I want to start this much-anticipated post (HAHAHHAAA – that was a hilarious joke that I made on account of no one has been reading LHB DOES Germany which hasn’t hurt my feelings at all) by giving a special thank you to all of our new followers. To fill everyone in – we got a lil’ free publicity from an internet gal who writes a popular knitting-related blog, so now we have a bunch of new craft-enthusiasts/historical-sex-scandal-lovers reading For Shame! So a big WUDDUP BITCHES goes out to all our knitter-friends!! We’ll be looking for a scandalous crafter to honor you all very soon. And just so we don’t leave anyone out, thank you so much to those of you who are reading the blog because you know us/love us/have been coerced/threatened. Your support is invaluable. Really. My throat is a little tight. I love this blog. We promise not to forget about you when we finally get our coffee-table-book-deal and become super famous.
But enough of that bull shit, let’s make some dick jokes! AM I RIGHT?!?!
First of all, I know what you’re thinking because I’m omniscient. Just like Voldemort and Patrick Stewart from X Men. “LHB, the Romanovs weren’t German. What the heck does this have to do with you DOING Germany?” And to that I will respond, “I know. I get it. Shhhh. Be quiet.” Here’s what happened: I found Konstantin Konstantovitch on the Wiki page of the first subject of LHB DOES Germany and I really wanted to write about him even though he’s a Romanov. So here’s my thinking: As I’ve said many a time, during this period in European history, all them royals were marrying off their children to one another so everybody had a little Schnitzel in them, okay? Even the Russos. So for our purposes, that’s what happened okay? And by the end of the post, I’m sure I’ll find some sort of superficial connection to the Reichland and pretend like it’s way more real than it is in order to make this shit come full circle. So hold onto your lederhosen because it’s about to get historically scandalicious up in HERR.
As the Gods of Wiki tell us, Konstantin Konstantinovitch was the grandson of the Emperor of Russia. As a poet and playwright of some prominence later on in life, he became known by his pen name, KR, which was an abrev. of his transliterated name Konstantin Romanov. As a young boy, he enjoyed frolicking in fields, pressing flowers, writing poetry, watching musical theatre, listening to the music of Cher, dressing up in his mommy’s pearls and wearing her lipstick. So it’s not so surprising when he was sent away to military school he was kinda like, “Well, I’m not really into the whole fighting/violence thing but I don’t think I would HATE living with a bunch of other men in really close quarters for several years of my young adult life.” In the end, military life suited him. Since he got to be around dudes a lot.
Konstantin didn’t get around to marrying until he was 26, which was really old for Russian royalty. The Wiki article says that this is because he was “shy,” but I’m pretty sure in this case “shy” is another word for “gay.” He did finally marry his second cousin, Princess Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenberg (WHO IS GERMAN-ISH, thank you very much), and they ended up having 9 kids together. So he must have either loved her or have had a portrait of Brad Pitt on his headboard throughout their marriage or something because the two of them were great at procreating. The Wiki article on Princess Elizabeth has this to say about the royal couple: “The marriage was a success, although Grand Duke Konstantin secretly kept male lovers.”
Now, I’m no expert on being married since I’m 21 and, you know, in college, but I don’t know that I would call my marriage “a success” if my husband was in the habit of keeping male lovers. Call me crazy!
I’ll get to all of the Duke’s accomplishments later because he was a pretty awesome guy, but for now, let’s talk about how gay he was. Literally. This scandal is a sort of non-scandal scandal because nobody other than probably his wife and small circle of his close friends and lovers knew about his bisexuality during his lifetime. It was many many years after his death when his extensive diaries were published that people found out that this staunchly politically conservative Russian duke, devoted husband and father to nine children, swung both ways. (And one of his kids didn’t die until, like, 2001 so that must have been really awkward for her when daddy’s diaries were for sale at Barnes and Noble. “NEW in Paperback! Your dad liked guys, too!” It’d be weird, right?)
