i am nothing without you

Very deep, very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?
~Thomas Mann~

Having spent an undefinable amount of time the past few months delving into my predecessors, I still consider myself nothing more than a mere novice in the endeavor of unearthing Intriguing Tidbits Concerning My Ancestors.  As a huge fan of history in general and with an overblown penchant for organization and love of minute details, genealogy had only to whisper its compelling sweetness in my ear just once and I was hooked.

four generations circa mid-1940’s. my mother is the little girl looking down, my grandmother is on the far left, middle is my great grandmother, far right is my great, great grandmother

YOU HAD ME AT ‘DNA’.

In the short span I’ve been immersed into my new hobby, I’ve discovered much about from whence I came.

Most of my ancestors were simple, everyday people.  The majority of the men folk were farmers, an honest, if not completely insecure and/or unreliable way, to earn a living.  And according to more than one census, the women ‘kept house’.  I’ll bet they cooked as well, a trait that obviously did not swim downstream in the gene pool.

IT IS NOT MY INTENT,  HARD-WORKING GRANDMOTHER CHEFS, THAT I BRING
SHAME TO OUR LINE.

FORGIVE ME.

I have yet to find any of my ancestors who were ‘professionals’ in the sense we’d define careers today.  To date, and going back over 250 years, I have uncovered no records to indicate that any of my direct lineage attended a college or university.  They may have.  I just haven’t found any evidence to that effect.

Many of the families consisted of over eight children; my 2X great grandparents on my maternal side had ten children.  The overall average was approximately five surviving offspring.

Young children and babies tallied in one census were sometimes absent in the subsequent years, from which I can only surmise a death.  This seems to happen frequently.

Women who were widowed often remarried very shortly thereafter, more than likely to a widower with children.  This type of life event can make it difficult to trace a concise path from a maiden name to a first married name then a second married name.  Unraveling the mystery is part of the charm, but can lead to dead ends in a line.  Which, as you can imagine, is not so charming.

Of all the branches I’ve climbed in my tree, it’s been my observation that once a line is settled in one area they generally tended to stay put. If they moved, it was a relatively short distance from where they started.  For instance, the majority of my ancestors on my maternal side emerged from Pennsylvania-Ohio-Indiana.  If the documents stated an ancestor moved ‘west’ it was within the context of the American landscape at the time.  ‘West’ meant Ohio or Indiana.  Which, in reality, from Pennsylvania, would have been ‘west’.

Based on this social trend, I have no Southern roots.

OH FIDDLE DEE DEE.

As to a few specifics of My People …

My 5X great grandfather on my maternal side, Isaac Headley (born in 1735) served in the Revolutionary War in a New Jersey militia.

Isaac’s son, my 4X great grandfather, Benjamin Headley was the first tax assessor in Morris County, New Jersey.

Going back to the late 1700’s on my maternal side, my ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch.
I’m assuming that explains my immense love of Shoo-Fly pie.

BLESS THEM.

My 2x great grandmother on my maternal side, Sarah Jane Watson, by family accounts was reported to be a full-blooded Cherokee.  Although I’ve yet to unearth any photos of her, family photos of her daughter (my great grandmother) would support that belief as she has all the physical attributes of a Native American.  Sarah Jane is listed in every census as ‘white’, however, it might have been politically incorrect at the time to claim Native American heritage.  ‘Watson’ is reputed to have been Anglican-ized from the Cherokee name of ‘Watsoni’.

My 3x great grandfather’s last name was Pickleheimer.  For some reason,
I find that fact quite amusing.

And I can’t leave y’all without a few observations on the genealogy process as a whole …

While ancestry.com has been an invaluable tool in my efforts, I would recommend that you don’t fully rely on information gleaned from members who are tracing a portion of the same lineage.  When I first joined ancestry.com the benefit of crossing paths with others who were also searching and gathering information never crossed my mind.  In retrospect, it seems obvious that there would be such a group branching off from siblings of my own direct ancestors, therefore, I can only attribute my lack of connecting the dots to that possibility as a Moment of Blundering Stupidity.

HOWEVER.

Let me show you another such stupid moment.  The screenshot of ‘John Focht’ was a ‘hint’ from another member’s tree to a common ancestor.  Do y’all see a Giant Red Flag?

CLUE:  MOTHER AND FATHER
OF JOHN FOCHT

Methinks ‘rushcitygal’ best slow down and check her math.

GLARINGLY OBVIOUS ERROR.

If an ancestor has a common name, information is going to be plentiful.  Take your time and make sure you’re chasing the right individual.  Consume slowly and digest what you’re reading.  One wrong link in the chain can create a lot of grief in loss of time and wasted effort, not to mention the fact they’re just not Your People.

