Your RDA of Irony

February 13th: Promiscuity for Dummies

If Miley Cyrus considers marrying Warren Buffett, she should ponder the fate of Catherine Howard. On this day in 1542, Miss Howard–the all-too-nominal Mrs. Tudor–made history and the coroner’s report. The young lady had ignored the risks of adultery when married to Henry VIII. It was an act of treason and the punishment was a fatal form of divorce. Henry had gotten rid of Anne Boleyn that way. She actually had been innocent, but English Law did not permit divorce on the grounds that Boleyn was an annoying bitch. (She definitely was guilty of that). However, five men–including Anne’s own brother–were tortured into confessions of all sorts of orgies with Anne as the center attraction. That “evidence” convicted Anne Boleyn; of course, her lovers had to be killed as well. The Tower of London and executioners had a great year in 1536.

In the case of Catherine Howard, she really was guilty. Gee, how could a teenage girl want anyone other than a gross, gout-ridden syphilitic 50 year-old? Nevertheless, she should have been especially wary of the risks of being Mrs. Tudor; the late Anne Boleyn was her first cousin. Howard and her handsome young lover were caught, tried and executed. In an act of vicious pettiness, the Crown also executed a man who had “dated” Catherine before her marriage.

If Catherine Howard wanted a role model, a good choice would have been Mary Boleyn. The older sister of Anne had been the mistress of both Francis I and Henry VIII and, aside from the syphilis, was no worse for the experiences. Mary understood the requirements of being a royal mistress: say yes, look grateful, and know your place. A king’s mistress is entitled to certain perks: jewelry, cushy jobs for her parasitic family and, if she should add to the family tree, a title of nobility for the royal bastard. But the prudent mistress does not make demands on the King and certainly would not cheat on him.

A prudent mistress is also a good loser. When Henry tired of Mary Boleyn, he followed etiquette and arranged a good marriage for her. She outlived her ambitious sister and reckless cousin. Furthermore, Mary, as Lady Carey, produced her own dynasty, and some of her descendants distinguished themselves among the fox-hunting classes. A great-great-great-etc. grandson named Winston had talent as a writer–among other things. And one of Mary’s living descendants is named for Anne Boleyn’s daughter and has the very same job.

  1. Mark Blitstein says:

    Excellent summary, and WITTY , as usual
    Mark(in Az…..see you March 3 at Solel)

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