I remember when vampires first caught my interest very well. The first novel I ever managed to read in it’s entirety was The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, sequal to Interview With the Vampire and the story of a French aristocrat who becomes a vampire with a life spanning two centuries, and this book is still one of my all time favorites. Whether vampires are real or not, this documentary certainly got my attention. Just be warned that things can get a little disturbing in this one!
Eleanor’s story is definitely a fascinating one. She was born a French aristocrat and was highly intelligent and a praised beauty, becoming the Duchess of Aquitaine at the age of fifteen and she was later married to Louis VII of France. This union failed to produce a son and was annulled to the mutual happiness of both sides, but Eleanor did not remain single for long – she would meet Henry Plantegenet, the Duke of Normandy, and marry him soon after in a quiet ceremony. Henry was the handsome, red-haired son of Empress Matilda and heir to his cousin King Stephen. While tempestuous, their marriage produced eight children, three of whom would become Kings of England.
Eventually, their sons revolted against Henry and Eleanor sided with her children. She fought alongside them in each of their violent squabbles, despite being imprisoned by her husband in Winchester Castle for years, all the way up until Henry II’s death in 1189, when their son was crowned as Richard I of England, known better as Richard the Lionheart.
She died in 1204, witnessing the death of her beloved son Richard on crusade and the reign of her next son King John, one of only two children to outlive her. She was 82 years old and buried alongside Henry II, where the former couple’s tombs can be seen today (pictured above).
Everybody who has heard his name today knows him as the man who shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, but before that, Booth was a theater actor known for his passionate and dramatic appearances on stage. The ninth of ten children, he came from a prominent family of actors, his father Junius Brutus Booth Sr. being known for his Shakespearean roles and his mother Mary Ann Holmes being a mistress before marrying Junius when their son was thirteen years old. John became a great athlete, particularly fond of fencing, and was an excellent horseback rider, and with his handsome features, he was said to be popular with women.
But Booth was a Confederate sympathizer, whose love of the South where he was born became his downfall. He gathered a group of like-minded individuals in 1664 and planned to kidnap President Lincoln, but eventually his intentions grew more manacing and on 14 April 1865, while the President was viewing a production of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre with his wife, Booth snuck into the President’s box and shot him in the back of the head. Booth scrambled away, sustaining a broken leg in his escape, while Lincoln died the next morning.
On 26 April, after the greatest manhunt in American history, Booth and his traveling companion, David Herold, were cornered by Union soldiers in the tobacco barn of Garrett Farm, where Booth refused to surrender and was shot in the neck and died from his injuries the following morning. He was twenty-six years old.
Anyone who knows me knows I love mummies. I’ve taken trips to several museums just for the purpose of seeing them and looking into their faces. Nothing brings you closer to history than staring into the face of a mummy (in my humble opinion, of course) which is why this Doc Sunday, I’m posting this one. Enjoy, all!
Parts 2 and 3 will be posted in the coming weeks!
Henry VIII was married to Anne Boleyn for just three years. After a secret ceremony in November 1532, the formal wedding took place on 25 January 1533 and within months, Henry’s first marriage to Queen Catherine was declared annulled by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Eight months later, Anne gave birth to her only living child. Some speculate that she was already pregnant by the time of their marriage, but when the announcement came, Henry and Anne both joyously awaited the arrival of a baby boy, even writing letters of celebration announcing the birth of a prince, but when the time came on 7 September, Anne gave birth instead to a daughter. Henry was disappointed, but knew that they were capable of having more children. They named the girl Elizabeth, after both of their mothers (Henry’s mother was Elizabeth of York and Anne’s was Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Wiltshire and daughter of the Duke of Norfolk) She would suffer from at least three miscarriages in the next few years, but still kept seemingly good relations with the King, but soon her life would take a drastic turn.
In January 1536, Catherine of Aragon died. It was probably unexpected, at least in the royal household, as the previous Queen had been banished from court and confined to Kimbolton Castle, where she saw no member of the Tudor family, not even her beloved daughter Mary. She was buried quietly in Peterborough Cathedral with only the honors of a Princess Dowager (as widow to Henry’s brother Arthur). This was the beginning of Anne’s troubles because while Catherine was being buried on 29 January, the new Queen miscarried a baby boy. This was seen perhaps as a work of karma, but it may have been distress due to circulating rumors that Anne or Henry had a hand in poisoning the former Queen; when Catherine’s body was being embalmed, it was discovered that she had a “blackened heart”, which modern medical science can now explain as the result of cancer or heart disease. It was also soon after this that Henry’s eye began to wander again, this time to Jane Seymour.
Jane was estimated to have been born sometime in 1508 in Wiltshire, the fifth of nine children and a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp, the Duke of Clarence, which meant she was actually fifth cousin to the King. However, she had a humble education and a typical Tudor court upbringing; her father Sir John Seymour was an English soldier at Henry’s court, although he held several important offices in his lifetime, including Sheriff of Wiltshire and Knight banneret (a high-ranking knight who commanded a company of troops). Jane could read and write, but her talents were more in the interest of managing a household and embroidery. She was first under the employ of Queen Catherine and then turned to Anne’s, which is perhaps where she met Henry VIII. She was not a considered beautiful (she was plain-faced, blond-haired and her skin was pale, a stark contrast to Anne in every way) and while she is often thought of as a pushover, Jane was probably very intelligent. She knew not to cross the hot-tempered king, unlike the opinionated Anne with her silver tongue and seductive charm. Jane stood out because she was gentle, subservient, and virtuous.
However, it doesn’t seem that Henry was interested in getting rid of Anne by the time the two met, but instead he wanted Jane as a mistress first. So why did Anne lose such an important battle? This has been heavily debated for ages and speculation runs rampant on the subject even nearly five centuries later.
The truth is that Anne made enemies – and we know this for a fact – and those enemies, not necessarily the King, wanted her out of the way and succeeded. The most prominent of these enemies that has been put forth is Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister and the most powerful man in England at the time. Once, they were allies, but as far as foreign policy was concerned, they were bitter enemies. Cromwell was in charge of almost all of the legal affairs of the king and his political reach was far. However, the situation my have been manipulated by Henry’s changing mental state. Around the same time as Catherine’s burial, the King entered a jousting tournament in which he was thrown to the ground and crushed beneath the weight of his armor and his horse, the force of which knocked him unconcious for two hours and is thought to have resulted in not just a painful ulcer opening in his leg, but a head injury that caused a change in his personality. He would be in constant pain for the rest of his life, and gone was the charismatic man he once had been. The king became tyrannical and quick to anger, and these fits of rage could and often would result in the misery, downfall, or even death of anyone who displeased him.
Anne was perhaps the victim of this personality change. When Henry learned of his wife’s misfortune – that after four months, their son had been born dead and in a deformed state – Jane Seymour was officially moved to the royal apartments and like Catherine before her, Anne would have to cope with the fact that her husband was seeing another woman. There is a story that says Henry gave Jane a locket with a portrait of himself inside and she kept opening and closing it so much that Anne ripped it off her neck so forcefully that her fingers started bleeding, but it is not certain whether this took place before or after the jousting accident. Whatever the case was, Henry awoke a changed man, and he turned on his new wife quickly. He even went as far as to say that she had seduced him with witchcraft!
Her enemies took this time to pounce. It is not clear exactly where the first whispers that the Queen was being unfaithful began, but in April, a Flemish musician named Mark Smeaton was taken into custody and when questioned by Cromwell (perhaps under torture) he confessed to sleeping with Anne up to three times. Several more men were arrested for supposedly being her lovers, including her own brother George! Charges of treason were added to the mounting list as a story of Anne plotting the King’s death so she could marry Henry Norris started circulating. They were all found guilty and sentenced to death.
Anne’s beheading was scheduled for the morning of 19 May 1536. She probably watched from her prison in the Tower as her friends and supposed lovers and her brother were executed. Even so, she was composed and seemed at peace when her turn came. She wore a grey damask gown and a cloak trimmed in ermine fur when she spoke her final words, asking the people gathered to pray for her and the king, and for “God [to] have pity on my soul.” The crowd knelt (though the Duke of Suffolk and Henry’s illegitimate son the Duke of Richmond were reported to have stood.) The executioner severed her head from her neck in one swift blow of his sword, ending Anne’s misery. Not even a coffin had been provided for the Queen; her body and head were placed inside an elm arrow chest and she was buried beneath the for of the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, where she would be found centuries later during renovations to the Chapel during the reign of Queen Victoria, when she finally recieved a marker for her grave, which can be see near the alter today.
Henry became engaged to Jane the very next day and the two were married not even two weeks later.
Jane’s story is rather unremarkable compared to her predecessor, but she would have a lasting impact on the Tudor family. She worked hard to reconcile Henry with his eldest daughter Mary and due to her compassion, she was a well-liked woman who stayed away from government and politics. She instead played the part of dutiful and supportive wife to Henry, just as the King’s mother Elizabeth of York had been for his father Henry VII. It didn’t take long before Jane was pregnant and went into labor at Hampton Court Palace in mid October. After three agonizing days, the baby boy, Prince Edward, was born on 15 October 1537 to great relief and celebration, but the feeling didn’t last long. Jane grew very sick and finally died on 24 October, leaving the King devastated. She was the only one of Henry’s wives to receive a queen’s funeral and was buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. It would be two years before the broken-hearted king would marry again.