Adonis.  After a short chit-chat with God, Margaret knew what she had to do.  Plan B went into effect.  Margaret, who spent her entire life planning for her future on the throne, could in no way send her useless son into battle, where he would surely meet his demise.  Why would a woman who planned her whole life to be in power allow her only son take such a risk, you ask?  She didn’t.  She would train day and night to become a mighty warrior and win this battle herself.  Margaret had no choice but to poison the minds of the English people against poor, innocent Richard III.  Margaret implemented the Tudor Propaganda machine to great success.  She sent letters both home and abroad, speaking of the evils of Richard III.

DH3

In 1484, Margaret commissioned two identical sets of armor.  Trusting in her wishy-washy husband, Thomas Stanley, she revealed her plan.  He would train her for the battle that lie ahead against the glorious King Richard III.  When the time came, Henry, Jasper and a small army made up of French and Scottish forces, sailed to England.  Landing at Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire, Henry reunited with his mother Margaret after a 14 year absence.  Margaret scoffed at the sight of her pathetic son.  Henry asked his mother how he could possibly defeat Richard in battle.  “He’s a great warrior, Mama!  Beautiful and strong!  There is no way I could match his skill on the battlefield!”  Margaret replied, “Shut up, Boy!  Momma’s got this!  I know he’s illustrious, but not as illustrious as me!”  Dressing Henry in peasant’s clothes, Margaret donned her armor and mounted Henry’s horse.  The chroniclers report that Henry sighed with great relief.  He took his place in the back of the war party, happily keeping track of the finances and inventory of supplies.

The army marched to Bosworth, with Margaret leading the way, her true identity hidden by the magnificent armor that she wore.  Upon reaching the sight of the upcoming battle, Henry was told to hide in the woods with the women and children accompanying the war party.  Margaret, with Sir William Brandon and Rhys ap Thomas, at her side, marched to the front lines.  Richard shone in all his glory on the opposite side of the field, and his cries of “TREASON!” could be heard all across the English countryside.  Richard and his great white courser charged directly towards Margaret/Henry, hoping to end the battle decisively and quickly.  Richard heroically cut down Sir William Brandon, and unhorsed the giant warrior, Sir John Cheyne.  Before coming within reach of Margaret Beaufort, Richard jumped off his horse, challenging Margaret to a duel.   Before Margaret could respond with a defiant, “Show me what you got!”, the wild Welshman Rhys ap Thomas came from behind and gave Richard a blow to the head that would be the beginning of the end of Yorkist rule.  Richard’s crown was seen flying through the air and landed in a white rose bush.  To ensure the future of her rule, Margaret hacked at Richard’s prone, lifeless body.  She could be seen running and grabbing the crown and putting it on her head.  Spotting Richard’s riderless white courser, Margaret leapt upon the beast’s back.  Disappearing into the woods, all that could be heard was “A Horse!  A Horse!  My Kingdom and a Horse!”

-Jeff Fuel and Jeff Roe Tull

 

Sources

Wikipedia

John Ashdown Hill

Whatever

The dream I had last Tuesday night after eating spicy Buffalo wings

Beady Bob, descendant of Henry VII, 37 times removed, and current generator of Tudor Propaganda (I hate him)

Jeff Fuel is super excited to have received his ticket to the internment of Richard III.  He hasn’t been this excited since 1982, when Pink Floyd released, “The Wall”.

Jeff RoeTull is currently recovering from food poisoning after finding and consuming a rare tin of caviar dating back to 1945.  Not in a hurry to recover, he is convinced that his tummy troubles enhance his ability to speak to dead people.

Finally Located in Basildon: Elizabeth I’s Missing Member.

Wending on my winsome way as I am wont to do, lonely as a cloud with my head among the stars, I stumbled into a disused ha-ha somewhere outside the Essex town of Basildon. I flailed about for a little, partly trying to recover my composure, but also gaining some enjoyment from the motion, when my knee knocked against something sharp. With deft fingers, I quickly unearthed a long, cylindrical object covered in mud, about as heavy as a bag of sugar. And I knew I had something. Years of watching Antiques Roadshow had not gone to waste. There was a glint, a glimmer, a hint of promise in it, so I stuffed it into my pocket and made like a lithe person.

I perched myself on a grassy knoll, somewhere beside the A127 and examined my find. With the aid of a bottle of Evian and a pocket handkerchief, I gradually revealed a long, slightly curved shape, something like a gherkin that seemed to be made of glass, although so grimed by centuries of greyness that I could make neither head or shoulder of it. Nor knees or toes either. At both ends, the object appeared to be encased in metal of a dull bronze colour, engraved with some sort of decoration that might have included leaves, flowers and circles. Intriguingly though, there was a distinct rattle: not of something that had become dislodged over time, but most distinctly of something contained within. Yet try as I might, I could not manage to prise it out.

skies

The skies over Basildon.

My choices were few. The A127 hummed along on one side and on the other lay the waterlogged fields where a small herd of cattle nibbled pitifully. But there, in the distance, there was a broken church spire. Once the proud community landmark, it had lost its prophetic top hat and now presented a flat top to the sky. I reached it as a lone bell in the tower was pealing and the vicar was scraping chewing gum off a misericord. He cast me the look of a man tired, but I went to meet him eagerly, bearing forth my find. When he saw what lay in my hands, his demeanour changed at once.

