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.
Short, sweet, medieval. Two out of those three are things I like.
Question: who makes great fucking scandals? The British Royal Family, that’s fucking who.
In 1340 there was born a ladybaby named Alice Perrers to no great family or wealth. Though info on the lady herself is spotty, we know for certain that she was one of the most brazen hussies to dickhunt the Most Dangerous Game. Having been married at least twice before our scandal takes shape, she had little qualms about either releasing men back into the wilderness of heartache and shucking their own corn when she was done using their bodies and bankaccounts, or snagging some other poor bitch’s main squeeze. Even if that main squeeze happened to be Edward III, King of England.
She beamed her fierce diva gaze in his direction at court and he was done. She’s a notably scandalous mantrap, not just because of her affair, but because she securely held Edward, the Hammer of Medieval Manhood, by the pork and beans for the rest of his living days. She bore three children by him, and they were imbued with the mythic strength of royal bastards: they married richer than Rockefellers and spent the rest of their days shoving their parent’s illegal boning in everybody’s face.
Now I see you’re all scratching your heads. What does she mean? I’d have most definitely remembered such a baller biddy before. Well unless you’ve never had to take an English class in your life, then you do know this fox with a mouth insured by Lloyd’s of London. She’s the inspiration for Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.
Just a refresher for those who don’t loll themselves to sleep at night with the classics of medieval epic poetry, the Wife of Bath is one of the best known and best developed women in English literature. Alyson, or simply Alys, she was a rebel without a pause, a figurehead for feminist and antifeminist views of the Middle Ages, and a quadruple-married SBW who knew what she wanted and used her poon and business accumen to snag it. Her whore talons grabbed onto the rich, the old, the poor and the facemeltingly hot, but she come out on top every time she was down, and each husband’s head eventually exploded with her awesome. Read it for your goddamn selves, and raise a glass to Alice Perrers, forever immortalized as the greatest bitch this side of the Renaissance.
“Edward the Confessor,” or, “My Overly-Impassioned Defense of the Middle Ages Will Never Allow Me to Become an Accepted and Functioning Member of Society.”Posted: June 7, 2011
Ok, much like MRG, I’m going to start this off with some excuses. Hey, what better way? Anywho, I have not contributed to this blog because of many reasons. Namely, work (I clean toilets in hotels. I know, you’re saying to yourself, “Why doesn’t she just come up with brilliant entries and offensively crude slang terms for women while she pursues her mindless cleaning?” Answer: because instead I’m generally consumed with irrational rage/depression, prompted by the fact that my tip from any particular room is less likely to be monetary and more of the used condom variety.) (Also, fun fact, my official title really is, comically enough, “chambermaid.” Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that. Lord knows why.).
But, thanks to the wonders of a marathon True Blood viewing over the past few days (Admittedly, I’m not a big vampire fan, but what I do like, is high production values, southern-gothic revival, style over substance, supporting characters that are more interesting than main characters, and the hilariously prominent gap between Anna Paquin’s teeth.), and since HBO has no qualms about a lot of sex in their programming, I’m back in the ‘for shame mindset,’ shall we say.
So I return to my roots–The Middle Ages. It’s been far too long since we’ve touched on that great forgotten epoch, and in honor of the fact I did not fail either of my medievally-persuaded classes this past semester, I feel almost completely somewhat fully qualified to speak in a commanding tone on the general subject. Well, the tone is metaphorically commanding, considering that this is print, but whatever, you get it, let’s move on.
Now, in no way to belittle any other posts from me or my fellow bloggers, MRG and LHB, but I feel as though we have touched far too little on sex scandals with braod-reaching historical significance. It occurs to me also, that maybe people see these dramatic word-portraits we paint as being less than serious. I understand, this is a humor blog, BUT, as Flannery O’Connor said, “A comic novel is very serious, for all comic novels that are any good must be written about matters of life and death.” So let’s get involved in some geopoliticalass scandal, shall we?
I’ll set the scene: England. 1042. Shit’s so real it hurts. Since the late 8th century the country has experienced continuous coastal assfucking from the Vikings, been occupied, tried to fight back, got raped some more, segregated the land like it was the Jim Crow South (too soon?), got raped a lot more, etc. Anyway, things eventually settled into an uneasy-to-say-the-least arrangement in which (this is a gross oversimplification) the native Angles-Saxons managed to reorder their country and include the Viking Danes who had settled there, though there is a definitely ethnic divide. A lot of money changed hands, and a lot of blood with spilt by guys with names like Sweyn Forkbeard and Ethelred the Unready to reach this arrangement. The English crown has been in dispute for over a century, and was juggled from generation to generation between an Anglo-Saxon or Danish family. A major component in all of this has been the fact that the Anglo-Saxons AND the Danes have also been dipping their wicks into Normandy, the closest section of France to England.
IMPORTANT: Normandy is the darkhorse in this whole thing. The one who sneaks up and wins the triple crown, or takes over a country, you know, whatever’s convenient.
