May 19th, 1536: A Tribute to Anne Boleyn

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I know I’m not supposed to be blogging during my official leave of absence, but as many of you know, today is May 19th, the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s execution. And I couldn’t pass up this occasion to pay tribute to someone I deeply admire and respect.

All the ladies had stunning hair thanks to Andrea and Jenna!

All the ladies had stunning hair thanks to Andrea and Jenna!

In November 2012, several of my friends and I got together and shot a short film regarding the extraordinary life of Anne Boleyn. The final result was approximately 20 minutes, depicting her life from her time with Margaret of Austria to her execution in 1536. Our budget was literally nothing. My camera is nothing special, and neither is the editing program I used. Everything we used in the film we previously owned or made. The costumes, the set, the weapons (we had swords, axes, arrows, bows…ninja stars…they didn’t make it into the film). Everyone chipped in and contributed (we had some amazing hair stylists and seamstresses), and I think it’s safe to say we all had a blast, and everyone, especially the star of our film, learned a great deal about Anne and what it was like during her final days.

The following clip is short and just a peek at what we accomplished that day.

The beautiful Anne Boleyn, played by the equally beautiful and talented Kenzie.

The beautiful Anne Boleyn, played by the equally beautiful and talented Kenzie.

There are so many things I didn’t include in this 90 seconds — George Boleyn’s execution, Anne’s time with Mary, Queen of France, the birth of Elizabeth. Each person involved in this project is so talented and ridiculously cooperative, enthusiastic, and helpful. I was such a bossy cow of a director it’s a wonder they didn’t kill me before the day was out — and most of them want to make another film this year!

I’ve been pestering Kenzie for years, saying that she shares a startling resemblance to Anne. When I asked her if she would like to play Anne in a film, she sort of laughed and sighed and said, “Do I really have a choice?” She was remarkable; she did everything I threw at her and then some. She brought Anne Boleyn to life, and I personally think she did a marvelous job.

So here it is. In memory of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England. May 19th, 1536.

Thanks to Kenzie, Greg, Maggie, Andrea, Sam, Devin, Zozie, Jenna, Emily, Melinda, Tim, and Joan for their cooperation, assistance, talent, and patience. I love you all!

For last year’s tribute to Anne Boleyn, click here.

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Anne Boleyn: More than a Vagina

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January is a monumental month for Anne Boleyn fans. Not only do we have the speculated date for her secret marriage to Henry VIII on the 25th of 1533, but several other less fortunate events, consisting of what would be the ultimately infamous year 1536. On January 7th, 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at Kenilworth; Henry questionably celebrated the death of his first wife by throwing parties, jousting, doting on his second, legitimate daughter Elizabeth, and wearing ‘yellow for mourning.’ These festivities lasted weeks to the offense of Catherine’s supporters and most of the public.

Yet while Henry saw Catherine’s death as the ultimate finalization of his second marriage, Anne Boleyn, 15 weeks pregnant, was nervous. Her marriage to the king already suffered fissures and cracks, and he had begun to tire of the fiery personality that had won his heart nearly ten years earlier. The king’s eye had begun to wander again, this time to her own lady in waiting, Jane Seymour.

On January 24th, Henry suffered a severe jousting accident and was unconscious for several hours. Anne was understandably distraught, and the stress of Henry’s near-death, her failing marriage, and catching her husband with Jane Seymour ‘on his knee’ likely resulted in the miscarriage of a male foetus on January 29th (ironically the same day as Catherine’s funeral).

This miscarriage is widely acknowledged to be the kick-start of Anne Boleyn’s quick demise from her already-tenuous situation as Queen. I’ve heard the loss of this baby described as her greatest failure.

I pondered this. In conjunction to this ‘failure,’ her birthing the girl who would become Elizabeth I is largely considered her greatest triumph or accomplishment.

Now, I know this is not an universal agreement, but I’ve come across these opinions often enough to feel fair in generalizing it for the sake of this post. I’m also not a mother, so if producing a child is the greatest thing a woman can do in your opinion, that’s great, too.

