Category Archives: Monster

The Much-Maligned King

Saint RichardWith the great historical discoveries we’ve had over recent years, there has been some major re-thinking on the history and reputation of one of England’s most hated and maligned kings – and rightly so.

While his mortal remains are now at rest this king’s legacy of evil and wickedness is still debated by eye-rolling, loony historians, fan-girls and sane history buffs on every Facebook page you come across (yes, I’ve checked, he even gets into groups dedicated to historical women *groan*).

He has, throughout, history, been demonised and vilified by historians and non-historians alike. Words such as “tyrant”, “monster” and “murderer” have been slung at this king for more years than I’d like to count.

The main beef for many is the propaganda levelled against this king by subsequent dynasties; the misrepresentation of his actions and the accusations of murder which just refuse to go away.

And mud sticks.

So it’s about time he was given the rights that all Englishmen have – the right to the “assumption of innocence until proven guilty”.

No, of course I’m not talking about Richard III! The man killed his nephews, why on earth should he be allowed to be presumed innocent?holbein henry

I’m referring to that great man of the Renaissance, the Hercules of England, Europe’s very own Alexander; Henry VIII, of course.

With this in mind I thought I would take a new look at the main accusations, strip away the propaganda and look at the deaths involved in their proper light; one at a time, rather than as one great killing spree.

Does responsibility lay at the king’s door?

Were the deaths justified for the good of the realm? Should I leave Cairo and move to more bridal climes? (Oops, sorry, that last was a personal question, not relevant – much – to this essay.)

The first person I looked into was Catherine of Aragon. Of course, Henry is not accused of killing her; but he is accused of treating her shamefully. Catherine married Henry having sworn that she’d never slept with her first husband Prince Arthur, Henry’s older brother. Catherine made thiCatherine_aragons declaration only after Arthur was safely dead – and therefore could not dispute it.

What was her motivation?

Well, Henry was a young, handsome – ok, gorgeous – 18-year-old Adonis who also happened to be king of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, whereas she was a penniless Spanish princess who had been more-or-less abandoned by her own family. So, of course, she only said this out of her love for Henry, rather than any selfish reasons.

There was one problem with Catherine’s declaration; Prince Arthur had once sworn otherwise, declaring one morning, after leaving Catherine’s chamber, that he had “spent the night in Spain” (something no one bothered to tell Henry until many years later). Quite an unequivocal statement from a Prince who had no ulterior motive.

Poor Henry was a devout Catholic and knew that marrying his brother’s wife was a mortal sin and when he finally discovered the truth, what choice did he have but to divorce? And why would he do it with such vehemence and hatred? Surely it’s hard to be kind to someone who has endangered your immortal soul by making you commit such a heinous sin? Henry would have had to be a saint to be able to forgive. And it’s certainly not his fault that Catherine of Aragon stuck to this fib – through thick and thin – but neither is it Henry’s fault that he stuck to his own guns and fought to the very end to obtain a divorce.

So, now, we come to Henry’s “victims”.

Anneboleyn2Let’s look at Anne Boleyn first.

If Anne Boleyn was innocent of the crimes she was accused of – of sleeping with other men, including her brother and of planning the king’s death – then she is a true martyr and Henry is a monster worse than Darth Vader. However, thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know beyond any doubt that Anne did have an affair with her brother, George Boleyn. A French poem, written a few days after Anne’s execution by a Frenchman living in England, proves unequivocally that Anne slept with her brother.

And if one of the charges is true, then surely they all are?

And if Anne was sleeping around, what else could he do but execute her? Imprison her? Maybe, but an example from French history suggests the dangers in doing that. In 1314 the wives of France’s 3 princes were accused of adultery and imprisoned. However, the princes found obtaining divorces difficult (to cut a long story short) and all 3 ruled successively as kings of France, but were unable to  produce the much-desired legitimate male heir and the Capetian line died out.

With such an example from just a couple of hundred years ago, can Henry really be blamed for wanting a swift conclusion to his marriage?

And, to be honest, this same argument stands for Henry’s execution of Catherine Howard the poor chap is proof of the adage that lightning CAN strike twice in the same place).

