A Quick Catch Up – Various Historical Ramblings

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written a proper blog about anything. I blame work. No really I do. Also I blame the fact that I’ve been busy working away at editing my book, which I am slightly behind on because of said work. But never mind. I shall pick the manuscript back up tomorrow evening and try not to drown it in my English Civil War/Stuart family tears.

If I’m perfectly honest I don’t even know why I’m sitting here typing this because it will most likely have nothing to do with anything remotely historical whatsoever. I suppose I just felt like checking in with you all and saying hello. Oh, and telling you what historical shenanigans I’ve been up to this past week – wait, didn’t I just say this would have nothing historical? Oh well.

So, on Thursday 14th I wrote that whole post on the death of Juan Borgia, and after I saw the lovely David Oakes tweet about it being the 515th Anniversary of Juan’s death I may have, sort of, tweeted him about the piece I wrote. And a couple of days later, as I switched on tweetdeck a little thing popped up in my mentions list. I may have sat there in shock for a good few minutes before squealing at my partner: OH MY GOD DAVID OAKES RETWEETED MY JUAN POST. HE MUST HAVE READ IT AND LIKED IT!!!! Yeah, I may have gotten a little bit overexcited, I’m not sorry one bit.

It’s probably not very clear in the screen shot but it says “retweeted by David_Oakes“. Now for those of you who don’t know, or who haven’t seen Showtime’s “The Borgia’s”, David Oakes plays Juan Borgia, second son of Rodrigo Borgia – or as he is more often known “Alexander VI”. Now then I won’t spoil season 2 for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say that David did an utterly astounding job portraying the history of Juan, despite the inaccuracies of the time lines etc. I found myself in floods of tears seeing Juan’s downward spiral, yet at the same time I loved his sass. Honestly, if you haven’t seen The Borgias, please do check it out because it is fantastic, albeit not hugely accurate. But hey, it is entertainment after all, and very well done entertainment!!

I may have gone a little bit mad on books this past week. A few weeks ago I went on a bit of a spree buying a ton of books on Minette Stuart, just because I love her and all, and I may have ended up buying a few more than I should have…

The two lying cover up are two that I brought myself on Tuesday from a bookshop when I was on the way back from the hospital. I felt like cheering myself up after a diagnosis of Coeliac disease (I’m not going to go into it too it here as y’know this is a history blog and all but let’s just say that things weren’t entirely clear from the doctor and they said it was “mild” and I had to cut down on my gluten intake and it runs hand in hand with my type 1 diabetes. Excellent. They didn’t tell me that changing my diet to mainly gluten free would really play around with my blood sugars, but still, different story for a different day) and I ended up spending £35 on two books. BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT! The books spine up are mainly all on Minette, except the two on the left which are dedicated to my favourite couple in history; Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the biggest bad ass woman on the planet Caterina Sforza!

And then yesterday, this little beauty arrived! I’m not going to lie, but I have a bit of a thing for the Earl of Rochester aka John Wilmot aka the man who wrote the most obscene play of the Seventeenth Century. Have any of you seen The Libertine with Johnny Depp? If not, why not? I ADORE IT SO MUCH! I also adore Rochester. The other day I sat down and read his entire obscene play in a matter of hours, and I loved every minute of it. And no, not because if was Seventeenth Century pornography…but because I thought it was freaking hilarious and also provided an excellent commentary to Rochester’s feelings on the court of Charles II. Does that sound a bit presumptuous? Maybe. I’m not sorry.

Tomorrow I’m planning on visiting Winchester when I finish work. I went to University in that gorgeous city and haven’t been since my graduation. It’s going to be amazing to get back there. The town has such a magical quality for me, mainly for its history. The city has been there for centuries, and even has an Iron Age hill fort on its outskirts. I have many fond memories of St Catherine’s Hill, particularly sitting up there one very cold November evening watching various firework displays. My main interest in the city lies in its ties to the English Civil War – the city itself changed hands many sides during the War (which is worth a blog post on its own), and the Cathedral shows a lot of English Civil War damage in the interior, caused by Parliamentarian Soldiers. Not only that but the famous Round Table, hung in the Great Hall of Winchester Cathedral, also suffered Parliamentarian vandalism after they burst into the Hall and shot at the table with their muskets! My main plan tomorrow is to have a slow wander around the Cathedral and soak in its atmosphere – I adore the place and find it very peaceful, plus the history held in the building helps. I also have a plan to light a candle for a close friend of mine who recently passed away. There are two statues by the entrance of James I and Charles I both of which have musket damage which I am particularly interested in revisiting. And for those Tudor fans, Stephen Gardiner Bishop of Winchester is also buried within the walls. I will return with lots of pictures. I should also hopefully be meeting up with an old friend from Uni for pints which is always fun!