So to check our parts and make sure we know where we are—we’ve got a lot of political backstabbing going on between two groups who are overtly trying to live side by side, but actually would prefer to just push the others casually off the Cliff of Dover. People don’t like each other. People want to kill each other. People feel like the other side is getting to cut the last piece of cake AND pick which half they want. Things Fall Apart. The Center Cannot Hold. Feelings Are Getting Hurt.
Enter Edward the Confessor (This was before English kings got Roman numerals, so we give them nifty little nicknames to delineate). Before he took the throne, there were many other claimants- some from abroad thanks to marriage, and a couple in Eddy’s own back yard… An Anglo-Saxon, Edward had succeeded a Dane named Cnute (whose name has various other, even dirtier spellings) and his two short-reigning sons. Cnute was Edward’s stepfather, because his second wife had been Edward’s mom, Emma of Normandy (see, it’s all coming together now). Edward’s father and Cnute had both married her to not only strengthened their ties to Normandy, which was real verdent and shit, but also their descendants’ claims to the throne. But even though Edward had a legitmate claim to the English crown, that did not mean succession was in any way easy. Actually it was really really not easy. Picture how much you didn’t want to share a toy in kindergarten. Now picture that that toy is a country and everybody in kindergarten is willing to kill you/your family for that toy. Ta-da! That’s the essence of the early Middle Ages.
See, thing about Edward is, he’s been called one of the weakest kings in English history, namely because he left the country without an heir in a time of crisis. I’m talking no heir- not even a ladybaby. Historians tend to argue that he was either gay or extremely religous (hence the moniker, “Confessor”), and that’s why his royal loins sired no fruit. But, having lived much of his life in terrified exile, running from the Saxons, Edward was in fact incredibly resourceful. He was an excellent warrior and close with his arguably brilliant mother, Emma, even after his father died and she was remarried to Canute. Edward restored the English monarchy through political accumen rather than force (even though he had the chance on several occasions in the 1030s). I personally believe Edward to have been a pretty fucking good guy, and his reign was also one of the longest during the period, considering kings were dropping like preteen panties at a Justin Bieber tour. And nobody, not even a member of the Brit royal family is going to be that much of a complete dickwad and take a vow of celibacy when the situation of his country was so precarious. No, I see a larger, far more scandalous reason Edward never produced an heir, and I also spy tragedy on yonder horizon. To explain:
Edward knew one of the potential claimants to his throne was the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, named Harold (There’s several Harolds mixed up in this whole thing, but he’s easy to remember since his last name is, logically enough, Godwinson.). Godwin had helped Edward get to the throne because he was an advisor of Edward’s father, and the highest ranking lord in the country at the time, but he himself had no legitimate claim to the throne, so that’s why he didn’t swoop in like a giant douchvulture and take the crown for himself. Instead, Godwin tried to get in good with Edward, for the sake of his own progeny. He might have thought Edward was going to be controlled once he was on the throne, but no dice.
BUT, in 1036, before Edward was king, Edward and his older brother Alfred, the heir-apparent after Cnute’s sons, were invited by their mother to come to England from Normandy. Cnute had died the year earlier, and she was out of favor with his donkeydick son, Harold Harefoot, so she wanted some support in the form of her strapping young warrior sons. The brothers traveled separately for safety, and when Alfred touched foot on English soil, guess who Harry H. sent to roll out the welcome wagon? GODWIN, EARL OF FUCKING WESSEX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!11
Godwin kidnaps Alfred, blinds him and tortures him for like 5 days until he dies. In a dramatic retelling of the aftermath, Godwin somes to Harold with his deed:
Godwin- “Bro, just solved your succession problem!”
Harold Harefoot- “Fuck yeah, dude! Wanna do a couple jagerbombs?” But midway through
Godwin- “Fuck yeah!” (pops his cowl and partakes joyously of the jagerbombs)
Harold- “Oh shit, I forgot about Edward, Alfred’s punkass little brother.”
Godwin- “Naw, no big, man. He had like a skirmish or something then went back to Normandy like a bitch. You’re cool.”
(they continue to partake of the jagerbombs. end scene)
Wrong, fuckers. Edward never forgets.
When Edward ascends the throne less than 10 years later in 1142 and Godwin tries to get all nice-nice up in his shit by offering his daughter, Edward said, “Of course I’ll marry Edith and help put one of your loyal descendants on the throne!”
(^that’s what he said when Godwin left the room.)
most definitely probably ignores a shitload of various contemporary factors, but it was shown that Edward did not have an easy relationship, even in a professional capacity, with Godwin. They disagreed on matters of policy both domestic and foreign, and Edward had Godwin banished in 1051. Edward and Edith were married in 1043, less than a year after he became king, and when her father was bannished, so was she. Forserious, it is entirely possible that Edward, who was a devout Christian, affected a vow of chastity for his own spiritual purity. But I’m gonna call bullshit.
