Sunday, 30 August 2009

Anne, the Most Happy

No post for a while because I've been setting up "Pagan Britain" email community.

Also lots of Y Mabinogi reading: "Rhiannon" by Gruffydd arrived from the library, and "Celts and Aryans." Oh and a busy day getting Tal enrolled at college.


Thoroughly enjoying the Anne Boleyn Files - one of my greatest heroines together with her daughter Bess. I hate it that Anne is usually shown as a sexy vamp, ignoring her fine mind, especially her significant religious influence, and her acute political acumen.

I am surprised though that Claire on the Anne Boleyn Files doesn't explore the overriding issue of Anne's maternity. It deserves a blog section on its own Claire. I will outline the plot here, including the staggering effect this issue had on Britain's future! and the sexual politics that contributed to Anne's downfall.

I agree with Claire that Henry wanted the impossible. He wanted the independent intellectual Anne: he absolutely adored her ability to companion his mind and soul as well as his body. But, once they MARRIED she was his WIFE and QUEEN.

This was a relatively impersonal role to play. Anne herself was not bred to be a royal wife, and she failed to adapt from high hearted mistress, to dignified queen.

It is worth noting that Anne and Henry are by no means unusual. Through the ages men with a bit going for them have yearned after the independent woman. But once won, the story shifts abruptly especially if she submits to marriage. Suddenly she is a WIFE, and she is judged very differently. What is MINE should be reassuring, supportive, not unsettling and challenging.

Many an independent couple has fallen foul of this stereotype I think.

But more than any other reason, more than making an enmity of Cromwell, more than opening up a precedent for other ambitious women (or their families) was Anne's maternity. She did not bear a living son, any more than Katherine had before her. Both women were rejected for this, although both had been greatly loved and honoured for a time.

I believe that if Anne had borne a son she could pretty easily have seen Cromwell off and other aspirant women too. Henry would have adored her not anly as his fiery companion of heart and soul and mind, but as his Madonna, Mother of the Royal Prince. This was the crux of her power, her magic, more than any other source.

Anne DID conceive a son. By birthing Elizabeth she disappointed Henry but he rallied and "forgave" her. He still came to her bed and she conceived again, this time a son. Of course they did not know that for certain, but she would have strongly assured the King of it.

What went wrong was one of those strange, almost eerie turning points of history. Henry was a strong virile man of 44. On 24 January 1536 he had a fall during a joust. He was unconscious and carried into the palace. Seeing him as if dead, and told he would die, Anne reacted with deep shock. She miscarried their boy child.

Had Henry not fallen as he did, Anne was likely to have had a healthy boy, for she had borne a healthy child before.

The tragic incident also changed Henry forever. From being active and manly he was forced to live as a semi-invalid for the rest of his life. Any active older man finds this tough, but this was a man used to getting his own way, a powerful King. His body was broken, a failure – and so was hers.

He became increasingly tyrannical, partly to demonstrate his power still, but quite possibly because he had suffered a brain injury in the fall.

This was no longer the tender lover, the jovial friend, Anne and others had known. Henry became spiteful, a petty bully, and unlovable. A proud woman such as Anne would have found him hard to bear in his unpredictable rages and self pity.

Whether or not his brain was damaged, and this does seem likely, we do know that Henry lived with a wound in his leg that would not heal, and caused him frequent pain. A persistent hurt that will not improve drains energy and optimism; and this pampered prince had little experience of coping with lengthy or permanent physical limitation.

Anne had loss to bear, but a miscarriage for her was not the end of the world - for her on her own. She could look to try again. But the king was older, and he had gone through all this before with Catherine, dead baby after dead baby after dead baby over two decades.

For Henry his tragedy in 1536 was immense. He had lost his manhood in two huge ways.

His baby son gone, the hope of England reduced to a bloody flux. We know he was a tender father to all his children, so this was not only his fear and loss as a sovereign. No doubt he felt the death of the little boy too. But more than anything he had failed his dynasty, failed his colossal father, the shrewd conqueror Henry VII.

It was still part of being a sacred king that he should be "fit", whole, healthy and fertile. Henry was none of that now. In ancient times he would have been sacrificed, or forced into exile for a king must be a perfect specimen.

Possibly Henry was always at heart insecure. Brought up as the younger indulged brother to Arthur the serious Prince groomed to rule, Henry had not expected, nor been expected, to become a King. His childhood was to be treated as less important, a playboy.

Brother Arthur’s death as a young man thrust Henry unprepared into the direct royal lineage. Significantly he was the one who insisted on being Your Majesty, to reinforce on his grandeur. His great father had never needed that. But now His Majesty was failing – yet again – at this most sensitive and intimate task: to provide a son for his realm. What the meanest peasant or potboy could do, he could not. (He had had illegitimate sons, but that meant little.)

Secondly his own personal strength had gone too. His world had closed down, shrunk to an indoor, limited, observer life, seeing other men hunting and jousting and dancing - the things he had so loved and so excelled. To sit about, to hobble with a stick, when once he leaped ran and rode - this was bitterly cruel. He did not help himself by overeating for comfort, becoming bulky, putting yet more strain on his leg. Henry did not face old age gracefully.

His double loss, with the horror and frustration of long years behind him with Catherine's many dead babies, the prospect of yet more of the same misery with Anne, plus the agony of his unhealed leg wound, pain in his head, and raging emotions out of control; Henry was in a bad way. Certainly he was in no state to rise up smiling, comfort his Lady Anne, bounce into bed and try again. Her comparative youth and health would also be hard to bear as a contrast to his weakness.

In the grip of great loss, depression and fear, many people even today consider whether they are “cursed”, jinxed, dogged with “bad luck.” It is so much easier to think that some outside target for our pain and anger is to blame, instead of a huge daunting complex of events we cannot control.

If we are cursed then we can get the curse lifted, and regain control. But to solve a complex situation of misfortune requires long gruelling effort and courage to work through. Even then there is no guarantee of success.

No wonder the market for protection magic, removing curses, is as brisk as it ever was. Henry did not live in an age of science with technology all about him as its result. That age was just beginning, still on a shaky basis. He was surrounded by priests, prayers – and he lived with suppressed fear that his great rebellion against the Pope had set off divine retribution. The God of the Bible had after all always targeted sons: Abraham's Isaac, the Egyptians' first born, and his own Jesus. Henry had good reason to fear the hand of God.

But in his extremity there was a way out. The priesthood was clear that the cause of sin was always female. Had he not been tempted just as Adam had been tempted? By a beautiful women who had spoken to him of freedom, and offered it to him with her body?

Hurt, grieving, afraid, desperate for escape, the King had a sweet young girl placed upon his knee. Quiet Jane, who did not argue, who was so young, so gently healthy, so suited to motherhood.

Once a lover turns against his love, his hatred can be as intense, as deep as his love once was. It can be aggravated by the haunting of former times. Henry knew he was still vulnerable to Anne so he refused to see her, in case she reached his heart again. She had to die to cleanse him of his curse.

If Henry had not fallen, if Anne had borne her boy and he lived, there would have been no Bloody Mary, and no Elizabeth. There would have been a glorious Edwardian Age perhaps, and a very different history with no Stuart kings, no German Georges.
Perhaps there would have been no witch craze for one thing. The fear of a powerful woman might not have been invoked by a king's pained nightmare about Anne, his determined Queen and Great Whore. Nor would her mighty daughter have killed Mary Stuart, and left her son the Stuart king motherless, in terror of strong women. A world without the Malleus Maleficarum would nave been better off.


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