WHICH WOULD BE A CRYING SHAME.

My lineage includes George A.  Smith, a 2X great grandfather.  His wife was Nancy E. Smith.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to discern her maiden name which makes that branch difficult to trace.  I have found many censuses with both the name George A. Smith and a wife of Nancy E. with a gaggle of maiden names.  However, the information I’ve reviewed to date doesn’t match what I know to be true of my George Adam Smith.  The years don’t necessarily jive and as my George and Nancy lived in Sandusky, Ohio, George A. and Nancy E. from Missouri aren’t interchangeable, no matter how much I want them to be so I can move on.

The litmus test of correct research is that it can be backed up by more than one piece of data.  My mom and her treasure trove of antique photos of our family history have been a huge boon in my toils.  Her knowledge and historical documentation allowed me to verify the information I’d amassed from ancestry.com.  One lone document does not an ancestor make.

Prior to the 20th century, it appears the population as a whole did not necessarily possess keen spelling skills. Therefore, last names, and even general written (and printed) words, were often spelled phonetically, as evidenced by the photo of a Revolutionary War pay voucher for my 5X great-grandfather, Isaac Headley.

Not ‘Hadly’.

Nor …

Captin
Colnel
Brigedeear (three vowels together
are kinda charming)

Genaral Wilamson
Jeneury (as in the first month of the year commonly known as January)

And my personal favorite, time in ‘sarvis’.

I MIGHT BE RE-THINKING THAT WHOLE
‘NO SOUTHERN ROOTS’ THING Y’ALL.

MY NORTHERN ANCESTOR GOT PAID
FOR HIS SARVIS.

On the same topic, names were often 1) misspelled or 2) mis-transcribed from census records, military draft records and even marriage documents.  Look for variations in names.  My grandfather, Norris, is listed in the handwritten notes of a census as ‘Oris’.   This ultimately created a hiccup for others on ancestry.com who took this as gospel and called the handsome devil Oris.

IT’S NORRIS, PEOPLE.  AND HE’S MY GRANDPA.

When you find a particularly interesting person in your lineage, go a step further and research the history of the area or the important events at that point in time in which they existed.  According to recorded history of New Jersey in late 1776 and 1777, I can surmise that my 5x great-grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War was part of a voluntary militia and was involved in the Battle of Trenton under the overall direction of General George Washington.  The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776 in the location and time where Isaac Headley was officially documented to be.  As militias were temporary units, it appears shortly after that battle, he was discharged and able to return home to his family, having served ‘1 month and 27 days’ in the fight against the British.

Additionally, during the time of the Civil War many of my ancestors lived along the Ohio-Kentucky border.  Kentucky was a slave state, Ohio was not.  If slaves were able to cross the Ohio River into the Cincinnati area, where my ancestors resided, they might have escaped into freedom.  I’ve wondered on more than one occasion if any of my ancestors were abolitionists living in an area that was a hotbed for that type of anti-slavery activity.

I think what fascinates me most about researching my personal history is the humble knowledge I carry some genes, some DNA from every one of these people who existed prior to me.  They were living, breathing people who had joys and sorrows, successes and failures.  They laughed and cried as part of a history other than my own.  And although we live in different times, they are me.  And I am them.

Without them, I am nothing.

you say aye-mish, I say ahh-mish

We are not put on this earth to see through one another,
but to see one another through.
~Amish Quote~ 


Spent some time this weekend in Indiana’s Amish country.  Because y’all know, I party like a rock star. 

That’s right.  Say it. 
Uh huh.

So. 

I’ve been a bit stressed lately.  Moving too fast, getting tangled up in triteness, dodging life’s bullets, stepping on my own air hose.  Lord knows, I needed to just stop.  And breathe.  And eat Amish cookies.

For anyone who’s not had the uniquely joyful experience of peering into the Amish community firsthand, I would recommend you add it to your Bucket List. 

Get a pencil. I’ll wait while you write it down.  A-M-I-S-H.  Ready?

Okay. 

So to shake off All Things Troublesome and get re-focused, I needed to disconnect. If only for a brief time.  And there are few Americans more disconnected from modern society, yet totally connected with their own community, than the Amish.  I drive 120 miles west and enter a world that’s 100 years past.

Well dadgum, will you look at that?

Inhale, exhale … I’m breathing again.

I don’t know if part of the reason I find the Amish way of life so fascinating is that I’m a ginormous history freak.  And quite frankly, the Amish are living history. 

Or.  It may be the fact they make some incredible kettle corn. 

I’ll admit, it’s a toss-up.

