Katherine of Aragon was not a brotherfucker.

Once upon a time in a little land called “Sixteenth-century Europe,” the lines of succession in England and Spain were all kinds of fucked up thanks to a few wars, intermarriage, and some big ol’ coups d’etat (not sure if that’s the plural, this is America, DAMMIT. Deal with me). Then the royal mommies and daddies in both countries boned, bringing Spain a sweet baby girl and England the heir presumptive to the throne. And faster than you can say “marriage by proxy,” Ferdinand and Isabella arranged that marriage right up and little Katherine of Aragon and strapping young Arthur of England were hitched.

SCREEEEEECHHHHHHHH. Wait, MRG, I thought this week was all about Henry’s wives…who’s this Aruthur motherfucker? Well I’m so glad you asked.

Arthur, Prince of Wales wearing a beautiful necklace.

Hey I'm Katherine of Aragon, I'm fucking tragic and beautiful.

Dear Arthur was the eldest son of Henry VII, and due to the aforementioned European shitshow, Henry wanted to get his son betrothed real quick while simultaneously taking a huge shit on France. Literally (not literally). And the best way to do that was to secure a marital alliance with the other country who hated the Frenchies, Spain. It didn’t hurt that young Katherine had a lot of English royal blood in her due to  inbreeding similar arranged marriages, thus giving any offspring all kinds of legitimate claims to the throne.

On paper, the practice of arranged marriage seems sort of icky. But Katherine and Arthur really liked and respected each other. Sure, they were married by proxy when they were fifteen, but that was only after they exchanged letters in Latin for years and Arthur felt like he knew her well enough. Why Latin? Because they didn’t have any other language in common. And when they finally met in real life, they couldn’t even use the Latin because they’d learned different pronunciations. Anyway, I’m digressing, big-time. They met, they had an un-proxied wedding, they had a few months of marital bliss, and then they both got the sweating sickness in Wales. He died in April 1502, and she recovered only to find out her new hubby didn’t make it.

A woodcut of the coronation of Henry VIII and his wife Katherine.

And that motherfucker Henry VII was like, “HELL NO. Not returning that sweet-ass dowry back to Spain. France probably had something to do with this. SON, GET THE FUCK OVER HERE.” So to avoid the “complications” of “reasonably allowing Katherine to return to her homeland with her stuff,” Henry VII decided that the seventeen-year-old widow would marry his TWELVE-year-old son, Henry VIII. Ostensibly, they would wait until Henry was a little older, but also until Katherine’s mom died and her inheritance fucking ballooned to include lots of Spanish lands.

OKAY. They finally got married on June 11, 1509. And they got right to the business of baby makin.’ But although poor sweet Katherine got knocked up six times, only her fifth child, Mary, survived to adulthood (and turned out to be a real bitch, but that’s another story). As a result, she became a lot more religious (in the Catholic persuasion, which will be important later) in a scholarly way as well as in practice. She was just a good, good woman, she was virtuous, well read, beautiful, smart, modest. The English people just loved her. And despite his numerous affairs, Henry loved her too. And they were very happy together for a long time.

UNTIL 1525, THAT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

That’s when Katherine was like, “Hey, I need a new lady-in-waiting. LET ME CHOOSE THIS FOXY REDHEAD WHO’S SUPER SEXY AND SMART AND EVERYTHING MY HUSBAND COULD EVER WANT IN A SEXUAL/LIFE PARTNER.” And by this time, Katherine is 50. She’s really not looking her best. And she can’t have kids anymore, which means no legitimate male heirs for Henry. And that whole male heir thing was sort of a big deal for him, as you’ll see in the next few posts.  Anne Boleyn was a very sassy, very fertile, first-class minx, and poor Katherine, although she was a strong, beautiful, moral, dignified woman, just didn’t stand a fucking chance once Anne Boleyn and her French hood hit Whitehall.

This pre-coital photo of Anne Boleyn and Henry is NOT a publicity still from The Tudors.

And seeing that Anne was smoking hot and that poor Katherine was as barren as Death Valley in August (there was a lot more going on, but I don’t want to prematurely steal LHB’s Boleyn-loving thurnder), Henry was like, “Hmmmm…how the fuck can I get out of this whole multiple-decade, formerly-loving, non-heir-producing marriage thing I got going on here?” So he skipped on over to his favorite Bible, found a passage that could kind of sort of be interpreted as proof that his marriage to Katherine was cursed because she had already boned his brother, and tried to get a good ol’ fashioned annulment from the Holy Roman Emperor.