KR called his sexual interest in men his “main sin” and referred to entering male brothels as a succumbing to his “depraved inclinations.” Which, like, come on. So sad, right? Did your heart just break a little? Mine sure did and it’s really small. I mean, it’s the early 1900s and he’s Russian royalty. Europe is going to shit. I think you know where this story is ending for him and a few members of his ROMANOV family. And on top of all that political stress and responsibility, having a family, being a dad, ranking super high in the military, writing poems and plays and being arty, he’s gotta get his club on every night to figure out who he really is inside (his pants). It’s tough shit is all I’m saying. So it’s not surprising that by 1903 he had become a regular at Chez Hott Boyz, the most popular bath-house in St. Petersburg. FACT. You’re welcome.
In 1904 he wrote in his diaries about his encounter with a young man named Yatsko during which he discussed feelings of shame that came with being in la closet in the early 20th century. A long-term relationship developed between the two that he apparently wrote about for a number of years. Being a muckity muck in Russian society, he “befriended” a lot of interesting, arty people. Like the composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky. They enjoyed “playing piano” together.
In September of 1914, KR and his wife were in GERMANY (BOOM) on some sort of spa holiday weekend when a little thing called the World War I started (except they didn’t call it that then). They were taken as political prisoners and then allowed to meet up with the German royal family and then continue on back home to Russia where things were even better! NOT. Five of his six sons fought in the war and his two favorites died in 1914 and 1915 fighting on the Western Front and in the Caucasus theater. This was sort of a blow to their pop and he died of general bad health/a broken heart in 1915. Which turned out to be kind of a blessing, am I right?! His four surviving sons were kidnapped by the Bolsheviks in October of 1917 and later slaughtered with other members of the Russian Royal family. His wife and the rest of his kids managed to flee to Germany and then England and the United States.
A few glowing remarks about the late, cabaret-loving, figure-skating KR. He was a really smart, really nice guy. A good father. A valued member of the Russian artistic, literary, and scientific communities and a leader in early Russian Modernism. He was a patron of the arts and an artist and writer himself. He translated Goethe and Shakespeare into Russian, and he also acted in some of his own plays!
So, what have we learned here today? I think it’s pretty simple: being bisexual/gay when you’re Russian Royalty in the early 1900s has got to be a hard knock life and little Orphan Annie/Jay Z didn’t know shit.
Wilkomen to Part Zwei of LHB Goes to Germany – which, in the spirit of the blog, I’ve decided to rename LHB DOES Germany.
Remember the smokin’ yet frustratingly celibate princess and later nun that we told you about in Part Ein? Will you also recall the list of suitors/admirers that I wizzed through in which I briefly mentioned a young princess named Marie who probably (maybe not whatever let’s go with it), grew up having lesbian dreams/fantasies about Elisabeth because she believed her to be the “definition of beauty?” Well let’s just say that when that little Princess grew up to be a normal-sized Princess, she didn’t exactly follow the whole “only have sex with the guy you’re in love with” model that her girl-on-girl dream woman embodied. In fact, she sort of went in the opposite direction.
Shall I elaborate and continue to use sub-beginner level German interMITTEnly? If you insist.
Okay, get ready for a little family history – and shit’s complicated so put your listening face on, and pay attention. Princess Marie of Edinburgh was the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh who was the second son of my fav royal couple evaaa, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Our princess’s mommy was the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the daughter of the Emperor of Russia. She was apparently kind of a snooty patooty and no one really liked her and she didn’t like them back.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “LHB, what’s so German about an English princess with a Russian mother?” My answer, “Fucking everything.” Yeah. EVERYTHING is German about a half English/half Russian princess because the German royal family had spermies and eggs all over Europe at this time. You couldn’t walk into a royal palace in 1900 without impregnating or getting pregnant by some German royal. They knew how to spread their seed and they spread it good. Most notably, Prince Albert, Victoria’s hubby, was of the Saxe-Coburg haus and so all of their offspring were also part of the German royal family. So there. Now you can suck it and keep reading.
