Posts Tagged ‘Henry VIII’

Royal Gossip

Posted in General, On This Day on January 18th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 7 Comments

January 18, 1486: How the Tudors Got Their Good Looks (even if they couldn’t keep them)

We all have the image of Henry VIII as that bloated bully in the Holbein portrait. Either fat had a higher aesthetic value in the 16th century or those English courtiers assured the tempermental King that he looked wonderful. Fortunately, Henry was easily convinced of his good looks. When a middle-aged blob, he certainly was self-deluded but at least he had an excellent memory.

Henry VIII was not born looking like Charles Laughton. The young king actually was handsome, a gift from his mother Elizabeth of York. She was a beauty, the gift of her parents: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They were regarded as the best-looking people in England! Elizabeth Woodville had to be a beauty; to have her, Edward IV caused a civil war.

She was a widow, with children, and only from the minor nobility; worse, her late husband and her family had been supporters of the rival Lancastrian dynasty. The lusty Edward IV wanted her as a mistress; she refused his advances and insisted on marriage. At that very time, Edward had commissioned his chief supporter, the Earl of Warwick, to negotiate a marriage with the sister-in-law of the King of France. Warwick, the most powerful noble in England, had successfully negotiated that marital alliance when he learned that Edward had eloped with the Woodville widow. “The Kingmaker”, as Warwick was known, was humiliated and furious; he then switched his allegiance and considerable forces to the Lancasters. Warwick succeeded in ousting Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne in 1470. A year later, Edward returned. Warwick was killed in battle and Henry VI was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The deposed King apparently fell on several daggers while in chapel.

In any case, handsome Edward IV and beautiful Elizabeth Woodville produced seven children. (He also acquired a pack of greedy in-laws and two stepsons who could have been role models for Paris Hilton.) Edward died in 1483, thinking his young son Edward would succeed him. Unfortunately, the regent of England was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Although the late King’s brother, he had always resented the Woodville queen and her upstart family. Uncle Richard had other plans.

And the war over Elizabeth Woodville so divided the Yorkist party that the illegitimate Welsh branch of the Lancastrian line would soon kill its way to the throne. When the illegitimate half-second cousin, once removed, Henry Tudor ascended to the throne, he required a legitimate princess for some resemblance to respectability. The eldest daughter of Edward IV sufficed quite nicely, and today is their wedding anniversary.

p.s.  And let’s not forget this birthday: http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2009/01/18/adjective-orgy/

The First Tax Lawyers

Posted in General, On This Day on August 17th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

August 17th

Upon ascending the throne, handsome young Henry VIII knew how to ingratiate himself with his subjects. On this day in 1510  he executed his father’s two most unpopular ministers

Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson had been geniuses at collecting taxes, to the delight of Henry VII. The first Tudor was stingy by nature, perhaps the consequence of his early life as a penniless adventurer–the dubious and none-too-legitimate claimant to the English throne. But like everything else in the wily Welshman, even the vices of Henry VII were prudent.

The purpose of his tax policy was to drain the nobility into a passive stupor. The taxes were never onerous enough to incite a revolt, just heavy enough so that the aristocracy could no longer afford their own militia. Toward that end, Henry VII surrounded himself with a group of mercenaries who were as bellicose and ruthless as the nobility but also viciously intelligent: lawyers. Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson were part of this English Inquisition.

The King’s policy was expressed by the Lord Chancellor, John Morton: “If the subject is seen to live frugally, tell him because he is clearly a money saver of great ability he can afford to give generously to the King. If, however, the subject lives a life of great extravagance, tell him he, too, can afford to give largely, the proof of his opulence being evident in his expenditure.” In other words, damned (taxed) if you do, damned (taxed) if you don’t.

Morton died of natural causes in 1500, avoiding Henry VIII’s idea of a retirement. Empson and Dudley obviously did not have such a good sense of timing. They were beheaded, which Henry VIII considered a generous departure. Empson was irrefutably middle-class and could have been hanged, drawn and quartered. Dudley was of minor nobility but just the younger son of a younger son of a baron, so he barely qualified for the privilege of decapitation.

Of course, their estates were confiscated–and Dudley had somehow amassed a considerable one. In 1513, the handsome, young but increasingly mercurial Henry VIII decided to restore the estates to the widows. The Empson family felt itself lucky to regain its property and has since avoided the notice of history. The Dudleys, however, evidently like the politics and the prominence, attaining both dukedoms and executions for their efforts. John Dudley, the son of Edmund, ingratiated, intrigued and actually deserved power. A capable soldier and excellent administrator, he successfully manuevered himself to become the regent of Edward VI–ruling the country (very well!) in the name of the boy king. When Edward died, the scheming Dudley was loathe to relinquish power and so attempted to foist his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne. That didn’t end well. This time, his right to decapitation was never in doubt–and no one thought him innocent.