But the fact remains that when I’m driving down rural roads, seeing their exquisitely manicured farms and watching these people touch the earth, I slow down. 

And I think. 

A lot. 

I witness their bountiful, leafy vegetable gardens intertwined with vibrantly colorful flowers and see something of value, something tangible for their time and effort.  I see purpose and meaning and what must be a sense of satisfaction, if not pride, for a job well done.

When I catch a glimpse of  groups of children riding bikes barefoot together down quiet lanes, I see significance that they’re connecting with one another in real time.  Not via the Internet.

Passing one farm I saw at least twenty buggies, horses tethered to hitching posts, men working beside one another gathering up a crop.  Leaning against the fence were at least a dozen bikes of the children running around the farm and playing on the swing set, while the women set a picnic table for lunch.

Everywhere I see community. I see a belief system in action. 

And I see connectivity to one another.

And it hits me like a brick. 

Perhaps, it’s not necessarily that I need to disconnect,
but maybe I’m simply connected to the wrong things.

Now.  I’m quite sure life on an Amish farm is not for the faint hearted and I’m certainly not suggesting I want to be one with the Amish.  I’ll hazard to guess that making a decision to go to town and spending gawd-knows-how-much time hitching up the horse and buggy to get there is not something they meditate on lightly. 

Or the clothes I saw hanging on the clothesline of every single farm I passed (side note:  Friday must be The Official Day for Laundry) made me feel a slight bit foolish when I recalled just how put out I can be about having to toss clothes into my white contraption and spin the dial. 

Oooh poor me and Mr. Kenmore.

However.  It struck me that the things they did and the time they spent doing them had greater meaning.   For as commonplace as their chores were, nothing felt common.  The point seems to be not the completion of the task, but the doing of it.

I did have a moment, however, watching a flatbed wagon of young Amish couples heading in my direction, where I wondered how harmful the total disconnect was to the young people.  Were they at a disadvantage without higher education, without the benefit of the Internet or television where they could see the larger picture of the world as a whole?  Or did the assurance of a lifelong place in their community negate their desire to know more or live in an expanded society where life can be immensely more superficial?

All in all, the whole experience left me wondering how do I find balance between their lifestyle and mine?  How do I consistently create a life of real connections, moments of value, and the ability to shrug off the worries that won’t matter much even six months from now?  

I’m going to need another homemade oatmeal raisin cookie to ponder the matter.

there’s hippos in yonder water

(left-to-right)  Journalist, Henry Morton Stanley and Explorer, Dr. David Livingstone

Journalist, Henry Morton Stanley and Explorer, Dr. David Livingstone

 Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

 

I’m sure y’all know by now I loves me my history. However.  I will, with great reticent, admit that there are particular areas of the past in which I am either unschooled … 

Wait.  Did I just hear you gasp? 

Oh.  Sorry.  That was me.

Anyhooo.

Shall we continue?

There are some bits of history that I’ve got nothin’ for y’all.  A large, gaping, lonely void there, folks.  Some bits of the past I have not (yet) delved into and/or there are certain events-slash-eras that simply do not inspire me to dig any deeper. 

For instance, to me military history is an immense yawner.  While I love Revolutionary War-era history (read:  Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the like) … I do not have much knowledge of the actual war whatsoever.  I can give you the basics such as dates, the reasons behind the war, and why the flag originally had 13 stars … but puhlease don’t ask me about battle strategy. 

Cause y’all know I’ll only lie, pretending I know something and all.

DON’TMAKEMEEMBARRASSMYSELF.

I also love Civil War-era history.  But.  Quiz me about the actual battles and scrimmages … and, again I’d only be able to give you the Clown College version of those events. 

‘Umm. Yeah. The North fought the South. 
They carried guns. They ate hardtack.’
 
‘The End.’

If I’m going to be introspective about my Love of History I’d have to deduce that the core of my passion for the subject comes from my curiosity about the people themselves.  The dynamics of their relationships.  The differences (and similarities) between the life I know now … and how people lived … and sometimes merely survived … in other points in time, in other places on the globe.

So.

All that being said, I think one of the greatest advancements in cable television was the introduction of the History Channel.

I DO DECLARE.

Someone better have gotten a promotion for that brainchild.

AMENANDHALLELUJAH.

I honestly think we ought to celebrate such an important accomplishment with an official, governmentally-recognized anniversary every year.  Oh yes.  And to get into the mood we could eat Wild Boar Acorn Brittle and drink Ye Olde Pond Water from pewter mugs.

But.

Tripping around the History Channel I found a new summer-filler series,
‘Expedition Africa’.   

