Monday, November 29, 2010

The Many Wives of Henry VIII

King Henry VIII of England is known for several things. He was the father of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also thought to have composed the tune 'Greensleeves'. Most people know it as 'What Child is This'. The things he is most famous for, however, are his six wives.

King Henry married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, after his brother, Arthur, who was supposed to marry her, died. Unfortunately, they had to get special permission from the pope to get married since Catherine had been married to his brother. Even more unfortunately, she didn't have any boys during their marriage. She had a daughter named Mary, but no son showed up. King Henry decided that he needed a younger wife and asked the pope to say that his and Catherine's marriage had never been legal. The pope decided not to, as the two had been married for eighteen years. He also had Catherine's nephew telling him not to. This particular pope wasn't the best pope in the world. He was the pope of the reformation, who sold a lot of indulgences and spent a tenth of the papal reserve on his coronation party. He is reported to have said, upon becoming the pope, "Since God has given us the papacy, let's enjoy it!" Somehow, he doesn't strike me as a model pope.

This was the time that Martin Luther was telling everybody that the Catholic Church was wrong, so King Henry decided to break off from the Catholic Church and declare that his marriage had never been legal. He decided to marry a new wife who suited his tastes more. Her name was Ann Boleyn. Unfortunately for her, she didn't have any boys during their short marriage either. She had one little girl named Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth I. Henry became disenchanted with her and had her head chopped off, claiming she had been unfaithful. In all she was queen for a thousand days. (Her daughter was proclaimed illegitimate, as Mary had been.) After her, King Henry married Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, whom he named Edward. His wife died shortly after the baby was born. As if he needed to be unkind to yet another wife, he had painters from all over Europe paint pictures of princesses he could marry. He decided on Ann of Cleaves. As soon as he set eyes on her, though, he realized the artist wasn't too good at drawing realistically. He said that she resembled a horse, but married her anyway. He didn't want to anger her relatives. He divorced her later, though. What was she expecting, anyway? You'd think she would've been smart enough to avoid him after the demise of his other wives.

The next wife was Catherine Howard. The king married her three weeks after divorcing Ann, who wasn't heart broken to have been divorced. The king was extremely fat and much older. Of course, Catherine Howard met a nasty end too. She was executed, like Ann Boleyn. She had invited former boyfriends to the king's castle. Then came the last wife, Catherine Parr. She probably only lived because her husband was an old king when she married. She nursed him when he was ill and was good to his children. She convinced the king to pronounce his daughters legitimate, although Edward would remain heir to the throne. She outlived him. His son didn't live for long, and never married. Ironically, the king's daughters, whose mothers he had both been unkind to, became two of the most famous queens in England's history. The oldest, Mary, is known as Bloody Mary. She killed many Protestants while trying to make people to become Catholics. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was known for her fairness, and is remembered as one of the greatest queens in history. All in all, I'd say King Henry's youngest daughter was a better ruler than he was.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Rose Wars

The Wars of the Roses are probably the only wars named after a flower. They were wars between two families, the Yorks and the Lancastrians. The Yorks's symbol was a red rose, while the Lancastrians's symbol was a white rose, which is what gave the wars their name. The wars started during the reign of Henry VI. He was a very good Christian man, although he complained that his devotions were constantly interupted. But one day, while he was talking with someone, he suddenly went mad and stopped talking. No one could figure out what was wrong with him. He just sat around all day, staring ahead. Fortunately, he recovered after a few years. But while he was mad, someone had to run England. The king's family asked the duke of York, a distant relative, to do it. Unfortunately, when the king got better, the Yorks weren't interested to giving up their power. This started the first Rose war. The king's family won, and the duke was killed. His head was put on a spike, decorated with a paper crown. Unfortunately, the Yorks didn't give up that easily. The duke's son, Edward, decided to try again. This time, King Henry lost and was put in prison.