However, to say that Anne Boleyn’s greatest failure is the miscarriage of a child is a bit inaccurate, don’t you think? She didn’t make the mistake of miscarriage, she didn’t have a choice. Circumstances were unfortunate what with Henry’s accident and her failing marriage, but it was not a failure in the sense that she had a conscious option to instead succeed.

If you want to talk about her greatest failures, perhaps we could include making an enemy of Thomas Cromwell, or underestimating the love of the king, or what colour dress she wore on a certain day. Those are mistakes and failures, things she could have done differently to prevent the outcome that eventually came to be. Miscarriage is a biological occurrence with many factors, factors that the century was unable to control. The loss of her child on January 29th was a tragic happening. It might have been her greatest misfortune, but it was not her greatest failure.

The flip side of this coin is the birth of her daughter Elizabeth almost three years earlier, on September 7th, 1533. Was it her greatest accomplishment? Some might see it that way, and others might see it as a result of chance and good luck. Elizabeth just happened to come to term and survive infancy. Anne had very little part in the enduring existence of her daughter.

In this regard, it might be more fair to say that Anne Boleyn’s influence on Elizabeth was her greatest accomplishment, but even this is uncertain. Like all royal children, Elizabeth was raised by nurses and nannies, and saw her mother only occasionally. There is no doubt that Anne loved Elizabeth, there is no question of that, but Elizabeth wasn’t even three years old when her mother met the French swordsman on May 19th, 1536. Whatever stories were passed down and whatever idea the little bastard princess formulated on her own of Anne Boleyn may have influenced her later actions as both woman and queen, but Elizabeth was her entirely own person. Anne Boleyn had scarce much to do with who her daughter would become.

So was Elizabeth’s birth the greatest accomplishment of the ‘most controversial queen’ in English history? I just can’t say it. Labelling such an extraordinary woman as Anne Boleyn — who I often see as the epitome of womanhood and female strength — for her success as a baby-making machine is something I disagree with. She was much more than a vagina, uterus, and ovaries, despite being forced into the role of fertile, heir-producing queen.

Feel free to share, with credit, of course! :)

Feel free to share, with credit, of course! 🙂

She was a well-read, educated woman who formed her own opinions, supported religious beliefs that were at the time considered incorrect and scandalous, and debated at equal and sometimes superior skill with the highest and most notable noblemen and scholars of her time; she was a patron of the arts, advocate of religious reform, and supporter of the less fortunate. Her friendships — and indeed enmity — with the highest men in the land brought both greatness and demise. She defied the convention of her times by taking the bold step into independence, becoming an utterly unique person envied by all the court, and left everything she knew beyond into the murky waters ahead by capturing the heart of the most powerful man in the country, which led to the separation from the Roman Church and creation of today’s Church of England. She dined and danced with kings and queens, both supported and argued with some of the most distinguished intellects of our history. She married for love, an act in itself unknown. She defended her innocence like few had done. Her infamous death at the hand of a French swordsman and is seen as a beautiful act of bravery and true faith. Her words and actions survive today to inspire new generations of women to embrace who they are and the dare defy what society wants to mold us into.

Yes, she popped out one of the greatest monarchs, but this in itself was not her greatest act.

Anne Boleyn was more than a vagina.

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Let them grumble!

A Few Reasons Why Time Travel Wouldn’t Work

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Often times I think to myself, “I wish I could have seen Anne Boleyn’s coronation,” or “Wouldn’t it be grand to go back in time and attend an Inkling meeting?” or “I yearn to see the Allahakberries play cricket!”

It is times like these when I wish I had a time machine. Things in the past often seem brighter and more glamorous than the present, and experiencing iconic history is something I’ve dreamed of for … ever.

Knowing that I can’t will sometimes make me a bit blue, and to counter these bouts of born-in-the-wrong-century-depression I’ve come up with a list as to why time travel would not be a good thing:

Traditionally, the time machine only transports the user back in time, but doesn’t alter their location (for this to happen it would have to be a dual time travel and teleporter.) Even if I could get my hands on a time machine, I’d have to travel to England first, and take it with me… And I really, really doubt a time machine would get through customs easily.

