Monday, February 28, 2011

The Boleyn Wife

The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy was very interesting. I liked her book because she was really good at conveying the thoughts of her character. This book is about Jane Boleyn--she was the wife of George Boleyn, Queen Anne's brother. If you read my previous post about The Other Boleyn Girl, you will remember that George was beheaded. He was accused of having incest with his sister Anne. I have been intrigued by Lady Rochford, known as Jane Boleyn. Her character is surprisingly sad; she lives most of her marriage in the shadows ignored. But what she is known for the for her testimony. She told Lord Cromwell that George, her husband, committed incest with his sister Anne. That testimony really solidified his death sentence, and Anne's. This book describes how she came to betray her own husband.....

Jane grew up close to Hever, where Anne, George and Mary grew up. Her father adored her and with her insistence, he worked on her betrothal to George. When she first met him, she fell deeply in love. He was tall with dark hair and a nicely trimmed beard. He was outgoing, funny, witty and very smart. Jane would often spend time with the family so she could get to know her future husband. She would follow George and Anne around. George was polite to Jane, but constantly left her side to be with his sister Anne. Theirs seemed to be a very close relationship. Jane was deeply in love with George so she dismissed it.

Throughout the years of growing up, Jane almost became obsessed with George. Her father kept telling her that he didn't think he would make her happy; he could see that George did not love Jane back. Despite her father's concerns, Jane wanted to marry him. She believed he would be everything she desired and would love her back. They were married and lived at Court. Jane was soon to discover that George's affections fell far short of her expectations. He stayed out late at night, partied with his friends and sister Anne, and rarely visited her bedchambers. Jane started to complain and rail at him, so that drove him away even more.

George was constantly at Anne's side as she worked to become Queen; he was her confidante and errand boy. George and his friends surrounded Anne day and night-they were her admirers and friends. Jane's jealousy and hatred towards these men and Anne grew over time. She would watch them all together, having fun and ignoring her. She would try to join in, but George would push her away or his friends would call her names. Jane started to watch George and Anne closely. He seemed to be absolutely infatuated with her. He watched her every move as if in love. She became disturbed and complained to George that he loved his sister more than his wife.

Jane soon discovered that George was most likely gay-he visited his friends at night. Jane for some reason was still in love with George. Her jealousy started to overwhelm her senses, and she desired to become pregnant. She tried to get George to spend time with her, but he wouldn't. He was constantly at Anne's side, at her beck and call. She would spy on them and try to figure out what was going on. The way they acted together and moved, it was as if nature had made a mistake in making them siblings. They were soul mates, destined to be together. Jane's big mistake in driving George away more, was by complaining constantly at him. She gained the reputation of being a shrew wife, and those at court didn't much care for her.

Eventually Lord Cromwell befriended her and was able to get her to talk. Jane needed someone to talk to, and she unburdened herself. She told him how George and Anne were always together, and she thought it incestuous. Cromwell at this time was probably already in the making of Anne's downfall, and with this tidbit of information he was later able to accuse them both of incest. Jane was too far gone now in her jealous and anger to realize what she had done. She pleaded with Lord Cromwell to erase it from court records, but he wouldn't.

When George was in court being accused of incest with the Queen his sister, he was given a chance to live. But instead of taking it, he loudly declared, "The Queen has told me the King is impotent!" And he started laughing. With that he had just signed his own death sentence. He had decided in that moment that he would rather die and join his sister, than live without her. Jane went to her own husband's beheading, and was later found cradling his head and crying. People called her mad, and accused her of sending her own husband to the grave. What Jane never regretted though was the death of Queen Anne. She was so full of hate towards her for stealing her husband's affections that she was glad to see her go.

Jane's life doesn't end in this book, but in a different one. I will tell you that she meets a similar fate of her sister-in law and husband; she will be beheaded herself many years later.