When Marie started getting the bleeds and was all ready to say “I do,” she and her first cousin (grossgrossgross), later King George V of England, fell in love. But their moms collectively thought the match was a no-go. If you’re thinking, “maybe they were ahead of their time and thought that marriage between first cousins was a little nauseating, wow, good for them,” you’d be wrong. Because really what was going on was Marie’s mom hated English royalty and George’s mom hated Maria’s mom due to a little kerfuffle over their royal titles. Sister-in-laws! Adorbs.
In the end, Marie ended up marrying Prince Ferdinand of Romania. In the spirit of MRG’s recent conquest over the GRE, let’s do some analogies in order to convey the nature of their relationship. Marie was to Ferdinand what the Big Bang was to dinosaurs. No, that’s not quite right. Marie was to Ferdinand what acid rain is to clean drinking water. No, this all makes Marie seem like the aggressor when really she was just a deviant. Marie was to Ferdinand what the Spanish Flu was to 1918? No…that’s not really it either. What I’m trying to get at is, she fucked shit up. Clearly, I would do terribly on the verbal because all of those things are about 0% analogous, but hey, I’m not MRG so cut me some slack, OK?
Marie and Ferdinand had 5 children “together.” Three of them are “definitely” his. And two of them were born after she began a long-term love affair with a man named Barbu Stirbey (because who wouldn’t give a blowie to someone with a name like that?!) Marie’s youngest son shares the same dark, smoldering eyes as Barbie, I mean, Barbu, so pretty much everyone believes that he was the baby-daddy. And most people believe that her second-youngest child, her daughter Ileana, also shared a little DNA with Barbu. SO…no big deal, 2 kids, non-royal daddy, 1 conclusion: Marie was a hard core adulteress – like, not the pussy kind. She was for real. Marie was to adultery what Evil Kenevil was to motorcycle stunts. (That one kind of works.)
And girlfriend new it. So a few years later, while still the Crown Princess of Romania (not yet Queen), she started another affair with a guy named Lt. Zizi Cantacunezendfkljsflksjsfslfkjds (spelled just like that). She was the best adulterer in the land and she loathed her husband, so she thought, “No harm, no foul, right?” Wrong.
The steamy affair was quickly discovered by her father-in-law (the KING) and then soon enough everyone was talking about it. It was like when Hugh Grant was caught cheating on whatsherface with that prostitute/stripper. It was all over the ‘bloids and anybody who was anybody was talking about it.
And then, just when everyone thought it couldn’t get any scandalouser, bitch found out she was PREGNANT. WHAT?!?! Uuuhh huh! You can’t make this shit up, people. So she flees to Coburg to live with her mom throughout the rest of the pregnancy and then the little love-child disappears from history fo’ eva’. The baby was either stillborn or was immediately sent to an orphanage.
This detail I find interesting. Ever since I read the entire Princess Diaries series as a tween (Okay fine, also in high school and maybe a little in college, whatever, shut up), I obviously have a teeny tiny fantasy that one day someone will tell me that I am a princess and Julie Andrews is my long-lost grandmother and Hector Elizondo will be my driver/future step-grandfather. Obviously. And after reading this about Princess Marie of Romania’s mysterious, long-lost love-child, it finally makes sense. I’m pretty positive about this, so tell all your friends: I am the great-great-granddaughter of the Queen of Romania, Maria Alexandra Victoria, making ME, LHB, a real-life Princess. BOOM. You heard it here first.
Anne Hathaway, Auf Wiedersehen. You are out; you can leave the runway.
Fuck, there’s a lot of History. Like layers and layers of it. If History was a person, it’d be on The Biggest Loser because that’s how big it is. As a result of History’s obesity, I found not one, not two, but three post-worthy sexually-oriented events during my pre-blogging wiki-athon that I desperately want to divulge. And they’re all kind of related. But I can’t do all of them now! What to do!!??