Now. I know nothing about African history other than what I’ve read about our oldest living ancestor, ‘Lucy’, whose wee little 3.2 million year old bones were dug up somewhere near Ethiopia.

Oh.  Well yeah.  

There are also all the times we’ve taken family trips to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and done the whole safari trek ride in which we ultimately (every time!) manage to save the baby elephant from Evil Fake Poachers.

Or the early mornings where we sprawled in lawn chairs on the balcony of our well-appointed hotel room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge sipping coffee in Mickey Mouse cups watching the employees feed the giraffes grazing on the man-made savanna.

Beyond that.  Hmpphh.  I guess you’d say my well is dry.

I see vast opportunities in ‘Expedition Africa’. 

I do.

The premise of  ‘Expedition Africa’ is built around the true story of the travels of two gentleman, Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.  British missionary-slash-explorer Dr. Livingstone traipsed about Africa in the mid 1800’s on various expeditions, for a myriad of reasons.  Notably, he was the first European to view the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfalls in Africa, which he subsequently re-named ‘Victoria Falls’ after Queen Victoria. 

Cause y’all know that’s just so much easier to pronounce.

Livingstone did lots of other interesting, historically-important things in his time, but for purposes of this blog we’re going to skip ahead somewhat.  During what would ultimately be his last expedition, Dr. Livingstone apparently lost all contact with the outside world. 

For six years. 

A mighty long time.

So.

In 1869, the New York Herald newspaper dispatched journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, to go to Africa to track down the good, albeit elusive-and-could-actually-be-dead Dr. Livingstone.  I wonder how far down in the pecking order Stanley had to be to pull that assignment? 

‘Whoah.  Sorry, buddy.  Short straw again.  Sure sucks to be you.  Welp.  C’mon, Ed.  Let’s you and I go down to Broadway and catch up with the showgirls and do some manly-type carousing and let our man, Hank, here get off to his business.’

So.

After trekking nearly 1,000 miles over Hell’s Half Acre, the ending to the story is that Stanley eventually finds Dr. Livingstone, alive but unwell, suffering from malaria and dysentery, in the African town of Ujiji. 

Phonetically pronounced You-Gee-Gee.  In case you care.

You may not. 

I’m just sayin’ …

Then Stanley utters the now-famous words, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’

Blah blah blah.

Flash forward.

‘Expedition Africa’ takes four explorers with various outdoorsy-type skills (a navigator, a survivalist, a wildlife expert and a journalist) … and of course, the requisite camera crew …oh … and I’m fairly certain there are some off-camera emergency medics and whatnot … and re-traces what they believe to be the trail that Stanley took to track down Dr. Livingstone.  The four explorers are also tasked with hiring local porters to haul their goods and enlisting the services of two incredible Maasi warriors from Tanzania.

Now. 

If there is one thing that has far-and-away impressed me about the show are the two unlikely ‘stars’, the Maasia warriors.  And. I’m sayin’ this all serious now, CROSSMYHEART.

The Maasia are very, very remarkable men.

If they’ve given their names in the show, they have long-since eluded me. 

However. 

These are two young men who ought to be role models in every sense of the word for our young men today.  They present themselves with confidence … without any trace of arrogance.  They are respectful without giving away any of their own quiet pride in the exchange.  They are beautiful, graceful, brave, highly-skilled, multi-lingual warriers who exist in one of the harshest environments on the planet without an iota of complaint. 

It is just incredibly fascinating to watch them.

Okay. 

Back to our story already in progress.

‘Expedition Africa’ follows the group through widely diverse African terrain on their 970-mile journey to Ujiji.  The jungle treks, river crossings, and mountain climbs are interesting to watch.  The march across the arid deserts, quite a bit less so.  

I mean, really.  How much barren landscape, sweltering sun (read:  120-degree temperatures at high noon), and non-stop ruminations about losing the water-carrying donkeys can one mere viewer be asked to bear?

But. 

In one recent episode they trek out of the frying-pan flats and happen upon a lake filled with an army of roly-poly hippos.  The Maasai warriors soberly warn the group that hippos are the leading cause of death-by-animal-attack in Africa. That, in essence, y’all think they’re these cute, chubby, cartoony beasts … but given their girth and ornery disposition … you’d be best served to keep right on walkin’.

Well.

It wouldn’t be an exciting reality show if they heeded Good Advice, now would it?

The group’s cantekerous leader, Pasquale, deems the land adjacent to … and encompassing … the very-clearly-marked hippo trail their new campsite.  Then in a stroke of what can only be described as sheer genius, he sends the others down to collect drinking-cooking-clothes-washing water from the hippo swimming pool.

The fact they all actually went without a murmur of dissent … well … that surely shocked the pants off of me.

