Move over, Shakira, there’s a new BAB (badass bitch)™ in town. And by “new” I mean she was born roughly 700 years ago, and by “town” I mean medieval England, but still, potato/potabo. Enter Isabella of France, wife of King Edward II of England. Gurl had some mad haters in her time, and the shade they were throwing in the 14th century casts a longass shadow. Even though she was noted for her beauty, intelligence, and diplomacy, just because, like *one* time, she usurped her husband’s throne, probably had him murdered, and co-ruled with her lover, she has forever been labeled as The She-Wolf of France, and drawn as a manipulative, sadistic, vain, femme fatale. Whatever. Fuckem. Bitches Get Stuff Done.
So our weebaby scandalite is born probably in 1295, daughter of King Philip Eye-Vee of France, ruler of the most powerful state in Western Europe at the time. All of her brothers became kings, and, as was customary, Isabella was promised as an infanta to Edward II (New Moon) of England. Edward’s father (Edward Twilight, whom you know from the 1995 pre-meltdown Mel Gibson classic, Braveheart as “that old guy in the crown”), for some reason which Wikipedia did not make clear to me, tried to dissolve the union several times before his death. But, once he kicked it in 1307, the 23-year-old Edward and the 12-year-old Isabella were free to pursue wedded bliss.
Why? Because Edward was gayer than Christmas, that’s why.
Well, no—Edward was most likely bisexual, as he and Isabella did eventually have four children, and he had at least one illegimate son by an unknown woman (which I like to imagine means she was a ghost, kind of like Patrick Swayze was that one time), and there is considerable scholarly debate over whether Edward actually had romantic relationships with men (fueled not least by issues of interpreting concepts of medieval sexuality, homosexuality, and male friendship [and for an awesome introduction to these queries, plus a bit of academic titillation, check this nifty volume]). But still, the warning signs were there right from the start that Edward’s spankbank wasn’t filled exclusively with sweet, sweet ladybits.
Just quick, let’s have a tidge of context about Edward: though he was a strapping young buck, the heir apparent apparently shied from traditional kingly pursuits such as jousting, hunting, warfare, bloodshed, mayhem, and dick-measuring contests, in favor music, poetry, and “rural crafts.” Edward had a special little hole (in his heart) that was plugged by a nobleman named Piers Gaveston. Apparently, “as soon as the king’s son (Edward II) saw him, he fell so much in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him”—which is sweet and all, but hanging on the arm of another dude like you’re the hottest wife in Stepford is 200% not cool in 1300. Edward I banished Gaveston a bunch of times to try to unhook his whore talons from Edward II, but I guess as soon as the king kicked it, Jr. saw this as an opportunity to not only marry his supahrich child-bride, but also debut his boytoy in one big ol’ “fuck you, dad, you’re dead” fell-swoop.
At her marriage banquet, Izzie watched all her presents given to Gaveston (I mean really, one man can only use so many chip n’ dips), and at her coronation, the halls were hung with custom tapestries bearing the coats of arms of Edward and Gaveston. …If TLC had gone all Four Weddings on that biznass, I’m pretty sure even Isabella’s sister wives would have given her pity points. That shit’s rough.
Isabella apparently resigned herself to a life of neglect and humiliation in the wake of her husband’s brazen hussiness. She befriended Gaveston’s wife and I assume they spent lots of hours bitching about their sham marriages in their finely illuminated Burn Book of Hours.
BUT, after merely four winters of discontent, in 1312, tensions between Edward and his barons over Gaveston’s power in court had reached a boiling point. After being banished once again by the peerage, and recalled once again by Edward, Piers was finally kidnapped by a couple of earls, who handed him over to a couple of Welshmen, who promptly rid the world of that turbulent puff.
Sidenote: This is in direct opposition to what I remember of the
stunning, delicate, cinema vérité death of a character based on Gaveston in the aforementioned Braveheart, in which Edward I pushes his son’s lover out a window, squealing like a piglet. No, now I find there’s a dignity in truth afforded to the poor soul, knowing he was in fact taken out to the ass end of Wales and beheaded by a couple of sheepfuckers.
Anyway, Edward was so distraught by Gaveston’s murder that he went all Norman Bates and kept his corpse around for a while before the Church finally forced him to bury it (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewEW.). But, with his lover gone in an arguably tragic turn of events, Edward had to pull it together. He put on his big-boy jerkin and favorite Bobbi Brown lipstick, and knocked up the wife he suddenly remembered he had. For England; for the Plantagenets; for something to do on a Thursday night.