Time travel would come with the power of altering history. What if I accidentally destroyed Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship with a stupid comment from the future? Would The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia still be written? Would Lewis still broadcast hope to the world during WWII? What if, at Anne’s coronation, Henry caught my eye and made me become his mistress, and I was responsible for Anne’s execution by replacing her and Jane Seymour? What if I cheered so loud for little J.M. Barrie that he didn’t pay attention and the cricket ball hit him in the head and he died? These are not good things.

What if I died? Going back in time, especially to Tudor England, would have its health disadvantages. Plague, sweating sickness, lack of antibiotics, heads rolling everywhere… If I died during my time travel, what would happen? Would I die in this world, too? Would I never be born? Would my death just result in being thrown back into the present?

[What is Libby going on about?]

Taken from the FB page ‘Living to Read Fantasy.’

History could be different from what I thought. Maybe Anne Boleyn really was a home wrecker instead of the independent woman I’ve come to know and love. Maybe Tolkien was rude and pompous. Maybe Christopher Robin hated his father, A.A. Milne, for basing a lovable children’s character off of him. Maybe Cromwell had nothing to do with Anne’s execution. Would these ruin my perceptions of these people? Would I hate myself for allowing this to happen?

How could I get back? Logically, you have to be with the time machine to use it. It can’t be remotely operated, so you’d have to bring the machine with you back in time, plus keep it a secret. Can you imagine if Henry VIII was accidentally transported to my home? Or worse, 1970s New York? 

[That’s it. She’s having eternal tea time with the Mad Hatter.]

The government. If they found out, they’d probably lock me up and use the time machine to stop awful national tragedies from occurring. Which, don’t get me wrong, is not a bad thing. But remember what I said about changing history? WWI and II are now part of our very identities as North Americans. Who would we be without it?

Money. Again with the secret thing. You could make big bucks from this machine. Do you know how many people would want to go back in time to go to an Elvis concert or shake Kennedy’s hand? Or kill Bush? Or stop rap music from happening? Or to prevent the heartbreak of a high school sweetheart? Millions. Billions. You cannot have that many people zipping back and forth in time.

Alternate realities. If you changed something in history, would that just be creating an alternate reality? A dimension where you were married to a man you didn’t love, and a dimension where you were married to your true love? You wouldn’t be aware of the you that was happily wed. As far as you’re concerned, your life would still suck. Granted, you would be happy in some reality… Would you be aware of your attempt to fix your life? Would you just think you failed, or are you fixing the dimension you’re in and sending another you into the world that’s less than daisies and roses?

Now my head is just starting to hurt. Time for some turkey. And gravy. Lots and lots of gravy.

[If you read this whole post in all its ridiculousness, you and I must be kindred spirits or you must have nothing better to do on Thanksgiving weekend. I’m thankful for you!]

Photo taken from aliendescendant.blogspot.ca

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Liebster Award!

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I woke up this morning to find that I had been nominated by Writing Underdog for the Liebster Award!

Here is how it works:

  1. Thank and link back to the giver.
  2. Answer the giver’s questions.
  3. ‘Nominate’ five other blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
  4. Ask five questions for one’s nominees to answer.
  5. Post it all on one’s blog

A gratified and humbled thank-you to Writing Underdog! Make sure you check out Underdog’s blog, where all writing underdogs are welcome. 🙂 

Now, for the questions:

  1. How do you find the time/inspiration to write your blog? Good question. I’ll think about something I want to blog about (researching for a book or talking with trees) and work it out in my head while I’m doing daily chores. Once I get a few spare moments, usually in the morning, I’ll quickly hammer it all out, come back while I’m eating lunch, edit it, and post it.
  2. Favourite type of music? I’ve recently developed a hunger for classical music. Because it’s emotional music, but without lyrics, it helps me create a ‘zone’ for when I’m writing or thinking about writing. If you searched my YouTube history you’d find embarrassingly high amounts of videos called ‘Epic Music’ or ‘The Most Sad, Epic Music of all Time.’
  3. If you could meet any person, dead, alive, real, or fictional, who would it be and why? Anne Boleyn was the first name that popped up, but when I think about it I’d probably be lectured on my state of dress and religious tendencies than actually learn anything from her. And yet, as much as I’d like to meet someone like J.M. Barrie, C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, I still have to go with Queen Anne. I’ve invested too much of my time reading, writing, and dreaming about her to pass up the chance. She’s just such a mysterious, alluring historical figure, and I’d love to be the one who got that golden interview — ‘Anne Boleyn: What really went down besides her head.’
  4. Do you play any kind of “sport”? (Including martial arts/sporting activities) I used to ride horses quite a lot, but now our horse is mostly a lawn ornament. I’ve also tried my hand at Quidditch. Yes, the sport from Harry Potter. It’s a real thing. YouTube it.
  5. Can you say Anna banana 10 times fast? No, but I can say it nine times!

My Nominations, in no order. [Sometimes it’s impossible to tell how many followers one has…]

  1. I Dared to Eat a Peach
  2. Something Bigger Out There — I know I keep nominating you for stuff, but I love you, and you’re stuck with it! 🙂
  3. Diane Lynn Tibert McGyver
  4. The Songs We Knew — she doesn’t post very often, but her art is adorable.
  5. Dreampunk Geek was already awarded this, but I’m gonna nominate them again anyway.

My Questions

  1. Would you rather receive a time machine, seven league boots, or a 10-pound chocolate bar for your birthday?
  2. What three historical figures (or characters) would you want to have dinner with? Remember that you’re paying!
  3. Preferred time of day, and why?
  4. Do you have a hobby (other than blogging, of course!), and what is it?
  5. What is the strangest notion, concept, or thought that ever crossed your mind?

Happy blogging!

No. 1 Hotspot for History Junkies

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“I’m something of an antiquarian,” says Matthew Shardlake of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake Tudor-era mystery novels (which I will review once I’ve finished Book 4).

If you’re of the same human variety as myself, then you must experience the same symptoms. They include, but are not limited to:

  • increased heart rate at the smell of old books (though this could just mean you like treasures)
  • increased awareness of balance, should you trip over your own feet and smash into a shelf of vintage Coke bottles
  • asking your host how old a piece of furniture is before sitting on it
  • crying when you’re told a neighbour has thrown away an old item (even if everyone insists it was junk)
  • sneaking around the neighbourhood on garbage day, looking for old coffee tables, books, and maybe a hat box that might be sitting, ownerless, on the curb
  • hauling your family members into the woods because you found a dump from the fifties — nevermind broken glass and lead toys; you might find something good!
  •  the impulse to pull out the pair of cotton gloves you always carry with you when you approach a book published before the sixties

Well, I’m not the one looking though dumps in the middle of the woods, but I love old things. Mainly books and accessories (especially hats!), but I enjoy a nice old 7Up bottle and worn rocking chair once in a while.

So, it may not come as a surprise to you when I say that I’m slightly addicted to antique stores. Not only for the great opportunity to pick up some of Shakespeare’s plays and maybe find an older edition of Pride and Prejudice, but antique stores are full of royal history.

Newspapers and magazines are, generally, slapped hastily against a china dish or stacked sloppily behind a vase. You must search for them. They usually date from the time of Diana’s ‘wedding of the century’ and its aftermath, but I did once come across a number of papers covering the Queen’s 1959 tour of Canada (I regret not buying it now). 

While in Prince Edward Island last week (the reason for my lack of blogging), I had the opportunity to visit about half a dozen antique shops. Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and the Bronte sisters adorned the shelves in both new and old editions of their classics. I also foundered across magazines featuring pre-married and married Princess Di, and in one of them, was startled to find a handsome four-page article on our very own Anne Boleyn (wife No.2 of Henry VIII, and easily the most controversial).

