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 Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 05:23

A follow-on from AN's remark on the Cromwell thread, that the regurgitation of common misconceptions of the man on a TV programme would have Oliver spinning in his grave lead me to thinking (or attempting to) of other historical figures who perpetually suffer a similar fate, and despite evidence or simple logic to the contrary, those rumours persist.

The most immediate myth that springs to mind, unsurprisingly, is Richard III's supposed hunch back and withered arm. That Julius Caesar was born by caesarian section is another, an impossibility as his mother actually lived into old age, outliving JC himself. And Richard I's supposed homosexuality is a result of a total misunderstanding and misreading of the records and times.

I'm sure there are many other examples, who else can you think of who must forever more suffer the indignity of misrepresentation and now, without the ability to redress?
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 06:53

Queen Victoria, "We are not amused", is often portrayed as a dour humourless frump, but at least when Albert was alive, and again in later life she displayed a lively sense of humour and apparently loved party games, word puzzles, jokes, even slightly risqué ones, and generally a good laugh!


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 17 Jul 2012, 21:48; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : minor spellings)
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 08:39

According to Elizabethan recusant activists Anne Boleyn resembled the Wicked Witch of the West: she is supposed to have had a sixth finger, warts, an ugly swelling under her chin (a goitre?), a odd tooth that stuck out *and* an strangely coloured skin. Here's the most lurid of them, Nicholas Sander:

".... (Anne Boleyn had) black hair and an oval face of sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand, six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness, she wore a high dress covering her throat..."

Nevertheless, although the discoloured skin and sticky-out tooth may be disregarded, there might be some truth in the sixth finger and the "warts". George Wyatt, the grandson of Thomas Wyatt, the poet who had been in love with Anne (see poems), wrote this:

"...there was found, indeed, upon the side of her nail, upon one of her fingers, some little show of a nail, which yet was so small, by the report of those that have seen her, as the work master seemed to leave it an occasion of greater grace to her hand, which, with the tip of one of her fingers might be, and was usually by her hidden without any blemish to it. Likewise there were said to be upon some parts of her body, certain small moles incident to the clearest complexions."

A minor malformation of one fingertip thus seems "very probable" (Ives), and so too one or two moles, possibly on or near the chin, but never the gross deformities that Sander imagined. Ives again: "...one man's beauty-spot is hardly another man's 'wen' ".
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 09:31

If anything, ID, I expect Caesar's gyrations can only have speeded up after you claimed his mammy outlived him. The guy almost bankrupted himself and Rome with the funeral games he organised for old Aurelia Cotta after she copped it, a whole ten years before the senate decided to use him as a pin cushion!

But you're right about the c-section. The operation was well known at the time, though always performed at the expense of the mother's life. We have a misinterpretation of Pliny to thank for the misapprehension that Julius was born that way.

Pliny said "But more fortunate are they a great deal, whose birth cost their mothers life, and part from their mothers by means of incision: like as Scipio Africanus the former, who came into the world in that wise: and the first that ever was surnamed Cæsar, so called because he was ripped out of his mothers belly. And hereof came the fore-named also of the Cæsones. In like manner also was that Manlius borne, who entered Carthage with an army".

The first ever Caesar was a lad called Sextus, a Sicilian praetor.

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 16:15

@nordmann wrote:
If anything, ID, I expect Caesar's gyrations can only have speeded up after you claimed his mammy outlived him. The guy almost bankrupted himself and Rome with the funeral games he organised for old Aurelia Cotta after she copped it, a whole ten years before the senate decided to use him as a pin cushion!

Good lord, I should have known better than to work from memory at 6am! Thanks for the correction Nordmann.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 18:03

Mary Queen of Scots must have been spinning around in an absolute frenzy for at least fifteen years or so *before* she went to her grave. I suspect she's been spinning ever since.

As we all know, Mary did do some pretty idiotic things in her time, and her taste in men was decidedly suspect, but she must nevertheless count as one of "fortune's victims". She was also the victim of a dirty-minded old Calvinist republican historian (Lord, what a combination) named George Buchanan. It is mainly thanks to his "Detectio Mariae Reginae Scotorum" - a sleazy dossier that depicted Mary as a shameless adulteress and lascivious Catholic whore, and her lover Bothwell as a vicious bisexual - that the reputation of this most unfortunate of queens was so blackened. Has it ever - despite recent sympathetic biographies of her - ever really recovered?

The Confederate Lords, having forced their anointed queen to abdicate, had to justify their actions and they commissioned the thoroughly nasty Buchanan to produce what John Guy has called "a steamy story of sex and violence, adultery and murder, designed to titillate as well as shock." And shock it did - even Buchanan's contemporaries were appalled - at him. One of his literary rivals described the man - who had incidentally spent many a happy afternoon at Holyrood palace reading Livy with his beautiful young queen - as "a bawdy fellow" and a "dunghill puddle and sink of filth."

Buchanan's version of the tumultuous events in Scotland, although expressed in supremely elegant Latin, is certainly not ruined by any pedantic demands for factual accuracy. His account is full of inconsistencies, and at times reads like a lurid Italian novella (a genre very popular at the time). His description of Bothwell using the services of Lady Reres (a niece of Cardinal Beaton) is so dreadful as to be comic. (Lady R., a fat old bawd according to GB, acts as a kind of Mistress Quickly to Mary's Doll Tearsheet - at one point she climbs up a garden wall and promptly falls off, landing in a "lubberly heap" on the ground.) Utter nonsense - "Buchanan was distorting the known facts to create an interpretation of almost complete fantasy" (John Guy).

But what did that matter? When Cecil read the "Detection", he immediately realised that it was a piece of brilliant propaganda: he saw to it that Buchanan's masterpiece was printed and published in London in 1571.

Worked a treat - as someone at the time observed of the hapless Queen of Scots: "She'd not be the first to die of scandal."

PS Will post a picture of Buchanan in a minute.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 18:17





Here he is, the vicious old hypocrite.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 19:23

Oh gaud he's the image of a senior academic of my acquaintance, famous for his often ferocious judgements on work submitted to him. He put in the feedback to one hapless student, "This is verging on the cretinous". He had a reputation however for being rather less critical of young ladies who carried all before them and being very eager to discuss their accomplishments in private.

Back to the topic, poor old Macbeth must be birling down below as well and Gruoch must have drilled down to China by now.

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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Tue 17 Jul 2012, 19:37

He looks rather constipated, could be a reason for his visciousness?

Nero did not fiddle whilst Rome burned, I suppose the obvious fault there being that violins had not been invented. But more importantly, according to Tacitus, upon hearing of the fires in Rome, Nero actually rushed to the city to organise relief efforts which he funded from his own purse. He opened his palace to provide shelter for the homeless and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in an attempt to prevent starvation. And finally instigated a new urban development plan designed to make it more difficult for fires to spread.
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Thu 19 Jul 2012, 09:44

Our friend Ms Gregory has so many historical corpses in high RPM mode at this stage that she could well take the act on tour. Here's a picture I found of Philippa in her early days training to become a well researched historical novelist:

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Thu 19 Jul 2012, 17:40

You mean Ms PG, aside from not being a real historian, ain't a real blonde either? affraid
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PostSubject: Re: Grave Spinners - Historical facts and fantasies.   Thu 19 Jul 2012, 21:29

I always feel most sorry for Macbeth, who seems to get forgotten. Everyone discusses Richard III's misportrayals constantly, but Macbeth, given worse sins, is never the subject of redemption or societies or our chat at all. Nor is his no doubt badly-done-by wife.
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