The hazards of professional virginity

Like most people, Elizabeth I was born a virgin. Unlike most people, she made it into a career move.

Why wouldn’t she? She didn’t have a lot of conventional material to work with.  

Liz was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. When she was two and not yet thinking about career options, Henry had Anne beheaded and replaced her with an unsteady stream of wives. As wife replaced wife and minutely argued religious justification replaced tediously argued religious justification, Liz was alternately Henry’s legitimate child and his illegitimate child, a princess and not a princess, pushed off to the margins and brought into court to share in all the who-gets-it-next worries of Henry’s inner circle.

It all depended on which way the religious, political, and sexual winds were blowing. 

Irrelevant photo: A flower I don’t remember the name of.

Being born female wasn’t a great career move. Henry’s goal in life was to magic a male heir out of wife number whichever, and as he got older that seemed to depend more and more on magic, or at least on luck, than on the usual methods. And although Liz was said to be very bright, she never figured out how to grow the odd appendage that being a male heir depended on.

She was thirteen when her father died and her nine-year-old half-brother, Edward, became king. Or maybe he was ten. Maybe she was fourteen. It depends who you ask. I asked two different BBC posts, not some fly-by-night bloggers who make it up as they go along. (You know what bloggers are like.) The BBC’s generally reliable on these things, but Ed’s age a side issue, so let’s smirk and move on.

But let me insert a brief interruption here, since I’ve already interrupted myself. I’m about to stash Liz on the shelf for a while and talk about her relatives. And about religion. Because nothing in her life, including the whole virginity shtick, makes sense unless you know the background.

Edward was intensely Protestant (that’s a general link about the Tudors and the Reformation, not particularly about Edward), and more to the point, so were the men (or man–it’s complicated) who ran the country in his name. They set about consolidating the Protestant reformation that Henry, however inconsistently, had begun. If Henry can be said to have started the English reformation. Ask Lord Google something as simple as whether Henry was a Protestant and the answer seems to be yes. And also no. You can think of his Church of England as the Catholic Church but without a Pope. And with a bible in English instead of in Latin. And–

But we’re getting sidetracked. We weren’t talking about Henry, we were talking about Edward. He was Protestant, so everyone had to be Protestant, or at least live as if they were. Because that’s the way it was back then. The state and religion were as tangled together as that string of Christmas lights you drag out of the back of the closet every year. Or more so, because if you work at it you’ll get the lights untangled by Easter, but the religion and politics of the era were so completely welded together that you can just stop trying.

Liz was twenty (give or take a few months) when Edward died. After the collapse of a brief effort to put another Protestant on the throne, Liz’s sister, Mary, became queen. And Mary was as Catholic as Edward was Protestant, so now the country had to be Catholic. (The link is to a brief but interesting piece on Mary’s reign and the progression of her attempts to turn the country Catholic again.)

Mary brought back the old heresy laws. Protestants were burned at the stake. Everyone had a wonderful, time, thanks, and sent cards to say they wished we’d been there.

Then Mary died childless. It was a thing with the Tudors, not finding heirs where they expected them. So it’s time to take Liz off the shelf. 

Liz was now twenty-five, unmarried, female, and the new queen of an uneasy country. She was also Protestant, although more mildly so than Edward. She didn’t have a lot of choice about being Protestant. If she’d been a Catholic, her mother wouldn’t have been married, making Liz a bastard, which was an even worse career move than being a woman.

What kind of country was she now in charge of?

One that for years had been lurching from Catholicism to Protestantism to Catholicism, and now back to Protestantism. People holding church or public office had to swear that the queen, not the Pope, was the head of the English church. Everyone had to attend church or be fined for it. The service was in English, not Latin (score one for the Protestants), although it was full of fancy robes and incense and expensive toys (score one for the Catholis). The idea was to keep both sides happy and inside a single church. Liz famously said she didn’t want to open windows into men’s souls, meaing she didn’t care what they believed, but she did want them to play nice and do what she told them to, which included showing up at her church.

