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 The virgin queen not virgin?

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: The virgin queen not virgin?   Wed 11 Jan 2017, 21:51

Reading the novel of Alison Weir: "The Lady Elizabeth. Her fight for survival - and for the Crown."

In the novel, Thomas Seymour seems to get the 14 year old Elizabeth pregnant and she later has a miscarriage...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 08:47

Ah, Alison .....

Fact 1. Seymour engages in what he calls occasional "playfulness" with young Lizzie several times from around mid-1547 to the summer of 1548 (in front of his wife and servants). According to Kat Ashley's later testimony this amounted to tickling, one hand on the girl's rump on one occasion, and some weird dress destruction with a knife (some of which Catherine Parr assisted him with). However when it gets as far as an "embrace" which Parr walks in on, she and Lizzie agree that it's best for the lassie to live elsewhere for a bit.

Fact 2. In the spring of 1548 Lizzie is reported as being a bit under the weather (some months before the "scandal" above).

Fact 3. Weir reverses these events, changes an embrace to a rape, grows a foetus in the princess, kills the fictional foetus, changes a reported heavy cold to a miscarriage to achieve this, writes the whole lot down (including - I kid you not - one bodice ripped in the telling), and makes a packet from flogging this as historical fiction "based on research". Philippa ain't the only one you know.

Her "research" in fact is largely focused on the surviving accounts of the Privy Council inquiry into Seymour & Co's treasonable behaviour conducted later when a lot of allegations regarding Tommy cropped up, some rather lurid and one which specifically alleged just such a pregnancy. Elizabeth herself had to submit a deposition answering this allegation which she of course refuted. What Weir omits to mention is that this allegation was one of many which were made at the time with a specific intention of blackening Seymour's name - the whole thing after all was designed to end inevitably in his execution and this prospect was in fact a rather unpopular one amongst the great unwashed. It was important to have enough mud stuck to his reputation so that his supporters could not employ his name posthumously in rallying opposition to the Council (who, it could be argued, succeeded in effectively "kidnapping" the young king Edward to an extent that Seymour & Co could only ever have dreamed about, even if that had ever been their intent, as was also alleged).

Despite the TV series "The Tudors" taking up Weir's baton and running even further with it (he rapes his sister in law thereby making her pregnant and then, with a swirl of his black cloak and a fiendishly demonic laugh, murders Parr to boot), what we really have as evidence against Seymour was that he behaved in an alarmingly improper fashion according to Ashley and later shot Edward's dog (the treasonable act for which in fact he was subsequently executed). Perhaps the only accurate assessment of the lad was made by a 15 year old Elizabeth herself who, upon being informed that he had been executed, allegedly said, "This day died a man of much wit and very little judgement".

Historical fiction rarely makes good source material for learning factual history. The clue is in the title. In actual fact the bodice repair business was nowhere near as lucrative as Weir & Co would have you believe.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 09:11

Rumours abounded about the exact nature of Elizabeth's relationship with Thomas Seymour. On 22nd January, 1549, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, the man sent to trap her into confession of wrongdoing, had a meeting with the princess and told her of the damaging stories that were circulating about her. What a  terrifying and humiliating position for a vulnerable young girl to find herself in. Elizabeth handled it all with remarkable intelligence, coolness and courage. She was fifteen years old.

On 28th January 1549, she wrote a letter to the Lord Protector denying that she was pregnant:

"Master Tyrwhitt and others have told me that there goeth rumours abroad which be greatly both against my honour and honesty, which, above all other things, I esteem, which be these, that I am in the Tower, and with child by my Lord Admiral (Thomas Seymour). My lord, these are shameful slanders, for the which, besides the great desire I have to see the King's Majesty, I shall most heartily desire your lordship that I may show myself there as I am."

The Lord Protector wrote back to her to say that if Elizabeth could identify anyone who uttered such slanders against her, the Council would have them punished. Elizabeth replied that she was unwilling to accuse specific people, but suggested a better plan of action:

"It might seem good to your lordship, and the rest of the council, to send forth a proclamation into the countries that they refrain their tongues, declaring how the tales be but lies, it should make both the people think that you and the council have great regard that no such rumours should be spread of any of the King's Majesty's sisters (as I am, though unworthy) and also that I should think myself to receive such friendship at your hands as you have promised me, although your lordship showed me great already."  


