While we know her as the ‘Nine Day Queen’, Lady Jane Grey would probably have passed into history as an irrelevant, albeit intelligent, Tudor cousin had it not been for the ambitious machinations of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Having schemed his way to the position of Lord Protector during the reign of young Edward VI, Northumberland spied an opportunity to increase his power base when the young king fell ill with no signs of recovering, and it extended slightly further than sending Mary Tudor a fruit basket. Aware that his power would have been severely curtailed if the Catholic princess Mary succeeded to the throne, the fervent Protestant Northumberland executed a coup to place Jane Grey on the throne. The coup was short lived (lasting only nine days in fact) though Jane Grey is still included as a monarch of Britain despite her brief tenure. Continue reading
Spoiler warning: Game of Thrones Season 5 finale.
I have a lot of time to catch up on films and television series at the moment, so there’s that at least. Recently I watched Katherine of Alexandria (or Decline of an Empire depending on which part of the world you are from). I was really looking forward to watching this as female hagiography (saints’ lives) was the focus of my thesis and St. Katherine had a chapter all to herself as one of the most influential and prominent female saints of the middle ages. That and Peter O’Toole was in it so I was hyped.
Part of Anne Boleyn’s mystery is that we have so little evidence directly relating to Anne from which we can draw conclusions about what she was like as a person. Even though she became Queen of England what we don’t know about Anne Boleyn could fill volumes compared to the surprisingly little we do know. One of the major questions that often comes up regarding her was did she really love Henry VIII? Again, we cannot know (even if we had hundreds of surviving letters from her filled with declarations of her affection we probably still wouldn’t know). While a number of Henry’s letters to Anne have survived we are left to extrapolate what Anne’s potential response could be based on his next reply. Only one of Anne’s responses has survived, the contents of which date it to the late August or early September of 1526. Ironically, this is from almost a year before we have any of Henry’s letters which begin in May 1527 from when Anne removed herself from court and went to Hever Castle.
The Mistresses of Henry VIII attests that while the lives and personalities of Henry VIII and his six wives are well documented, Henry was involved in numerous affairs with women who have been largely forgotten by history. Hart’s book claims to ‘rescue’ these women from ‘obscurity’ relating the tales of Henry’s lesser known lady loves. How far she succeeds in this endeavor however, is debatable. Continue reading
The position of royal mistress, even a recognised maîtresse en titre was fraught with difficulties. The lucky, or perhaps more aptly, unlucky woman would have to work tirelessly to maintain the king’s interest. She would have to dispose of rivals without reducing herself to nagging the king or displeasing him in any way lest she herself be dismissed. Her political adversaries would be constantly trying to replace her and this was without the most basic demand of satisfying the king’s every whim. It is no wonder that some mistresses made bids for the throne, some successful others less so. At least as queen she was, in theory, unassailable or at the very least granted a measure of security her previous position would not have allowed her. Here we take a look at some of the women who tried to make the leap from first lady at court to first lady of the land, some of whom succeeded, others however were less than successful. Continue reading
In an ambitious project, Dawn B. Sova put together The Encyclopedia of Mistresses in 1993, which as you might expect is a collection of encyclopaedic-esque entries for women who have gone down in history as ‘the other woman,’ covering an impressive time period; from the early Greek age to the 20th century. Although I bought this book for my first thesis (a look at the position of the ‘mistress’ in Medieval England up to Anne Boleyn) it is in no way academic and very accessible to any reader. Continue reading