Thursday, February 18, 2021

Plantagenets, Tudors and Stuarts

Photo: Carae - Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of England, mother of the princes in the tower.

The question of the day is: How are you spending your extra pandemic hours at home? 

I have stepped into the past to watch history documentaries, as well as, historical fiction -- dramas that combine facts with inventions, including The White Queen, The White Princess and The Spanish Princess. As long as I can google known facts to learn what really happened or to flesh out the true characters of kings, queens and power players at court, I will accept the historical fiction story I'm watching as entertainment, and yet often I think the truth doesn't need the invention, as the real history was dramatic and fascinating enough. The old saying applies, life is stranger than fiction.
Photos: Henry VII & Elizabeth of York, the elder sister of the Princes in the tower - their marriage (happy) ended the 30 year Wars of the Roses.
Overall, I notice the 3 historical fiction series listed above get the outlines and major events right, but sometimes mess with the timeline, minor yet important details, or motivations of a character, getting them wrong by making a confident historical person weak or needy, or a righteous person of the past calculating and unrighteous. I understand the need to composite characters into one for reasons of time or storytelling, but I dislike when producers change the nature, or established deeds of a historical person. While watching you must go with it to enjoy the series ... then look the person up later to know what is real and what liberties are taken.

Catherine of Aragon & how she'd look today
In school I took required Western Civilization history courses ... and yes, learned some things ... however, I have never cared to take an extended look at Plantagenet, Tudor or Stuart England thereafter ... until 2020. Mores change in a millennium, so I didn't think I could relate. But you can relate when studying the past, and I am re-examining English history in reverse order:
The 5 eldest children of Charles I by Van Dyck
1638 - Mary, James, Charles, Elizabeth and Anne

1) Stuarts - Mostly like them despite their faults. The Stuart kings were good fathers and (except for faithful Charles I) philandering husbands, but who protected their wives when needed. History is hard on James II, who's chief flaw was his stubbornness. James lacked the charm of his older brother, Charles II. As king, James passed laws showing tolerance of Catholics and Protestants (groups like Quakers) alike, which lead to the loss of his Crown. James II was followed by his 2 Protestant daughters: Mary II and Anne (skipping over his infant Catholic son from his 2nd marriage). Queen Anne's death ended the Stuart line.

2) Tudors - Dislike Henry VII and Henry VIII. What a bloodthirsty, greedy, miserly dynasty. Psychopaths!! 

Like Catherine of Aragon and Mary I, who were both victims of their tyrant husband and father, Henry VIII. Dislike Anne Boleyn (What somebody will do with you, they'll do to you ... and worse!)  Have sympathy for the other wives. Haven't gotten in-depth into Elizabeth I ... but will likely think she's ok.

Richard III - face
created based his skull.
3) Plantagenets -  I'm now watching every documentary about them. Lots of family infighting and betrayals happening. Tough times. Divided country. Family feuds with money and retainers!! Generally, I understand and like them. I like (English born, German) Empress Matilda who became a claimant to the English throne, and Eleanor of Aquitaine rocked! I like Elizabeth Woodville and Henry IV well enough. Richard III ... did he kill the princes in the tower as has been accepted for 500 years? Well, maybe not, I'm unsure. It could have been directed by Henry Tudor or his wily mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. We will likely never know who killed those boys. Richard III was the last of the Plantagenets. Defeated by Henry Tudor, the new King (as Henry VII) spent his reign hunting down potential Plantagenet rivals whom he feared had a better claim to the English throne.

My ancestors have the same Norman roots and took the same English paths of migration as the Plantagenets, but after 600 - 1,000 years how would you truly know if you are related? I'm skeptical when people say their gateway ancestor was a long ago royal. Without a meticulous paper trail that stretches all the way back, you're only guessing. But you know what? I still hate those Tudors! The revisionists of history.😏 What a cutthroat bunch of murderous paranoids ... and nasty to their own family to boot!💂👑

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  1. Possibly you are related to the Queen? Pretty cool! I've watched a bit of re-runs of a show called the Royals. On the historical front, I found an author called Arthur Herman who wrote an excellent book about the Scots. He has also written about Brit maritime history so he gets back to Henry Tudor but not before that. At one time, I read some olde history called Smollet's England, or some of Winston Churchill's history of Britain, but not lately.

    1. I think it would take a very sophisticated DNA test to know. 600 years is quite a bit of time to know with any certainty. History is fun and entertaining and a great way to learn and occupy one's mind. Hopefully learning from the past.

  2. What fun you are having with the history of the kings of England. I love history, but prefer an academic version, as close to accurate as it is possible to be, preferably with footnotes/references. However, many people enjoy historical fiction, and whatever you like is good. I have read and watched lots of docos about the Stuarts and Tudors, but not the Plantagenets, although G recently read a book about them. Must borrow it...
    I would say I feel the same as you about the wives of Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn was a piece of work, as they say. We went to Hampton Court Palace and did the tour in 2016, a very interesting day and we really enjoyed it. And of course, we did the Buckingham Palace tour as well, very contemporary history. Year earlier I also visited Leeds Castle in Kent which is very ancient, and has royal connections for about 1,000 years. Worth a Google :) Catherine of Aragon used Leeds Castle. And also we have been to the Tower of London and shivered at the site of Anne Boleyn's execution, as the black rooks flew around over our heads. Yay, history!

    1. I got to visit the Tower of London, the outsides of Windsor, Buckingham Palace and Hampton Court on a student tour but didn't get to determine how long to stay or what to wait in line to tour at any of them. So I must go back!

      I'd love to go to Leeds also. I have great sympathy for Catherine of Aragon and the horrible way the Tudors treated her after 22+ years of marriage and service to England.

      One of the positive aspects of the Historical fiction dramas is they spark your imagination and hopefully interest in knowing the true history. When I watch alone, I pause the stories and consult my academic sources (I'm lots of fun to watch with if I don't restrain myself when others are present.:)

      Let me know if you recommend the Plantagenets book after you read it, please, Trish!