EXCEPT said Holy Roman Emperor was Katherine’s nephew, and girlfriend swore up and down that she and Arthur had never ever done it. And they probably hadn’t, because 1) Arthur was mortally ill for like 80% of their marriage and 2) she was really really really Catholic, and apparently the lying is frowned upon in the whole Catholic theology.

Now, if you’ve been in a history class past the eighth grade level, you’ve probably heard of The King’s Great Matter or The Act of Supremacy. And guess what? BOTH of those things have to do with this sexy scandal. The sexiest scandal of all time, probably. Anyway, your education has come full circle. You’re welcome.

So no one wants to give Henry his annulment. And he’s like, “FUCKKKK I just wanna bone Anne but she won’t let me until she’s queen and I just want Katherine to go become a nun or something and get the fuck over herself and why is it so harddddd to rule a country and get laid at the same time?” And sneaky little Anne Boleyn’s like, “Hey boii, why don’t you read these Protestant texts that I like? They’re so hot. And they’re also your window out of this miserable situation and subsequently into my vagina.”

So Henry says, “Suck on this, Rome!” and writes up this little ditty called The Act of Supremacy that makes him the Supreme Head of the Protestant Church of England and forces everyone and their mom to swear by it. And as head of the Church he gives himself that annulment and said sayonara to poor Katherine. Well, that makes it sound like she died. She didn’t. Lots and lots and lots of other Catholics did, including Thomas More, the writer and theologian expertly played by Mr. Knightley in The Tudors. But no, Katherine was sent to live in Kimbolton Castle, where she pretty much confined herself in one room, prayed nonstop, and continued to refer to herself as the Queen. She and her daughter Mary weren’t allowed to see each other until they each acknowledged Anne Boleyn as the rightful Queen. To which both said “Hahahahaaaa NO.”

Katherine pre-annulment, pre-exile.

Katherine’s health deteriorated rapidly, and knowing she was going to die soon, she wrote this fucking tragic and beautiful letter to her ex:

My most dear lord, King and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I ouge [owe] thou forceth me, my case being such, to commend myselv to thou, and to put thou in remembrance with a few words of the healthe and safeguard of thine allm [soul] which thou ougte to preferce before all worldley matters, and before the care and pampering of thy body, for the which thoust have cast me into many calamities and thineselv into many troubles. For my part, I pardon thou everything, and I desire to devoutly pray God that He will pardon thou also. For the rest, I commend unto thou our doughtere Mary, beseeching thou to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat thou also, on behalve of my maides, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all mine other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I makest this vouge [vow], that mine eyes desire thou aboufe all things.
Katharine the Quene

She was such a great bitch, right? A little delusional about the whole annulment thing, but I mean, just a really good person trying to do things the right way. She was literally royally screwed. Even though she only screwed one royal.

Moral of the story: don’t marry your dead husband’s brother, and don’t hire slampieces to work at your house.

MRG


John Ruskin never Effie-d his wife.

We know that posts have sort of been few and far between this week. We don’t have any excuses (well we do, but you probably don’t give a shit about them). But good news, we’re here, we’re back, get fucking used to it.

Once upon a time in the little hamlet of Perth, Scotland, a certified hottie named Euphemia

Effie White gets SO MAD when people confuse her with the decidedly less sassy Effie Gray.

“Effie” Gray was born. Not Effie White, the sassy diva from the moviefilm Dream Girls portrayed by Jennifer Hudson. Coincidence? Probably. But they certainly both went through some shit, so Redbox that masterpiece of song and decide for yourself.

Anyway, Effie was born in this big ol’ mansion where John Ruskin’s grandpa had committed suicide. Remember John Ruskin? Before researching young Effie I sort of had an academic crush on him, but turns out he was just an all-around grade-A prick. But you should still read On Art and Life. Okay so she’s born in a house of death, her family and Ruskin’s family are super close, they know each other pretty well, you get it.

When Effie was twelve in 1841, Ruskin wrote a fantasy novel for her called The King of the

Hey, I'm John Ruskin. I'm as morally bankrupt as my beard is long!

Golden River. Which sounds like it’s about pee. But actually it’s about agrarian despair! Because what do kids love more than a fantasy novel about devastating droughts!? The answer is a lot of things. So many other things. I mention this book to illustrate how utterly out of touch Ruskin was in terms of social grace: he wrote it for a twelve year old girl when he was 22, he wrote it about an agricultural disaster, and he was unaware of the pee reference in the title.