Let’s retrace our steps to come to a conclusion, shall we? Well, here’s how I usually get started on a post. I have an idea of what I want to write about. Par example: I’m going to Germany with my family on Saturday, so I wanted to do a post about…weiner schnitzel-ing. I wiki-d “List of Holy Roman Emperors,” because I really wanted to make a joke about how that title sounds like you’re saying “Holy shit!” but instead of shit, you’re saying “Roman Emperor.” Like, “Holy Roman Emperor, I stubbed my toe!” Yeah, I know. It’s comedy gold. But I couldn’t find anything great with the HREs, so I thought, “Hey! I’m the WWI nut, why don’t I dig up some shit on my homeboy, Kaiser Wilhelm II and then make some jokes about Kaiser Rolls?” (I know, I’m hilarious. Let’s go ahead and book me my Comedy Central special right now.)
Well, I did that and it turns out that he probably had a lot of affairs with women and maybe one with a dude (playaa), but none of that really got me hot and bothered. So I started clicking on members of his family, whose dicking around landed their royal butts on thrones all over the continent. And that’s where I started to milk the scandal juice.
Ew. That was gross.
I ended up with so much juice (sorry) that I think maybe what I’ll do is turn the fruits of all of this wiki labor into a three-post series that MRG will help me publish when I’m without the internets all of next week. So we can make the scandal juice last a little longer, you know?
Ok, sorry. Juice metaphor done. It’s gross. I get it. I’m over it.
First up, we’ll talk about my favorite kind of scandal…the non-scandal scandal! Like remember when MRG wrote about the Hawaiin King who didn’t want to marry his sister? Well, this is kind of like that except not really.
Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine (worst title ever) was said to be the most bodacious babe in all of Europe in the 1870s and 1880s. Considering 19th century hygeine standards and the lack or orthodontia, generally I would not consider this to be too huge of a feat, but then I saw a picture of her and I turned lesbian for like 10 seconds. So girlfriend looked good, ok? She looked so good that she was proposed to by a comical number of gentelmen. Her wiki article has an entire section called “Admirers and Suitors” and some of them are bullet-pointed because the section was getting too long. White girl problems, am I right?
Notable suitors include: The English Lord Charles Montagu, Henry Wilson – the Massachusetts Senator and later Vice President/sheep herder under US President Ulysses Grant, Duke Konstantin Konstantinovitch, the poet and soldier (and UPCOMING for shame! victim), the future Queen of Romania (the other upcoming for shame! culprit in the LHB Goes to Germany series – yes, we’re calling it that) who said that her beauty was the “thing of dreams” which I’m pretty sure means that she had lesbian dreams/fantasies about her.
Now here’s where the reverse scandal comes in. Two other really important people liked her and her not liking them back created some major royal family drams. First, it was her older first cousin, Will. Who later became Kaiser Wilhelm II. WOOPS!
Here’s how it went down. He was a student, going to University, doing keg stands of Carlsberg and boning mad bitches. You know, what everyone does in college. But occasionally, he’d skip out on the partay and go visit his fam in Hesse on the weekends. During this time his pepe started to get a little hard for his lil’ cuz, Liz. And then he, like, really fell in love with her and proposed marriage. She couldn’t have been more than 16 at the time so when Will came into her room to pop the Q, she was busy hanging up a new Justin Timberlake poster and didn’t see him at first. When she became aware of her cousin, on bended knee, next to her boom box which was blasting an old A*Teens album, she quickly turned down the volume and said, “Omigod…like, that is so sweet, Will, but I’m just not that into it. See you at Christmas.” (I was about to write Thanksgiving and then realized that they don’t do that in Germany. And then I realized that it is hilarious that I felt that part of the story needed to be geographically and historically plausible.)
So, back to the non-imagined part of the story: Bitch said NO to the future German Kaiser. Not cool. He was so heartbroken that he dropped out of school and moved back in with his parents. (Loser.) And Liz’ grandmommy, QUEEN FUCKING VICTORIA, was not too pleased with her.