I recommend this book if you are interested in learning about Jane Boleyn. Hers is such a sad life, because she has this huge crush on George. I can understand why she gets jealous, but what is sadder is that her complaining just drives him away more. He just wasn't meant to be her one true love-she loved him more than he loved her. He was also a sodomite, so he didn't deserve Jane. I believe she was truly in love with him and let her passion for him override her senses. I believe she did become crazy and believed in her own mind that they were incestuous together. I don't think she meant for George to die, but she definitely wanted Queen Anne to. This author was good because she really showed how Jane thought, how she was the outsider of this group. All these handsome gentlemen, and Anne, were the center of the court. They were the "popular" group and had much fun. And on the outside was always Jane. She will always be known as the one who testified against her own husband and sent him to his death.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Other Boleyn Girl

I read The Other Boleyn Girl years ago, written by Phillipa Gregory. She is one of my favorite authors. I first became interested in the Tudor era because of a girl trip to Park City. It was my sister Amber's birthday, and we went up for lunch and a movie. We ended up seeing The Other Boleyn Girl. I was both highly entertained and disgusted at points in the movie. After it ended, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I rented the book The Other Boleyn Girl and started to read it.

This book is from the point of view of Mary, the youngest child. The three children Anne, George and Mary grew up together at their manor at Hever and seemed to enjoy life. Anne and George were very close and often left Mary out. Their mother Elizabeth had been a lady in waiting to Queen Katherine, and was often ambitious for her children. Their uncle Norfolk was at court and served King Henry VIII and was privy to details of his private life. He found out that he was no longer happy with his wife Queen Katherine because she hadn't produced a son. Uncle Norfolk thought this would be a good opportunity for the King to have a mistress.

Anne was put forward as the likely candidate, but because of her willful behavior in a hunting party the King was injured. Mary was sent to minister to the King and took care of him. He fell in love with her quiet and dignified manner. She was later sent to Court to live there and be a lady in waiting to the Queen. Anne went along as well and was very hurt at being replaced in the King's affections. Mary's husband Will Carey was cuckolded and put aside at Court. He had to go along with it, and was rewarded with a place in the Privy Council, a much sought after position.

Mary had 2 children with the King, the second one a son. She lost the King's attentions either because Mary didn't try hard enough, or was no longer interested in the Court life. Her husband Will Carey took the children in as his own, even though they were the King's illegitimate children. What I liked about Mary was her conscious. While serving Queen Katherine she came to love her and felt guilty for being the King's mistress. She desired a quiet life with her husband and children where she could raise them herself. Before she got that opportunity, her husband Will Carey died of the sweating sickness.

While still at Court, Mary started serving Anne as she tried to get the King's attentions. Anne was much different from her sister. Her hair and eyes were dark, and she stopped at nothing to become not just the King's favorite, but Queen. Mary and George were there at court to help Anne in anyway they could. Anne was often exhausted and angry from having to put on a good face all day long for the King, while evading his clutches. She was trying to stay a maiden until he made her Queen.

William Stafford was a groom of the Court, and caught the attentions of Mary. He desired to take her into the country with her children and marry her. But her devotion was for her sister Anne. She stood by her through her hasty marriage to King Henry VIII, her coronation where no one applauded for Anne or smiled, and then the birth of her daughter Elizabeth. After everything King Henry had done to place Anne as Queen, after almost 8 years of struggle and tearing apart his kingdom and being excommunicated from the Catholic church, she gave him a daughter.

The King's affections started to wane and Anne worked even harder to get pregnant again. She ended up miscarrying 2 babies, the second one was malformed. The King started to hear whisperings that she was a witch, or used powers to get pregnant. Then a lady in waiting to Anne, George's wife Lady Jane Rochford came forward. She claimed her husband George committed incest with the Queen Anne. Upon hearing this the King ordered an investigation and she was found guilty also of adultery with the poet Wyatt, the musician Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris and Sir Francis Weston.

Anne had never been a favorite at Court after replacing Queen Katherine. She was often shrill and feisty with the King, not complacent and loving like the Queen before her. And since she wasn't able to produce the much needed male heir, her downfall was in the making. Many also accused her of poisoning Bishop Fisher and Queen Katherine.

