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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Documentary Sunday – The Last Days of Anne Boleyn

 

Elizabeth of York – Daughter, Wife, Niece, and Mother of Kings

Since so much is known of Elizabeth I and because I have begun reading this wonderful book, I wanted to do something to commemorate the first of the Tudor Queens, whom she was named for.

Elizabeth of York was born as the first child of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville on 11 February 1466.  Her father was of the House of York, and one of two kings vying for England’s crown during the Wars of the Roses, the other being the deposed Henry VI of Lancaster, which meant that Elizabeth grew up in a time of civil war.  However, when she was seventeen, her father died, leaving two sons behind to succeed him, Edward V and Richard of York.  Before the young Edward could be crowned, Parliament issued a document called Titulus Regius, which declared that all of Edward IV children by Elizabeth Woodville were born during an invalid marriage, and thus had no legitimate standing nor right to the throne, allowing the late king’s brother Richard III to claim the title as his own.

Richard III was in trouble in 1483.  Rumors had spread that he had ordered the deaths of his nephews and planned to marry Elizabeth once his sickly wife Anne Neville was dead.  Whatever the case may have been, Elizabeth’s mother made an alliance with the Lancastrians, betrothing her daughter to the Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, whose claim to power stemmed from a female branch of the family line.  Negotiations were made and when Richard was slain at Bosworth Field in August 1485, Henry Tudor was crowned King of England and the Plantagenet Dynasty came to an end.

Henry VII’s first act as king was to revoke Titulus Regius and legitimize his future bride and her remaining sisters.  This gave Elizabeth the rights of heir apparent, and when at last she and Henry were married on 18 January, the Wars of the Roses came to an end.  Soon, Elizabeth would give birth to the couple’s first child, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, uniting both the Houses of Lancaster and York forever.  Three more living heirs would follow, including two queens (one daughter married the King of Scotland and another briefly became Queen of France before marrying the Duke of Suffolk) and, of course, the notorious Henry VIII.

Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry VII is truly noteworthy among medieval unions; while it began as a political match, Henry and Elizabeth fell deeply in love.  Their marriage lasted sixteen years, during which time, Henry VII unusually took no mistress.  Theirs was an emotional connection that is evidenced to have been the envy of the court.

When Elizabeth died on her on her thirty-seventh birthday after giving birth to a daughter that lived for only minutes, the king was devastated, shutting himself away and for the rest of his life, burying himself in matters of state while becoming a cold recluse in his palace, obsessed with his money.  Despite his thrifty ways, he gave Elizabeth a grand funeral, sparing no expense for his beloved queen.  When Henry died just six years later in 1509, it was rumored to have been from a broken heart.  He was buried beside Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey beneath a monument erected by their son Henry VIII.

This painting depicts Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in the back and, in front, stands Henry VIII and the favorite of his six wives, Jane Seymour.

Henry VIII also took his mother’s death very hard.  He seems to have spent his life searching for the same romantic connection his parents shared, even going as far as to take six wives to do so.  None of his brides would have happy endings.  Catalina d’Aragona (best know by her English name of Catherine of Aragon) was divorced after over twenty years; Anne Boleyn was beheaded for treason when rumors surfaced that she was having affairs; Jane Seymour died in childbirth; Anne of Cleves had her marriage annulled as quickly as it began; Katherine Howard was executed for adultery; and Katheryn Parr, though she outlived the king, died in childbirth, her new husband executed for treason when he conspired to marry the late king’s youngest daughter.

 

1963 – John F. Kennedy is Assassinated

The 35th President of the United States died at the age of forty-six after a fatal gunshot wound to the head and to the throat.  He was the second youngest president to take the office and the youngest to leave it.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2015 in American History

 

Praying For Paris

Thorns of Time is going black for the next few days in memory of the lives lost in the ISIS attacks in France yesterday.  As someone with friends in the area, my heart is crushed that something like this could happen.  I grew up an hour away from the Twin Towers on 9/11/01 and recognize the suffering the people of France are enduring.  I sympathize with the fear that every citizen must be going through at this difficult time.

While we mourn, let us not forget that after the grief, justice will be found.  It takes a special kind of evil to needlessly murder innocents, women and children among them, and such a horror must be destroyed.  It has been announced that the United States is backing the French in what will surely become another war soon enough.  The States have been at war with terrorism for nearly fifteen years now and the French have stood by our country since its beginning during the American Revolution.  It is only right that we not abandon our oldest allies.  

I have faith that ISIS will be brought to justice in time and my heart goes out to the people of France.  

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Today in History, Uncategorized

 

In Search of the Amarna Royals

As some of you may be aware, news broke several weeks ago of a possible hidden chamber within the tomb of Tutankhamun (commonly known as King Tut) which people are saying may contain the burial of Nefertiti.  I wanted to share what I know of both these royals, both some of the last members of the Amarna Family, as well as the amazing story of how Tut’s tomb was discovered, shocking the whole world.

Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty came to a close in 1292 BC with the rule of Horemheb, an esteemed general, but not a man of royal blood.  At this time, the royal family bloodline had ended when Tutankhamun died at the age of nineteen.  Tut had been part of a long line of warrior kings, but his father, Akhenaten, had not been one of them.  Nefertiti’s husband was considered a heretic, stripping away the old religion and allowing the worship of only one god, which he called Aten.  Aten was the god of the sun, replacing both the most powerful Egyptian gods Amun and Ra, which upset the people of Egypt.  Akhenaten ruled for seventeen years and had several wives, including the beautiful Nefertiti, whose origins are up for debate.

