Posts Tagged ‘January 18’

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:

Adjective Orgy

Posted in General, On This Day on January 18th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 11 Comments

January 18th

Roget's hand finishedOn this day in 1779, Peter Roget was born/spawned/ejected. In the course of his life/existence/happening, Roget distinguished himself as a scholar and inventor/polymath man/Victorian know-it-all. A doctor by profession, he wrote a scientific study on tuberculosis/consumption/how to kill a Bronte. As a mathematician, he invented the logarithmic slide rule/mechanical analog computer/nerd sword. Today, however, we best know him for his hobby/avocation/obsessive compulsive disorder. He/Dr. Roget/Pedantic Pete liked to make lists.

One of his favorite diversions was categorizing words by their synonyms. The English language certainly could keep him busy, being a linguistic hodgepodge of barbaric German, Norwegian-accented French, second-hand Greek, and whatever the Empire chose to plagiarize from the natives. (The Hindi word veranda does sounds more charming than the Middle English porch or its pompous Latin forebear portico). In fact, the English language had become an empire in itself–with an unrivalled vocabulary. It had twice as many words as German; of course, each German word was three longer than its English equivalent. (And the disparity continues today; there now are some 500,000 words in English, while only 180,000 in German.)

Upon his retirement in 1840, Dr. Roget dedicated himself to compilating his lexicon/trivia/idiosyncracies. He called his work a thesaurus which in Greek means either treasury or god lizard. (His lists evidently did not include embarrassing Greek homophones.) His masterpiece was finally published in 1852 under the title “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.” For some reason–such as a shorter lifespan in the 19th century–readers preferred to call the book “Roget’s Thesaurus”.

And where would we modern writers be without Roget’s guide/terminology/onomasticon/cheat notes?