Then, a few years later, Frederich II the future Duke of Baden, proposed to her and she refused him too. She just wasn’t feeling it apparently, but that made Queen Victoria even madder and made Frederich’s mom, EMPRESS AUGUSTA so mad at Elisabeth that she didn’t speak to her at family functions for years. She probably didn’t even put anything in her stocking at Christmas. Or wooden shoes or whatever the Germans do.
Eventually, Liz fell in love with a Russian Grand Duke Sergei after his parents died and she thought his grief and sensitivity was endearing. Whatever floats your boat, girl. I guess if you’re the Helen of Troy of your day, you kind of get to do who you want. At first when I read that she ended up with some rando, I was like what the fuck, woman!? But then I saw this picture of them and my tiny, tiny heart felt really warm and I imagine that, just like in the animated Grinch, it grew a whole lot bigger.
But then, WHAT?! He was assasinated – I know, assassination is not a non-scandal, that part of the post is over, but you should keep reading because it’s all still very…juicy? Sorry.
Anyway, her hubby died in 1905 when some socialist mother-fucker decided to make some trouble. It kind of broke her heart, so she became the abbess of a Russian Orthodox convent and devoted the rest of her life to philanthropy – which was cut short when SHE WAS MURDERED. What?!?! Yeah. In 1918, WWI finally finito, peace has cum and BAM! Lenin orders the arrest of Elisabeth and her Russo-German royal family and they end up getting thrown down a mine shaft. They survived the fall and then two grenade explosions and then finally died after some douchenozzel threw a large quantity of feiry brushwood down into the pit.
Bet you weren’t expecting that for an ending! I think the moral of this story is simple: Say “aight” when the future emperor of Germany proposes to you because worst comes to worst, you’ll end up living out your days exiled in some castle after a World War is fought and lost based heavily on the poor military decisions of your husband. If you marry for love, you’ll end up a political prisoner, murdered in a mine shaft.
On the upside, she was canonized by the Russian Orthodox church.
You win some, you lose some.
Okay. It’s Day 4 of Henry VIII Week, and he’s sort of looking like a big ol’ douche. I mean he kicked his first very kind and loving wife out of the palace to die a lonely death because he wanted to bang a smart, sexy hottie who couldn’t give him a male heir and was subsequently and swiftly beheaded, and he concurrently banged a very quiet and nice lady who gave him his heir and then died (probably because he sort of let her die). That was a very long sentence with a lot of adverbs, and I’m sorry if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Because like Matt Weiner does every summer Sunday, I’m about to complicate a character REAL fucking hard. And that character is our ever-growing ginger king with an insatiable libido, Henry VIII.
Let’s set the scene. It’s 1537, and sweet Jane Seymour has kicked the bucket, but little Edward VI is doing okay and that’s all Henry can really ask for. And he’s like “Hey, let me take a little break from the whole ‘wife’ thing. I need some ME time. I know, I’m going to get some monasteries and images of saints destroyed, and maybe burn some more Catholics or go golfing with my BFF Charles Brandon or something.” Because I believe that dear JAF might have forgotten to mention that Jane Seymour was VERY sympathetic to the Catholic cause. I mean she was a Protestant in name, but she became close with Mary, Henry’s uber-Catholic eldest daughter and tried to get her more rights in court. She also asked him to pardon the men involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace. What is it about Henry VIII that makes me digress so much? I don’t know. There’s just too many fun facts.
Anyway, Henry spends a couple of years living the single life, burning down beautiful examples of Gothic architecture and banging chambermaids. In 1540, his advisers are thinking that it’s time to get this guy back in the marital saddle. Because if royal history has taught us anything, it’s that one boy-child isn’t enough. You need an heir and a spare. But this time, Henry didn’t have Wife #4 on deck in the palace somewhere. Rest easy, people. His chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, had it all figured out. It was a total PR move. Where’s the most Protestant place in the world? Germany! Who are the most eligible ladies in Deutschland? Anne and Amelia of Cleves, docile young German noblewomen sisters!