For a long time England had been a nervous place and it still was, with everyone looking over their shoulder, and over everyone else’s shoulder, wanting to know who hid Protestant books when the country was Catholic, who said an illegal Latin mass when the country was Protestant, who defended the Pope as the head of the English church when the monarch was its head or the other way around, not to meniton who claimed the queen was born not just a virgin but a bastard and who had a forbidden Jesuit priests hidden away.

And it wasn’t just individuals looking over their shoulders. Elizabeth’s government lived in fear of rebellion and invasion.

No one was being paranoid about any of this. Catholic plots to overthrow Elizabeth were real, as were rebellions. Spy networks searching for hidden Catholic priests were just as real. Catholic Spain tried to invade and was thwarted as much by the weather as by England’s navy. Everybody fought proxy wars in Ireland and the Netherlands. 

And just to complicate the picture, Protestant groups were pushing for a purer form of Protestantism, and predictably they weren’t all of one mind either. As soon as the bible became available in English for any literate person to read, it was also available for them to interpret, and their interpretations took them in a variety of directions.

Anabaptists believed in the separation of church and state and leaned toward social equality. Puritans wanted no bishops, no fripperies, no fun, and nothing that reminded them of Catholicism. We’ll skip over the other groupings and grouplets. It’s enough to know they existed. The one thing they all agreed on was that the Church of England was nothing more than a sugar-free version of the Catholic Church.

So this was a time of spies, plots, paranoia, torture, and bloodshed.

Who shed more blood, Elizabeth or Mary? I couldn’t find sources that would let me compare like with like, but I’m left with the impression that Mary wins–as in she killed more Protestants than Liz killed Catholics. But that hardly makes Liz’s reign a comfortable time.

Throughout this period, the country was split into three camps: 1. Catholics, who wanted freedom for their religion; 2. Protestants, who wanted freedom for their religion; and 3. people who were willing to be either Protestant or Catholic as long as whoever was in power would refrain from (a) throwing them in jail, (b) burning them at the stake, (c) fining them, or (d) noticing them at all in case they thought of something else to do to them.

This was before the introduction of public opinion, polls and if they’d been around you’d have had to be crazy to answer one honestly. Still, I think it’s a fair bet that the majority of the population fell into the third camp. They kept their heads down and if anyone had offered them a tin hat they’d have worn it as protection against the religious shrapnel that was flying in all directions.

What the country needed was stability–a nice long stretch of time when whatever the approved religion was didn’t change and people had time to get used to it. Enough time to remember what they were supposed to believe and, more importantly, what not to say in public.

And what did stability depend on? First off, the monarch had to not die.  Liz did a good job of that. Secondly, the monarch had to magic up an heir to the throne, preferably male, and here’s where Liz had a problem, because if there’s one thing everyone knows about virginity, it’s that it decreases the odds that you’ll produce a kid. And if your job title is virgin queen, you are now looking at an occupational hazard.

But virginity’s not a terminal condition, so why didn’t Liz marry?

There could’ve been a hundred emotional reasons, and if you’re writing historical fiction you have your choice of everything from early trauma to liking girls instead of boys. Sadly, we’re stuck with the facts, and we have none. Whatever Liz felt, she kept it to herself. This wasn’t a touchy-feely time. No one would’ve said, “Gee, Liz, that must’ve been hard. Want to sit down and have a good cry?”

So let’s look at the condition of women in Tudor England, because it explains a lot and it can be documented. Quick summary? It wasn’t a great time to be a woman. You can skip the next few paragraphs if that’s all you need to know.

Women were considered physically, intellectually, and emotionally weak. They not only weren’t fit to rule a country, they weren’t fit to rule a family. Hell, they weren’t fit to rule themselves. We’ll let the Scot John Knox stand in for an entire culture here. 