I thought it was interesting that Anne Boleyn should be featured in the same gossip magazine as Diana, who is said to be a direct descendant of Anne’s sister Mary (read Claire Ridgway’s guest article on Mary). All three women have been slandered, anglicized, and generally torn apart by both lovers, haters, sympathizers, and indifferent folks. The article itself appeared to be well-researched and pro-Anne, though I noticed the author went with the “Anne had four pregnancies” versus the more plausible “Anne had three pregnancies” (the letter, referencing what some believe to be a fourth child, also referenced a man who had been dead for some time, rendering it, basically, moot). 

It’s fascinating how Anne has survived the centuries and decades, and is still one of the most talked-about and debated Tudor figures. Will someone pick up Eric Ives’ account of her life in twenty, thirty, or a hundred years and be as pleasantly surprised as I was that people are still in love with this thoroughly engrossing woman?

Gosh, I love antique stores. You never know what you’re going to find! It’s like a treasure hunt, a delightful-smelling, educational, endorphin-stimulating treasure hunt! I get lost wondering the magnificent scented rooms, studying old paintings, and wishing I had more money to buy them! However, if I did buy every beautiful thing, I’d quickly have a house full of mathoms (the Hobbit word for something you have no immediate need for, but are unwilling to throw away)!!

The thing(s) I’d most like to find in an antique store are  first (or at least older) editions of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. They would be placed in a glass box on my mantle (though I’d need to build a mantle first!) and treated with utmost care and love. If you ever come across such a find, please let me know!

Sorry, but I must post and run. I need to finish that Shardlake novel (I discovered them at the cottage we borrowed in PEI, and I borrowed them from the owner. Stay tuned for my review. I’m sure it’ll be glowing!) and finish Season 3 of The Tudors!

Blonde vs. Brunette Heroines

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For some undefinable reason, blondes and brunettes have been rivals for well over 500 years. Generally, blondes had the upper hand. Fairness was beautiful, a sign of purity and grace, whereas dark complexions were not favoured and darker toned women often tried re-colouring their hair. 

Blondes dominated society and literature, and soon legend became that all heroines were of honey-coloured hair. We have Cinderella, Rapunzel, Isolde (of Tristan & Isolde), Guinevere, the Valkyries (Norse myth), and other iconic, blonde women. Tradition dictates blondes are the most gorgeous — because, ya know, they’re the only ones we know of. Yes, there are exceptions like Snow White and Jo March (one of my favourite characters of all time), but there is an image in our heads that golden locks are attached to the scalps of the girls who get the princes.

I don’t know about you, but even despite the recent amount of rather insulting blonde jokes, I still automatically picture classical women in literature with flaxen hair. Example: whilst reading Romeo & Juliet, Juliet was most definitely blonde. It was only until I watched 1968’s Romeo & Juliet that it even occurred to me that she could be anything other than fair-haired. Rosalind was brunette in my mind — and Juliet wasn’t. Huh. How brainwashed am I?

When I began the earliest drafts of brainstorming for my manuscript on the margins of grocery lists, I knew right away that my heroine was not going to be blonde. She was going to be brunette. Part of it was that I am brunette, and I love it. The more major influence for her hair colour, however, was avoiding that traditional stereotype. Having a female protagonist, blonde? Geez, cliché much, Libby? So she had brown hair. Simple. Easy. Familiar.

A friend and I discussed this yesterday. She mentioned that she made her heroine blonde to escape the stereotype of female main characters with dark hair. At first I didn’t understand what she was saying. What are you talking about? Blonde heroines are the stereotype.

But I thought about it.

In YA novels, especially in recent years, the leading woman is brunette. Hermione Granger of Harry Potter, Arya of The Inheritance Cycle, Katsa of Graceling, Katniss of The Hunger Games, Calwyn of The Singer of All Songs, Bella Swan of Twilight (I only include her to prove my point), Aislinn, Leslie, and Ani of Wicked Lovely, Bitterblue of, er, Bitterblue…Need I continue?* It’d be fascinating to ask these

Leslie, dark-haired heroine of Ink Exchange

 authors if the hair colour of these women was to avoid the blonde stereotype. If so, then it seems that in avoiding the golden stereotype, we’ve only created a new one.