And if I’m honest there hasn’t been much historical fun going on for this past week. I still blame work. I’ve mainly been reading a book that is so far from history based you wouldn’t even believe it. For anyone who cares, I’ve been reading “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess and it has to be one of the best non history books I’ve ever read. It’s not often an autobiography has me laughing so hard that tears run down my face, but this book was fantastic. Not only that but between the hilarity there were also some very serious moments that provided a very stark insight into mental illness. It is a fantastic book, very funny and very very frank. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are into this type of book or not. I’ve also been working my way through “Restoration London” by Liza Picard which reads like a more serious version of Ian Mortimer’s “A Visitor’s Guide to Medieval England” and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am learning so much more about what the normal citizens of London in the 1660’s would have lived like and it is rather nice coming at the era from the “bottom up” as it were…

And my old A-Level teacher would be so proud of me for using the term “bottom up” in a sentence about history.

Stuart Crushes…? Oh Go On Then.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have a huge obsession with the Stuart era. I can’t help it, I just love it. I mean, it was an era full of rather dashing men, battlefield heroics and amazing beards. Not only that (and we’re getting serious now) but it was a dark period of Civil War, followed by a totally unfun England (cheers for that Cromwell) and ended up as a much more fun England under Charles II – bawdy poetry, theatre, dancing…general fun! My problem is that I love the era so much, the WHOLE era from James I all the way up to the reign of Queen Anne, and I have ended up developing way too many crushes on some rather dashing young men from the period. So I thought I would present you all with some pictures of these rather dashing young men and a little bit about who they are, and why I love them so much.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Born in December of 1619, this rather handsome young man played a huge part in the English Civil War, fighting and commanding parts of the Royalist army. He was also nephew of the lovely Charles I (see below). Prince Rupert became the poster boy for the perfect Cavalier with his dashing good looks, arrogance and enthusiasm. As commander of the Royalist Cavalry, Rupert took part in many of the English Civil Wars biggest battles including Edgehill, Marston Moor and the Siege of Bristol. Despite being rather dashing and a competent military commander he realised that the Royalist cause was lost and in 1645 advised Charles to treat with Parliament. Charles, of course refused and Rupert surrendered Bristol to Parliament ending up in him being court marshaled. His name was cleared, but in 1646 Rupert was exiled from England by his uncle. He did however have a part to play in his cousin Charles II’s exile, and became a part of the exiled court, and when Charles was restored to the throne Rupert was granted a pension and made a part of the Privy Council, and took an active role in the Naval pursuits of the time. Prince Rupert is just so fabulous he deserves a post all of his own, full of pictures of his handsome face. So this will be done. For sure. Because well…LOOK AT HIM!

John Wilmot – Earl of Rochester

Anyone who knows about Charles II and the Restoration should have heard the name of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. And if not, why not? This guy is famous for having his portrait painted with a monkey, wrote some of the best bawdy poetry and plays of his time as well as some of the most gorgeous love poems I have ever read, wrote a ton of hilarious seventeenth century pornography and loved booze and women a little bit too much. Also, if you haven’t seen The Libertine with Johnny Depp starring as the lovely Rochester then you are missing out because it is rather amazing and Mr Depp makes a brilliant Rochester! My favourite little ditty of ole’ Johnny’s is the following:

Here lies a great and mighty King,
Whose promise none relied on;
He never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.

Poor Rochester kept falling out of favour with his friend Charles II, mainly because a lot of his work made fun of the King and made out he was obsessed with sex. So he was exiled, and then came back only to be exiled again after a midnight brawl ended up in the killing of one of his companions in 1676.  But poor Rochester was to die young, and it is said he died of a plethora of venereal diseases including Syphilis and alcoholism.

Charles II

I think you all know why I love this man. I MEAN LOOK AT HIM AND HIS FABULOUSNESS AND HIS SHOES AND JUST EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. Ahem. Please see my previous posts on Charles and his mistresses Nell Gwynne and Barbara Villiers if you want serious information about this guy. For now I will leave you with more pictures.