“Oh! No! No dead things, absolutely no dead things, they make the church smell.”

“No, no, it’s something else,” I urged, “it’s solid and hollow at the same time, I think it’s old.”

In the vestry, we applied every substance and implement we could find, until the mystery item yielded up some of its secrets. The vicar held it up to candlelight, his eyes aglow.

“I don’t believe it! I can’t be! I’ve heard legends of its existence but I never really thought…”

“What? What is it?”

“Look, this central section is carved from crystal, hollowed out to create a chamber inside. It’s bound in gold on either end, and these things that the toothpaste cleared up so well; those are emeralds.”

“Emeralds?”

“Yes, it’s a high status item. A reliquary dating from the late sixteenth century.”

A term of lectures under Dr Mutton Chop came back to me. “Hang on, I thought they’d done away with reliquaries, icons and all that stuff by then. Weren’t they all collected by Cromwell and burned on a pyre at Chelsea?”

“Yes indeed. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. This isn’t a reliquary. It is the reliquary.”

The reliquary?”

“If I’m not very much mistaken,” he dribbled, “this is the reliquary known as the Virgin’s Pizzle, made at Greenwich in 1603. Rumour has it that it was interred in the old chapel at Greenwich Palace but that with the erosion of the Thames, and a series of Victorian storms, some of those goods were carried down river. Metal detectors regularly turn them up on the Essex mudflats.”

“The Virgin’s Pizzle? What on earth?”

He nodded. “I know, but it is exactly what it sounds like. You’ve heard the legends that Elizabeth I was actually a man?”

I laughed. “What nonsense.”

“Nonsense, is it? That’s what they all want you to think. Dr Blarney was successful. But no, she wasn’t, not according to a diary entry made in code by the doctor who carried out her post-mortem.”

At this point, I could scarcely believe my ears, but I encouraged the man to tell me all and he was faithful to a fault. He knew about the diary only because, as a young trainee, he had access to secret records held at Lambeth House. Whilst researching the baptism of a certain dwarf pig in the 1270s, he had found a note scribbled in the back of a diary in an unrecognisable cipher. Having spent the intervening forty years attempting to decode it, he had finally managed to ascertain that the entry, made by a Dr U.R. Blarney, referred to his examination of Elizabeth I’s body, prior to her embalmment in March 1603.

“He spoke of their horror, of a secret oath,” the vicar whispered, although we were quite alone in the church, save for the ghosts of the past. “A secret oath, that each of the five doctors were forced to swear, on pain of immediate death. He swore along with them, of course, but there was more and Dr Blarney’s conscience clearly did not rest easy. It was only a few scratched lines, but he conveyed the incredible secret that the Queen had, after all, been born a man. Worse still, he had seen the terror, the fear in these doctor’s faces, the panic as they struggled to conceal their knowledge; the shame and dishonour to the great memory of their glittering majesty. So he acted on impulse. The Queen must be buried as she had lived: as a great woman. With his surgical blade, Blarney had snipped off the offending item and ordered the creation of what he called the casket. His diary entry was finished only with the words “crystal and emerald, Greenwich Chapel, 27 March 1603.”

I looked at the object. I gave it a little rattle. I could scarcely believe that it contained the organ of the great virgin queen. I confessed myself at a loss; to whom could I trust this knowledge, this great secret, without letting it become tainted, discredited, ridiculed? I stuffed it up my jumper and ran out of the church. The vicar was chasing after me, almost close enough to reach me at one point, although he must have forgotten about the existence of the ha-ha.

At home, I sit and wait. The reliquary sits in an armchair opposite me, on the other side of the fire, warming slightly. The clock ticks. My heart beats. Where will this discovery take me?

reliquary

A crystal reliquary dating from the early medieval period, but not The Reliquary of the Virgin’s Pizzle.

Sources

O’Mahoney, Bernard Essex Boys: A Terrifying Expose of the British Drugs Scene 2011

Walker,H. Hedingham Ware: A Medieval Pottery Industry in North Essex: Its Product and Distribution East Anglian Archaeology, 2012

Lambeth Palace Archives

Jeff R Vescent has currently gone to ground.

Jane Austen, William Marshall and Pride and Prejudice

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged…..’

Almost everyone the world over who has ever done English literature will recognise this line as the opening line of chapter one of book one of Jane Austen’s ‘’Pride and Prejudice’’.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel of manners by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. Elizabeth had four sisters and no brothers and although their parents were alive, their future was bleak as the estate was entailed.Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was a prolific writer and was encouraged in this by her family.   Biographical information concerning Jane Austen is “famously scarce” (Fergus, “Biography”, Jane Austen in Context.) Only some personal and family letters remain, by one estimate only 160 out of Austen’s 3,000 letters are extant (Le Faye, “Letters”, Jane Austen in Context).

Archivist Jean Hansons, however, has recently discovered what she believes to be a new document revealing that Jane thought up the idea for the story after reading about the life of William Marshall of ‘The Greatest Knight’ fame, who at the time of his death in 1219 left four sons and five daughters and when the sons all died early, left the girls initially in an equally precarious position.