However. 

Upon seeing the water close up … filled with not only ginormous bathing mammals but also their … shall we put this delicately … large quantities of excretement … the group finally … FINALLY … pulls long, concerned faces.  They then proceed to move to another location and fill their water-bearing vessels with water that is merely milky in color and contains the Good Luck Charm of abundant tadpoles.  The presence of said tadpoles means the water is ‘clean enough’ to support life.

Where’s a good bottle of Dasani when y’all need it?

The group presents the water to Pasquale who blows a lid… stopping a lion’s-whisker short of calling them pansies … and marches them back to the not-so-sanitary hippo hole.  He proceeds to show them how they can filter the water using a big ol’ hole of ‘clean sand’.  Umm.  Sorry, Pasquale, but this viewer wouldn’t drink anything that hippos have even remotely come in contact with.

But.  I wonder what else he could get them to do? 

Amazing.

And where, pray tell, are the Maasai warriors when you need them?  Oh that’s right.  Having adequately warned their employers of Nearby Hippo Danger  … they are now required to stand an all-night vigil around the bonfires to keep the hippos from attacking their ill-positioned camp, that’s where.  I’m sure they were also pondering the ancient, perplexing mystery of Large Groups of Stupid People.

I believe the next episode is called ‘Expedition Kenyan Hospital Emergency Room’.

I’ll keep you posted …

let me ‘splain

this is how you find me

this is how you find me

My goodness.  Sometimes blogging is amusing to the inth degree.  Conversely, maybe I’m just overly tired this evening and getting a wee bit on the punchy side.  I logged into WordPress to do some tidying up of my blog and while mucking about, I checked the statistics for ‘Top Searches’.

I’m sorry.  But folks. 

When did I ever mention ‘wife hooks up with stud’ in my blogging?

I mean, REALLY.

I may have thought it.  But never once did I put it in writing.

NOT ONCE.

Well.  Unless, of course, Russell Crowe is leaking our love letters to the press.

Shameful, Russ … ya big stud, you.

Anyhoo. 

James Frain as Thomas Cromwell, The Tudors.  The ultimate poster child for Bad Handler of Said King.

James Frain as Thomas Cromwell, 'The Tudors'. The ultimate poster child for 'Bad Handler of Said King'.

Since the phrase ‘I am not well handled’ has risen repeatedly (read:  daily) as a top search phrase that leads visitors to my blog I feel a sense of obligation to further ‘splain it.

‘I am not well handled’ was a phrase spoken … or screamed in the face of … Thomas Cromwell by Henry VIII regarding the Anne of Cleves’ debacle.   It was also used …  historically intact … in an episode of Showtime’s ‘The Tudors’.  I’m going to take an educated guess and assume that’s why it keeps showing up in the searches.

Lots of people must be watching ‘The Tudors’. 

Alert the media.  Showtime should be overjoyed with the news.

So.  Long story short.

Henry was bethrothed to be married to Anne of Cleves whom he liked ‘not much’.  Make that … liked VERY, VERY NOT MUCH.  Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s Chief Minister, orchestrated the betrothal of Henry and Anne of Cleves, bringing her to court as Henry’s intended fourth wife, sight unseen. 

On a random side note, I often wonder if there was a point that Cromwell himself thought he might be a bit out over his skis on this one?

Umm. Yeah.

So.  No one is permitted to see Anne of Cleves until she arrives on English soil.  And then she wears a veil.  I don’t know.  Methinks that would be a ginormous red flag.

And as we all know from numerous historical accounts,  Henry was on the south side of apalled with what he saw … and apparently, so the story goes, smelled …  Anne.

Henry went on a tirade in which he uttered the infamous words, ‘I am not well handled!’ to his Chief Minister. 

Meaning. 

Cromwell, ya coconut, ya really screwed up this one.  I trusted you.  You were to bring me a royal beauty.  You brought me the ‘Flanders mare’.  Y’all are so gonna get fired.  Or executed. 

Simple translation:  Cromwell did not perform his duties to the king’s satisfaction.  Henry felt he was not ‘well handled’.

And yes.  Eventually, Cromwell was executed by the king. 

I’m surprised Cromwell’s last words to the king before he lost his melon were not,
‘I am not well handled!’

blame it on the reign

“… the greatest pearl in the kingdom.”

~Henry VIII speaking of his firstborn daughter, Mary Tudor~

Hmmm. 

Those are some pretty syrupy sweet sentiments considering how terribly rotten Henry VIII treated his firstborn daughter, Mary, throughout her lifetime.  I don’t know at what point in the Tudor dynasty that this quote was attributed to Henry VIII, but if I would hazard to guess, he must have uttered it long before his marriage to second wife, Anne Boleyn. 