“God hath revealed to some in this our age that it is more than a monster in nature that a woman should reign and bear empire above man.”

Even a man who meant to praise Liz could only manage to say, “Her mind has no womanly weakness. Her perseverance is equal to that of a man, and her memory long keeps what it quickly picks up.” 

The era was still working with the medieval Great Chain of Being, with god at the top, followed by the various ranks of angels and after them the various ranks of humans. Among humans, kings were at the top, which gave them divine right to rule. Then came the varied ranks of nobles and the descending ranks of commoners. And in all these ranks, men were set above women. It was the natural order, as handed down by god himself. It was catalogued all the way down through dragonflies and snakes and plants and rocks.

Male rocks were set above female rocks.

Salt, please, someone.

So when Elizabeth took the throne, crown lawyers worked up a  theory called the king’s two bodies to legitimize her. She wasn’t a woman, exactly: 

“When she ascended the throne, according to this theory, the queen’s whole being was profoundly altered: her mortal ‘body natural’ was wedded to an immortal ‘body politic.’ ‘I am but one body, naturally considered,’ Elizabeth declared in her accession speech, ‘though by [God’s] permission a Body Politic to govern.’ ”

Got that?

Me neither. You pretty much had to be there for it to make sense. 

Now let’s back up a bit and talk about marriage in general. If women were weak, silly, emotional creatures, what happened when one of them married? Well, for everyone’s good, she stopped having to obey her father and started having to obey her husband, and any property she inherited became her husband’s. The best move a woman could make if she wanted her independence was to become a widow.

This, unfortunately, wasn’t always easy to arrange.

And if a queen married? She’d be expected to take second place to her husband, of course. When Liz’s brother was king, Thomas Seymour was executed for–allegedly–trying to marry Liz so he could rule the kingdom. The assumption was that as her husband he’d have that right.

Any queen who meant to rule her own kingdom would have been wise to stay single, because her husband would be expected to rule her and own the property she inherited–in other words, her kingdom.

So no marriage for Liz. She became a professional virgin, married to her country. She flirted diplomatically with the occasional suitor and shed them all when diplomacy either dictated or allowed.

Most of the available monarchs or near-monarchs were Catholic in any case. 

That left the problem of an heir. And I repeat, because it’s a complicated concept: Not producing children is an occupational hazard if you’re a professional virgin.

The best solution was to work up a cult around Liz’s virginity, turning it from a problem into a virtue. And so Liz has come down in history not just as an unmarried queen but as the Virgin Queen, ablaze with capital letters. England, its church, and its culture were only minutes away from Catholicism, and a cult around a virgin must’ve seemed natural. The culture already equated virginity–at least female virginity–with purity, which was useful. 

The cultural obsession with whether or not a woman’s ever had sex strikes me as completely bizarre, not to mention intrusive. But again, you had to be there. All cultures get trapped inside their ways of thinking, and when you’re inside one it’s hard to imagine any other way for a mind to work. If virginity equals purity, then who could step outside long enough to question it? 

The lack of an heir hung over her reign and she managed to avoid making a decision about who it would be until she was on her deathbed, when she made a sign that one of her advisors conveniently interpreted as meaning she’d chosen the successor he thought was the best of the available choices.

Funny how that works.


Now let’s take a minute to talk about sex in the Tudor era. It’s not exactly relevant, but I did stumble into some information and it’s not completely off the topic.

The Tudor Society website (“the Tudor Society is a well established Tudor history group,” whatever that means) says people “were forbidden to have sex during Lent, Advent, Feast Days, Fast Days, Easter Week, Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays…. Women were also forbidden to have sex when they were menstruating, pregnant, for the forty day period after giving birth or when they were breastfeeding.”

So few days were left that no business got done on non-feast, -fast, or -reproductively related Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Or Fridays, when they were catching up on their sleep.


