“Fame favors the bold.” This is a famous line from Virgil’s “Aeneid“, a tale about the unlikely rise of an unfortunate traveler who’s suddenly blessed with good fortune. “Drake” follows a similar storyline. But unlike supernatural tales of bravery and heroism, it is chance and Francis Drake’s religious conviction which keep him from succumbing to a life of complacency. And yet, in spite of his ambition and strong sense of adventure, he is still a man of his time.
That is what this novel bottles down to. Often, I will come across novels with attractive covers and an enticing summary that promise to take the reader back in time to an era that will no longer seem so dissimilar from the one we live in. The problem with this is that the lead characters are turned into something else completely different from the real ones. Thankfully this isn’t the case with “Drake.”
Tony Riches has given us a Francis Drake that is the closest thing readers will get to the real historical figure. Furthermore, the author is brutally honest in his portrayal of this time period. There is no white washing or needless justification of characters’ actions or prejudices we don’t approve of and rightfully condemn today. And this brings me to my final point: when writing historical fiction, especially centered around legendary figures like Sir Francis Drake, the best way to do them justice is by being direct. With that directness comes heavy detail. Despite this time period being written and shown about to death in pop culture, there’s still a lot of misinformation. As a result, novelists must go above and beyond to put everything into context, and bring to life this time period while also keeping their readers hooked from start to finish.Drake’s life encompasses several turning points in English naval history. His sentiment is mirrored by several other members of his crew, including the various captains he’s served under. As a consequence, his initial contempt towards Elizabethan statesmen like William Cecil, Lord Burghley, is perfectly understandable. The statesmen of theate Elizabethan regime and the early reign of the first Stuart king of England had an uneasy business relationship with corsairs, naval adventurers, and others of the sort like Hawkins and Drake. So it was great to see this being portrayed here in a way that feels as if the brief exchanges between these characters actually happened.Another thing I greatly enjoyed was how the author captured Drake’s religiosity as well as the religious divisions of Europeans and their colonial subjects. Drake’s reading of bible verses and psalms was a perfect juxtaposition to the grim and amoral world at sea.If you are a big fan of the renaissance or early modern history in general, pick up this book. “Drake” invites you to discover the life of the daring Francis Drake and it also takes you on a wild voyage filled with uncertainty and danger, where human ingenuity, ambition, opportunism, religious conviction and unpredictable weather shaped the fortunes of Francis Drake and by default, England’s.
On the 8th of August 1588, violent winds and tidal waves delivered the dying blow to the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth I did not know of it the day after when she delivered her famous speech at the shores of west Tilbury in Thurrock borough in Essex, England. Upon learning it, the English celebrated. The Elizabethan regime advertised this as the greatest victory since the naval victories of Edward III during the One-Hundred-Years War against France. By many of her subjects as proof of God’s divine favor on England. Behind all that glorious mystique however, the war was still raging on. And for every victory that Gloriana’s regime boasted about, there were also several disastrous fiascos and defeats that were a heavy burden on the country’s finances.
“…when we hear the word “Armada” we think of an English victory, in which the threatening Spanish ships were scattered and defeated in the Battle of Gravelines, and after which Sir Francis Drake was feted as a hero. Yet at the moment of attack everything was up in the air. As Drake boarded his ship at Plymouth, he would have known that there was a real possibility of the Armada landing successfully and his own ship being sunk. He would have known that a chance in the direction of wind could alter everything –leaving his strategy in jeopardy and his fleet in danger. We can no longer imagine the possibility of the Armada disgorging its troops on English beaches …” (Mortimer)
Garrett Mattingly had also brought this up in his book “Armada”. He reminded his readers that while the Armada’s defeat was a heavy blow to the Holy League, namely Spain; the repercussions of it wouldn’t be felt until a century and a half. The same went for English naval superiority. Victory over Spain’s colossal navy was owed more to bad weather, the agility of English smaller vessels as opposed to the bigger and slower Spanish ones. Rather than it as a product of chance and good luck, the Elizabethan regime rationalized it as proof of divine intervention.
When the fighting began in mid July, the winds of change stroke the heart of the “Grande y Felicisima Armada” (“Great and Most Fortunate Navy”). This devasting loss was not just demoralizing for the fighting men, it was also showed that the lack of good communication between its leaders was threatening to turn the tide in England’s favor.
“The Armada made for a formidable sight. The Spanish ships ranged two miles in breadth, and with their huge fore and after castles towered over the English. In the six battles that followed, the history of naval combat evolved into the modern era. Gone forever were the days of oarpowered ships over sail. Grappling and boarding, too, was replaced by superior firepower and long-range weaponry. The death knell was also tolled for the English crossbow archers as the country’s most lethal fighting force aboard ship. Yet despite superior maneuverability and firepower, the English made little, if any headway, on the first day of the battle (July 20). The next day though, the English got lucky. One of the Spanish warships, the Nuestra Senora del Rosario, was lost. The Rosario, a colossal 1,150 ton nao, a multipurpose ship armed for war with fifty-two guns and a crew of over four hundred men, lost its bowsporit, foreyeard, halyards, and forecourse after a series of collisions in the fleet due to their tight formation. Her commander, Don Pedro de Valdes fired off his guns to let Medina Sidonia know his plight, but all efforts to save her failed. Valdes watched helplessly as the Armada slowly pulled away to the east, leaving him to his destiny. This was a huge blow to the Spaniards, since she was one of the largest ships in the Armada, and carried a third of the treasure taken along to pay mariners and soldiers …”(Hutchinson)
Who else but God whose Providence had been bestowed on the English when those violent winds and tidal waves had been sent to weaken the Spanish navy against the English navy’s attacks Without a doubt, the defeat of the Spanish Armada was a turning point in history. It was the birth of a new empire and the slow death of another one.
The Anglo-Spanish war would last for another sixteen years but the seeds of English discovery and entrepeneurship had been sowed. But like with Spain, the fruits of this victory would not be felt until decades later when, as Spain’s might was lost, England’s empire rose making her the queen of the seas. At the present time however, England was more preoccupied with fostering patriotism and reap the immediate benefits of Spain’s naval defeat. Unfortunately for the Elizabethan regime, they’d soon find out that divine favor was a lot like lightning. It never strikes the same place twice. The English built their own version of the “Grande and Felicisima Armada”. But this “Counter Armada” also met a violent end at sea.
Mattingly, Garrett. Armada. Mariner Books. 1959
Hutchinson, Robert. The Spanish Armada. Thomas Dune Books. 2013.
Ronald, Susan. The Pirate Queen. Harper. 2007
Mortimer, Ian. Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England. Viking. 2010.
Was Katharine of Aragon’s relationship with her mother and grandmother-in-law, Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort respectively, tense and fraught with discord as shown in The Spanish Princess? The miniseries, a sequel to The White Queen and The White Princess hasn’t aired yet but the latest trailers has given us a taste of what we can expect.
Like its aforementioned predecessors, the miniseries will be using the common trope of other female lead costume dramas: Women vs women.
This is a trope that has been played to dead. And it is not bad, when well done. But that is the problem here. Did it really happen and if it didn’t, how will it play out?
Should we care?
No. If accuracy isn’t what you are looking for. If all you care is about storytelling, this shouldn’t bother you one bit. But if you are a historical purist, then I suggest you turn off the TV and switch to another channel.
As previously stated, the Mean Girls trope has been played to dead. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Contrary to popular belief though, it wasn’t that common.
Women did fight each other for wealth and position, but these fights didn’t as long as they are depicted in these costume dramas. In fact, more often than not, women who started off as enemies, became allies if not friends in the end.
This was no different for Katharine of Aragon. Forget her rivalry with Anne Boleyn, let’s go further back to the start of the sixteenth century, when she landed on Plymouth, England.
Everyone who saw her was enchanted by her, this includes Elizabeth of York. Little is said about Margaret Beaufort’s opinion of her. Given the written records and what’s known about these figures thus far, there is no reason to think that she disliked her.
If anything, Margaret’s attitude towards Katharine had more to do with prioritizing her son and his dynasty’s interests first above her personal opinions. Unlike Elizabeth of York, Margaret was politically active. Following the death of her eldest grandchild, she would advised Henry VII and gone along with his final decision.
Margaret’s hold over her family is well known and much has been written about it, but Margaret’s actions were no different than other older grand-matriarchs. Elizabeth of York on the other hand, chose to take on a passive role. In this, she excelled tremendously, earning the love and admiration of the English people.
Elizabeth was intrigued by her future daughter-in-law. There’s no proof of animosity between them. Days before her London entourage, she had stayed at Lambeth Palace. The day when her procession began, the King and Queen had sent their youngest son, Henry, Duke of York to accompany her. They had even offered her a carriage, which she politely reclined, opting for a humble mount instead.
Katharine displayed tremendous gratitude for all the work and effort that had been put into the celebrations, something that wasn’t lost on the royal family and her future subjects. When the ceremonies came to an end, she retired to the Bishop of London’s home at St. Paul’s (where she would be married to Arthur two days later on Sunday, November 14th). In her dual biography on Katharine and her older sister, Juana (I) of Castile, Julia Fox, notes:
“The royal family were delighted with everything and everyone. Queen Elizabeth had caught her first glimpse of Katherine, and the princess was due to visit her the next day.” (Fox)
Arthur’s letters to Katharine had been passionate. This is a key factor that nearly all historians note in their multiple biographies on these notable historical figures. Neither Margaret Beaufort nor Elizabeth of York felt threatened by Katharine’s grace and humility. If anything, these virtues brought them relief.
England had endured a terrible period of dynastic civil war. The repercussions of these royal affairs served as a bitter reminder of what happened when women’s voices rang louder than those of the king’s trusted men. Women played an integral during the wars of the roses. Active or not, they became the object of controversy -real or created- and these controversies were used as weapons against their husbands and sons. After all this chaos, the people expected consorts who took more of a backstage role than a public one. Elizabeth of York had become that and more, to the point of becoming a quasi-religious icon immediately after her death.
Katharine’s soft and apparent humble demeanor, mirrored those of Elizabeth of York, whom Katharine hoped to emulate in her coming years as Queen of England.
For her part, Elizabeth of York had communicated to Katharine’s mother, that both she and her husband were pleased with her daughter. Elizabeth’s correspondence to Isabella had begun some years before. Knowing that Katharine would have to communicate in something other than English with her son, she advised the Queen of Castile to take advantage of Margaret Habsburg, who’d recently married Katharine’s brother, Prince Juan of Asturias. Margaret like Katharine, was highly educated. One of the languages she had come to master was French. While Katharine and Arthur could continue to write to each other in Latin, Elizabeth felt it better if she started to learn and practice French too, since it was language that was still highly popular among the English upper class.
Isabella took Elizabeth’s advice to heart. When Katharine came to England, she committed herself to learning England and slowly but surely, becoming indistinguishable from any of the English ladies at court.
Katharine did succeed, but her success did not come until much later when she was Henry VIII’s queen. During these trying years of battling for dominance, standing her ground against Tudor legal forces and foreign interests that underestimated her intellectual capacity and perseverance, Katharine remained the Spanish Princess. The unfortunate widow whose virginity was often debated and contested, which also placed into doubt her eligibility as the next King of England’s future bride. The future seemed bleak for Katharine. Rather than being discouraged by these seemingly impossible odds, Katharine remained adamant. Her first motto as Princess of Wales had been “not for my crown.” She continued to push, finding other outlets to survive and remain in England, until she got what she wanted.
Elizabeth of York had promised she’d look over her daughter-in-law and be there to guide her through the difficult adjustment into her new country. Following her son’s funeral, Elizabeth did what she could to provide the widowed Spanish Princess with moral support. It is not known what was her opinion of Katharine’s resolute affirmation of her virginity and her parents, especially her mother, pushing for a renewal of the Anglo-Spanish alliance by marrying her to the remaining crown prince, Henry (now) Prince of Wales. Elizabeth’s choice to take on a more conciliatory role as Queen Consort would have made her opinion -if she voiced it- irrelevant. Henry VII had the final say in this matter. Margaret Beaufort’s involvement in this matter seems to have been very minimal. Whatever Henry VII decided, it was for the good of the realm and she, like all his subjects, would follow his lead.
Coming back to the novels this miniseries is based on, from the moment Katharine of Aragon meets Margaret Pole, the two hit it off. This is historically accurate. The two women became best friends, with Margaret reaping the benefits of this friendship right after Katharine weds Henry VIII and is jointly crowned with him. The earldom of Salisbury that had been in her family was restored to her, becoming one of the few female title holders (femme sole) up until that point. But there is a dark history to Katharine and Arthur’s union, a condition which the miniseries will undoubtedly touch upon.
After Katharine and Margaret Pole become fast friends in The Constant Princess, she asks Margaret if she doesn’t blame her for her brother’s execution. Margaret brushes it off as one of many tragic moments in her life, and a reality that royals have to live with.
Is the miniseries going to have Elizabeth of York blame Katharine for what happened to her brother and cousin? The White Queen and The White Princess (based on the novels of the same name) follow the school of thought that Perkin Warbeck was who he claimed he was, the youngest of the lost princes in the tower, Richard of Shrewsbury, better known as Richard, Duke of York. “The White Princess” takes a lot of historical liberties (more so than its predecessor, also deviating from its source material), having Elizabeth of York being one of the plotters behind her brother and cousin’s downfall. Yet, to excuse her actions, she might reason that she was forced into these drastic measures because of Katharine of Aragon’s parents, the Catholic Kings who in real life DID pressure Elizabeth’s husband to secure his throne or else, their alliance was off.
Notable biographer Sarah Gristwood, takes on a different approach from past historians, inferring in her multiple biography on the women of the wars of the roses, “Blood Sisters”, that Margaret never got along with Katharine and held back a gleeful smile when her granddaughter-in-law’s longed for triumph, was nearly ruined by pouring rain. Katharine had come to substitute her as her remaining grandson, Henry VIII, now an adult and the new King of England, trusted adviser. The Spanish Princess, based off Philippa Gregory’s two novels The Constant Princess & The King’s Curse which protagonists are Katharine of Aragon and Margaret Pole respectively. Judging solely by the miniseries’ trailers, it looks like The Spanish Princess is taking this perspective. In the last chapters of “The Constant Princess”, Margaret Beaufort nearly explodes when Henry VIII begins to listen less and less to her and more to his charming new bride. The miniseries will no doubt recreate this season with Margaret realizing -as Sir Thomas More, Lord Mountjoy and countless others during her joint coronation with Henry VIII- that Katharine of Aragon is not just any Princess, but a woman who was born to be Queen.
In the trailer, Elizabeth reminds Henry VII of the importance of this alliance. “Spain and England unite against our enemies so our son is protected on his throne.”
It’s unknown whether she says this BEFORE or AFTER Arthur dies, and whether or not she is talking about Arthur or Harry. Judging solely from her tone of voice, this conversation could take place after Arthur’s death, when she starts to view Katharine more as a threat and a bitter reminder of the sacrifice they had to make to ensure this alliance. The next line is spoken by her husband in what can only be assumed is an earlier moment in the series, where he warns his Queen that until “that girl arrives, we are lost.”
“Elizabeth of York was glad that after so many delays, the Princess from Spain had finally reached England. In a month’s time, she and Arthur would be wed, and within a year –God willing- she would be a mother. But the Queen’s happiness had come at a price. Before his daughter could come to England, King Ferdinand had demanded the death of the hapless Earl of Warwick. The Young man, though he was a prisoner, was a continuing threat to the security of England, he believed. Until he was properly dealt with, Ferdinand declared, he would not allow his precious daughter to leave Spain. Henry VII complied. To secure the alliance, Warwick and Perkin Warbeck were put to death in 1499.” (Hui)
Taking all of this into account, it’s not far-fetched to say, that part of Elizabeth’s anger towards Katharine will stem from the the losses she and Henry had to endure and the heavy toll they had to pay for the sake of the Anglo-Spanish alliance. Elizabeth’s response to her cousin, Margaret Pole, when Margaret asks what will happen to the widowed Spanish Princess, may be confirmation of this.
Regardless of the historical liberties and deviation from the source material, this miniseries is set to have many historical buffs talking. Hopefully, it will make more people interested in finding out about the real people behind this costume drama, especially Katharine of Aragon, whose beginnings are often overshadowed by her tragic end.
Penn, Thomas. Winter King and the Dawn of Tudor England. Simon & Schuster. 2012.
Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. Yale University Press. 1999.
Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile. Ballantine. 2011.
Williams, Patrick. Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife. Amberley. 2013.
Hui, Roland. The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens. MadeGlobal. 2017.
Gristwood, Sarah. Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses. Harper. Collins. 2013.
Licence, Amy. Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife. Amberley. 2017.
–. The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII. Amberley. 2014.
–. Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen. Amberley. 2013.
–. Red Roses: From Blanche of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort. History Press. 2016.
Gregory, Philippa. The Constant Princess. Harper Collins. 2005.
Nowadays people complain that Game of Thrones, The Shannara Chronicles or any other modern dark fantasy is too violent. ‘Everything on TV is too violent.’ And then they go Helen Lovejoy from the Simpsons: ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?!’ But did you know that there was a plentyof violence in all the medieval romances where George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks and countless other fantasy authors have taken inspiration from?
We think that this is something recent. That authors in the good old days did not shock their audiences with vivid descriptions of brains splattered all over the stony ground (or wherever it was they did battle), and depraved carnal acts.
They knew better than that!
Well, boys and girls, that’s not how it went down. That is how the late 18th and 19th century writers would want you to believe (and some contemporary novelists) but in reality, medieval romances were filled with carnage and sex.
Just read Le MorteD’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, written at a time when England was embroiled in a violent civil war and you will see what I am talking about. Or better yet, read Chretien de Troyes. You do not have to go through all of his poem, just pick one at random dealing with the legend of King Arthur, and you will see nothing romantic about this legend. That is because our concept of romance is VERY DIFFERENT from what the medieval people saw as romance.
The more I revisit medieval romances, the more I fall in love with them (all over again). They are gory, sadder, than anything written recently. In a way, they were trying to copy their predecessors, Greek and Roman writers.
The way that Chretien, Sir Thomas Mallory, and several other medieval authors portrayed these legendary figures left a lot to be desired. And I do not mean this in a bad way. Arthur was a flawed character, his knights were less than perfect. Whoever wrote “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” perfectly shows this. Sir Gawain sleeps with the Green Knight and (spoilers) after finding out that it was all a trap by the magical Green Knight (whom he previously chopped his head off), he gets angry but his anger turns to regret as he begs his opponent to absolve him.
Chivalry was one of the core tenets of medieval society. People aspired to be greater than their ordinary selves. This code of conduct was reserved for the rich, and only a select class of rich people. Aristocrats, Kings, and Queens, were seen as the moral arbiters of society. They were held to a higher standard than anyone else, people lived and died by their example.
But we are all human; we make mistakes. Some people learn from their mistakes, others refuse to accept any responsibility and continue to make them.
The Arthurian characters erred many times. Most of them picked themselves up and did their best to rectify their mistakes by becoming better people starting with them admitting they had done something wrong.
What the 18th and 19th century monarchs were smarter than their predecessors was in their approach to these figures. Rather than aspiring to live up to their example, they took a step back, read between the lives, examined their lives and used their failures as a way to reinforce their moral codes unto society.
What Victorians ended up getting was a morality play set in a pristine place that was ruined by human vice.
Out of all the writers of this era, the only one that didn’t follow this formula was Mark Twain with his science fantasy novel ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ Originally intended to be satire, the author’s brutal depiction of the medieval era and use of sarcasm is truer to the medieval romances that popularized this legend than anything his contemporary Victorians wrote.
Gone was the sex and violence and acts that were too much for the Victorians to handle. Gone was also the political commentary. Some scholars believe that Sir Thomas Mallory used the Arthurian legend to criticize the two major branches of the Plantagenet Dynasty that had plunged England into a bloody dynastic civil war that lasted over three decades.
Victorian writers did not want their audience to read between the lines. It was okay if aristocrats did it with older version of the novels that depicted a cruder and less civilized age, but not for the common populace who wanted something different (and far less complicated).
The end result is the medieval era as the new protagonist of Arthurian lore. An Eden-like setting filled with magic and beauty; the ideal place to escape.
This formula became so successful that it is still employed in TV, movies and other pop culture mediums.
To loosely quote what the character Fry from Futurama said, people do not want to be reminded of their dreary existence. They want to be spoon-fed the same old tired formula because otherwise, they will get confused or scared.
Henry VII, King of England, Lord of Ireland and first monarch of the Tudor Dynasty was a fan of medieval romances. Like most men of the era, he wanted to be seen as the embodiment of the chivalric virtues that his heroes displayed in these tales, primarily King Arthur.
At the time of his birth, a prophecy was made. Its origins lay with an older prophecy that foretold the coming of a king who would unite Britain under his banner and bring order to chaos.
Avid readers of fantasy probably know where this is going. Almost every fantasy writer has used this device. Their protagonists have no idea until they do. They set out on a dangerous journey where they face every major obstacle known to man, until they fulfill their destiny. Unlike modern fantasies where the hero almost always wins at the end, medieval romances paralleled Greek tragedies.
The heroes complete their tasks, but it comes at a great cost. Such is Mallory’s take on the Arthurian legend. Prior to its publication, the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table was made up of fragments. Storytellers tried to put their own spin on the legend by focusing on one or two characters (at the most). If such a man existed, he must have originated from Wales., where the tale was born. Like many popular folk tales and legends, the conquerors added their own spin to it. After England became united, the tale was absorbed into English lore and Arthur became more than just a Welsh folk tale, but an English hero.
Published fourteen years after his death, Le Morte deArthur remains to this day the definitive account of King Arthur’s reign and the template for many fantasy authors who have continued to add more to this Welsh-Anglicized myth.
Written during the wars of the roses, some scholars believe that it was a political critique meant to reflect the general sentiment towards both warring Houses, Lancaster and York; the disillusionment from the nobles regarding Edward IV’s union with the fair Elizabeth Woodville, widow of Sir John Grey of Groby, and rewarding her family by marrying them to the high aristocracy; and lastly, the author’s own regarding both Houses.
Henry Tudor was fourteen at the time of the author’s death. He would have cared very little about one more former Lancastrian’s death, except for a passing sorrow given that he had fought on their side during the Lancastrian Readeption. Sir Thomas Mallory’s claim to fame came with this mammoth novel. When it was published, the House of York was in shambles.
What was once seen as England’s greatest hope had now become a source of dread. People looked for an alternative and they found one in the form of Henry Tudor, the exiled Earl of Richmond.
Forced to flee England with his uncle following the defeat of his cousin’s armies and his uncle’s death, Henry and Jasper landed in Brittany where they remained for thirteen years before spending their last year of exile in France.
THE PRINCE WHO WAS PROMISED
Seeing a window of opportunity with the disappearance of the princes in the Tower, Henry changed his tune from fighting in their name, to fighting in his name. On Christmas of 1483, at Vannes Cathedral (other sources say Rennes), he swore that he would smite the usurper and marry his fair niece, Elizabeth of York, thus uniting both houses and putting an end to the terrible war.
Henry cast himself in the role of the knight in shining armor, the chosen one who had been chosen by God to rule over their realm. Drawing from other Welsh myths and legends, he had the red dragon that represented Cadwaladr on his main standard.
When he was born, Welsh bards sang songs about him. His father, uncle, and grandfather were beloved in Wales, and they saw Owen Tudor’s descendant as part of a prophecy which foretold the return of King Arthur and of another legendary King, which would rule over all the British Isles.
Henry capitalized on people’s superstitions to build his growing legend. He was the exile who crossed the narrow sea; the heir to a once great House, who had come with a ragtag team of soldiers, fledglings, and mercenaries, to fight a greater army led by a tyrant.
These elements were common in every medieval romance. Henry Tudor claimed descent from King Arthur. He was not the first nor the last to do this. His father-in-law, Elizabeth of York’s father, had done this as well. Out of all of them however, it was Henry who pushed the envelope further by portraying his reign as one of peace, unity, law, and order.
Mallory’s version of King Arthur is far from perfect. He remains a flawed character, with Camelot ending up as nothing more than a fair reminder that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The entire story is bittersweet. And therein lies another sad comparison, one that Henry probably thought he could avoid.
Henry’s device -which became a national symbol of England and a representation of his dynasty- known as the ‘Tudor Rose’ told an alternative tale of the wars of the roses. As with Arthur who had proven his worth by taking the sword out of the stone, having Excalibur granted to him by the lady of the lake, and other magical tokens; Henry Tudor proved himself in the battlefield. He beat Richard, defeated the rebels, and every pretender that came his way. He was the first English King in hundreds of years to sign a peace with Scotland, remaining on good terms with his ancestral rival and neighbor until his death. Henry also financed the first maritime voyages to the new world. Though not successful like those sponsored by the Queen of Castile and King of Aragon, the Catholic Kings (Isabella I and Ferdinand II), they opened the door for future explorers.
Seeing how well the first Yorkist King’s economic policies had worked, he kept some of them, albeit making them better. Like him, he recognized he had to keep the nobles under a tight leash. Instead of marrying them to his wife’s family, he took their private liveries away. Private liveries gave them the right to a private army. Without one, they posed no serious threat.
THE END OF CAMELOT
But not all was well in paradise. Like his legendary hero, Henry lost most of his loved ones. His uncle Jasper, his firstborn, and his beloved wife and their infant daughter. This last loss broke him. He became a recluse, and like King Arthur, another bitter reminder of what once was and what could have yet might have been.
Survived by his mother, Henry passed away on April 1509. The last book of Le Morte dArthur has Arthur his illegitimate son to the death. Mordred is slain but Arthur is mortally wounded. Seeing the splatter of brains and other body parts, he weeps and laments his reign. One of his men takes him to a barge where he is watched over by three magical queens who take him to the land of Avalon, where he will rest for eternity. The novel ends with a promise. One day Arthur will rise from the grave and come in the form of a just man to make things right again.
Many English Kings did not see the tale of King Arthur as a cautionary tale. They saw Arthur as their role model. Due to his paternal family’s ties to Wales and his peculiar journeys, Henry believed he had more in common with him, and was worthier than his predecessors to take up his mantle.
Henry was right, the year the novel was printed, was the year his reign began. But rather than having celebrated the similarities, he should have been wary of them.
Henry VII’s crown was inherited by his remaining son, Henry VIII. Unlike the terrible state England had been left in by Arthur’s death, Tudor England did not have to worry about that because in our version of the tale, Merlin was still around to help the next generation before he too passed away. In this version, Merlin was not a wise old man but a woman. Henry VII’s mother ensured that her son had a peaceful transition of power. When he reached his age of majority, she retired and passed away quickly.
The age of Camelot had come to an end. Camelot had become a land of nightmares. After the Tudor dynasty died out and the crown was inherited by a Junior branch (that descended from his eldest daughter) chroniclers took a different view of Henry VII’s reign. Henry VII’s last years in power came to define him, with him being portrayed as the miser-king, a dastardly figure whose mother was equally terrible.
ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS
Like all the Tudors, Henry VII is a fascinating figure. Le Morte dArthur gives us an Arthur we can all root for and empathize with. He is flawed, and it is those flaws that make him relatable because he is human. Similarly, it is (ironically) thanks to all the bashing that Henry VII has received that has made him one of the more relatable monarchs of his dynasty.
They remain the once and future kings. Nobodies who beat the odds to become England’s celebrated figures, but who ultimately were helpless in the face of personal tragedy. Their dream of a perfect kingdom was inherited by their descendants but died with them. Ultimately though, despite his best efforts, his story took a tragic turn. Unlike his hero, he did not die at the hands of his son, nor see his kingdom descend into chaos. He had his Merlin (in the form of Margaret Beaufort) to thank for that; but he did lose many of his loved ones.Over a century later when the geo-political landscape of the British Isles changed, so did his appeal among chroniclers. Chroniclers began to see him in a negative light, painting him and his mother as a stain in English history and shifting the pendulum to the other side when it came to his rivals (primarily Richard).