James Duke of Monmouth

James Duke of Monmouth has long fascinated me, since driving through Norton St Phillip on the way home from a day of digging up a Roman Villa and being told all about the George Inn where the ill fated Monmouth stayed during the Monmouth Rebellion. Monmouth was the illegitimate son of Charles II and his first mistress Lucy Walter. Monmouth was doted on by his father but there were loads of rumours that he had married Lucy and so the boy was actually the heir to the throne. It didn’t help that Monmouth had proven to be a military hero and the people loved him, and those who didn’t want James Duke of York on the throne got ideas into their heads that Monmouth should be the next King because he was Protestant. In the end, and this is putting it simply because again this could be a post all of its own, Charles got a little bit fed up of Monmouth and his big head so exiled him. After Charles II died, Monmouth came back to England and started the Monmouth rebellion to kick his Uncle James off the throne. And it failed, badly. Monmouth ended up being executed for high treason – he was beheaded on Tower Hill by the famous executioner Jack Ketch. Before he died, Monmouth felt the axe and asked Ketch to dispatch him quickly, fearing the axe wasn’t sharp enough, even going so far as to give Ketch a bag of coins to encourage him. It still took 5 blows to kill him, and Ketch ended up removing Monmouth’s head with a butchers knife. Monmouth’s story is fascinating and incredibly sad – all he wanted to do was please his father, but at the same time wanted desperately to believe that he was legitimate and his parents had been married. I’m currently reading a biography of him by J.N.P Watson which is proving to be a great read and I can tell that by the end of it, I will be sobbing into my cup of tea.

Charles I

Charles I was my first Stuart love. I mean, look at that beard and you will understand why! Poor Charlie, he made some bad choices when it came to running the country and arguing with Parliament but I really do believe he was in the right. Him and his Royalists fought for tradition, and he firmly believed in the Divine Right of Kings, that he was ordained by God and so he was the big dog and so, above Parliament. Parliament didn’t like that idea and so we all know how the story goes…the English Civil War. And sadly we all know how it ends, with Charles I being tried in a kangaroo court and found guilty of treason (treason? How can a king be found guilty of treason when treason is a crime against the King?). He was beheaded upon a scaffold outside of Whitehall Palace, and the only part of that Palace that survives today – The Banqueting House. For more detail on Charles please see my previous post about him and his life.

Thomas Fairfax

This guy sadly fought on the wrong side during the English Civil War, and was a General of the Parliament Army. Despite this, I quite like Fairfax not only because he was a rather handsome devil, but he managed to see through the Civil War, fought for what he believed it and also had a hand in bringing Charles II back to England. He also loved literature (maybe that’s why I love him so much!) and gave loads of manuscripts to the Bodleian library as well as writing his own poetry and translating Psalms. His nick name, quite adorably, was Black Tom due to his dark eyes and dark hair.

Edward Sexby

The picture above is of John Simm’s portrayal of Edward Sexby in the Devil’s Whore because I couldn’t actually find a portrait of Sexby from the time. Which is rather annoying.  If anyone knows of any then please do email me. Anyway, the portrayal of Sexby in the Devil’s Whore wasn’t exactly the most accurate although he was ruggedly handsome! The REAL Sexby fought for Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army during the English Civil War and was also a follower of the Leveller John Lilburne, and thus believed in government being left to the people rather than having to answer to King or Parliament. When Cromwell took up the Protectorship in 1653 Sexby opposed it hugely, as it went against everything that had been fought for in the Civil Wars – Cromwell would for all intents and purposes be a King. Sexby and other Levellers began plotting against the Protectorship, publishing pamphlets and Sexby himself even turned up at the exiled court of Charles II to tell them all about leading an uprising against Cromwell and bringing Charles II back. Edward Hyde (Clarendon) was of course sceptical, wondering how on earth the levellers and a reinstated monarchy could work together. Sexby was the author of a pamphlet named “Killing No Murder” in which he said that Cromwell was a tyrant and worse than Caligula, and in such circumstances Tyrannicide was justifiable. He then began to plot to assassinate Cromwell. He was arrested in 1657, locked up in the Tower of London and questioned where he admitted to writing the pamphlet and plotting to assassinate Cromwell, but he wouldn’t name any of his accomplices. Good man. Poor Sexby died of a fever whilst locked in the Tower in 1658 before he could be tried.

John Donne

This guy was a poet, a satirist, a lawyer and eventually a priest. He didn’t take part in the English Civil Wars, dying before they could even start. He was born in 1572 and died in 1631, and this the majority of his adult life was lived during the reign of James I. Whilst Donne didn’t really do anything particularly exciting, he was a member of parliament and later became a priest, he did write a love poem involving a flea. And that therefore makes him awesome.

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deny’st me is;
It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be;
Thou knowest that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead.
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered, swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we are met
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and sayest that thou
Find’st not thyself, nor me, the weaker now.
‘Tis true, then learn how false fears be;
Just so much honor, when thou yieldst to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee