1 thought on “Bring Up the Bodies Discussion Playback: Part I, Chapter 1”

  1. This is from an email from my Most Beloved Judith:

    Ha ya folks—audited afterwards the discussion of Chapter I. Comments below: (please remember I have not read the books)

    1. I had been given to understand that traditionally, falconry usually employed female birds rather than male, but I have that only from dim memories of T E White’s book The Goshawk, which I no longer own. Found no such reference on line in several long screeds on falconry. But since falcons are raptors, it makes for a very ambiguous idea for Cromwell to be giving such necessarily murderous birds his daughter’s names—as evidently characters in the book point out. Especially in light of folks finding angelic references here.

    Is it known historically that Cromwell had a daughter named Grace? Rather unusual for the time, I would have thought. In any case, since all birds must eat a great deal to maintain their weight, the females in the wild must necessarily hunt as much as the males, and most raptors are dimorphic—that is, the female is larger than the male. Thus the male is called a tiercel—as approximately 1/3 the size of the female. Also although a goshawk does not carry the prestige of a peregrine, it was forbidden for commoners to own them, thus Cromwell’s having several is one sign of his “arrival”—also, since hawks in captivity need very careful attention—his wealth. All sorts of stuff going on here. Falconry terms are common in Shakespeare—Richard II—“How high a pitch his resolution soars”—the falcon has been thrown from the glove and soared high, from there to stoop upon the quarry. More than one person has pointed out that Petruchio’s keeping Katherine awake is the old method of training a hawk until it gives way.

    2. Catholicism and England—under the Tudors Scotland was already turning Protestant, and Calvinist at that. Dour and mean and fervent—gave Henry’s grandniece Mary Stuart a helluva lot of trouble when she came back from France where she had been taken as a baby to get away from all the rivalries and ructions of her native land. And various kings of Europe had had runins with popes before Henry did in England. Mostly they lost them—German Henry standing in snow at Canossa, for instance, and English Henry II finding to his shock that his man Becket stopped being his. But it was Becket that died. What with one thing and another the Papacy was steadily losing credit even during some of its most spectacular reigns, and the long weird interval of two Popes, a French one at Avignon and a non-French one in Rome did not help. Clement had to take refuge at Castel San Angelo from Charles V’s largely Lutheran soldiers in the sack of Rome, and that was going on while OUR Henry had his eye on those well endowed monasteries. (“Peter’s Pence” was much resented, too…etc etc.)
    Also, Germany was at that time a mess of competing stupid little principalities, some Catholic and some Protestant, and some wavering here and there and back again between and betwixt—see the next century and the 30 Years War…but in a sense it is true—when all was sorted out the Catholic countries were more southern. But the Dutch in Holland and the Walloons in what became (ultimately) Belgium—down the historical road a piece– were not that far apart geographically, for Pete’s sake. Dare I suggest that very roughly speaking, Catholic remaining countries were usually not as literate. Ireland is a special case—it has long ties to Spain way back, and the first English to come there were often Catholic nobles. (I need verification here, but some landless gentry under the Tudors and before got there before Elizabeth’s forays into the country.) And in Henry’s reign the problems in France between Catholics and Huguenots were heating up to come to a head later, with the nasty wars of religion and massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day at the end of the century. When Huguenot Henri of Navarre became king and turned Catholic to “ease the nations’s grievance” he nonetheless protected his former co-religionists, and it was not until his grandson overturned their slowly whittled away rights altogether with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes at the end of the next century that the greatest exodus of Protestants took place. France could have ended up as mixed in religions as the Germanies it had not been for that hypocritical bitch Mme de Maintenon working on Louis. Woman working through man again (I am simplifying, of course. But boy was she nasty.)