“The act of sexual intercourse within marriage was to be done only in the missionary style and there was no room or allowance for experimentation. The Church also taught that the missionary position was the best way to conceive a male child and other positions could lead to creating a deformed child. The Church believed that both men and women needed to produce seed to create a child, therefore it was necessary that a woman obtained an orgasm. ” 

I’m not sure which church they mean here–Catholic or Church of England–but I doubt that particular set of beliefs changed with the shift from Latin to English and back again, so it doesn’t matter. 

116 thoughts on “The hazards of professional virginity

  1. Another reason why she didn’t marry was that almost all of the foreign princes available were Catholic, and a Protestant queen could hardly be ruled over by her Catholic husband. In addition to which the pope had said that it wouldn’t be a sin if a Catholic killed her. That wouldn’t make for a very easy marriage bed. She had also seen what happened when a queen regnant was married to a foreign prince (or anyone else) in her sister Mary and Mary, Queen of Scots, which didn’t work out well for either of them.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I missed the bit about the Pope saying it wouldn’t be a sin to kill her. That would be a problem. Apparently, the negotiations with Catholic princes involved questions about whether they’d be willing to give up going to mass, or to go only in private. All told, the situation was pretty nearly impossible.

      I’ve been trying to imagine, given how long it took for one country to communicate with another at the time, how two monarchs who married each other (and whose countries weren’t next door neighbors) could rule both and still see each other often enough to have a running chance of producing an heir.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It wasn’t as unreasonable as you might think to ask a foreign prince to give up mass. Henri IV converterd to Catholicism in order to become king of France.

        I don’t know how much Philip II and Mary saw of one another during their marriage, but it was enough to make her think she carried an heir. Mary, Queen of Scots went to live in France with her husband, which didn’t go down well with her subjects. I think her mother was regent. I don’t enough about any other queens regnant to know whether anyone managed to make it work.

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        • Mary Q of S was, I think, sitll in her teens when she was married to the K of F (that’s King of France, even though in this day and age is sounds vaguely like it should involve fried chicken), so old enough to marry but too young to govern in her own right. But you’re right–the actual business of reigning, or at least governing, did often get handed off to others. I find it hard to wrap my head around that, even while I can cite examples of it. As of Mary S of E (that’s Sister of Elizabeth) and Phillip, I think they were together for some stretch of time at the beginning of their marriage and then for very little time after that. What arrangements he made in Spain while he was goine I don’t know.

          And then there was Richard the Lionheart, who was off on the Crusades (and then imprisoned in France) for much of his reign. The danger of being gone was not being able to keep a lit on the assorted plotters who could move into the power vacuum, as Richard’s brother (if I’m remembering correctly) did in his absence.

          Oh, what fun times those were.

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    • There is that. We have running water (those of us who do, at least) and are better protected against fleas. None of us are likely to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. At least I don’t have to qualify that sentence. On the other hand, they didn’t have the ability to destroy the entire fucking ecosystem.

      Sorry to go all serious on you.

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  2. Another lovely piece Ellen. I love your tongue in cheek humour. The flower is Aubretia,by the way. If you are not already familiar with it can I recommend that you check out a blog called “A Bit About Britain” – it’s by an English guy who visits, and writes about, heritage sites around the UK, inserting all manner of tit-bits about the history of the places along with his own superb photographs. I think you would enjoy it.

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    • I drop in on A Bit about Britain irregularly and enjoy it. And should do it more often, now that you mention it. He’s a good writer.

      And thanks for the name of the flower. I’ll write it down somewhere, lose the note, and hope I remember the name so that if it doesn’t make it through the winter I can replace it. It flowered all summer, enthusiastically.

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    • It’s a mixed picture, I think. The Tudor-era–I was going to say people, but let’s say aristocrats, since theirs are the lives that are best documented, were more open about sex than the Victorians. The king, certainly, openly had mistresses and bastards and no one blinked an eye. As, I think, did the men around him. Being a king’s mistress didn’t necessarily carry any shame, although it didn’t have the status of being a wife.