Nefertiti is estimated to have been in her mid thirties when she died.  Sculptures from the time show her to be a stunningly beautiful woman, though some question the authenticity of the likeness.  It is commonly accepted that she was the daughter of a high ranking politician who was said to have been the true power behind the throne of Egypt.  This man, Ay, would become Tutankhamun’s top adviser during his reign and even take power for himself once the boy king was dead in 1327 BC.  By Nefertiti, Akhenaten fathered six daughters but no sons.  One by one, each died until the last one left alive was the third child, Ankhesenamun.  Although w do not know the identity of Tut’s mother, we do know that Ankhesenamun was his half-sister and would later become his wife.

Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun pictured together on a chest found in his tomb in 1922.

This may shock us today, inbreeding was very common among ancient royalty, especially in Egypt.  This meant that the bloodline of the royal family was kept pure.  For the young Tut to be married off to his sister was nothing unusual, however it unknowingly brought along the end of the family he was trying to preserve.  The product of inbreeding himself (it was confirmed through DNA testing a few years ago that Tut’s father and mother were brother and sister) the Pharaoh was already suffering from a deformed left foot, which meant that he required the use of a cane in order to walk – in fact his tomb contained over 130 canes for him to use!  Little is known of Ankhesenamun, as her body has not been identified with certainty.  Either way, close intermarriage is seen as the reason the couple failed to produce living heirs.  The mummied of two fetuses were found in Tut’s tomb, both his children, but neither left the womb alive.  Tut died after nine years on the throne, Ay took the crown for himself when he married the widowed Ankhesenamun, who disappeared from the historical record.  Ay died two years later only to be succeeded by a non-royal general named Horemheb, and his heir Paramese would rule as Ramses I.

Fast forward to the early twentieth century, the British Earl of Carnarvon, was financing en expedition in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, where Pharaohs were buried after the age of the pyramids.  His leading man and head of the research team was Howard Carter (I use the term “archaeologist” loosely with Carter, mostly because of the way the man handled the tomb’s excavation process and the fact that he had no doctorate or degrees, among other things)  Carter had already found a few tombs in the Valley, but nothing truly noteworthy.  He had a hunch that at least one intact royal tomb could still be found in the Valley, and with Carnarvon’s fanancial backing, he searched for what would be known as Tomb 62.  Three years of excavating led them to a set of stairs that led down into the earth only to lead to a sealed doorway, behind which was a treasure trove the likes of which can only be found in stories.  Carter, with Carnarvon beside him, drilled a small hole in the plaster door and held up a candle to the darkness only to freeze up, his eyes wide in the soft fireglow.  Imatiently, Carnarvon asked him, “Can you see anything?”  Breathlessly, Carter replied, “Yes.  Wonderful things.”

When the entryway was officially opened, it was found that nearly every object inside was made of gold, which glinted off of almost every surface.  Carter spent several years cataloging every artifact and seeing to its safe removal from the tomb.  His business partner Carnarvon had just died from blood poisoning brought on by an infected mosquito bite that he nicked while shaving, which meant that Carter alone saw to the tiresome task of emptying four rooms of their contents and examining the mummy itself.

British “archaeologist” Howard Carter examining Tutankhamun’s coffins. Carter’s team discovered the tomb entrance under an ancient worker’s hut in 1922.

The mummy of Tutankhamun was nestled within a room that barely left room to move around in.  The entirety of the chamber was painted, though this could not be seen due to the large golden shrine that filled the room.  Inside were three more shrines housing a red granite sarcophagus containing three coffins, the last of solid gold, three inches thick and containing the remains of a badly preserved nineteen-year-old boy.  Oils used in the embalming process had turned the flesh black and frail, the body’s wrappings stuck to the inside of the coffin like superglue, forcing Carter to use hot knives to free him.  In doing so, Tutankhamun’s body was cut into pieces and put back together before it could be examined for the first time.

After examining the body, it was determined that Tut stood at five feet and eleven inches with a slight build, cleft palate, and a large overbite.  His knee was broken, his head damaged during the embalming process.  Almost a century later, it was discovered that he had contracted a deadly form of tropical malaria that may have been the cause of death.

Now Tut is in the news again because of this new “discovery”.  If there is indeed another chamber within Tut’s tomb, I have extreme doubts that Nefertiti is buried there.  Several members of Tut’s immediate family have not been found, but of all of them, the one most likely to be buried by his side is his wife and sister, Ankhesenamun.  If there is a second burial in Tomb 62, I believe it belongs to her.  Even if no one else is buried with him, I look forward to the upcoming investigations and will also share any information I find out once it has been confirmed.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Ancient Times

 

1888 – Mary Jane Kelly is Murdered in Whitechapel

She was considered the last of Jack the Ripper’s unfortunate victims and also the most ghastly.  She was young, no older than twenty-five when she died, born in Ireland and living in poverty during the last years of her life, which forced her into a life of prostitution in order to make rent.  At nearly eleven a.m. on November Ninth, the assistant to Kelly’s landlord was sent to collect her overdue rent when he discovered her mutilated corpse, laying in a pool of blood in her own bed.  There was nothing left of her face and her organs had been spread throughout the room, her skin hacked away.  All that was left untouched was her hair.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Documentary Sunday – Alexander the Great’s Lost Tomb

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Documentary Sunday