Methinks Queen Anne would not have taken kindly to King Henry being gracious in any manner to Mary Tudor, his firstborn daughter with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. 

‘Pearl schmearl!’ Anne Boleyn screams as she twists Henry’s ear in a most painful fashion.

So.

I’m going to preface this blog by stating that of all the Tudors, I personally find Queen Mary to be the most unfairly maligned.  In my opinion, her rather reviled place in history and her nickname, ‘Bloody Mary’, aren’t entirely just. 

Ummm.  I actually kinda feel sorry for the woman.

Alright.

I’m quite certain that the nearly 300 Protestants she ordered executed in horribly vicious ways during her reign in an attempt to re-establish Catholicism to England would beg to differ with me.

And.

Then there was that little incident in 1553 with Lady Jane Gray.

Otherwise known as the ‘Nine-Day Queen’, Lady Jane Gray, with the help of family and friends, usurped the English throne immediately after the death of 15-year old King Edward (half brother to Mary, son and only legitimate male heir of Henry VIII and third wife, Jane Seymour) from tuberculosis. 

In effect, stepping right on over the succession of Mary. 

Whoops. 

Bad move, Lady Jane Gray.  Verra bad move.

Seventeen-year old Lady Jane was queen for slightly less than two weeks before ‘Bloody Mary’ and her supporters erased her.  Everybody was Kung Fu fighting.  Those kids were fast as lightening.

Sorry.  Unexplained outburst.

Anyway. 

Poor Lady Jane.  Without regard to her tender age and ignorance of youth, she and her crew promptly lost their heads (and other body parts in a variety of terribly gruesome ways) for the faux pas.  The story is told that Queen Mary wanted to set an example of what happens to traitors.

I would imagine her point was very well taken.

Ummm.  I’d have gotten it. 

Quite clearly.

So. 

Those unfortunate incidents aside … I’m just sayin’ …  Mary had some issues. 
She was doing the best she could. 

Albeit, from a very weird perspective.

I’ll explain.

Mary Tudor was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  When Henry divorced Catherine and married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and together had a daughter, Elizabeth, Princess Mary was removed from the line of royal succession.

 

Sorry, Mary dear.  We were only kidding on the whole … ya know … ‘Princess’ title thing.  Really.  Oh now there, there.  Don’t pout.  I’m sure in time you’ll come to truly love your half-sister, Elizabeth.  Nevermind that her birth just resulted in your dad kicking you to the curb and pretty much calling you a bastard.’

‘Now.  Do be a good girl. Pack your stuff and scram.’

‘Oh.  And puhleaassse take your mother, Catherine, with you.  She’s becoming quite a bother.’ 

 

And to make it all neat and tidy … not to mention ‘official’ … in March 1534, Henry VIII had the English Parliament pass the (first) Act of Succession, which in essence …

… vested the succession of the English Crown in the children of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  This act, effectively, set Princess Elizabeth as first in line for the throne, declaring Princess Mary a bastard. It was also proclaimed that subjects, if commanded, were to swear an oath to recognizing this Act as well as the King’s supremacy.  Those who refused to take the oath were charged with treason.

 

And.

In typical Wishy-Washy Henry VIII course of business, a footnote to the Act a mere two years later

This Act was overridden by the Act of Succession, 1536, which made the children of Jane Seymour first in line for the throne, declaring the King’s previous marriages unlawful, and both princesses illegitimate.

 

I don’t know.  Anyone think Henry VIII was a man of many (illogical) whims?

‘I choose you and we shall make a stunning dynasty.  Oh.  Hmm.  Gosh, no, changed my mind.  I choose you!  Eeny meeny miney mo …’

MAKEUPYERMINDALREADY

So. 

Based on the first Act of Succession, in one fell swoop, Henry declared his first daughter a bastard, ineligible for any claim to the English throne, and sent her tidily away.  To add insult to injury her new stepmother, Anne Boleyn, requested the now ‘Lady’ Mary to be servant to Princess Elizabeth.  

ME-OW. 

Oh real nice, Anne.  Wait until you see what happens to you when Henry gets the next bee in his crown.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

But. 

Can y’all see where Lady Mary might be more than a bit perturbed about her lot?  A little, shall we say, bitter?  Confused, angry, humiliated, antagonized … need I go on?  I’m surprised at some point, Mary didn’t take the opportunity to secretly konk her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth, on the head with Ye Old Frying Pan.

‘Splain that one to the king.

‘Oh goodness, Father. I don’t know whatever has gotten into me?!’

When Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, became very ill, Henry VIII refused to allow Mary to be with her during her sickness.  And y’all had to know that snitty decision was a result of Henry’s ill temper about Catherine being such a stink about giving … or conversely, not giving … him the divorce he wanted so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

What’s that they say about payback?

When Catherine of Aragon finally passes, Henry VIII does not permit Mary to go to her mother’s funeral.  It is not until Henry executes Anne Boleyn and third wife Jane Seymour tries to mend fences for the sake of all of Henry’s children, is Mary back in her father’s (tenuous) graces.

Oh and then there’s that little thing Henry VIII commands of Mary, to denounce the Catholic Church. Once she agrees to do that, she can be his rightful daughter again.

His kindness, quite frankly, overwhelms me.

Cough.

So we flash forward several years.

Henry VIII dies.

Son, Edward, ascends the throne as a young, sickly teenager and dies after a short reign.

The imposter Lady Jane Gray has her nine days of ill-fated fame.

On the scene next comes daughter, Mary, who executes Queen Jane (and we use the term ‘Queen’ loosely here) and takes the hard-won throne.

Oh. 

And during this time there’s also the predicament with her half-sister, Elizabeth, who Mary has to tuck away in the Tower just in case she’s entertaining any thoughts of overthrowing Mary’s place in the succession.

The Tudors.  Hmm.  Why they truly put the ‘D’ in dysfunctional.  And y’all wonder why Mary loses her noodle from time to time?

As Queen, she marries Philip II of Spain, in part, to reconnect the two countries in the hopes of restoring Catholicism to England.  Although King Philip was Catholic, the English Catholics were none too enamored with the foreign chap.  They were intuitive. 

When Mary died, Philip tried to cozy up to her half-sister, Elizabeth, so he could remain King when she ascends the throne.

Creepy, Phil.  Really creepy.

Sadly, Mary experiences two ‘phantom’ pregnancies during her reign which must have been immensely heartbreaking, not to mention excruciatingly embarrassing.  Based on the fact that her abdomen grew as though she were pregnant and her lack of monthly ‘courses’, one can only imagine in her passionate desire to have her own heirs to the throne, she would have desperately wanted to believe she was with child. 

She alerted the Kingdom.  Everyone waited in joyful anticipation. 

When 9, 10, 11 months came and went and no labor pains, it was apparent there would be no royal baby.  Scholars believe that both times Queen Mary experienced the pregnancy-like phenomenon it was actually the growth (and shrinkage) of a large ovarian or uterine tumor.

Sobering.

Queen Mary died, quite unhappy, at the relatively young age of 42.

So. 

The next time y’all are at a slumber party conjuring up ‘Bloody Mary’ during a séance, have a little pity on the poor gal.  In the game of life, more often than not, she ended up with the short end of the stick.

I think I’d be a little pissed off too.

i am not well handled

I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse. I am not well handled, Cromwell.  ~Henry VIII on Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife~

OOOOOOOOH. 

Cromwell, you’re so gonna get it.

I have been a passionate fan of Tudor history for as long as I can remember,  so you can imagine my absolute delight when Showtime brought the Tudor story to life in their cable show, aptly called ‘The Tudors’. 

We are now nearing the end of the third season of ‘The Tudors’.  Katherine of Aragon has died a cast-aside, broken woman.  Anne Boleyn is minus a head which, of course, renders her quite dead as well.  And third-wife, Jane Seymour, has tragically died from complications of childbirth, just days after giving birth to Henry’s first and only (legitimate) male heir, Edward.

Enter stage right Anne of Cleves, the proposed fourth wife of Henry VIII.  Now here’s a woman for whom you really must feel more than a bit of empathy. 

Y’all do. 

Let me explain.

At this point in his life, Henry VIII does not exactly have a gossamer reputation in the world as, shall we say, particularly promising husband material.  

When Henry tired of his first wife, Katherine, who couldn’t give him a male heir, he hooks up with the vivacious and cunning Anne Boleyn.  When the Roman Catholic Church won’t permit Henry to divorce Katherine of Aragon to make it legal with Anne, he breaks England off from the Catholic Church and set himself up as Supreme Ruler of the Church of England. 

And grants himself the divorce.  Clever.

Anne must have been a real hottie, yes?

Anyway. 

Apparently having less than ideal karma, Anne first gives Henry a daughter, whom we will eventually come to know as Queen Elizabeth I.   Beyond that, no boys in Anne’s future. 

Well.  Okay.  That’s not entirely accurate. 