King Edward IV was a good ruler. Unfortunately, he fell in love with Elizabeth Woodville, who was older than him. She had also been married before-to a knight that had fought on King Henry VI's side. King Edward knew his parents would never approve of her, so he married her in secret. He didn't keep it secret long, however, because his advisers wanted him to marry someone else. He had his new wife brought into London in a great parade. He gave her brothers important government positions.

Many English nobles thought the Woodvilles had too much power, so they freed King Henry the VI from prison. He and his supporters marched to Edward's palace to arrest him. Edward managed to escape before they arrived, though. Now Henry was king again! Edward, however, decided to take back his throne and started to raise an army. He came back and took over again. He imprisoned King Henry again. King Henry died son after. It is likely Edward had him killed.

After King Edward IV died, his twelve year old son Edward V took over. The boy's uncle Richard offered to help him rule. That was the end of Edward V's reign. Richard became King Richard the III. He imprisoned his nephew in the Tower of London, then the former King Edward V's little brother too, both on a pretext of keeping them safe. Both boys vanished. Years later, two skeletons were found. There's a good likelihood that the skeletons belong to the boys.

Richard didn't keep his throne long. Another royal cousin, Henry Tudor, decided to try for the throne. He gathered an army and started fighting. The last battle was called the "Battle of Bosworth Field". Richard should have won because he had twice as many soldiers, but his soldiers weren't interested in the battle and most of them surrendered. Richard was urged to run, but he was determined to die King of England. He was killed in battle. The royal plume was cut off his helmet and given to Henry Tudor. The Wars of the Roses were over!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition is a universal insult against Christianity. It was an evil organization used to persecute Jews and anyone who didn't agree with the Catholic faith. It was headed up by Tomas de Torquemada, a monk who wanted to purify Christianity in Spain.

Jews are people who follow the teachings of Moses and the Hebrew prophets, which were given by God. Some believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah, but some do not. Jews have been, for centuries, the scapegoats for everything. Jews were blamed for Germany's problems during the world wars. Many were killed during World War Two for being Jewish. Jews were blamed for the Black Plague, which killed a third of Europe's population. They have been blamed for poisoning wells and killing children (who hadn't even been missing in the first place.) These stories are lies, designed to hurt a nation.

Torquemada was the confessor to Queen Isabella, meaning she told him her sins and he told her how to atone for them. It is said that when she was young, he made her promise to purify the Church if she could. During the first years of her reign, the Queen wasn't interested in it. She was already busy with trying to establish her rule. But eventually, she decided to purify the Church. It is one of the few blots on her name, and it is one of the worst she could have ever created.

Earlier in Spain's history, many Jews had been forced to convert to Christianity. They were called conversos. They were accused by the Inquisition to still secretly be Jews. Some of them were, while others were 100% Christians. The Inquisition weren't allowed to touch Jews, but conversos were a whole other matter. Neighbors spied on each other, some out of fear, some out of love for their religion, some out of dislike for their neighbors. One man was so zealous that he climbed onto his roof and checked to make sure all his neighbors had fires burning on Friday, which was when Jews couldn't light fires because it was the Sabbath and they couldn't work. When someone was arrested, they would be put in a jail cell for weeks. Three times, someone would come and ask them to confess. This was difficult, especially since they didn't know what they'd been accused of. Finally, they would be interrogated. If they were able to guess what they'd done wrong, they wouldn't be punished. But for those who couldn't guess it right, they would be tortured until they confessed, or got it right. Many innocent people were tortured for something they hadn't done. If they were really unfortunate, though, they would be burned at the stake. Sometimes, the Inquisition would be merciful and the person would be strangled to dead before they were burned. There is no evidence that Queen Isabella ever attended one of these burnings. Perhaps, if she had, she might have stopped the Inquisition.