One of the most heinous crimes that Henry is accused of is, of course, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. And well, to be honest, I’ll give his accusers that one. Poor Margaret. But, then, every king is allowed one over-reaction; Richard III has Lord Hastings, Henry gets Margaret Pole.

thomas moreAnd then there’s Thomas More…

Well, I have a theory…..

Sir Thomas More was Henry’s friend. What if he committed an unforgivable betrayal. I’m not referring to his refusal to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession, rather I’m referring to his abominable, slanderous book about Richard III.

We all know Henry loved his mother dearly, and spent most of his childhood sat on her lap, listening to her stories about her childhood, her father and her wonderful uncle, Richard. We always think of the Tudors hating Richard III, but in Henry’s time the slanderous, legend blackening work of Shakespeare is still decades in the future. What if Henry knew of the gentler side of Uncle Dickon? What if he saw him as the loving uncle of a fatherless teenage girl, who gave her gifts and danced with her at Christmas.

EoY portraitThis is the intimate picture of Richard III that Henry grew up with, knowing him and loving him as a favourite great-uncle. And then his friend presents him with a manuscript saying “I’ve put together some ideas, have a look at it, just let me know what you think.”

Of course, Henry reads it and goes ballistic. How dare More write such hateful things about this great king, this hero, this Son of York, this man who saved the kingdom from the disasters that would, almost-definitely, have befallen the land had a child-king been allowed to live …. er, I mean, to reign?

Henry had no choice, More brought it on himself. Henry had to have him executed in order to prevent More’s slanderous work from reaching a wider audience. It was the only way to prevent publication.

It’s not Henry’s fault the “facts” still got out…

By Jeff R Sun

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Jeff R Sun has been supporting the Richards for years – I’m thinking of changing my allegiance to the Henrys. All advice appreciated.

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page.

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Photos: Wiki

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Sources: Measly Middle Ages; Terrible Tudors; Slimy Stuarts; Wiki; Daily Mail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bloody Mary and the map monster

It has often been queried by historians, proper historians that is, with degrees and everything, why Mary I had such a desire to kill. Her nick name, given to her after her death, was Bloody Mary and that was not because of the heaviness of her menses! but because she had the reputation of being a persecutor and cold blooded killer of those of the Protestant faith.

"Maria Tudor1" by Antonis Mor - Museo del Prado Catalog no. P02108 [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maria_Tudor1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Maria_Tudor1.jpg
Mary I known as Bloody Mary
Mary was the eldest child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon his first wife (or should that just be ‘wife?’ That depends which side of the argument you are, pro or anti Anne Boleyn and the other four.) Mary became monarch after the death of her brother Edward, the sixth king of that name. She reigned for just five years from 1553 to 1558. During this time she condemned 257 Protestants to die the terrible death of being burned alive.  Legend has her responsible for 50,000 deaths but this is slightly inaccurate by 49,713 souls and must have been a misprint. Printing was still, in real terms, in its infancy and these typos did happen from time to time. Her father killed 57,000 people who refused to recognise him as the rightful head of the church and Mary had a long way to go to catch up with that!

Mary was determined to return England to Catholicism, the religion of her childhood, and married Catholic King Phillip II of Spain. Despite the well known saying ‘no one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ after Mary married Phillip the populace of England certainly was expecting the Spanish Inquisition (or would that then be the English Inquisition?) and many accepted the Catholic faith to avoid the comfy chair.

Monty Python!
Monty Python!

Despite the inaccuracy  of the numbers, the question still remains, was she a cold blooded killer or did she in fact have a reason for her manic killing spree? That 257 represents about one a week during her reign, a lot in a country still under populated because of war, famine and the plague.

New evidence came to light last year which may shed light on this. A copy of a map was found in the back of a book in a library in Cornwall, England. Previously only two extant copies of this map were thought to be in existence, but this third turned up and blew academic research sky high. It had Mary’s signature in her own hand along with words in Latin in a different hand. Translated the words say, ‘’I will kill all pigs’’, on the face of it a strange thing for Mary to put her name to. She was Catholic, not of the Jewish or Islamic faith.