    3. Peter Pan—interesting. If your Dutch friend wants an English novel with irony on every page she should read Saki’s The Unbearable Bassington, one of his most mordant comments on the decaying English upper class in Edwardian times. When Comus Bassington is in his tony English boarding school two of the masters discuss him, and one says that Bassington is a totally finished product even now in his mid teens, and will not change or improve. The other master says, “Now you are talking in the manner of Peter Pan,” and the first says, “I am not thinking in the manner of Peter Pan.” In the original book (which I read as Peter and Wendy as a child—long before I ever heard of the play—there are several subtle hints of things that children should know that it took me years to comprehend—especially Hook’s longing to be a gentleman, and his causing Peter to NOT be a gentleman in kicking him to the crocodile. We are told that he called out, “Bad form!” and went content to his fate. There is more to that book than—fairy dust.

    4. Noblemen, commoners and power. Henry was not secure as far as power was concerned not only because of the newness of the Tudors—and the patent illegitimacy of their claim. His cold blooded papa was as blatant a liar and thief as Donald Trump. And as their ancestor Henry Bolingbrook had been in his time. Henry was a second son—the spare. As Francis Hackett pointed out in his 1929 bio of Henry VIII, if Arthur had lived, Katherine, as one trained in a royal court (s) as fraught with intrigue as any, would have watched this 6 foot booming and blooming fellow like one of those falcons. And because of the Wars of the Roses many if not most nobles were jumped up in Tudor times. So they knew the vagaries of power as much as Wolsey the butcher’s son and Cromwell, his adherent. Just from a more exalted position—for the moment. In the chapter on Henry in the ONLY history of England worth reading, 1066 And All That, the authors mention that at his court the nobles played a game called Bluff King Hal—they would put their head down on a block and guess who the king would marry next.

    5. The flyting of Cromwell’s daughters. Is this a construct of the author, or is such an incident known? Likewise, the character of Jane Seymour. Her brothers were opportunistic pigs in history, no doubt of it. What is known of Jane, apart from one fabulous cinnamon colored costume and her death of puerperal fever, with Edward as no consolation to her prize? Mind you—my knowledge is from Hackett—I have read no other bio of the king, and Hackett is out of date. And prone to put quotes around statements that sound of the period without giving the source. It is not a scholarly biography, although he does accredit many statements. But in the context of the novel we are on murky ground as to some of the arguments. Or perhaps I should say discussions.

    6. For most of history the fate of almost all women has been in the hands of men. Aristocratic women, princesses, despite status had little power. It would be some years before a Livonian washerwoman rose to become Catherine I of Russia, and that depended on her marriage to Peter the Great. (As random ws the fate of the second Catherine, but she had the cool brains and steel to grab what she could when she could.) When Christina of Denmark, as a widow already at sixteen, was asked by Henry VIII’s deputies if she would wish to marry their master, her response ws to say she was at the disposal of her uncle the Emperor, whose servant she was. If he had sent her—she must have gone. She escaped. If you want to see what she became after that adorable winsome Holbein portrait, look her up—especially in that superb portrait of her in middle life in a fabulous outfit with voile sleeves. Which I saw in a shop window in London some years ago—and stopped in wonderment. O my! A very shrewd and capable woman with a tumultuous career. She would have made Henry a fabulous queen, but happily escaped. But most did not. Henry’s sister Mary did—after her pathetic marriage to the dotard Louis Xii she married Charles Brandon as soon as she got out of Francois’ clutches and before Henry could think of something else to do with her. She was lucky and fast moving. Court ladies? Read Rebecca West’s The Court and the Castle about Ophelia and young court ladies in general. She mentions that Jane Rochford was raving mad when dragged to her execution.

    7. The sainted More. I am totally biased about More because I am a White Rose. Comes from reading The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. But if you are interested in a close look at the Holbein portrait at the Frick, look up Cocktails with a Curator with Xavier Salomon. I have a mad crush on Salomon and his discussions of the Frick collection are fabulous—and he gets you up close to the portrait in a way that merely standing under it (as I have done) does not suffice. But it is all about the painting—not the man himself.

    Please excuse my rambling on. I am a discursive old bat.



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