      It’s what they did in bed that was–as least officially–restricted.

      For a married woman, predictably, the story was different. She was expected to be faithful.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Hang on a minute while I consult Mr Google as to who ruled England after Elizabeth…James, OK. I’m just glad that, as a people, we’ve matured beyond the notion that women are somehow a lower form, and we now respect them and pay them just as much as men. Hang on another minute…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I saw The Favorite not long ago and in the process saw a poster for Mary Q of S. They had so much contemporary makeup on the woman who played her that I decided not to see it. Ever. Which may (or may not) be completely unfair. Did you like it?

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      • I can’t think of a British movie I haven’t liked ever so yes, I liked this one, too. I’m a sucker for the accents, I think which makes me addicted to the BBC in any form as well. I will say that my wife Pretty LOVED The Favourite and she’s much pickier than I am with her movie going so I’m wondering what you thought about it?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had mixed feelings about it. Mostly I liked it, but it was wearing to spend a couple of hours in a setting where no one can trust anyone. Not as wearing as spending a lifetime there, I admit, but still…


  4. Oh my; what a lark this has been to read, Ellen.

    I’d learned Elizabeth’s virgin status was more of a natural consequence if not being able to align herself in marriage to various international suitors. Each possibility resulted in an offense to another. Can’t marry the Austrian, or Spain would attack; can’t marry the German or the Dutch would revolt. I just made up those country examples btw.

    So she decided it was easier (and more sensible) to declare herself forever a virgin.

    It’s possible I learned this from the movie with Cate Blanchet. Or Judy Dench. There’ve been many virgin queens on screen.

    Nice summary here. I like yours best. :)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks. I didn’t want to complicate an already complicated picture, but an aged Penguin (that’s the pubisher, not the bird) bio of Liz details negotiations with an assortment of men. With many of them, the problem was that they were Catholic. Were they willing to give up the Mass to marry a queen? Mostly, no.

      Whether any of those negotiations would’ve gone anywhere I don’t know. Many of them were more for form’s sake than in hope of marrying, but some of them appear to have been genuine. She was, apparently, in love with one man (English; Protestant) when she was young, but marrying him would’ve been a political disaster. He was married at the time, and after his wife died in suspicious circumstances he was pretty much out of the question.

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    • Yeah, she wasn’t what you’d call lucky in her parents. One of the sources I read says Henry was actually quite fond of his children, but I doubt that got in the way of politics. And feminisim, yes, but in the context of her time. In a speech to her army when a Spanish invasion was threatening, she combined “I have the body of a weak and feeble woman” with “but I have the heart [and I think ‘stomach’; I’m doing this from memory] of a king, and a king of England.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good suggestion. Some of them are fascinating.

      Your plate of spaghetti analogy is a good one and reminds me of a Minneapolis intersection that was–informally–called Spaghetti Junction. I just know there’s a way to calrify the story enough that it fits inside a single brain, but I haven’t found it yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I did not know about all those forbidden sex days. Or if I did ever know, I have forgotten. They really did just want people to be miserable, didn’t they? When your life revolves around drudgery and traipsing through mud, and coming up with new recipes for turnips, surely you should be allowed to have the best fun possible at bedtime? No wonder people were always waging war! There would have been more peace in Europe if more people were getting their rocks off. I don’t have the science or facts to back that claim up but I still feel confident in that assertion.

    As for Liz’s maintenance of her virginity (or maintenance of the claim of her virginity), It always put me in mind of some advice from my Gran to tweenage me. My Gran, incidentally, only seemed to dispense inappropriate advice to me. She told me that female sexuality was a “powerful tool” and that we women could wield our power by either dispensing or withholding sex. Maybe she had been reading about Elizabeth I.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t help thinking that a grandmother who dispensed inappropriate advice would make a wonderful character in a novel. Or a play. I just love it.