By the third generation, the Dudley ability had completely dissipated although the ambition had not. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, thought himself  both a statesman and a general, proving himself a man of expansive ineptitude. Henry VII would never have trusted him with a tollbooth, Henry VIII would have killed the blundering dolt, but Elizabeth thought him charming. So he died of natural causes–unlike his clever grandfather and his conniving father.

Ironically, Robert Dudley was exactly the kind of upper-class fool that Edmund Dudley would have exploited.

Beheading Behavior

Posted in General, On This Day on August 14th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Today is the birthday of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.   Born in 1473, the poor woman had a miserable sense of timing from the start.  By the time she was four, she had been declared a traitor by her uncle King Edward IV–who executed his own brother and stripped the ensuing orphans of their property.  Her nicer uncle was Richard III, who restored young Margaret’s and her brother’s legitimacy and estates.   Margaret’s luck lasted two years–the same length as Richard’s reign.  Being a Yorkist heiress and a legitimate Plantagenet did not improve her prospects with the new king  Henry VII–who was not a legitimate anything.  Her brother Edward would spend the rest of his short life in prison; although mentally-retarded, that was a minor handicap for royalty and his pedigree made him a threat to the Tudors.  Edward was executed in 1499 at the age of 24.  Margaret was kept under a more comfortable confinement until Henry decided her fate–specifically which of his lackeys deserved a rich, young wife.

The lucky–and unctuously loyal–groom was Henry’s cousin Richard Pole.  Pole married Margaret in 1494, and apparently he did not mind at all.  There were five children within ten years, and I would like to tell you that the Pole family lived happily ever after.  Well, Richard did; he had the prudence to die in 1505.  But Margaret and her children did not.  They  lived on into the reign of Henry VIII.

He was Margaret’s first cousin, once removed, and he took the removal quite seriously.  The Poles were staunch Catholics, and they would be providing executioners with steady work for the next two generations.  Margaret was never implicated in any plots, but her decapitation in 1541 was Henry’s way of congratulating her son Reginald for becoming a Cardinal.

In Tudor England beheading was considered a privilege. It was performed before a select audience in a upper class setting. In return, the victims were expected to behave with stoic dignity. Most did.  The Countess of Salisbury definitely was the exception. The frail 67 year-old woman did not want to be executed and would not cooperate. She had to be dragged to the scaffold and would not passively place her head on the block. The executioner required assistance to hold down the struggling lady. She writhed and wiggled so effectively that the axeman missed her neck, slashing instead her shoulder. In the confusion, the Countess tried to make a run for it. She only managed to dodge around the scaffold and she was just one wounded old lady against an armed killer and his staff. The outcome was inevitable but she gave an unprecedented resistance.

The Church beatified her in 1886.  Given her surprising dexterity, you’d think that a Catholic school would have named a gym for her.

And You Thought That It Was Only a Cold Sore….

Posted in On This Day on January 28th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

On this day in 1547, Henry VIII evidently won his wager with Francis I as to which of them would first die of syphilis. The smart money would have bet on the French king; he had the disease first. In fact, he may have indirectly infected Henry. A pioneer of venereal environmentalism, Francis used to recycle his mistresses. Among his many “friends” was Mary Boleyn. (You certainly are familiar with her younger sister.) When Francis and Mary parted ways, she returned to England and became Henry’s mistress. She may have brought back more than French fashion.

Syphilis was one of the most popular imports from the New World. Columbus traded it for smallpox. The Europeans certainly got the better of the deal. After all, no one enjoys getting smallpox. Although the Spanish first imported the venereal disease, people tended to associate it with France. (Something about Torquemada just isn’t erotic.) So the malady initially was known as the French Disease; an invading French army did introduce it to Italy in 1494. By 1503, English doctors needed a name for the disease; however, begrudging the French credit for anything, they preferred the term “the Great Pox.”

The disease finally acquired its formal name in 1530. Girolamo Fracastoro, an Italian physician who dabbled in poetry, wrote an allegory of the disease attributing its origins to an amorous but incautious shepherd named Syphilus. The name, like the disease, caught on.

Beheading Behavior

Posted in General, On This Day on August 14th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

May 27, 1541:  Margaret Pole Almost Revives the Olympics

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.   Born in 1473, the poor woman had a miserable sense of timing from the start.  By the time she was four, she had been declared a traitor by her uncle King Edward IV–who executed his own brother and stripped the ensuing orphans of their property.  Her nicer uncle was Richard III, who restored young Margaret’s and her brother’s legitimacy and estates.   Margaret’s luck lasted two years–the same length as Richard’s reign.  Being a Yorkist heiress and a legitimate Plantagenet did not improve her prospects with the new king  Henry VII–who was not a legitimate anything.  Her brother Edward would spend the rest of his short life in prison; although mentally-retarded, that was a minor handicap for royalty and his pedigree made him a threat to the Tudors.  Edward was executed in 1499 at the age of 24.  Margaret was kept under a more comfortable confinement until Henry decided her fate–specifically which of his lackeys deserved a rich, young wife.