So Isabella and Edward had a son in 1312, the future Edward Eclipse, but despite producing a healthy male successor, the political situation in England was increasingly unstable: ties between France and England were weakening, Edward had his ass decidedly handed to him with a side of tatties and neeps by the Scots at Bannockburn, a royal pretender showed up claiming to have been switched at birth with Edward (though he brought very little charming, lesson-learning, folksy-wisdom, and good-old-fashioned-adventure to this Twainesque episode, and thus totally deserved his eventual execution), and the barons were still having a hissy fit about how Edward threw around his power—particularly in light of his new advisor/bum-chum, Hugh Despenser the Younger.
(Also, there was a famine—which I would say was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae, but it’s probably more apt to say it’s like the restaurant never bringing you the sundae to begin with, charging you twice, then giving you a plague blanket rather than a mint on your way out.)
Isabella hated Hugh the Younger, because, in all honesty, he sounds like a total, utter, certified, signed-sealed-delivered, midnight-train-to-Georgia douche. Hugh had campaigned against Gaveston and actively displaced Edward’s rebound after Gaveston, a man named Roger d’Amory (Dare I say they engaged in amorous rogering? No? Too much? Ok.), so he could get into the king’s affections. He held huge political sway over who was in favor at court, and he and Edward instituted massive programs of land confiscation, large scale imprisonment, execution, and the persecution of the widows of their enemies. Hugh in particular wrongfully seized a bunch of land from female nobility (including his wife and his sister-in-law)(!!!!??!!1!), and apparently had one woman’s arms and legs broken until she went insane. *teethsuckholyshitfuckthatdude* It has been hypothesized that because Hugh so clearly hated women, and that because Isabella hated Hugh with such a passion, he had sexually assaulted her at some point, but either way, he was horrible, even by medieval standards.
He and Edward made like a shitload of enemies between 1320 and 1326 who plotted a myriad ways to kill them, including—I’m not kidding—voodoo. In response to a brewing war between Edward and the English nobility spurred on by Hugh, Isabella forcibly took a greater role in politics, and attempted to get the Despensers exiled several times, but Edward always manged to bring them back, like a bad penny, or herpes. Edward finally gave her one of his trademark kissoffs by confiscating all her lands, imprisoning all her staff, and taking all her kids. He wanted her to sign an oath of loyalty to Hugh, but she was rightfully like, “fuck that noise,” and in 1325 she returned to France, gathered an army with the help of her brother, Charles IV, and the really pissed off English nobles, and a hot little slice named Roger Mortimer.
Disclaimer: Mortimer and Isabella might have been having an affair back in England, but either way, once in France, the queen finally got the crowning she deserved (that doesn’t make sense, sorry, whatever, they boned a lot, let’s move on).
In 1326, this mediaeval Bonne y Clyd invaded with a very small force, but such was the state of Edward’s unpopularity that the country essential descended into mob rule at the news of her arrival. She laid siege to Bristol and retrieved her daughters, and soon captured Edward and Hugh as they tried to flee the country. Isabella or her followers essentially killed every higher-up still allied with Edward, with Hugh given a particularly humiliating public castration and disembowelment (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewewEW). Edward was placed under house arrest rather than executed, since he was legally still Isabella’s husband, and her legal basis for deposing him was minimal (even though bitch showed mad restraint for sitting it out as long as she did, if you ask me). Her son was confirmed as Edward III, with Isabella acting as regent. Somewhere along the way, Edward II dies—it’s unclear whether he was assassinated or simply died in prison, but the most sensational story is that he had a heated fire poker shoved up his butthole (EWWWW).
Now Edward really was a first class tit, but I don’t know if anyone really deserves to have the last of the red hot pokers nonconsensually inserted into their ass. But, you know, Middle Ages, anything goes.
Isabella and Mortimer co-ruled for about four years until her son came of age and promptly deposed his mom’s main squeeze. She had a nervous breakdown, and was briefly arrested, but eventually was give a massive pension and remained in close contact with the court and her grandchildren. And, like many retirees and shut-ins, she developed an interest in astrology. So, all’s well that ends well in the land of Medieval Times: where women who engage in the same shitty, philandering, power-obsessed activity as their shitty, philandering, power-obsessed husbands are forever remembered as despicable SeeYouNextTuesdays.
If you read the State of the Bloggers LHB so eloquently delivered to our little Internet fiefdom earlier this week, you might remember that lately I’ve been “screwing up [her] Netflix algorithms by watching BBC costume dramas from 30 years ago.” This is only partly true, LHB. I know you’re referring to when I watched the lush and lustful 1985 A Room with a View three times in two days recently on our ‘Flix account. I say to you, LHB, that you are erroneous on TWO COUNTS:
1. I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that 2014 minus 1985 equals 29 years, not the 30 years you alleged. Hyperbole! J’ACCUSE!