The document, written in her small right-sloping neat hand, is not addressed but appears to be pages three and four of a letter, written on both sides of paper in a cramped style, even adding tiny notes up the left margin of the last page. Experts and hand writing analysts are examining the document to determine its authenticity but an initial evaluation by experts has tentatively suggested that it is genuine. Another possibility is that it could be an excellent simulation by a group of people known collectively as the Jeffs, although experts have said that not even they could be this good.Jane Austen WritingAn example of Jane Austen’s writing

Jane did not share her family’s love of history and one of her most memorable quotes is “I read it [history] a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all — it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention” so it comes as a surprise that Jane would base what is probably her most famous work on actual historical personages.

The letter discusses the similarity between Marshall’s daughter Isabel (1200-1240) and Elizabeth Bennet. Like Elizabeth, Isabel did marry, espousing Gilbert de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford and the pair went on to have six children. In the document the possibility of a sequel to Pride and Prejudice is posited, exploring the lives of the six children that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would go on and have.

The letter further discusses the character in the book Lady Catherine De Bourgh and states that she is based on Catherine the wife of William de Burgh (circa 1160 -1205/1206). If this does prove to be the case it may show that Jane had access to a document that is unavailable to us now, as William de Burgh’s wife has hitherto been known only as the daughter of Domnall Mór Ua Briain, King of Thomond. It is an interesting speculation that William may have engendered the Fitzwilliam maiden name of Lady de Bourgh, who in her turn engendered the famous song ‘Lady in Red.’

The examination of the document is due to be completed in February 2015 and until then Jane Austen fans and William Marshall fans can only hold their breath and wait.

©Jeff Jefferty Jeff January 25th 2015

Sources:

Alison Weir

David Niven: The Moon’s A Balloon

Our Mortgage Explained (a picture book for preschool children)

Our Mortgage Explained (Horror genre book): Building Society handguide

Wikipedia

Jeff Jefferty Jeff is currently working on his Opus Dei, a magnificent swash buckling epic based on the life and times of himself since his dear wife Mrs JJ flounced off to her mothers leaving him to master the art of opening tins without a manual.

John Wilkes Booth: Secret Ricardian

As those who have studied Lincoln’s assassin well know, John Wilkes Booth’s signature role was that of Shakespeare’s scheming, evil Richard III—the antithesis, of course, of the real Richard. Here, I propose that Booth found this role so distasteful that it eventually drove him mad—and drove him to commit the crime of the century.

John Wilkes Booth. An assassin--and yet a man ahead of his time.
John Wilkes Booth. An assassin–and yet a man ahead of his time.

We first find a clue to the conflict that would sear Booth’s soul when we consider the name his father, Junius Booth, gave to the family’s country home in Maryland—Tudor Hall.  The name, clearly a product of his hard-drinking father’s  deranged mind, must have become so distasteful to the young man as the years passed that he could not bear to set foot inside the house. What other reason could Booth have had for not returning to the property when he came of age?

Tudor Hall, with a group of people clearly jeering at Richard
Tudor Hall, with a group of people clearly jeering at Richard

Once Booth entered the acting profession, he spent much of his time travelling around the country. Naturally, this forced him to spend hours on trains and coaches, and it is then, I believe, that he began to read Ricardian material. Granted, during the nineteenth century, Ricardianism was still in its infancy, but a few brave souls, such as Horace Walpole in the previous century, had dared to question the Tudor Myth, and it is likely that Booth picked up one of their books. Perhaps he simply did so at first as a diversion, to while away the dull hours on the train–just as so many of us picked up The Sunne in Splendour or The Daughter of Time on a rainy afternoon. But then he saw the light, just as we did.

Lonely as being a Ricardian is now, it must have been even more so in the Victorian age, where the Shakespearean version of Richard still held sway. Imagine how much worse it must have been for a man whose very livelihood depended upon performing the plays of the man who did more than anyone else to perpetuate the falsehood that Richard murdered his nephews.  Every time he set foot upon the stage, he knew he was giving voice to a lie.

How torn he must have been!

Enter now another man: President Lincoln. While the President had many sterling qualities, the sad truth is: he was not a Ricardian. Indeed, he revelled in Shakespeare’s creation and could repeat Richard’s soliloquy from memory.  As Booth’s admiration for Richard grew more fervent, he could scarcely bear the thought of living in a country headed by a man who thought so little of the king he loved. Probably the civil war raging in America irritated him as well.

Abraham Lincoln. His death would be even more tragic if he had thought more highly of Richard.
Abraham Lincoln. His death would be even more tragic if he had thought more highly of Richard.

At last, in 1864, Booth vowed to play Richard no more. But audiences of the day were so steeped in Tudor falsehoods, any actor worthy to bear that title was expected to play the role. Booth knew that the only way he could avoid being lured back into assuming the prosthetic hump he hated so much was to give up acting altogether. Gradually, he began to do so, instead investing in  oil.