So Henry’s not really into the whole wife thing. He’s enjoying his time hunting and burning people. But he knows it’s probably a good idea, so he tells Cromwell to have his favorite court painter, Hans Holbein, go do portraits of the sisters and then bring them back to jolly old England, at which point Henry would make a decision based on their appearance. Much like a fleshy customer at any American chain restaurant where the menus are 80% food porn, 20% words.
Hans Holbein – that sounds German, doesn’t it? Yeah, it sure fucking does. Anne and her li’l sis weren’t exactly models. And Hans might have given Anne (Amelia’s portrait disappeared/doesn’t matter in this story) higher cheekbones and lighter hair and a daintier mouth than she actually had. But he was just being a fucking patriot. He wanted some German blood in the English court, so he did what he had to do. Henry was like “Yeah, okay. I can deal with that,” upon seeing the portrait of Anne, and girlfriend was spirited away to the English port of Rochester faster than you can say “blind marriages ALWAYS work out!”
Remember when I said that I was going to complicate the character that we’ve LAID (get it?!) out for Henry? Well forget I said that for this part.
Anne stepped off the boat and Henry said “AW HELL NO.” A seventeenth-century historian later misquoted him as calling Anne a “Flanders mare,” and that name sort of stuck forever. Meaning she looked like a horse. Henry was NOT into it. He felt duped by Hans Holbein. I don’t want to say that he thought she was repulsive, but I mean, he didn’t have sex with her. And this guy would have sex with ANYTHING that had a vagina, soooo. Yeah, apparently she was a butterface. Or a Carson Palmer, as my high school history teacher would say (nice uniform, ugly helmet).
Not only that, but Anne was a classy, classy bitch. She was very modest, quiet (mostly because she didn’t speak English), gentle, and docile. Like a sweet lady librarian. Except she didn’t read books all that much. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that she was everything a sixteenth-century noblewoman should be, but she looked a little bit like a man. Man of Cleves.
But Henry went through with the wedding anyway because an alliance with the Germans was a BFD. And to make English Protestantism more legitimate. The two lovebirds got hitched in January 1540, and Anne converted to Anglicanism as expected. They didn’t bone on their wedding night (or ever), and the next day Henry told Cromwell, “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.”
By June, Henry was so over it. Anne was removed from court and told that her husband wanted to reconsider their marriage. And when you’re the King of England, “reconsider” means “get the fuck out of.” So it was annulled on July 6, 1540, on their six-month anniversary. He wanted out, I get it. But couldn’t he have waited one more day? I mean that’s just a douche move.
BUT this is where the character complication comes in! Henry fucking SHOWERED her with parting gifts. Like a reverse prenup. She got THREE CASTLES. One of which was the former Boleyn estate. PRECEDENCE OVER EVERY WOMAN IN ENGLAND. Except his future wives and daughters, but still. That’s a nice-ass settlement. She was an honorary member of his family for the rest of her life, and was known as “the King’s Sister.” Which seems a little weird. But she was just very close with Mary, Elizabeth, Edward, and even Henry. So much so that she never returned to Germany. For funsies, let’s compare her fate to say, I don’t know, Anne Boleyn’s:
Anne of Cleves: so many castles, so much land, lifelong court status, precedence over everyone, close relationships with the royal family 4eva.
Anne Boleyn: a French swordsman rather than an English executioner cut her head off.
So as you can see, even though he didn’t want to hit that, Henry really loved Anne of Cleves. And I’m not saying that because he gave her a lot of material shit. I’m saying that because she was the ONLY woman given that much access to his personal life that he wasn’t banging, and she had that access until she died well after he did. I really think that he respected her and just wanted to keep her around. I mean, which of his slampieces were getting this much respect? None. None of them.
I guess when it came to the ladies, Henry VIII either gave his dick or his honor, but never both.