2. That shit is 100% prime Merchant Ivory melodrama and you know it. BBC can’t even begin to think about touching this (especially after what ITV did to it in 2007 amiright).
I won! Let’s celebrate by learning about a closeted British dude, shall we?
So that aforementioned A+ period drama (which stars a pre-Longbottom Bellatrix Lestrange and a post-Emancipation Proclamation Abe Lincoln and the Dames Superior Maggie and Judi) is AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD WATCH IT. If you don’t believe me, maybe the words “full-frontal,” “hot,” “Brit dudes,” and “skinny-dipping” will change your tune (for the sake of clarity, there is a full-frontal skinny dipping scene featuring hot Brit dudes). Also it’s based on a book, or whatever.
Upon my third viewing, I decided to reread said whateverbook (which is artfully plotted and really very sumptuous and affecting and all that good shit) for the first time since I was like 15 and even more susceptible to novel-induced ladyboners than I am now. And I got to wondering about the mind behind the ladyboners. And then I did some Googling. And here we are.
A Room with a View was written in 1908 by a Welsh-Irish Brit-mutt by the name of Edward Morgan “E.M.” Forster, who was coincidentally GAYER than SLEIGH BELLS. A Room with A View is about conflict between the self and the environment, English primness and continental earthiness, the spiritual and the material. Mostly, though, it’s a big ol’ 200-page metaphor for doing it.
In need of a short, sweet summary? Happy to oblige: Our heroine Lucy Honeychurch (we can all agree this is one of the better fictional names of all time) meets a young, eccentric dish named George Emerson while Under the Tuscan Sun with a bunch of super old British people. George is muscular and blond and makes Lucy feel tingly in her bathing suit places. They spend a lot of time looking at each other meaningfully under the duress of heat and passion and pasta that is Italy. While on a side trip in the country, George very suddenly, assertively, ardently grabs and makes out with Lucy in a dense and verdant meadow. She’s hella confused, because while it felt great, it is also Something That Is Just Not Done. Her chaperone aborts the trip and Lucy returns to Surrey and her pedantic, aesthete boyfriend. George and his dad move in down the road in an-almost-unbelievable-but-not-totally-dealbreaking plot contrivance. Our little filly spends a lot of pages pretending she hates George because society. He spends a lot of time saying things like “I love you” and “Fuck the man.” Eventually she comes around and decides to fuck the man (like in the social expectations sense) and later, after their wedding, fuck the man (like in the George sense). And she lives happily ever after because she lets her own feelings, and not the feelings of the stuffy, boring people around her, decide her fate.
E.M. Forster did a great fucking job exposing how hollow a culture is that asks people to deny themselves any and all pleasure in this novel. He did not do as great of a job in allowing himself any of these pleasures. (So sorry I’m using the word “pleasure” so much). Raised by a difficult and demanding mother, Ed managed to get to Cambridge, where met the Bloomsbury Group and was presumably exposed to real life non-straight relationships for the first time, because pretty much everyone in there was fucking everyone else regardless of gender. Except Ed, that is — he remained celibate until he was 38, but we’ll get there in a second.
Ed (who went by Morgan but I prefer Ed and it’s my blog) went on to write a string of truly groundbreaking and now-canonical novels between 1905 and 1924. Where Angels Fear to Tread, The Longest Journey, A Passage to India, A Room with A View of A Hot Muscular Blond Guy Skinnydipping, Howard’s End, Maurice. All pretty great. All about the condition of being English and uncomfortably fitting into the changing definition of Englishness in the age of imperialism and the rising middle class. Good. Cool. Cool cool cool.
Except Maurice is about a homosexual affair and was published posthumously in 1971. And, along with the discovery of Ed’s diary, which had been locked in a cabinet in his Cambridge dorm, confirmed his homosexuality. Scholars actually call this the “sex diary,” which is coincidentally what my mom called The Carrie Diaries once when I asked what she was watching.
Anyway, did I mention that upon completing A Passage to India in 1924, Ed, who lived until 1970, never published another novel? Once the sexy sex diaries became available, a few Forsterites did some cross-referencing and realized that the start of his decline in work nicely coincided with his 38th year. The year in which he finally allowed himself to bone and be boned in return, if you’ll recall.
At the end of World War I, Ed was working for the Red Cross in Egypt. You know how it goes — a hot, young Egyptian soldier stumbles into your tent with a war wound, you press gauze into his golden flesh, you share a lingering look just as his eyes glaze over from the chloroform. Next thing you know, you’re doing it on a beach. Well, that’s what happened to Ed, anyway. In his sexy sex diary, he only refers to the event as “losing R,” with “R” meaning “respectability.” Sad.
