Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Word On Henry VIII...or several

Okay, I realized several days ago that I've been all business lately, getting Ashford out, setting up a launch, formatting for Kindle, etc...  I need a break from this, and my blog most certainly does.  In any case, Ashford is set at the moment.  It's up on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, it's available on Kindle, posters are up for the launch, postcards sent out, "event" set up on facebook.  It will take care of itself for a day, and I will emerge from my recent wild-haired, crazy-eyed, hermit persona to take a walk on this lovely autumn day, write on the new novel, and finish off the day by getting dressed up to go to the ballet with my husband and friends.

But first I shall begin my day by devoting a word or several to a man who is accidentally responsible for a great deal of my education: King Henry VIII.

I was about twelve years old when my obsession began.  It really started with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  It seemed to me at the time that everyone knew he had six wives, but nobody seemed to know much about the wives themselves besides the litany: Divorced, Beheaded, Died in Childbirth, Divorced, Beheaded, Outlived Henry.  Of course, as is probably inevitable with a solitary, literary-minded, nerdish child, I decided that I would write an epic novel about Catherine's life.  (I know, not very original, but I must state here that this was, at least, before Phillipa Gregory.)  As a novel, it never developed into more than a few lines here and there, but the research phase went on for over a year, and became much more than a history lesson.  So here is my list of Lessons From Henry:

1.  Henry is proof that things haven't really changed much. To quote Community, "Men are monsters who crave young flesh."  Power still corrupts.  Henry began his reign as a handsome, idealistic young man, and look what he turned into.  I must admit I'm not sure how Hugh Hefner started out, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't as a prunish, withered lecher.

2.  Henry established my earliest Catholic sympathies.  I liked Sir Thomas More from the beginning.  He was loyal, kind, devout, brilliant, and he had pet monkeys.  Henry had his head cut off.  One can argue reasonably for problems within any church system, but breaking with a church and setting up a new one with yourself as its sole head because you want a younger, hotter wife...?

3.  Henry is responsible for a great deal of my sex education.  I remember many wide-eyed moments spent in the perusal of Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII (a thorough, engrossing, and very honest historical work).  The Tudors were not exactly subtle.  And all of Henry's wives are, in the end, examples of women who used their sexuality or whose sexuality was used by others (either well or poorly depending on their fate) to gain power.  All women use their sexuality for power in some way or other, as far as I can see.  It goes back to the old idea of working with the tools you've been given.  But some people like to use chainsaws for things that could be taken care of with a pair of pruning shears.

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