After her brother George, Mark Smeaton, Norris and Weston were beheaded, Anne was up. The King ordered a French swordsman for her, because he knew how Anne loved the French ways. She had served in the French court as a young lady. She died very dignified and calm, and most unfairly. After her death, Mary went to marry William Stafford and took her children and Elizabeth with her. The movie also shows this as well.

After reading many other books I find it highly unlikely that Mary raised the Princess Elizabeth. I'm sure she stayed at Court and was raised with the other children. What I do find admirable about Mary is that she stayed by her sister through everything. Hers was the happy life; she grew old with her husband in the country with their children. It was a simple life, but she was happy. Away from the intrigues of Court life Mary outlived her two siblings and parents, and was truly happy.

If you want to read from Mary's point of view, this book is very interesting. It is about sibling rivalry at its best. I look forward to comments, especially if I've messed up anywhere. It's been years since I read this book. I will be posting about the other four wives of King Henry VIII. Next comes Jane Seymour......

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Last Empress

I just read a book by Anchee Min, author of Empress Orchid and The Last Empress. These books are about Tzu Hsi, also known as Orchid and Empress Yehonala. The following quotes have been written about her:

One of the ancient sages of China foretold that "China will be destroyed by a woman." That prophecy is approaching fulfillment.
-Dr. George Ernest Morrison

She was a mastermind of pure evil and intrigue.
-Chinese textbook (in print 1949-1991)

Tzu Hsi entered the Forbidden City palace during the Ch'ing Dynasty at the age of 17, and became the fourth wife of Emperor Hsien Feng. Through her own ambition she was able to bear him his only heir, a son, named Tung chih.

She was not able to raise him as she had many duties; she was constantly in competition with the first wife, Empress Nuharoo. Empress Nuahroo mostly raised Tung Chih and made most of the decisions regarding him. He was later to die of an STD and Empress Orchid blamed her for raising him wrong. When Emperor Hsein Feng died, the two Empresses ruled together with Su Shun, the Emperor's eunuch. He tried wresting power from the two women, and later they had him beheaded so they could take the power. He was corrupt in his ways.

Empress Orchid then adopted a son from her mentally unstable sister Rong, named Guang-hsu (I don't know how to pronounce these names either). She raised him up herself to be Emperor. She tried to replace her dead son with her adopted one, and put lots of pressure on him. She was able to retire here and there, but always had to come back and assist him.

In the book she says, "I wished that I could tell the astrologer that I had been fighting Heaven's will all my life. My standing alone was proof of my struggle. I had survived what was meant to be my death many times, and I was determined to fight for my son. It was hope I lived for. When my husband died, Tung Chih became my hope. When Tung Chih died, hope became Guang-hsu." (The Last Empress, page 243)

Empress Nuharoo passed away, and she no longer had competition. The press went after her even more and called her "murderess" believing she had poisoned her son Tung Chih and even Empress Nuharoo. Her adopted son Guang-hsu even had an assassination attempt on her life. She was able to survive with the help of her love, Yung Lu. Because of her position as Empress, she could not follow her feelings and loved him from a distance. He would always be part of her life from a distance.

Japan was constantly after China and took much of their land and money. Her son Guan-hsu became steadily sicker as he couldn't deal with the pressures. He passed away at the age of 38, and once again Empress Orchid outlived another son.

When Empress Orchid died at the age of 73, China began to fall apart. The country entered a dark time of warlords and lawlessness. In 1937, Japan invaded China.

I didn't always follow the politics of this book, but what I found most interesting was how Empress Orchid came from such humble beginnings, and was able to become Empress in her own right. What was sad though was how both her sons didn't live up to her expectations. She had to work hard all her long life to keep China together. And she was misunderstood. They called her many names and I'm glad author Anchee Min was able to write it from what she understood to be Empress Orchid's real point of view. Thanks for reading my first post!