The lucky–and unctuously loyal–groom was Henry’s cousin Richard Pole.  Pole married Margaret in 1494, and apparently he did not mind at all.  There were five children within ten years, and I would like to tell you that the Poole family lived happily ever after.  Well, Richard did; he had the prudence to die in 1505.  But Margaret and her children did not.  They  lived on into the reign of Henry VIII.

He was Margaret’s first cousin, once removed, and he took the removal quite seriously.  The Poles were staunch Catholics, and they would be providing executioners with steady work for the next two generations.  Margaret was never implicated in any plots, but her decapitation in 1541 was Henry’s way of congratulating her son Reginald for becoming a Cardinal.

In Tudor England beheading was considered a privilege. It was performed before a select audience in a upper class setting. In return, the victims were expected to behave with stoic dignity. Most did.  The Countess of Salisbury definitely was the exception. The frail 67 year-old woman did not want to be executed and would not cooperate. She had to be dragged to the scaffold and would not passively place her head on the block. The executioner required assistance to hold down the struggling lady. She writhed and wiggled so effectively that the axeman missed her neck, slashing instead her shoulder. In the confusion, the Countess tried to make a run for it. She only managed to dodge around the scaffold and she was just one wounded old lady against an armed killer and his staff. The outcome was inevitable but she gave an unprecedented resistance.

The Church beatified her in 1886.  Given her surprising dexterity, you’d think that a Catholic school would have named a gym for her.

And You Thought That It Was Only a Cold Sore

Posted in General, On This Day on January 28th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

On this day in 1547, Henry VIII evidently won his wager with Francis I as to which of them would first die of syphilis. The smart money would have bet on the French king; he had the disease first. In fact, he may have indirectly infected Henry. A pioneer of venereal environmentalism, Francis used to recycle his mistresses. Among his many “friends” was Mary Boleyn. (You certainly are familiar with her younger sister.) When Francis and Mary parted ways, she returned to England and became Henry’s mistress. She may have brought back more than French fashion.

Syphilis was one of the most popular imports from the New World. Columbus traded it for smallpox. The Europeans certainly got the better of the deal. After all, no one enjoys getting smallpox. Although the Spanish first imported the venereal disease, people tended to associate it with France. (Something about Torquemada just isn’t erotic.) So the malady initially was known as the French Disease; an invading French army did introduce it to Italy in 1494. By 1503, English doctors needed a name for the disease; however, begrudging the French credit for anything, they preferred the term “the Great Pox.”

The disease finally acquired its formal name in 1530. Girolamo Fracastoro, an Italian physician who dabbled in poetry, wrote an allegory of the disease attributing in origins to an amorous but incautious shepherd named Syphilus. The name, like the disease, caught on.

The Sexiest Man Alive, circa 1510

Posted in General on January 16th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

There were two general reactions to my assertion that the young Henry VIII was attractive. The more charitable among you think that I should sue my opthalmologist. The more cynical readers suspect that I am a royalist sycophant groveling for an invitation to a high tea at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, both assumptions could be right; but so am I!

Henry VIII was not born looking like Charles Laughton. The young king actually was handsome, a gift from his mother: Elizabeth of York. She was a beauty, the gift of her parents: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They were regarded as the best-looking people in England! Elizabeth Woodville had to be a beauty; to have her, Edward IV caused a civil war.

She was a widow, with children, and only from the minor nobility; worse, her late husband and her family had been supporters of the rival Lancastrian dynasty. The lusty Edward IV wanted her as a mistress; she refused his advances and insisted on marriage. At that very time, Edward had commissioned his chief supporter, the Earl of Warwick, to negotiate a marriage with the sister-in-law of the King of France. Warwick, the most powerful noble in England, had successfully negotiated that marital alliance when he learned that Edward had eloped with the Woodville widow. “The Kingmaker”, as Warwick was known, was humiliated and furious; he then switched his allegiance and considerable forces to the Lancasters. Warwick succeeded in ousting Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne in 1470. A year later, Edward returned. Warwick was killed in battle and Henry VI was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The deposed King apparently fell on several daggers while in chapel.

In any case, handsome Edward IV and beautiful Elizabeth Woodville produced seven children. (He also acquired a pack of greedy in-laws and two stepsons who could have been role models for Udai and Qusay Hussein.) Edward died in 1483, thinking his young son Edward would succeed him. Unfortunately, the regent of England was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Although the late King’s brother, he was also Warwick’s son-in-law and had always resented the Woodville queen and her upstart family. Uncle Richard had other plans.

And the war over Elizabeth Woodville so divided the Yorkist party that the illegitimate Welsh branch of the Lancastrian line would soon kill its way to the throne. When the illegitimate half-second cousin, once removed, Henry Tudor ascended to the throne, he required a legitimate princess for some resemblance to respectability. The eldest daughter of Edward IV sufficed quite nicely.