The Duchess of Somerset apparently told her husband, the Lord Protector, that it was not for this young chit to be telling him what proclamations he should be issuing. She no doubt added: "Who does she think she is?" The letter told them. She was "the King's Majesty's sister" and it would be well for the Council to show the people that they remembered this, and that they had some regard for her position as second-in-line to the throne.

The only hint Elizabeth gave in her letters to the Protector that she knew that she was, in fact, an utterly friendless child in a desperate situation, was that she altered the conventional closing of a letter, "Your assured friend to my power", to "Your assured friend to my little power". A clever little detail to add when writing to a powerful man.

Elizabeth got her proclamation.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 09:12

Crossed posts - haven't read above yet.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 14:55

@nordmann wrote:

Historical fiction rarely makes good source material for learning factual history.


True, and no student of history should ever do what one A-level candidate is reported recently to have done: quote a Philippa Gregory novel as "evidence"  Shocked  Shocked  Shocked . That said, serious novelists like Hilary Mantel and Margaret Irwin (and even dear old Jean Plaidy) use/used  sources - both primary and secondary - responsibly. Such excellent writers both inform and at the same time encourage the interested reader to find out more - make one want to consider the arguments of the "real" historians (who never agree anyway). The likes of Gregory and Weir simply make up things, or distort the known facts, making a nonsense out of serious research done by others. (Gregory notoriously did this with Professor Retha Warnicke's work on Anne Boleyn.)

In my not-very-humble opinion, Weir should have stuck to writing popular history; I always enjoyed her non-fiction. But she's a lousy novelist.

Paul in the Tumbleweed wrote:
From what I read in these two novels Alison Weir does a good job, and she is certainly better and not so long winded as Hilary Mantel in her work about the French revolution...


Oh, Paul, what can I say? Best say nothing. But I think you may get an ear-bashing from Minette! Our old friend may have made it clear that she, like nordmann, does not appreciate the subtleties of Hilary Mantel's prose style, but, unless things have changed drastically, Minette absolutely loathes Alison Weir's writing - fiction or non-fiction.


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 12 Jan 2017, 15:38; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 15:04

Didn't Elizabeth, as part of the negociations around her possible marriage to the Duke of Alençon, have to suffer the indignity of a rudimentary gynecological examination to verify her virginity? Conducted by a creepy group of elderly physicians - all male of course - I very much doubt it was anything other than fairly cursory, but nevertheless Elizabeth could not have risked the scandal if their findings had been to the contrary, so I assume she was confident of her own virginity.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 15:37

Good point, MM.

In the excellent 2005 miniseries about Elizabeth (starring Helen Mirren, Toby Jones and Jeremy Irons) the medical examination was shown (all done in the best possible taste). Afterwards the doctor confirmed that, in his opinion, there was nothing to prevent the queen bearing a child and he added, whispering in Cecil's ear, "Virgo intacta."
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 15:47

The scene also appears in the 1971 BBC series 'Elizabeth R' with Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth ... but as you have so aptly just reminded us, historical fictions and dramas don't count as historical sources, and to be honest I can't find an actual written reference ... but I expect it's in someone's diary, Cecil's perhaps.

However, although I doubt the exact words were ever recorded, I think we can be fairly sure the examination was accompanied by some right royal cussing and swearing at the indignity of it all.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 19:09

Thank you so much, the three of you, for all this interesting comments.
But Alison Matthews is! an historian...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Weir
What have I then to believe about her Eleanor of Aquitaine...
And as she writes about Elizabeth...directly from "one" "time" to get pregnant...?
And I presume Alison was right that the Lord Protector was the brother of the Admiral...and that this "Protector" on his turn got executed...a lot of executions in those times...

Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Thu 12 Jan 2017, 20:47

Thomas Seymour was indeed the brother of the Lord Protector - and both, of course, were the brothers of Jane Seymour. Thomas was executed on his brother's orders. This was probably a grave mistake: fratricide doesn't go down too well - in Greek tragedy or in real life.