But still, President Lincoln, the chief Richard-hater of all Richard-haters, remained in the White House. Worse, Booth’s brother Edwin also played the role of Richard, and rumour had it that the President preferred Edwin’s Richard to John’s. To have his brother pandering to the President’s tastes was nearly as odious as doing it himself.

If only Booth had had a branch of the Richard III Society to turn to! But sadly, the foundation of that  organization was decades away. Instead, isolated in his love for Richard, dismayed at Lincoln’s reelection, hearing from his brother Edwin that he planned to come to Washington in the summer to play the role of Richard, and somewhat miffed by the surrender of Lee’s troops at Appomattox, Booth finally went mad. The sad result of his madness became apparent on April 14, 1865. Although some playgoers distinctly heard Booth shout, ‘Richard is avenged!’ after he shot the President, they were too timid to say so.

Following the assassination, of course, Booth went on the run until finally being shot to death in a barn in Virginia. On his body was found a pocket diary, with a number of missing pages. What was written on these pages has long been a matter of conjecture, but surely the most reasonable explanation is that Booth, while hiding out from the authorities, devised a solution to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower that was so brilliant, so persuasive, and so completely exculpatory of Richard that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton did not dare let it come to light, lest the world realize what a genius Booth had been.

Booth's pocket diary. The missing pages almost certainly prove Richard innocent of the murders of his nephews,
Booth’s pocket diary. The missing pages almost certainly prove Richard innocent of the murders of his nephews,

So, sadly, Booth is remembered today only as Lincoln’s assassin. Yet this is unfair. Instead, I propose that Booth should be remembered—as should his target, President Lincoln—as a  misguided but fundamentally decent man, and as a tragic casualty of Tudor propaganda.

Sources:

Otto Eisenschiml, Why Was Lincoln Murdered?

Theodore Roscoe, The Web of Conspiracy

My fortune cookie at the Wok & Roll Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Borden finds it highly significant that Richard will be given a decent funeral in March 2015, just weeks before the 150th anniversary of the deaths of Lincoln and Booth. He just wishes the funeral was at York. 

The Curse of Katherine of Aragon

Katherine of Aragon was born on December 16, 1485. The daughter of two powerful monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, her life should have been that of a princess in a fairy tale, and indeed seemed that way for quite some time. She was betrothed to Arthur, heir to King Henry VII, and set forth to England to marry him in 1501. Sadly, the young prince died, and Katherine was left a widow, her future uncertain as her father and Henry VII haggled over her worth.

KoA

Luckily for Katherine, Henry VII died and she married his son, Henry VIII, and the story was one of a chivalrous knight rescuing fair damsel. Their court was merry, and they looked forward to being the parents of many healthy sons. This unfortunately was not to be. Katherine suffered multiple miscarriages and children who were either stillborn or lived only a short while. The only child that survived was a puny daughter, Mary. Henry was not impressed.

holbein_henry_viii (1)

Katherine was several years older than Henry, and her looks had gone to rot with all the pregnancies, and the stress of being married to such a jerk. He cheated, had children with other women, and just generally treated her very badly. He set his sights on Anne Boleyn, one of Katherine’s ladies, and divorced Katherine by reason of the marriage was cursed by God. But Katherine was not one to just go away quietly. She held on as long as she could. Fighting, praying, and hoping.

Elizabeth Barton, known as the Holy Maid of Kent, was dead set against the marriage of Henry and Anne, and had made several prophecies concerning the fate of the king, should he continue to pursue Anne.  People who were loyal to Katherine brought the nun to Katherine’s attention, and Katherine secretly corresponded with her, at first only seeking spiritual support. But, the Holy Maid was actually………….a witch.

holy maid

When it became clear that Henry would not be put off the path he had chosen, the Maid put forth an ominous prophecy. She cursed Henry’s future wife, saying that Anne’s joy would last only 1000 days, and that she would bear no sons. Of course a curse like this requires a blood payment, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester would be the sacrificial lamb. His execution sealed the curse, and though Katherine did not know it, her most staunch defender served her even in his death.

Anneboleyn2

Anne’s first pregnancy yielded only another squalling girl child, and her second ended in miscarriage. When Anne became pregnant in 1535, everything seemed to be going quite well. By now, the Maid had herself been executed, and Henry believed that her prophecies died with her. But this was a terrible and powerful witch, only burning would stop her curse. As she was hanged the curse lingered and even grew with her death at Henry’s hands.

Katherine of Aragon died, alone and bereft, on January 7, 1536. On the very day of her funeral, Anne miscarried the male child that Henry so longed for, and doomed herself. Henry had continued to enjoy his mistresses during his marriage to Anne, and one of them, Jane Seymour, was a particular favorite. And so the wheel of fortune turned, and Anne was now in the place that Katherine had sat, her star descending quickly.

thomas_cromwell (1)

Thomas Cromwell, who was behind the execution of the Holy Maid, had fallen afoul of Anne, and as the curse wove itself around them both, he would be instrumental in Anne’s fall and subsequent execution. He himself was cursed by the Maid as well, and his fall in 1540 would be as fast and as fatal as Anne’s.