But not too sad! Because after that, Ed had a few flings with dudes! And turns out Ed and I share a proclivity for men in uniform, as he preferred to get fancy with sailors and policemen. In one sexy sex diary entry, he even said “I want to love a strong young man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him.” Can’t fault a man (or ladyblogger) for that, ya feel? In fact, Bob Buckingham, a London police officer, became the love of Ed’s life. Which I would be much more effusive about were it not for the fact that Bob was married and homosexuality was still illegal so dating the fuzz was kind of a risky business. Also Ed was 51 to Bob’s 28, which is fine but maybe not ideal from a relationship stability standpoint. Lots of fancy people suggest that Ed lost interest in writing because the marriage plot ceased to have any real truth or catharsis for Ed once he’d fully embraced his sexual identity. I mean why write shit you don’t care about, right? Right.
At any rate, Ed and Bob really beat the odds and lived happily together until Ed’s death in 1970. There was the problem of Bob’s wife and son, of course, but Ed fixed that right up by buying a nice county house in Coventry where they could all cohabitate in a living situation that I imagine some network somewhere is optioning into the world’s next shitty sitcom. By all accounts, Ed and the Buckinghams (the shitty sitcom will be called Buckingham’s Palace, obviously) got on famously, probably especially due to the fact that he paid all the bills and even put them in his will.
Though Ed’s story seems to end much, much more happily than it began, he was as acutely aware in life as he was in his novels that society’s expectations can really yuck your yum. When he was 84 and about to die, he wrote “How annoyed I am with society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal. The subterfuges, the self-consciousness that might have been avoided!” Nuts. Double nuts, when you consider how hard it must have been to write li’l Lucy’s sexual and social awakening so motherfucking well, knowing you’d never get to experience the same liberation yourself.
But he did get to write a deliciously homoerotic skinny-dipping scene and call it Literature, so glass half full, y’all!
*(Sorry about the wordplay in the title; I know it’s kind of Forst) (NAILED IT).
This is really embarrassing. We were not planning on being MIA for so long, we swarr. I mean, we didn’t plan it all, obviously. And to be perfectly honest, we don’t even have very good excuses. Just the usual ones–“real life,” “grad school,” “jobs,” all of Friday Night Lights is on Netflix, you know, the usual. (TEXAS FOREVER!!!!)
But we really missed you guyz. Like, 4 real. It’s more than just my dad and JAF’s medievalist college friends who follow us now. I mean, there are at least, like, 100 of you, which I think makes us like a pretty big deal on the internet. The point is, we’re sorry. We can be better. And we’re back now with a New Years resolution to blog the shit out of 2014. Or the eleven months that are left of it, I guess. There are so many sexual scandals of yore untold (by us in an irreverent manner and borderline plagiarized from Wikipedia.) Plus we’ve got a theme week or two in the works that we think you’ll be pretty excited about–like new panties every other paragraph excited.
In light of the recent State of the Union Address, we thought we’d do a little State of the Bloggers to vaguely fill you in on our deeply interesting personal lives. If you’re totally uninterested in that, feel free leave us now and stay tuned for, like, a real post.
We’ll start with MRG who’s moved west, but only mid-way, to the great city of Chicago. In Chicago, she’s earning her Masters in Historic Preservation. Girl talks the talk and walks the walk, amiright? She spends her spare time screwing up my Netflix algorithms by watching BBC costume dramas from 30 years ago, and enjoys consuming pizza and beer. Some things never change.
I, LHB, have settled, for the time being, in Northern California, where I work as a fundraiser at a theater company. In my spare time I, too, watch television on the internet (great minds), drink Malbec and tell people that I’m going to the gym but then am like “Oh you know it’s getting late–I’m not feeling grea–yeah I have a thing I forgot abou–” and then more Netflix and more Malbec and so on and so forth. I very much enjoy snacks.
JAF is back in the America. She got tired of all the “culture” in “Europe” so she’s stateside now, “teaching america’s youth how to hopefully not be drains on our society.” (That last one is a direct quote.) It’s important work, you know? She still looks like Meryl’s sexier younger sister and has excellent taste in movies. I mean “film.”
KAB is similarly occupied shaping the minds and hearts of the future. She’s in western New York, braving polar vortexes in order to chase children around playgrounds and teach them about “sharing.” KAB FINALLY got on the Downton Abbey train (no, it’s not a real train, it’s a metaphor–how cool would that be, though?!) and when she’s not drooling over Matthew, she’s applying to graduate school.
And that’s all she wrote folks.
Stay tuned for what ideally will be a 2014 filled with unoriginal dick jokes and pictures of hot actors in costume dramas.