They were an odd family. There is a great deal of information about the Boleyn clan, but the Seymours were just as ruthless and ambitious. They have not attracted as much interest as their great rivals, possibly because Jane Seymour was such a boring goody-two-shoes (or pretended to be - never trust a woman who takes as her motto "Bound to obey and serve"). It'll be interesting to read what Hilary Mantel has found out about the inhabitants of Wolf Hall (Seymours' family home in Wiltshire) when her The Mirror and the Light finally appears.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Fri 13 Jan 2017, 11:40

Wondering whether Elizabeth died "intacta" or not cannot help but remind one of (yet another) great scene from that film The Greatest Story Ever Told - or at least the version which actually lived up to the accolade;



Growing up in a country where Elizabeth was actually presented as one of the biggest baddies of history, I nevertheless always harboured a suspicion (later confirmed) that, like her or not as a person, she could run rings intellectually around almost anyone in the country at the time, be they local connivers or Irish aristocratic rebels, some of whom were no dummies either. I know of no incident where anyone bested Bess when it came to repartee, diplomacy or indeed political conniving, and in a man's world as she inhabited even the slightest successful slight delivered in her direction through any of these avenues would most definitely have been recorded, or at least repeated sotto voce during her lifetime to be recorded in exaggerated form later. However though we have no good examples of this, we have on the other hand several recorded instances of exactly the opposite.

All this erudition and intelligence on her part must have galled many contemporaries something dreadful, and the "is she really a virgin" stuff which started when she had hardly begun menstruating and persisted throughout her life smacks of a last resort of calumny available to her detractors, be they political opponents, her foreign enemies or just small-minded and extremely resentful men within her realm who were being bossed about by an un-bested Bess. I read somewhere once that she proofread the intended inscription on her monument in her final days and found that the committee who wrote it, to her disgust, had included the word "virginia". She had them take it out and replace it with "triumphalis", and as such it can still be seen in Westminster Abbey. Of course, unlike Elizabeth who was no slouch when it came to Middle Latin, they didn't get the joke, but neither did they dare correct the spelling.

James, who added a second bit to the inscription when it was finally chiselled out (quite a nice addition actually) didn't dare mess with it. Though in fact given what we know about him now which would have been treasonable to express at the time he probably did indeed "get it" and heartily approved.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Fri 13 Jan 2017, 20:03

@Temperance wrote:
Thomas Seymour was indeed the brother of the Lord Protector - and both, of course, were the brothers of Jane Seymour. Thomas was executed on his brother's orders. This was probably a grave mistake: fratricide doesn't go down too well - in Greek tragedy or in real life.

They were an odd family. There is a great deal of information about the Boleyn clan, but the Seymours were just as ruthless and ambitious. They have not attracted as much interest as their great rivals, possibly because Jane Seymour was such a boring goody-two-shoes (or pretended to be - never trust a woman who takes as her motto "Bound to obey and serve"). It'll be interesting to read what Hilary Mantel has found out about the inhabitants of Wolf Hall (Seymours' family home in Wiltshire) when her The Mirror and the Light finally appears.

Temperance,

I finished today the novel. And at the end, to be fair, Alison on page 485 wrote an "Author's note". She finds that she has some "dramatic license". About the pregnancy: "I am not, as a historian, saying that it could have happened, but as a novelist, I enjoy the heady freedom to ask: what if it had?"

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Fri 13 Jan 2017, 20:05

Nordmann,

thank you very much for the addendum about Elizabeth's life and intellect.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Sat 14 Jan 2017, 11:29

Paul wrote:


She finds that she has some "dramatic license".  


And that is an expression that covers a multitude of sins, does it not?   Smile

Elizabeth was definitely seriously ill after the Seymour episode: it is recorded that she stopped eating, lost weight and hid herself away. She buried herself - and her fear - in her studies, working doggedly, not only at languages ancient and modern (insisting on beginning to learn Spanish as well as Italian), at history and mathematics, but also at acting a part completely alien to her nature. The princess, in her seclusion, insisted on appearing in dresses of nun-like severity, refused to wear or even look at jewels, strained her hair back straight and smooth, and avoided company whenever possible. She still danced, but quite alone. Even when Mary of Guise, the French Queen Dowager of Scotland, came to visit King Edward in October 1551 (a couple of years or so after Seymour's execution), Elizabeth, who was persuaded to attend the reception of the important visitor from Scotland, refused to take part in the frenzy of female fashion display that the visit excited. The ladies of the English court were "set on fire to follow the French fashions, causing a revolution in feminine dress and hair-dressing". Elizabeth shocked everyone by showing up, thin, pale and arrogant, in a simple dress, unadorned and her hair hidden.