So with all of this in mind, a marriage between sweet Effie and musty old Ruskin seems like a truly poor yet absolutely expected decision. Because it’s the mid-nineteenth century, and who cares about “love” and “happiness” when it comes to getting hitched? No one, that’s who. Well some people probably did, but there’s no room for that blissful bullshit on this blog.

After the wedding in 1846, seventeen-year-old Effie and who-gives-a-shit-he-was-

Effie Gray, hotass model.

just-much-older Ruskin went to Italy so Ruskin could research his most important work, The Stones of Venice. I’m not sure you’re understanding how conflicted I feel, because The Stones of Venice is just a fucking masterpiece but he was SUCH a douche. Why was he such a douche, MRG? You haven’t told us yet. Oh, sorry I’m taking a little too long to tear down one of my architectural heroes. I’ll speed up.

Effie and Ruskin never consummated their marriage. As in never boned. Never had sexual intercourse, if you’re not into euphemisms (if you recall, Effie’s real name was Euphemia…hmm). They didn’t even do it in Venice, which is one romantic-ass locale. And rest assured that she was truly a confirmed hottie – she was modeling for various artists, including John Everett Millais (remember that name, bitches). So what gives?

Well listen up. Effie and Ruskin decided to have their marriage annulled after six years of non-coital torture, and during the trial, all kinds of crazy shit came out. Including Effie’s best guess as to why they never boned, written in a letter to her father (yuck):
He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April.

WHAAAA?! “Disgusted with her person?” What could that mean? What did Ruskin have to say in response? WELL I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

In defending himself, this fucking prince said:
It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.

UM. What. the. fuck. I mean you see what I see, right? He couldn’t look at let alone be aroused by this beautiful, kind, smart MODEL on their WEDDING NIGHT. “Her person was not formed to excite passion?” What did he expect was under those Victorian petticoats? What was he passionate about? Architecture. Did he think there were some Gothic mullions under there?

Sorry. I’m sorry. That was a little hysterical. I get it. I’m calm now.

Here’s what I think. Ruskin was an art critic. Which means that he spent a lot of time analyzing and writing about very idealized forms, including perfectly smooth and shapely Greek nudes. Which unlike humans, don’t have pubic hair, or moles, or scars, or whatever else could have possibly disgusted him. Presumably, such a twat couldn’t convince a lady to get naked for him before his marriage, so Effie was probably the first woman he’d ever seen in the nude. And he was probably shocked to find that she wasn’t made of white marble or that she GASP didn’t get a Brazilian before the wedding night.

In court, Ruskin accused Effie of a mental imbalance. You know, because a woman just CAN’T be in the right. She’s got to be crazy! But the judge called bullshit and Effie got her annulment. Ruskin went on to keep writing really excellent architectural criticisms and to never get married again.

And what about Effie? Well, Ruskin might have been disgusted by her bod, but John Everett Millais certainly wasn’t!!!!1

That’s right, our sweet Effie was a smart bitch. Millais had accompanied the miserable Ruskins

Here's the painting Millais did of Ruskin while simultaneously wooing Effie. A true renaissance man, he was.

on a trip to Scotland, where Millais was to paint Ruskin’s portrait according to his very specific artistic principles. And dear sweet Effie, who had been modeling for Mr. Millais for a while, was like “Hey John, my husband really hates my vagina. It makes him sick. Did you want to see it no big deal just want your opinion as to how you feel about my vagina and maybe the rest of my hot body.” Which didn’t actually happen, but they did fucking fall in love right under Ruskin’s upturned nose, and undoubtedly this was a huge impetus for the annulment.

Effie was still a virgin when she and Millais got MARRIED immediately after the trial! Doesn’t that just warm your cold, cold heart? And then they had like eight kids, so you know Millais didn’t have a problem with Effie’s perfectly normal bod. And also, he did these adorable matching portraits of himself and his lady, literally illustrating his love for her:

Listen to your aunt MRG. It’s moral time. Men: don’t fucking be like John Ruskin. I get that the whole no-pubic-hair thing is real big right now. I get it, I mean what lady doesn’t want to feel like a porn star/pre-pubescent child? But listen, regardless of the situation down under (and I don’t mean in Australia, AM I RIGHT!?!) just be grateful that you have a piece to slam. And ladies: just don’t marry men like John Ruskin. Find your Millais. And then Millais him. (Get it, because it’s pronounced mil-LAY. So like, I made a joke about it.)

A final lesson – humor isn’t humor if you have to explain it.

MRG