 Fascinating.

And, I really have to say this (my body isn’t allowing me another choice): Anne Boleyn, while famous for her beautiful eyes and elegance, was not considered traditionally attractive by the standards of her time. Dark-haired with darker toned skin, her predecessor, Catherine of Aragon, was generally acknowledged to be more beautiful with her fair hair and blue eyes (or, more conventionally beautiful.), and her successor, Jane Seymour, was a more traditional English Rose with her almost-extreme paleness. The ways of the world are strange. The Victorians, the romanticists they were, often portrayed Anne in art as a blonde, trying to add conventional beauty to enhance her already-tragic end. There. I said it. 

Do you think, that in ten years or so, writers will be making their protagonists blonde to escape the brunette stereotype? Have you contributed to this new stereotype? Have you noticed this before?

*I realize that these are all fantasy or urban fantasy characters. As I generally only read fantasy and historical nonfiction, my variety of dark-haired ladies from other genres is lacking.

Tudor-Inspired Art!

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It’s been awhile since my last Tudor-related post, and I was contemplating  what my next should be about. I only had to take a peek around the house to decide.

My Tudor art.

I’m not an artist, but I enjoy sketching and painting, especially Tudor-era people (i.e., Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard) and Tudor-era scenes (mainly executions and the occasional birth of a princess/prince). I’ve branched away from my traditional mediums lately, however, and the results are rather interesting…

We can start with the least amazing. If Hans Holbein the Younger had a personal Facebook account, I imagined this is what it might look like. I exaggerated quite a bit, but I tried to include actual information about him — don’t sue me if I made an error. I believe I mainly used Wikipedia as I was aiming more for the art versus the history of it. I just took a Facebook template from the Internet, plugged in some pictures, typed in some status updates, and voila! A 16th century artist rocking the social media!

Click to embiggen and check out Hans’s latest status updates!

The next one was fun to make. After cutting out a template from a piece of cardboard (an old pizza box, I think), I used the same sort of gluey-gauze strips they use to make casts (don’t ask where I got them, but they really work!). Shaping the strips into leaves, branches, and bark was tricky as well as messy, but the end result was pleasing. I just used acrylic paint to detail it. The inspiration behind it was Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, as well as the magical Forest of Arden in As You Like It. Arden is the name of my protagonist in my fantasy-esque manuscript. While I don’t think I’ll be wearing it anywhere, it might make a good Halloween prop!

This piece was perhaps the most taxing to make. I wanted to represent how Anne Boleyn has become just as a large and influential and controversial figure now as she was during her time as queen and queen-to-be. Hence, my poor attempts at skyscrapers and the Eye of London versus my laughable Tower. Simple acrylic, etc. See for yourself. Notice the teeny little airplane?

Okay, this last one is perhaps the most interesting piece I’ve ever made. Normally I don’t do sculptures, but I don’t regret making this! The process was semi-difficult, but simple. Pick your shape. Wrap a layer of packing tape, sticky-side out, snugly around your shape. Do more layers, sticky-side in, until you have at least three layers, and more depending on how strong you want it. Cut it off your shape and tape up the slit. And, ta-daa! Add paint or other things if you like, like I did.

This is Katheryn Howard. I used a dummy head for her head shape, and a box for the chopping block. The axe is made of cardboard, tin foil, and newspaper. The “blood” is paint, so don’t worry. Her coif is created with some rather thick paper towel I found in a cupboard, and her hair is a painted braid of yarn. Notice her blood-soaked hair? And her tear?

I love her. So much.

She’s on display in my room. (There are worse places to put her, though. Like the bathroom…)

I had too much fun with the blood.

Katheryn might wear this as a disguise for her next secret meeting with Thomas Culpepper! Do you think Henry will be fooled?