This immediately brought loud praise of her "maiden shamefacedness" from the Reformers who were busy condemning the French/Catholic trends in female dress: for some reason they particularly hated the new French-influenced hairstyles something which John Aylmer ranted about; he denounced with total contempt women whose hair had been outrageously  "frounsed, curled and double-curled" .

Was this sudden maidenly modesty simply political cunning of the part of Elizabeth - a determination to reclaim her image as the chaste and virtuous Protestants' Princess ? Or had she actually really almost given up on life following the disastrous and damaging episode that had seen her own betrayal of a woman (Katherine Parr) who had always been so good and so kind to her, and the death of that woman's husband, an older man for whom (although he was unworthy of either his wife's or his step-daughter's devotion and both the woman and the girl had, I think, really loved this flamboyant and dangerous man) Elizabeth had fallen - and fallen with all the just-awakened passion of a naïve teenager? Was her long (recorded) recurring illness during the years immediately after the Seymour affair (an illness which the doctors could not explain) the result of anxiety and guilt after the loss of virginity, pregnancy and possible miscarriage? I reject the Alison Weir lurid loss of virginity/pregnancy/miscarriage explanation, but the idea of guilt, especially sexual guilt, and a terror of the dreadful onsequences a loss of control could/can cause for a woman, rings true - and in Elizabeth's position, such loss of control was linked, not just with disgrace and humiliation, but with death. To me the evidence points to what is thought to be a modern phenomenon, but which has a much older history. We have here a ferociously intelligent, ambitious and terrified teenage girl, who works like a Trojan, becoming a paragon not only of learning and theology, but also of maidenly modesty and discretion, who loses weight alarmingly and who is stubborn and determined - desperate to control herself and her impulses and who, in so doing, tries to fool herself that she can also control an uncontrollable world. Classic anorexic behaviour. And there you have my "poetic licence": that the young Elizabeth became a borderline anorexic - and that it was, paradoxically, this condition that helped her survive.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Sun 15 Jan 2017, 20:47

Thank you very much for this new comments on Elizabeth I 's life, Temperance, and for your "poetic licence" narrative.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Mon 16 Jan 2017, 09:08

I'm normally uneasy about retrospective assignment of modern illnesses to historical figures but in this case you could well have a point, Temp. Leaving aside the whole Seymour incident, the reporting of which started in a very unobjective manner and has come down to us in that form (even less objectively thanks to "modern" interpretations by fiction writers), women of that age and in that social class must have been particularly vulnerable to eating disorders, primarily because of religious views prevalent at the time regarding an association between diet and religious piety. Elizabeth, who at least recognised at that young age a need to "improve" her public image and standing amongst her peer community - be it as a result of a dalliance that went too far or not - may well have fallen into that trap. In many ways she fitted the profile of the sex and age-group identified as most vulnerable today, so it certainly cannot be dismissed as a theory.

Also, the long-term effects of prolonged anorexia include several which may have afflicted Elizabeth later in life based on the superficial evidence.
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Fri 10 Feb 2017, 12:00

In the news this week; Mary Queen of Scots last letter was on public display at the National Library in Edinburgh.

Here is a digitized version;

8 Feb 1587
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PostSubject: Re: The virgin queen not virgin?   Fri 10 Feb 2017, 18:35

@Triceratops wrote:
In the news this week; Mary Queen of Scots last letter was on public display at the National Library in Edinburgh.

Here is a digitized version;

8 Feb 1587

Thanks Triceratops for the link.
Not knowing that well the English history I mix many times all those Mary's and all those Margarets.
Here it is not the "bloody Mary", but nevertheless she had a connection with Elisabeth I.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Queen_of_Scots

Kind regards, Paul.
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