Jane Seymour went on to marry Henry. She managed to produce a male child, but having been too close to such a powerful curse, she died herself of childbed fever, and so she neither enjoyed bettering Katherine, or reaped any benefit from sitting on Katherine’s throne. Henry married three more times, all without issue and suffered from many painful ailments, and a cursed sore on his leg that had never healed, much like Katherine’s broken heart.

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

Friar Tucker Marsh

Wikipedia, Katherine of Aragon

Wikipedia, Elizabeth Barton

Philippa Gregory “The Constant Princess, The Other Boleyn Girl”

“The Creation of Anne Boleyn”

My Grand ma’am

Healing from recent plastic surgery, I have been immersed in research about my family,  the history of the World’s Cup, and arguing with my neighbors. I am dedicated to sharing my discoveries and will keep you all updated. I have an assignment at the American football championships, but can not go into detail.

Versification for Consideration

They say the world is dumbing down
And people aren’t so smart
It’s such a shame they fail to get
The symbolry of art
For now we must take pen in hand
And spell the message out
No pointing hands
No glowing eyes
No demons in the sun –
“Henry IV he was my Dad’
That’s how the thing is done
I don’t blame artists of old
(For most of them were fools)
I blame the follies of today…
What do they teach in schools?

J E F Dingle-Bell

 Eleven and fifty two, Henry came to the crown,
Apart from Thomas-a-Becket and chewing straw he was a king of great renown..
And then came Richard Lion-Hearted of film and TV fame …plus a series of popular novels
Where love dare not speak its name… (Honest)
And then along came John…Big, Bad John, Big, Bad John …
And then came Henry 3 … Not a lot to say …apart from the Baron’s war so we’ll sweep that all away…
And on we go to Edward One, no need for any hassle…
He wiped out poor Mel Gibson and built a solid castle.
Edward Two, what can we say? A flounce and floods of tears,
A sad reign, ending in pain, the Bruce and poor old Piers …
..for now that’s all I have to say but it’s not all signed and sealed … I shall return  another day …and on to Bosworth Field.

Jeff Robodene

Prince John and the first use of an iconic English phrase

On hearing of Richard I’s release from his German prison, Prince John wrote to the King of France, saying how ‘heureux’ he was that his brother was on his way home, and that he was going to Nottingham Castle to prepare a Welcome Home Party.

However, it seems some mischievous scribe changed the wording of the letter. By adding 3 little letters, changing the word ‘heureux’ to ‘malheureux’, he changed the whole meaning of the letter and the ‘welcome home party’ took on a sinister meaning. King Philip II Augustus of France was a master at stirring up trouble and wasted no time in alerting Richard to his brother’s, apparently, rebellious intentions.

So Richard arrived home to discover his brother was ‘holed up’ in Nottingham Castle and headed North to ‘deal’ with him.

When John saw his brother’s forces, he panicked – the party wasn’t quite ready yet, not all the guests had arrived. Richard’s heralds called on John to surrender, 220px-Nottingham_castle_reconstructionand John’s heralds shouted back that he ‘was not ready yet’.

And this is when things went a little awry.

On seeing the size of Richard’s army, John decided to go out and talk to his brother. But when he got to the castle gates, he discovered they were locked. He turned to his half-brother, Will Longspee, and asked for the key. In a classic ‘Carry On’ moment, Will responded with ‘I thought you had it’. John screamed incoherently at Will, then ordered the Castle searched – turned upside down, even (not easy with a stone castle) – to find that key.

Meanwhile, outside the gates a seething King Richard was rapidly losing patience; he ordered his siege engines brought up, and opened fire on the castle.

Inside the castle, John and his party-guests were frantically searching for the key, but to no avail.

Two days later, Richard remembered he still had a small supply of Greek Fire, which he’d brought back from the Holy Land. He ordered a huge boulder to be coated in it and loaded into a trebuchet.

Making one last attempt to settle things peacefully, he hailed his brother.

Will Longspee shouted down that they couldn’t come out as they had lost the key to the gates and he’d have to come in and get them.

Unfortunately, it being a windy day, Richard only heard part of Will’s statement, basically ‘not coming out, come and get us’.220px-Hand-siphon_for_Greek_fire,_medieval_illumination_(detail)

That was the last straw, Richard turned from the castle, shouted ‘FIRE!’, and the flaming boulder was launched towards the castle. The ground beneath their feet shook; castle gates, and walls either side, disintegrated in the huge fireball. Men leapt from the ramparts in an attempt to escape the flames. There was chaos, blood and flames everywhere. The cocophony of sound was indescribable – men cried for their mothers, horses screamed in panic and the sound of the explosion was still echoing off the castle walls.

Richard marched his men into the castle’s courtyard, John strode purposefully forward to meet him, stood in front of his brother, eyes blazing in anger, hands on hips and said, in his best Michael Caine impression:

YOU WERE ONLY SUPPOSED TO BLOW THE BLOODY DOORS OFF!’

 

By Jeff R Sun, still writing the wrongs of history.

