Thursday, 29 August 2013

August Mixed Bag

I'm afraid I've been on holiday for a good part of August so haven't done much blogging.  And today's post is just a short one.  Following on from my praise of Leanda de Lisle's article defending Margaret Beaufort, I read another interesting article on Susan Higginbotham's blog  History Refreshed, in which she discusses the 'slut shaming' .  Hadn't heard the term before, but I'll quote Susan's context for using it in her post on Catherine of Valois's reputation -

I find this willingness to stain the reputation of historical women on such flimsy evidence disheartening, particularly when the writer doing this academic version of “slut shaming” is an accredited historian. I find it even more disheartening when the author is someone dedicated to restoring the good name of another historical figure, Richard III.

I completely agree with Susan.  Many blogs have commented on the BBC, erm, 'drama' 'The White Queen', my favourite being the interpretation being on A Neville Feast blog.  Plus, newspapers have had a field day pointing out metal handrails on stairs, drainpipes in full view, zips on costumes etc.  As well as showing the drama, the BBC showed 2 documentaries hosted by Philippa Gregory called 'The Real White Queen and her rivals'.   Except it wasn't 'the real' story of these women - just an attempt to pass Gregory's fiction off as fact.  And what made it worse was the inclusion of several notable historians giving their views.  They didn't comment on controversial areas of Gregory's fiction, but to me, their inclusion seemed to be used by the BBC to legitimise Gregory's views.  And what made me particularly annoyed was the 'discussion' on Elizabeth of York and her 'affair' with her uncle, Richard III.  Gregory maintains that Henry VII waited 5 months before marrying Elizabeth of York to ensure she was not pregnant by her uncle Richard - a case of 'slut shaming'.  The obvious reason Henry VII waited was because he didn't want it to look as though he owed his crown to Elizabeth of York.  He didn't want them to be seen as 'joint sovereigns'.  Of course he hoped the marriage would reconcile the Houses of York and Lancaster - but there was no doubt in his mind that he was king by right, and his claim had nothing to do with his wife.  Makes much more sense than waiting to see if Elizabeth was pregnant by Uncle Richard!

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had one of the happiest royal marriages.  They did not marry for love, but there seems to have been genuine growing  affection between them throughout their marriage, and Henry was devastated when she died.  He could - and probably should - have re-married, and although he searched for another wife, he never married again. 

Onto another Queen - this time, Mary, Queen of Scots.  I have just visited Edinburgh, and the National Museum of Scotland, has a superb exhibition on Mary.  here's the blurb from their website -

Created especially for the National Museum of Scotland and showing only in Edinburgh, the exhibition provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover much that has been written and speculated about Mary, one of the most charismatic monarchs of all time. Taking a fresh, innovative approach, using jewels, textiles, furniture, documents and portraits, Mary’s dramatic story and this fascinating period in Scottish history is explored in detail.
By drawing together rare objects intimately connected with Mary Stewart, as well as key loans from public and private collections, the exhibition features an array of treasures never before seen together, alongside new research.

I had only a short time in Edinburgh - but it still took me 2 hours to see the exhibition.  It's well worth a visit, and will be there until November.  It's the artefacts that make the exhibition for me.  Who knows when such a collection will be shown again?  The exhibition is balanced and examines the evidence available to try unravel the complications of Mary's life.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Superb article by Leanda de Lisle

I've been on holiday the last few weeks and have once again neglected this blog.  I've been stung into action today after reading a superb article by Leanda de Lisle in today's Daily Express newspaper.  I read de Lisle's book on Lady Jane Grey, which dealt with many of the myths that grew up surrounding Jane's short life, which I'd highly recommend.  I'm looking forward to her new book 'Tudor: The Family Story'. The article concerns the portrayal of Margaret Beaufort in the BBC's 'historical drama' (hmmm) 'The White Queen', which has certainly made me very angry.  Leanda de Lisle encapsulates exactly how I feel and has written fantastic article in defence of Margaret and the prejudices she has faced over the centuries.  Here's part of the article -

Don't always blame the mothers

WITH the kitsch BBC drama The White Queen moving to its conclusion Margaret Beaufort is the villainess viewers love to hate.

A frigid fanatic in high necklines she is the ultimate tiger mother. A woman willing even to commit child murder as she plots her son Henry Tudor's path to the throne.
But this is a depiction shaped by centuries of sexual and religious bigotry and by our still ambivalent attitudes to powerful women.

Female historians and novelists may claim a sisterly empathy for historical women but all too many of them are willing to plunder misogynistic myths to write their lives. And Margaret Beaufort is not their only victim.

In the Tudor period and for centuries afterwards it was considered wrong and unnatural for women to wield power. It followed that the kind of woman who sought power was also unnatural - so how to depict them? Well what could be more unnatural, more against a woman's proper nature than the abuse of children?

It seems no coincidence that Margaret Beaufort stands accused of planning the deaths of the White Queen's young sons, the so-called princes in the Tower, to clear the path for Henry Tudor to be king. The irony is that the real Margaret Beaufort was what we would consider to be an abused child. She was married at 12 and was so small and slight that her son's birth when she was 13 nearly killed her. She was unable to have further children and for the next 25 years Margaret was a pawn and victim of vicious power politics.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking on the following link -

Don't always blame the mothers....