Eventually, the Inquisition went after the Jews. But instead of killing them, the Inquisition forced them to leave Spain. Many people lost their homes because of a man who wanted to purify the church he claimed to represent. Despite the fact he claimed to represent the Church, he wasn't really obeying God's commands. God said to love our enemies, not set them on fire, torture them or treat them cruelly. Maybe Torqumada should have read his bible a little more often. He might have seen the verse that said "Treat others as you would like to be treated".

Still, many Jews were killed. Several were accused of crucifying a child and cutting out its heart, then mixing it with a communion wafer to make a magic potion that make Christians go mad and die. Does that sound positively ridiculous, or is it just me? Also, no Christian child had been reported missing recently. Still, eight people were killed because of this.

Toward the end of his life, Torquemada could survey a land filled with only Christians. He lived to a ripe old age, although he had many enemies. He died in 1498. However, the Inquisition was only ended in 1834 although few people were executed anymore. In 1836, a mob gathered and scattered his bones in the dirt of the graveyard where he was buried. I find that satisfying. Hopefully, the bones of Tomas de Torquemada, murderer of thousands of innocent people, still lie unfound.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feudal Warfare

What do most people think of when they think of the Middle Ages? Knights? One of the most famous components of the Middle Ages is the knights. One thing to remember about them is that feudal warfare wasn't very lethal. At one battle five hundred knights fought, and only one was killed. Everyone felt bad about that.

A key part of war during Medieval times was the feudal system. The kings were at the top of it. Underneath him were the knights. They swore their allegiance to him, and fought for him for a certain amount of time each year. In return, he gave them land and peasants to work it with. The knights were rich. You had to be. The armor was very expensive. It was very protective, too. It was sometimes made to look like clothing. Some German armor looks like pleated fabric. Swords were indispensable. They took a long time to make. Good swords were highly prized, while the very best ones were passed down through the generations. There were many different styles of swords, due to the changes of the styles of armor. Attacking through chainmail required a sword which was about three feet long and double edged, with a steep point. Attacking through plate armor depended on being able to stab through chinks in the armor, so swords had sharp, sloping points.

Another thing that affected war was the idea of ransom. It was customary to not try to kill your enemy, but instead to capture him. A dead man was a dead man, who would not be useful to you at all. But captives could be ransomed, which could bring in a lot of money. At first, it was customary to lock up captives in a dusty dungeon. This however, wasn't much fun for the captive, who was likely to be the captor next time, so prisoners were eventually treated like honored guests. It was customary to accept a relative of the captive in exchange for the man's freedom so he could go collect the money for his ransom. One man actually returned to prison because he couldn't raise his ransom.

Well, that's all for now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to Ensure that You Go to Hell, or Clothes in the Middle Ages

People in this modern age have a picture of how people dressed in the Middle Ages. They wore long, ruffled silks and velvets. Right? No! Those were for nobility! Most people just wore simple clothes. Very simple. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with that. However, it was considered vain to pluck your eyebrows, dye your hair and wear makeup. Back then, the priests told the women they would go to Hell for doing that! I disagree, although the white makeup that was popular at the time contained lead, and, as a minor consequence, could kill you. The women didn't listen to the priests. The priests had a lot to say on that topic, however. They said steeple hats (those pointed hats queens always wear in pictures) were signs of deadly pride and should be burned. The women did that until the monk who said that died. They sort of revived the fashion, and the hats were taller than ever. Women also wore platform shoes, which the church said were ridiculous because dresses had to be made longer.
The rich women wore dresses with trains. Their clothes had tight bodices and sleeves, and sometimes sleeveless coats. Later on in the Middle Ages, they wore dresses with wide, stiff sleeves. Men wore stiff, starched collars called ruffs. Aside from the 'evil' steeple caps, women wore jeweled caps, wimples (which nuns wear) and stiff, shaped headdresses.
Fashions in the Medieval times weren't what they are now. We at least care if our vests are cutting off circulation now (which is what corsets did.) But we still admire the clothes they wore then, and sometimes we dress up in them.