In a way, this parallels with Arthur’s demise at the hands of his son, Mordred. At the end Mallory’s novel, Arthur regretfully tells two of his knights after he kills Mordred, that his glory has been snatched from him. Though Henry died of natural causes, recent efforts to vilify his name can be seen as a way of destroying his legacy.
Ironically though, novelists and chroniclers’ efforts to make him into a villain, only serve to make him more appealing. Who wants to be interested in a perfect character? Someone who has no flaws and you can’t relate to when you have a man who beat the odds and became King of England?
Subsequent Kings and Queens would delight themselves with tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table but they were far wiser in how they approached this tale. Instead of seeing Arthur as a role model, they regarded him as a cautionary tale; the perfect example of what happens when someone lets himself be overpowered by his vices.
de Lisle, Leanda. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public Affairs. 2013.
Penn, Thomas. Winter King and the Dawn of Tudor England. Simon & Schuster. 2012.
Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. Yale University Press. 1999.
Porter, Linda. Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots. Martin’s Press. 2014.
Skidmore, Chris. The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changed English History. Martin’s Press. 2014.
Annihilation is a straight out #Lovecraftian science fiction body horror!
The movie is a visual wonder. It opens up with a meteor hitting a lighthouse (where the greatest visuals in the film take place near the end) which has since then expanded. These events take place three years before the main events faced by Natalie Portman’s character (Lena) and her team of scientists, and two years before those faced by her husband and his crew.
Lena wants to find out what happened there so she volunteers in the hope that she can find a cure to whatever is ailing her husband and find out what happened to him and his crew, and why he was the only one of them to come back.
Once there, they find themselves in a place filled with beauty that seems too good to be true. In fact, Lena often uses the word ‘impossible’ to describe all the wonders that they are witness to. Such things should not exist yet they do.
Who or what is causing them? The movie concludes with Lena coming face to face with a terrible realization, and becoming almost insane as a result of it. This parallels the characters of Lovecraft who can’t cope with finding the truth about their reality and their place in the universe.
While the movie is based on the book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, the story is clearly inspired by Lovecraft. To put it mildly, this is cosmic horror at its best. This movie does not have the usual jump scares that many movies have today; there is just a feeling of dread and utter helplessness. The kind you feel after finishing one of Lovecraft’s short stories. The timing of the score was fabulous. I felt like I had been transported into a horrifying blend of Lovecraft’s lesser known stories of “the music of Erich Zann”, From Beyond” and “The Nameless City.” As for the alien intelligence itself, it was a mixture of all these entities and the Yith.
And the unknown does not necessarily equal darkness, but coming face to face with tunnels of cosmic wonders that transcend our understanding. What does this extraterrestrial force want? Do we want to know and once we do, will we be ready to embrace that truth? These questions will drive some viewers insane and that is the point of this film. For this reason alone, I highly recommend it to my viewers.
Art has always been a powerful medium. Some see it as a form of protest, injecting their political thought, to convince others of their ideology (or in this case, instill the fear of God in them), while others see it as another means of expression where political thought isn’t necessary.
Medieval art was no difference. What movies and TV shows are for us today, these plays were for the medieval average Joe and Jane. They were their form of escapism, a distraction from their everyday hard lives.
These plays also worked like fables. There was a lesson to be learned at the end of every tale. And like fables, the protagonist had to go through many obstacles, to realize what was truly important.
Among the few medieval plays that have survived is “Everyman” which this edition heavily focuses on. My advice is that you read every play, not just Everyman.
Each play is a retelling of biblical stories, with some being an original story where protagonist face some sort of obstacle they must overcome with the help of supernatural beings (like with “Everyman”). If these plays had relied solely on scary imagery, the audience would have felt little encouragement to stay through the whole event. Similarly, if the Merchant’s Guild (who financed these plays) had not thrown in something funny, the people would have felt just like they did at church.
The commons were eager for the arrival of the holiday season because it meant they would get to be part of another spectacle. Unlike movies today where you have to pay to see them, these plays were free.
At the time that “Everyman” was released, England had been embroiled in a civil war. The two major branches of the Plantagenet Dynasty, York and Lancaster, been fighting each other off for over three centuries. Although Lancaster had been wiped off, one scion remained.
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was seen as the new hope for the House of Lancaster. Those who had fought with his uncle and his fierce queen, fled England and joined him in exile. Henry promised that he would beat Richard and crown himself King, and marry the King’s niece, the Yorkist Princess, Elizabeth Plantagenet. Their union would bring the two sides together, thus, ending the conflict. This oath brought many disaffected Edwardian Yorkists to his side.
After Henry became King of England, there was an outbreak of sweating sickness. People were once again reminded of their stark reality. More than ever, these plays became necessary. They needed something to bring them respite from their everyday hardships.