      I don’t have any scientific evidence either, but it would’ve been worth a try, surely. I haven’t found a more reliable source to back up the one I quoted, but that may well be because I’m asking Lord Google the wrong question. I can’t remember what I tried. Tudor sex? Tudor era sex? Something absurd, I know that. It’s a topic I’d love to come back to if I can find anything useful.

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            • True. Also because a great deal of what’s reported is less than reliable. To take an example I know a bit about: The early European sailors who arrived in New Zealand thought they were paying women for sex, as they would back home. The women, though, were having sex with who they wanted because they wanted to–their choice. That’s how it worked in Maori society. Whatever presents they were given they accepted as gifts. Total misunderstanding between the two sides. I’m not convinced all the anthropologists who report on far-flung societies have done much better, although I’m sure some have. Which ones, though, are we to believe?

              Liked by 3 people

  6. Dear me – I began to bog down halfway through the paragraph on Henry or Edward’s status/religion and began to hallucinate him saying “And I will be HAPPY to wear the mantle of this and take the credit ! I’ll not blame you, Chuck…” and I had to shake myself awake and go to the kitchen for a fortifying cuppa…

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  7. Jane Seymour and her brother Thomas were my first cousins, fourteen times removed. Not very close but they seem like family. They had another brother who was also executed. Dangerous to be alive and breathing back then.

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          • A lot more of my ancestors were in the fields than living in castles.

            The plutocrats today are not any better. See government shutdown. Starve the peasants, we are not giving in to those other people. I blame both parties. Either one could give in or compromise. Excuse the distraction from English history.
            My daughter is a furloughed government employee not getting paid. Today we discussed finances to see how long she could stay out before family cash runs out and we have to start selling assets or walking neighbors figs for income. We are both upset and concerned.

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  8. The one and only time I find to sit with an afternoon biscuit and cuppa, and look forward to reading your column (which usually speaking is short and sweet) but instead find myself locked in grips and vices of sexual anxiety because I can’t recall what day it is and if I can or can’t…
    it just happens to be the day you decide to write your doctoral thesis on Tudor rocks.

    Go figure.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, it did kind of go on and on, didn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out if that’s good or bad. Not that it matters–the length is usually dictated by the topic. Still, it’s nice to have some vague goal in mind.

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  9. Well, I wonder if not having a female orgasm was seen as a form of Tudor contraceptive? I am glad to hear that female orgasms mattered because other than that life as Tudor woman was pretty bleak although History is full of exceptional women who bucked the trend, Elizabeth & Mary Tudor, Mary Stuart, The Grey sisters (Lady Jane, Katherine and Mary) and Bess of Hardwick who was a shrewd business woman who also made a career out or marrying men (she didn’t kill them, by the way, Tudor health care was pretty rubbish)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure Lady Jane Grey was much more than a pawn. I can’t claim to have read much about her, but the impression I’m left with is that she was kind of hapless and adrift. But yes, according to I can’t remember who, in the Tudor era (aristocratic) women were more likely to get a decent education–or any education at all. And a few were might have some possibilities open up in life, although I added that last bit. But I can’t say I envy the life of the women on your list whose names I recognize. Talk about learning to live with anxiety. And that’s not even getting into the issue of how many women had to fake an orgasm because the missionary position (or the man in question) just didn’t do it for her.

      I can always see the bright side of things, can’t I?

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      • Poor Lady Jane Grey, she was a very clever and serious soul who definitely was used and then abandoned by her relatives. Being an educated women was a double edged sword, Henry VIII’s last wife Catherine Parr was one and he very nearly had her arrested and executed for heresy but she successfully begged for her life. She ensured that Elizabeth Tudor wasn’t forgotten was got a good education. To be honest, life at Tudor Court always seemed very risky, Henry VIII executed a couple of his wives but also quite a lot of his ministers – Thomas Cromwell being a classic example. Anne of Cleves (the Flanders Mare) was lucky not to have to stay married to fat nasty king! Note that she managed to stay in England (so she didn’t have to go home to her humiliation in her brother’s court) but didn’t remarry. The Tudors are fascinating but no way would I have wanted to live in those times!