 

 

Sources: of the Nile, of the Thames, of the Amazon; the Lego Ideas Book; The Italian Job (2003); The Italian Job (1969); 1066 and All That; Star Wars Character Encyclopedia (just because I love the word ‘encyclopedia)

Photos: Wikipedia

 

The Real Dark Lady: Was Shakespeare Enamoured of a Moor?

african

It is an accusation often levelled against Mr William Shakespeare that a married man in want of an education must also be in want of a life. Some people wonder how he could have written so many plays, with such wide and varied references, drawing on law, mythology, history and the classics? The answer is simple. Shakespeare was a genius. Not only this, but he was a genius who frequented the London taverns, which were full of merchants, sailors, lawyers from the Inns of Court, and the coterie of actors and writers who drew from popular culture and book learning alike.  He knew a hawk from a handsaw. He wrote about the world he knew and his plays represent popular concepts of history and learning in the Elizabethan period, aspiring from his lowly position to be the sort of Renaissance man whose style and learning he aspired to, and aped with such skill. And yet, perhaps there was another influence.

In 2013, Dr Aubrey Burl of the Society of Antiquities published his findings after years of analysing Shakespeare’s work. For years the mysterious dark lady, to whom the poet refers in his sonnets, has been identified by scholars as poetess Emilia Lanyer or Lanier. The mistress of Henry Carey, she was unhappily married to her cousin in 1592, when pregnant by Carey. Another candidate is Mary Fitton, lady in waiting to Elizabeth, known for her affairs with leading courtiers. Now Burl believes she was actually an Aline Florio, who was married to an Italian translator. As his wife, she would have had access to the many books he used, past and present. As Shakespeare’s mistress, she could have passed that information on. Born Aline Daniel, she lived with her husband in Shoe Lane, near the River Fleet and would probably have met Shakespeare at Titchfield, the home of the Earl of Southampton. There has also been mention of a Lucy Morgan, a fallen woman also known as Lucy Negro. However, this name might belie a more controversial truth. Resident in London’s Cheapside in the 1590s, was another woman named Lucy, who was also referred to as “negro.” Could Shakespeare’s mistress have actually been black?

It has been the view of scholars for decades that going by his 1603 play Othello, Shakespeare followed contemporary views about the savage passions and intense rages of “moors.” Leo Africanus, a north African who was captured by Venetian pirates and long considered an influence on the characterisation of Othello described moors as “very proud and high-minded, and wonderfully addicted unto wrath… they will deeply engraven in marble any injury be it never so small… their wits are but mean and they are so credulous that they will believe matters impossible which are told them…. they speak always with angrie and lowd voices.” And so the stereotype goes on. It seems like a perfect model for the character of Othello, but there is also a chance that Shakespeare was referring to a real man, a man he knew: Lucy the Negro’s father.

Little information survives about Lucy’s family. They are recorded as living in Cheapside from 1597, with her father listed as John the Negro, practising as a cobbler, or cordwainer. He shows up in the records for that year when the rents on the house were due and again for the following two years. In 1599, he attempted to join the London Guild of Cordwainers, who got their license in 1439 and in 1493, established their first hall in Maiden Lane, near St Paul’s.  John’s application, for whatever reason, was declined in the spring of 1599.He may well have been blacklisted. Influential men may have spoken against him because it appears that, in that year, he had a falling out with Shakespeare.

shakey

John appears in the London Assize records for November 1599, being bound over to keep the peace against brothers Richard and Cuthbert Burbage and William Shakespeare. The Burbages had taken over the Blackfriars Theatre on their father’s death in 1597 and would be responsible for building the Theatre and the Globe, working closely with Shakespeare. A fragment of the records that survive for Blackfriars in September 1599 show that money was set aside for repairs “against the anger of Mr John.” It was common for moors in London to be referred to by their first names, in a similar way to servants, and Lucy’s father would have been known to those who were his social superior simply as Mr John. This is also how he appears in the rent books, whilst for the Cordwainers, he is Mr John, cobbler of Cheapside. Why had Lucy’s father turned up at Blackfriars in such a rage that he caused damage to the sum of 20 shillings ? Perhaps because he had found out about the affair she was having with Shakespeare and chose to confront him there.

The sonnets themselves support the notion that Lucy Negro is the woman referred to. They describe the lady as having dark hair and “dun” coloured skin; a shade of brown traditionally associated with cows. It comes from the old English “dunn”, synonymous with dingy-brown or bark-coloured. No English woman would have found this flattering.  The collected sonnets were published in 1609 but at least two of them had already been printed as early as 1599. This included Sonnet 138; “When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her though I know she lies,” which inverts the racial stereotype to make Shakespeare the credulous lover, instead of Leo Africanus’ portrayal of moors as gullible. In this way, Shakespeare was paying a deft compliment to Lucy in 1599, but also signalling that their relationship was troubled and that she was possibly being torn between her father and her lover. This poem also makes clear that the relationship was a physical one, amid the puns of falsehood: “therefore I lie with her and she with me.” Even more telling is his unrhymed, thus disharmonious, couplet in Sonnet 144:

“The better angel is a man right fair , The worse spirit a woman colour’d ill.”