More than escapism, these plays also offered them a sense of comfort. The common man could see himself in the protagonist, or identify with the other characters and go back home, thinking that like them, if they put enough trust in God, things would get better.
Ruth Goodman weaves a wonderful tale of kings, queens, peasants, artisans, and other groups from the late fifteenth, sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, illustrating how people’s views on sex, religion, childbirth, education and other customs varied, depending on the region they lived and -for those in the middle and at the bottom- how different regimes affected their lifestyle.
As such, issues such as work, immigration, cleanliness, food and clothing are also addressed.
One thing that Ruth Goodman also excels at is tearing down through the myths that people still buy into when they think of the Tudor era. And we can hardly blame fans who do because there isn’t a lot of focus on important factors that dominated people’s lives such as identity, religion, social status, and region.
This is a must have for every history enthusiast and aspiring historian. You won’t be disappointed.
Richly descriptive, beautifully written and highly entertaining, Ruth Goodman does what you’d expect a good historian and someone who’s clearly passionate about her work would do. She relies on primary sources and archaeological evidence and when she has to fill in the blanks, she fills in the blanks based on what she knows, but ultimately she makes it clear that it is up to the reader to decide what he or she believes is the likeliest possibility of the subject she just addressed.
It really feels like you’ve hopped into the DeLorean and gone back in time!
An excellent biography on one of the middle ages greatest kings, Edward III of England. What makes this biography different from others is that it offers a new perspective on Edward without the need of being condescending to other historians and biographers.
Ormrod acknowledges that many of Edward’s policies were innovative, and praises his maverick nature but he points out that much of the former were nothing new. He simply built on what his predecessors had done, altering some of their statues and regulations to ensure a more stable government.
The Edward that emerges from Ormrod’s biography is ambitious, scheming (plotting with the pope and other councilors to get rid of Mortimer) but also pragmatic and a great military commander who had a great team of administrators and above all, a man not afraid to compromise when the occasion called for it. Ormrod also puts his flaws, while a careful administrator and able leader, his taxation crippled many and there were times when he was forced to submit to Parliament’s rule and the commons’ representatives. This is not a sign of weakness, as Edward was a great negotiator and nothing he did came without a price.
The last years of his reign however after his wife and eldest son died, became decadent and this is seen through the demands of the Good Parliament that Ormrod goes over in various sections. I like the narrative, and that he went step by step explaining how each group was relevant in medieval society and how much it influenced or was affected by Edward’s policies. I only wish it had more details, it seemed as if each part was a short summary and he kept repeating himself at times. Nonetheless, it was still a good book.
El libro es mas que otra biografia sobre “Maria la Sanguinaria” como es mejor recordada. Esta biografia es acerca de la Maria historica. Una mujer que nacio en el Palacio de Greenwich en 1516, fue la unica hija que les sobrevivio a sus padres, Enrique VIII y su primera esposa, la Infanta Española Catalina de Aragon. Maria crecio mimada y con un futuro resplandeciente. Su madre era la hija de los Reyes Catolicos y por lo tanto esperaba que su hija heredara el trono de su padre. Sin embargo, la dinastia Tudor era bastante nueva e Inglaterra no tenia bien visto la idea de una Reina gobernante. Maria recibio una educacion de lujo pero esta fue suspendida una vez que Enrique se caso con Ana Bolena, declaro su matrimonio con Catalina nulo, y su hija una bastard.
El libro no excusa las acciones de Maria, pero tampoco da excusas para los otras personas que la rodearon. El siglo XVI era una epoca violenta, mas por los guerras religiosas entre varios grupos Protestantes y Catolicos, y tambien entre el Cristianismo y el Islam. Los autores no buscan dar una nueva interpretacion de Maria, si no reportar los hechos tal y como sucedieron, y presentar su mundo tal y como era. Y a Maria como una mujer que sufrio varias decepciones, las cuales influyeron en su decision de quemar varios Protestantes una vez que ella se volvio Reina. Aunque esto no fue de inmediato, no fue tan popular como se pensaba que iba a ser. Inglaterra estaba cambiando, y su decision de casarse con un hombre once años mas joven que ella, que no fue aceptado por el simple hecho de ser un extranjero, le trajeron muchos problemas. Felipe II, una vez que su padre abdico en su favor en 1556, tuvo menos interes en responder las cartas de su esposa o visitarla.
El libro termina con unas notas tristes, pero duras en cuanta a la vida de esta monarca. Claramente, ponerla como una incompredida heroina y angelita no le hace ningunos favores, pero exagerar su imagen y creer en todo lo negativo (mucho de lo cual era eso: exageracion) tampoco es bueno.
Los Grandes sigue siendo de las mejores ediciones de biografias historicas. No esperaba que me iba a gustar, pero me gusto porque a pesar de estar corta, el libro da a conocer todas los detalles importantes acerca de esta monarca. Tiene una buena documentacion y a la vez entretiene.