By not putting his p in Edith’s v, Edward felt there was little legitimate claim for the Godwinsons to his throne (there were in fact five son in the family). Harold Godwinson, who did infact succeed Edward in 1066, then promptly got an arrow in his eye, was possibly probably mildly maybe in Edward’s good graces because his superdouche of a brother, Tostig, tried to bring England into a civil war, and Harold was like, “let’s not do that.” The best record we have of the time comes actually from Normandy, post-1066, called the Bayeaux Tapestry. Details are interpretive in many cases, but it seems as though, on his deathbed, Edward gave his family over to Harold for protection- except, yeah, ok, but Edward’s ‘family’ was his estranged wife Edith, Harold’s sister. That’s like taking a book off of someone’s shelf and handing it to them as a gift, saying, “From me to you. No, no, I insist. You deserve to have this.” So like I said, it’s a little hazy in here.
One of my greatest goals in life is to try and change the way society views medieval history (That, and to get a credit card that says “JAF, Esquire,” but I think I need to have a law degree or a penis for that.). Our modern perception of the Middle Ages was crafted largely by the Renaissance and Enlightenment “historians” who were ready to assume that medieval people were both dumber than the “letters to the editor” page of the newspaper, as well as stunted, insensitive and with the emotional depth of a tea kettle (unless it came to prancing about in forest and fen with tights and a harp, and then medieval people were really tops). In essence- that they were less developed than Reniassance or Enlightenment historians.
But come on, guys! There is so much fire and life in this stuff! If you were Edward, why would you not want to give the ultimate “fuck you” to the son of the bastard who killed your brother? If you’re Harold why would you not sell your brother down the river for a chance at the throne of England? If you’re Edith, who very possibly helped author the Bayeux Tapestry, why would you not want to legitimize your brother’s claim to the throne, and make your withholding husband look like a weak little bitch for the rest of history?
We’re human: we felt just as much in 1011 as we do in 2011, and we can’t all do the nobelest thing. Edward left his country without an heir, purposefully, one way or another, and for selfish reasons. But, in the wake of a leaderless England, the Normans were able to seize power, and while the immediate effect was devastating, it is certainly one of the most significant events in world history, and possibly the most important for the English-speaking world. The language, culture, customs and country became what it is because of the Norman influence, but Wikipedia can expound on that if you feel the need for further investigation. My main point appears to have been that a sex scandal can effect not simply a few people but the entire course of history, so never sell short the effect of doin’ the nasty (or not, apparently).
Long long ago in the fall of 2010, we bloggers met studying abroad in England. Our program was excellent, specifically in that it involved a lot of study trips to old houses and castles and shit, which stimulated our love of history and also enabled our shameless need to constantly be hilarious (whether other people think so or not). How are old houses funny, you ask? WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED.
See, every time we entered an eighteenth-century country house or a medieval castle, we’d ask blogger LHB something ridiculous, stifling giggles. As in, “Hey, LHB, could you please talk about the significance of electrical outlets like this one during the English Renaissance?” to which LHB would reply, “Well I’m glad you asked. Everyone knows that electricity was popularized in the 1560s by Queen Elizabeth’s court electrician…” and hilarity would ensue. LHB is such a wealth of knowledge that everything she told us was absolutely 100% factual. So factual that it was fucking hilarious.
Okay, maybe you don’t see the hilarity yet, but you will. Because we’ve decided that Well I’m Glad You Asked will be For Shame’s first feature!
So in an effort to be seasonally appropriate, the inaugural Well I’m Glad You Asked is transcribed from a Facebook message between JAF and myself:
MRG: i can’t wait. and it might or might not be st. patrick’s day when we go to [there], which means…well, you know.
JAF: wait, what is this “st patrick’s day?” I don’t understand.
MRG: well i’m so glad you asked…
st. patrick was the original name of the st. bernard dog breed, but st. bernard killed st. patrick (who was italian) over a game of bocce. i mean st. patrick was italian, so he was really, really good at bocce. so good that he could win while eating gelato and flirting with unwilling young women simultaneously, because that’s what italians do according to cultural stereotypes.
so st. bernard, being un-italian, had a significant handicap. and he practiced and practiced and practiced, but he still lost.
and so great was his anger that when st. patrick won, st. bernard killed him by pulverizing his head with a bocce ball. and then to rub salt in the wound, he went to the american kennel club (which absolutely existed in this unspecified time) and got the name of the st. patrick breed changed to st. bernard. and because the dogs had been so loyal to st. patrick when he was alive, st. bernard punished his newly-eponymous pups by sending them into the alps, where he ruthlessly forced them to carry heavy barrels full of bourbon or whiskey around their necks through the snow, just to be a huge douche.
so that’s why we have st. patrick’s day. it’s a day of remembrance. for the dogs. and I guess also for st. patrick. and we drink a lot of alcohol on this day to metaphorically lighten the load of the poor st. patrick/st. bernard dogs up in the alps.
So there you have it, the first edition of Well I’m Glad You Asked. And shit’s so seasonal.