If Mr John had heard of the poems, which were in circulation in the London Inns, or worse still, had read them, it would have been sufficient to provoke the rage he exhibited at Blackfriars. This memorable performance may have found its way into Othello, which was composed a couple of years later. Perhaps it was the playwright’s revenge for Lucy’s father’s brutality.

othello

Lucy disappears from the records in 1608. No account of her marriage or move from Cheapside survives, so it is likely that this was the year of her death. The London playhouses were regularly closed when plague reached dangerous levels in the city and this happened in 1593, 1603 and 1608, so Lucy may well have been a victim, perhaps after keeping a tryst with her lover at the Theatre, or mingling with the infected crowds. It may be that Shakespeare waited until her death to publish the remainder of the letters.  Mr John was never admitted to the Cordwainer’s company and outlived Shakespeare, dying in 1619. The true identity of the Dark Lady may never be known, but the internal evidence of the letters, their dating, and the records of Mr John and his family from Cheapside make Lucy as likely a candidate as any.

Sources

Othello

Shakespeare’s Songs and Sonnets.

Cordwainer’s Record Books 1589-1601, 1601-1611

Light transmitting diode

Oracle at Delphi

Jeff R Vescent knows no bounds.

The Princes in the Tower- a Hitherto Unconsidered Hypothesis.

boat

A mere 531 years after last being seen, the Princes in the Tower are still missing. To an inquiring mind like mine, this shows two obvious things: Firstly, mainstream historians are brainwashed poo-poo heads; and secondly, everyone has been looking in the wrong place. These is no evidence to implicate any person in c15th England and no evidence of the Princes in either England or Europe because – obviously – they were taken by forces from outside Europe to a place of hiding further afield. Once you open your mind to this awesome possibility, a hitherto unconsidered but utterly plausible line of reasoning leads you to an answer which has the power to turn our understanding of history literally upside down.

Let us start by asking who had the maritime technology to undertake trans-oceanic voyages before Columbus. The field narrows down to three – the Polynesians, the Vikings and the Chinese. We can discount the Vikings on chronological grounds and the Polynesians for geographical reasons (their clothing would not have enabled them to survive in Northern European waters), which leaves the Chinese. Gavin Menzies, in his revolutionary books “1421: The Year China Discovered the World” and “1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance”, has established beyond reasonable doubt the presence of large fleets of Chinese junks in European waters.

To those who would argue that the presence of Chinese junks in the Thames would have caused some comment, I would counter that nobody in Italy saw the fleet researched by Menzies and commented on that either, so clearly either Chinese fleets excited no comment or were such a common sight nobody thought fit to write about them at all.

So, a Chinese fleet could have made it to the Tower of London and away again without leaving a trace in contemporary records. But could Chinese sailors have got into the heavily-guarded Tower and carried off the princes without being spotted? This is asking us to suspend disbelief to an unreasonable extent; it is more likely that the Chinese had stopped off in Australia on the way and acquired the services of some dingoes, who could have easily managed the abduction without rousing the guards’ suspicions. This fact gives us the obvious lead as to where to find the princes in their later years, among the mixed-race populations among the Aborigines before Australia was allegedly ‘discovered’. As wikipedia puts it:

“Reports of unusually light-skinned Aborigines in the area by later British settlers have been suggested as evidence that the two men might have been adopted into a local Aboriginal clan. Some amongst the Amangu people of the mainland have a blood group specific to Leyden, in Holland.” (see McConnell, 1963; wikipedia 2014 )

Light-skinned the princes most certainly were; as for a Leyden-related blood-group, let us not forget that the boys’ maternal grandmother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, which is close enough and also begins with a L.

For more details, see my forthcoming book “1483: The Year a Heavily Camouflaged Chinese Fleet Sailed up the Thames Estuary via Australia, Collaborated with Dingoes and Rescued the Princes in the Tower Before Returning to Australia and Establishing them as Duke Edward of Gidgeribong and Earl Richard of Ringarooma”.

The alternative is to believe that Richard III murdered the princes himself. Which do you choose?

 

Sources:

McConnell, R. B. (May 1963). “Associations and linkage in human genetics”. The American Journal of Medicine 34 (5): 692–701;

wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batavia_(ship)

Gavin Menzies op cit

Bridget Riley op art

Little Richard op bopaloobopalopbamboom

 

Jeff de Cuisine is married to a blue nylon rucksack and lives in a bedsit, where he is currently researching the effects of an all-pizza diet.

Was Kim Philby Really a Soviet Spy?

Thanks to my good friend the Hon Bunty Hetherington[1], I may have blown open the biggest, secretest and most conspiraciest conspiracy in British… nay, World… History. I am still trying to come to terms with the implications of this. I wake in the night in a cold sweat, shaking and moaning. Everything that we hold dear, the very institutions we rely upon to make sense of our lives, up to and including MI5 and the Crown Itself… all of this is in peril and we must be on our guard.

The Hon Bunty Hetherington and I sat down in the [redacted] Tea Room and Gift Shop on the seafront at [redacted] to enjoy a jolly nice cup of tea and some cream cakes. I hadn’t seen my old friend for some years and was looking forward to a jolly good chin wag. Bunty got rather squiffy on a plate of rumballs and, I’m afraid, rather let out more than she planned to. We got onto the subject of Daddy’s dear friend Kim Philby (who I confessed I hadn’t thought about for some years) and what she told me was explosive, monumental and pretty bloody surprising, let me tell you.