Islandia Reproduced with permission of Lady White Art
Islandia**

The strange words may now have been given meaning following research by a *Dr Don Ashtray-Pill, an independent historian and the author of many books on mediaeval history. Dr Pill found that Mary was fascinated by what today would be called Geography but was more commonly described as Cosmographia during her lifetime. In 1545 she obtained a rare copy ofWonders of the sea and rare animals, as they are found in the midnight lands in the sea and on the land’ by Sebastian Münster. (Sebastian’s brother is credited for being the founder of the family on which the 1960s CBS television programme ‘The Münsters’ was originally based.)

‘Wonders of the Sea…’ was printed in many languages including English, Czech, French Italian and Latin. Mary’s copy was in Latin. It was so popular that 24 editions were produced in 100 years, the success mainly being due to the fascinating woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf,  Manuel Deutsch and others.

The inclusion of Holbein’s work made Mary look at the Holbein oil painting anew and she noticed with distaste that whilst Holbein was a skilled and painter, her friend ‘Cremuel’ (as her father’s concubine Anne Boleyn called him) had been painted looking fat and greedy ‘like a hog’. It was pointed out to Mary that he could hope for no better as he was not only guilty of treason, but was known also to be a Protestant.

Mary mused on these words but it was not until several years later that she understood what the speaker was really trying to say. In the meantime Mary’s hatred of Protestantism grew and grew. She blamed the rise of the bastard faith on everything bad that had ever happened to her, her parent’s separation, her mother’s downfall, her father’s alienation of her, her lack of rights and privileges as the daughter of a king….she even blamed her short stature on Protestantism, though that was more likely to have been genetic as her great uncle, Richard of Shrewsbury, also had dwarfism https://doublehistory.com/tag/dwarfism

The map that was found in the book in the library in Cornwall is  known as ‘Islandia’ and was created by Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish map maker and geographer, recognized as the creator of the first atlas, the ‘Theatre of the World’. In his later life he was appointed official geographer to the man who was Mary’s husband, Philip II of Spain. It is considered that the map may have been specifically commissioned for Mary by her husband due to her fascination with anything geographic, a rare sign of communication if not affection between the two.  The excerpt of the map (above) shows sea monsters that some believed inhabited the surrounding waters.  Mistakes about marine life have ranged from inaccurate assumptions about the behavior of known species to fanciful depictions of animals that “might” exist.Some speculate that this monster-riddled map is aimed at dissuading Europeans from moving to an island that the current settlers preferred to keep to themselves! These beasts in the seas all have their own story and none more pertinent to Mary than the story of the the Sea Swine or Sea Hog described by Olaus Magnus a few years earlier and I quote:

”After pointing out that a “monstrous Fish” appeared off the coast of England in 1532,

Sea Hog (top) **
Sea Hog (top) **

 

Olaus Magnus wrote, “Now I shall revive the memory of a monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog’s head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon’s, two eyes on both sides of his Loyns, and a third in his belly inkling toward his Navel; behind he had a Forked-Tail, like to other Fish commonly.”

Olaus Magnus then went on to compare the beast to heretics, Protestants, who, he believed, lived and behaved like swine. The naturalist had been born a Catholic, but his homeland of Sweden was Protestant by the time he produced his monster filled map.

When Mary heard of this she embraced the idea that Protestants were swine, hogs or pigs, with fervour and decreed that if unrepentant they should be cooked like swine – roasted on fires – which does not say a lot about her knowledge of cookery but does explain why 237 Protestants were burned during her reign.

And on that sombre note Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff will go and eat a cheese sandwich, having rather put himself off the lovely pork chop that he treated himself to earlier. For some reason Jefferty does rather fancy a Vodka and Tomato juice – strange that!

Bloody Mary drink

Primary Sources:

The Munsters: TV programme

Sea Monsters by Joseph Nigg

Blurry and Moo – Blog by Richard Ian

The Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens: Michael Ashley

Facebook page ‘Richardian’

A few other Facebook pages that I cannot be bothered to name

Lady White Art

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/4986765/Jonathan-Potters-collection-of-rare-antique-maps-up-for-sale.html?image=1

http://islandskort.is/en/map/view/36/1828/1;jsessionid=90DF2C0D96BCF6DCD45BC8AA1760936E

* The author called Dr Don Ashtray Pill has asked for his real name to be disguised to protect the innocent and spare the blushes of his family and friend.

** Art work reproduced by kind permission of Lady White Art.

© Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff, 2nd March 2015