Because at one point Anne does give birth to a stillborn male child.  However. Said baby was described by court physicians as grossly deformed, which leads Henry VIII to suspect that he’s being cursed by his marriage to Anne.  This sets Henry’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell, on a mission to dig up some dirt on Anne so she, too, can be properly set aside.

Y’all see a pattern here? 

Jewels and opulence notwithstanding, a wife of Henry VIII probably lived in mortal fear 99.9% of her married life. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a position for the faint-hearted.

So. 

Thomas Cromwell, the sneaky bastard, not only tells Henry that Anne is having an affair but elaborates that it’s multiple affairs.  And.  That Anne is allegedly sleeping with her brother. 

Ewww. 

Based on heresy, because y’all know Cromwell has a tidy little agenda of his own to put said atrocities into play, Henry has Anne’s head neatly removed from her person.  Oh.  And then Henry seals the deal by also executing Anne’s brother, father, and a gaggle of other persons in her inner circle. 

Now.  So far, does this sound like a man you’d be jumping at the chance to share the rest of your (possibly short) life with? 

Methinks not.

Third-wife Jane Seymour is a quiet, demure, and relatively innocuous woman who was reputed to be the salt of the earth.  Probably because she didn’t cross him. 

Oh.  Sorry.  I didn’t realize I said that out loud. 

And a male baby in the form of Edward would certainly seemed to have enhanced the king’s professed undying love for her.  So when Jane dies just days after giving birth to Edward, the king is reported to be utterly devastated.

Which brings us to his choice of his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

After Saint Jane’s death, Thomas Cromwell starts scouring the world to find a suitable match for his king.  Unfortunately, you now have Spain, France, and Italy … all Catholic nations …  can we be blunt here? Well.  They’re really pissed off at England’s break from the Catholic Church.  So.  They’re not inclined to offer up any of their eligible Catholic women.  Cromwell, who was part and parcel of the Church reformation, wants Henry to marry a Protestant and create an alliance with the Lutheran League.

And there you have it.  Germany.  His answer is Anne of Cleves from what is now known as Germany.  A quiet, little Protestant country.

Cromwell has famous artist, Holbein, traipse over to the Court of Cleves and paint Anne in a manner which seemingly made her … ummm … a whole lot more attractive than she really was.  Henry gets the professional portrait, likes what he sees, and demands she be brought to him ‘with much haste’.  Chop chop!

Oh.  Poor choice of words, Henry thinks hearkening back to the ‘other’ Anne.

Ahem.

But it is a bewildered Anne of Cleves, who speaks scant English and is in no way schooled in the politics of the English court who arrives before the king.  The king, ever the gentleman (cough), meets Anne of Cleves … and immediately sets his lawyers to the assignment of breaking the engagement.  He deems Anne to be akin to a ‘Flanders mare’.  

And folks, he ain’t the least bit happy about it.

Nice. 

Because ya’ll know at this time in his life King Henry VIII himself is quite the stud.  Being grossly overweight and with an ulcerated leg that makes him perpetually ‘smell of pus and blood’, his rather checkered past with the ladies, and the fact he’s just flat-out cantankerous and more often than not, irrational … why, he should expect only the best for his next choice of wife, right? 

‘Damn that Flanders mare!’, says the tubby, smelly, nasty-ass King Henry VIII.

Okay.  This brings me to my conclusion that the producers of ‘The Tudors’ got Anne of Cleves way wrong.

WAY WAY WRONG.

So wrong that I want to start a petition to fire their casting people.  Yeah.  If I were smelly and mean myself, I would. 

Now that y’all know the history … please pay attention because this blog is nearing an end … would you ever, in a million years, cast singer Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves? 

I mean, REALLY. 

Maybe if you were on some really bad acid, it would seem logical.  But sober and alert, it just seems … dumb?  Far-fetched.  Ridiculous.  Absurd.  Folks, I have a thesaurus and could go on ad naseum with a plethora of  other adjectives. 

But I think you get the point.

I watched the second-to-last episode of this season of ‘The Tudors’ last night and I literally could not stop shaking my head. 

Joss Stone.  JOSS STONE.

You just can’t ugly that girl up. 

It is so implausible to believe the scene with Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Joss Stone in the marital bed where he repeatedly turns away from her in disgust, unable to consumate the marriage.  Honestly?  If those two historical figures looked like the actors in real life, Henry would have only turned away from Anne if he were gay.

I’m just sayin’.

Or conversely.  If he were impotent.  Ah ha.  Which, my friends, is what some scholars believe to be the truth of the matter.

Anyway.

I understand making ‘The Tudors’ sexy enough to make history interesting to people who don’t particularly ‘get into’ history.  I simply don’t understand them making the show so sexy as to be foolish.

See?  Told you I had a thesaurus.