“As you know, Jane[2], he disappeared under something of a cloud,” Bunty said. “Defected, they said, to the Soviet Union. But” and here she leaned in rather conspiratorially, her eyes shifting from side to side “he didn’t.”

Over the course of the afternoon, several more plates of rumballs and enough tea to burst the bladders of the Black Watch, a most astonishing story tumbled from between her crumb encrusted lips. On the one sticky hand, she laid out the case against Philby. On the other (less sticky but slightly mottled with age spots) she set out the counter-evidence.

Kim Philby wasn’t a Soviet spy after all but a high ranking (so far as he was capable, with his Y-chromosome) officer in the Cult of Anne of Lancaster.

Below, I have summarised the evidence and counter-evidence. I’m sure you, dear reader, will find this as unsettling as I did.

Evidence: In the 1930s. there were only two career options for Cambridge graduates – working for the BBC or the KGB. Mr Philby is remembered to have had a small but significant role in the Footlights Revue ‘Oh, What a Lovely Bottom, Mr MacDonald!’ but is not listed as ever working for the BBC (personal communication).

Counter-evidence: During Philby’s time at Cambridge, he was associated with the World Federation for the Relief of the Victims of German Fascism, ostensibly a socialist, anti-Nazi organisation. In truth, an anagram of the orgnisation’s name reveals:

“Lifetime Officer SMIF[3] for She of the Lancastrian Wor(l)d Governme(n)t” – Clue #1

Evidence: Towards the end of his life, Mr Philby was spotted in Red Square wearing the uniform of a KGB Colonel, either an extreme case of fetish tourism or evidence of his defection.

Counter-evidence: After Philby’s disappearance someone who looked a bit like Philby was spotted in Red Square wearing the uniform of a KGB Colonel, and why would anyone go to such lengths if there was nothing to hide? – Clue #2

This may or may not have been similar to the uniform someone who looked a bit like Philby was wearing in Red Square. http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/vchk-gpu-ogpu-nkvd-nkgb-mgb-mvd-rkm/model-1955-kgb-colonel-infantry-5866/
This may or may not have been similar to the uniform someone who looked a bit like Philby was wearing in Red Square.
http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/vchk-gpu-ogpu-nkvd-nkgb-mgb-mvd-rkm/model-1955-kgb-colonel-infantry-5866/

Evidence: If you play Noel Coward’s record Oh, Mr McLean! Yes, Mr Burgess? backwards, you can just hear the words ‘Philby is the Third Man’.

Counter-evidence: If you record Oh Mr McLean! being played backwards, reverse the tape and play it again, you hear the following[4]:

‘You’ve all been played for a bunch of patsies, hah, hah, hah! Long live Anne of Lancaster!’ – Clue #3

“But,” I expostulated[5], “Philby was unmasked! It’s all there in the record! Out in the open!”

“What would you do,” Bunty said darkly[6], “if you were the Queen and your Crown was in jeopardy because someone had a stronger claim? You’d jolly well make sure to silence anyone who could topple you from your throne, that’s what you’d do! It’s Henry VII, all over again!”

Upon uttering this final cryptic remark, Bunty toppled forward headfirst into a large cream horn. Despite my vigorous efforts to bring her back to sensibility, she uttered not one word. Remembering my Girl Guide training, I laid her out on the floor and covered her with a blanket (a rather lovely crocheted afghan in blue and mauve, a collective WI project, if I’m not entirely mistaken). I did consider administering sweet tea but it hadn’t been of much help up to that point so I took a breath and ploughed on. In between bursts of CPR that left me redfaced and exhausted, I called her son Jolyon to come and collect her, which he eventually did, leaving me with much to ponder and a squashed cream horn to deal with.

[1] Not her real name.

[2] Not my real name.

[3] In the Official Hierarchy of the Cult of Anne of Lancaster, Lifetime Officer SMIF is a coded rank used by cult members who go out into the community to seek out Descendants of Anne of Lancaster. While there’s no evidence Philby himself was ever a Lifetime Officer SMIF, clearly someone at Cambridge was. I’m sure I’ll be able to de-acronym SMIF in the fullness of time.

[4] If you listen really really carefully.

[5] I know the Rules for Writing Dialogue, but I really did expostulate. I wish I still had the recording of this conversation so you could hear for yourself.

[6] I know the Rules About Adverbs as well, but I do find them rather jolly.

References

Wikipedia; Someone who told me they once worked at the BBC; my good friend the Hon Bunty Hetherington; http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/vchk-gpu-ogpu-nkvd-nkgb-mgb-mvd-rkm/model-1955-kgb-colonel-infantry-5866/; menu of the [redacted] Tea Room and Gift Shop on the seafront in [redacted]; Guy Burgess’s budgie [dec]; Blyton.

J E F Dingle-Bell (Mrs) is desperate to get in touch with the Hon Bunty Hetherington. If anyone has any information as to her whereabouts, or those of her sons Jolyon, Rupert or Vladimir, please leave a comment on this blog post. There are serious concerns for her wellbeing and safety.