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        • Last summer, we went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and saw a show that’s since opened in London, called Six and about the wives of Henry VIII. (It’s fantastic, and very funny–among other things, Ann Bolyn is played as an Essex girl.) Anne of Cleves has a line about how sad her life is, all that money and no many to tell her how to spend it.

          I should make a point of learning more about Lady Jane Grey. At this point, she’s not much more than a name to me.

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          • The Grey girls (there were 3 sisters) all had a tough time at the hands of the Tudors, Jane was executed by Mary Tudor, Katherine was imprisoned by Elizabeth Tudor for her secret marriage to Edward Seymour and little Mary was separated from her husband who she’d married without royal permission. Katherine and Mary were technically heirs to the throne although Elizabeth avoided naming them as such.

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              • Also, I expect, because it’s so foreign to us. I remember some historian saying that we can understand the Romans much more easily than people who lived in the medieval period, and the Tudor era was still borderline medieval. So it’s easy to project whatever we want back to that time.

                Or something. Let’s be honest: I’m making this up as I go along.

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              • Sounds about right – once upon a time I was a professional Medieval historian (about 20 years ago) and what I liked about the period was that it was so different from society today. People are people, but these people did a lot of things differently. I think my favourite period of History is the 18th century, when people were wonderfully badly behaved. It was just before the Victorian came along with their morality & double standards. I say its my favourite period yet I know the least about it – perhaps that’s why I like it!

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              • The short history of England that I’m reading (I’ve sort of bogged down lately) did say about the Tudor period that it’s the first time we have some sense of the personalities involved. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s fairly close and does see true. They’ve stopped looking and seeming like icons.

                Once we get into the seventeenth century, I begin to get bored, at least with the kings and queens and personalities. Which may be why I bogged down in my reading. I’m hoping that as I work my way forward into the history I’ll find other things that interest me. Other than the rebellions, which I find fascinating but I do understand that they’re not the whole of history.

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              • I can highly recommend anything by Roy Porter about the C18th. I think I read “England in the C18th” or maybe it was “English Society in C18th” by Roy Porter and it was a good read. It’s not often you can say that about British Historians. American History books are usually very readable but British ones are often written with a (dull) academic audience in mind. Roy was a interesting chap himself – like to wear motorbike jackets – but sadly is no longer with us. Often you need a simple (and I mean simple, like no more than 10 names/ events) over-view of a period in order to then fit the details into, otherwise you just get lost in the details. I am saying this and getting a bit lost with Irish History at the moment – I am sort of OK with C19th but the Medieval and Tudor stuff is a bit of a blur!

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              • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll go on a search, secondly for the books and first (or is that firstly–what an awful excuse for a word) for the slip of paper where I wrote it down. (I know what I’m like and it’s not a pretty picture.)

                I agree with you about simple history. My partner was just short of a Ph. D in history when the sixties called her forth and she still has a historian’s disdain of popular histories, but I appreciate them. They’re useful and they can be fascinating.

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      • Haha! I meant dull as in the whole monarchy and Henry saga (well… not so much dull as repeated history). Your virginity ‘insight’ was a shining light on the subject. It made for great reading. Make sense? As for becoming a virgin again, that would be more than interesting! Thanks for your wit and humor, Ellen. Always makes my day.

        Liked by 2 people

        • And many quite serious thanks for letting me know that so often.

          I’ve been reading a short history of England, which follows the traditional king, king, king, queen, etc. pattern. I can see the sense in it, but it strikes me as a lousy way to write history, squeezing far more important stuff to the edges, focusing heavily on personality–and in the case of this particular writer, height. He seems to be convinced that being big and impressive looking is essential.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Well, it seemed to work for Henry…and being less impressive-looking seems to have worked against poor old Charles. Then again, what about Victoria? Did she stand the whole idea on end by being impressively puny-looking?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Interesting question. I haven’t gotten as far as Victoria yet, but I think he’s going to duck the issue because at a certain point he shifts from a focus on kings and queens to a focus on prime ministers. He’s heavily focused on personality, which is always fun but a limiting way (I think) for a serious historian to work.

              Liked by 1 person

      • OMG. I love this comment. But this whole blog is a sight for sore eyes. My favourite parts of your piece were the section around the king’s two bodies, and also your comment about bloggers. ;)) Not to mention your purple flower photo and the caption on it. I find it truly bizarre how “coincidental” things are. I had just posted a purple flower photo in the piece I published not long before reading yours, and had originally captioned it “purple flower I can’t remember” with a over-lengthy explanation of why I couldn’t remember; but later shortened it (because apparently captions shouldn’t be essays). Anyway, your words and flowers are beautiful and I pretty much think we’re soul sisters. Except that you seem smarter and stuff.

        Liked by 2 people

              • ❤️. Speaking of WP corners, I’m having issues with WP sites where I can’t actually “like” or comment on a post unless I’m inside WP reader. I’ll hit the like button and it “flashes” but doesn’t add the like. Do you, or does anyone else reading this have that problem? I thought it might be my ad blocker but I’ve tried in Safari as well as Chrome and it neither works. Odd.

                Liked by 1 person

              • No idea–it’s not a problem I’ve had. Although I did just dig this comment out of the same odd corner where your last one got trapped. Maybe it has something to do with using the WP reader instead of interacting directly–I have no idea. WP does let you ask about problems you’re having, although you have to dig around quite a bit to find out how. The easiest thing to find is their forum, where people share knowledge and ignorance, but you can, by poking around quite a bit, find a way to ask questions of their own staff, who once you find them are incredibly helpful.

                Liked by 1 person

  10. For another feisty Elizabethan lady try Lady Anne Clifford. A Yorkshire lass born into Elizabethan England and died while Cromwell was in charge..
    Great piece by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In this age of standardized tests, my entire class would’ve had fun and then flunked because it hadn’t memorized the entire list of Elizabeth’s failed suitors–or whatever bit of random minutiae kids are supposed to know. (Not that I’m biased against standardized testing or anything.)


  11. Pingback: Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! | Pain Pals

    • My strategy exactly. From this distance, it’s hard to figure out why anyone wanted power. Money, prestige, and (to repeat myself) power, of course, but at the price of your head? Or various other body parts? Not a gamble I’d want to take.


  12. This is so interesting – good timing with the new Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I movie (although I don’t know how true to history it is). There is so much to wrap your head around…but her whole being was altered when she ascended the throne – her natural body wedded to a politic body…WOW. We stayed in a fifteenth century haunted inn in East Sussex last weekend, reputedly visited by Elizabeth I….great article and I hope you don’t mind but I added your link in my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x (PainPalsBlog)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mind? I’m grateful.

      I haven’t seen the movie, but I admit to being put off by a poster promoting it, where Mary Q of S’s makeup left her looking so contemporary that I wanted to pour ink on it. Luckily, I was short of ink so I didn’t have to explain myself to what would’ve been a very angry movie-house manager. Or the cop who’d have followed along behind. The contrast between Mary’s emotional swings and Elizabeth’s emotional control is fascinating.


  13. Pingback: SENIOR SALON 2019 ROUNDUP JAN 14 – 18, 2019 ~ Esme Salon

    • Autocorrupt sensed what the topic was and made assumptions about what interested you. Or me. Or the world at large. Or its own very odd self. Anyway, glad you caught that. I’d have been hard put to figure out what exactly we were talking about.

      Oddly enough, I always thought the church wanted more church members and therefore a larger population.

      Liked by 1 person

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