On this very day in 44 BC, Julius Caesar got shanked by a bunch of his friends, giving us a ton of filmic and literary references for centuries to come, the best of which is obviously the Weiners-George metaphor.
But just because it’s the Ides doesn’t mean I’m going to talk about good ol’ Julie Caesar. It’s been done. If you want that story, watch the Liz Taylor Cleopatra or the Jeremy Sisto Caesar (especially the Sisto, because ain’t no Sisto like Sisto in a metal breastplate).
I’ve got something better for you. He’s blonde, he’s crazy, and he’s fond of whimsy. He’s EMPEROR CALIGULAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!1
First, though, let’s acknowledge that in the metaphorical “sexually scandalous people that history remembers generation after generation throughout time despite the frailty of human memory” conversation (which occurs at dinner tables across this great nation every night, no doubt), Caligula is like THE first guy you mention. Accordingly, let’s acknowledge how restrained we at For Shame have been in not writing about Caligula at all during this two-year blogsperiment. I mean it’s not like we forgot he existed. We just sort of held him in the Scandal Pantheon (Scantheon, hollaaa) with the likes of Misters Jefferson and Kennedy.
But then JAF was like, “I’m a really smart classicist and we should do an Ides of March theme week about Roman emperors!” And I was like, “I watched I, Claudius in high school Latin class and Caligula did crazy shit on it and that’s all I know.” And then poor JAF got the stomach flu last night.
So here we are.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was born to second cousins (who were each in turn byproducts of many other cousin-marriages down the ancestral line, so maybe keep the genetics in mind as we go here) in Antium in 12 AD. He got the nickname “Caligula” when he was three and following his dad, Germanicus, on some military campaigns. He’d dress in a tiny replica soldier’s uniform. Caliga were soldiers’ boots. Caligula were little soldiers’ boots. Hence the adorable nickname. I’m just including this because it’s actually the only cute thing about our Cal that ever happened, ever.
I could use this space to talk about how and why Caligula got to be emperor, but who actually cares about that shit? You want the crazy. I want the crazy. Let’s get CRAYZAY.
So during the first six months of his reign, Cal is absolutely beloved by Romans in all corners of the empire. He’s granting bonuses and pardoning people right and left, there are lots of slaves and animals being killed in superfun gladitorial combat, Inspector Javert is inspirationally seeking revenge, you get it. The general mood is pretty high on all seven hills of Rome.
Until 37 AD, that is, when Mr. Cal Ligula (also the name of a Staten Island small claims lawyer?) fell seriously ill. You’d think that maybe recovering from a near-death illness might make one kinder and gentler, but lucky for us that DID NOT happen. Instead, Cal started murdering EVERYBODY! “You get an execution! You get an execution! Even my young cousin/adopted son gets an execution!”
Then he went all 2007-shaven-head-Britney and the next four years were straight up insanity. You know what? There’s a lot of CRAY coming your way, so let’s make a couple lists to facilitate.
GENERALLY CRAZY SHIT CALIGULA DID:
· Built and rode a horse across a custom-built two-mile pontoon bridge from Baiae to Puteoli because this soothsayer one time said he had a better chance of crossing the Bay of Baiae on horseback than becoming emperor. This project cost a massive amount of money, lots of men died during the construction, the project added to the growing discontent in the empire, and he HAD ALREADY BECOME EMPEROR when he set out to prove he COULD BECOME EMPEROR. But he sure showed that unimportant-and-probably-already-dead soothsayer.
· Built a pair of giant ships. One was a floating temple to Diana and the other was what I imagine to be the first-century version of that kickass party yacht in Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin'” video. Except that this one had marble floors and as such weighed 7,400 tons. We all know how that goes.
· Tried to throw Britannia on the pile of Roman-conquered countries, but when his soldiers arrived at the English Channel, he ordered them to stop and collect seashells “as spoils of the sea,” then bring them back to Rome. Some historians think “seashells” was code for ships or something else of the military persuasion, but I think they’re neglecting the innate human desire to make shitty crafts.
· Started dressing as various gods and goddesses at public events, referring to himself as a god, and signing documents of state “Jupiter.” He also had a couple of temples rededicated to himself, which naturally involved removing the heads from sacred statues and replacing them with Caligula heads. And he decided the senators had to worship him as a god. Not the first boss with a god complex though, am I righttttttttttttt?
· Ordered guards to throw a few rows of spectators into an arena full of hungry lions during intermission at a gladitorial event because he was bored. Whereas when I’m bored during an intermission I go to the bathroom and maybe treat myself to a soft pretzel.
· Also enjoyed having prisoners thrown from high towers of the palace during his breakfast. The best part of wakin’ up is DEAD PEOPLE.
· Planned to make his favorite horse, Incitatus (from the aforementioned bridge ride), a consul. But he didn’t end up actually doing it. That’s a myth, you guys.
· Actually made Incitatus a priest. I’m sort of on board with this because I’d like to give a horse my confession. It would be a judgement-free zone and there would be some nice nuzzling at the end.
SEXUALLY CRAZY SHIT CALIGULA DID:
· After spending ALLLL the money left to him by his predecessor (we’re talking hella denarii – like $300+ billion today), opened a brothel in the palace to recoup. But of course he couldn’t have common skanks getting fancy all over the seat of the Roman empire. He needed a classier workforce, so instead he force-hired the wives of senators. But I think they got dental!
· Would inspect guests’ wives at banquets, and if he liked what he saw, have sex with said wives. If he REALLY liked what he saw, he would declare a couple’s divorce without their consent. (Insert “Take my wife” joke here).
· Would, after non-consensually fucking a married woman, discuss her performance with her husband.
· Held orgies, but obviously.
· Attended the marriage of a young officer named Proculus, and, pissed that they didn’t have an open bar, raped both Proculus and his new wife. Let the togae hit the floor.
· Boned a lot of dudes: Romans, prisoners of war, a court fool. He didn’t have a type, ya know?
· Boned all three of his sisters. So maybe actually his type was “similar genetic composition.”
· Maybe impregnated one of them. And according to I, Claudius (which, given the conflicting and crazy stories out there about this guy, is probably not the worst source) (plus Robert Graves was a certified dimepiece) he became obsessed with the idea that his son/nephew would overtake him, so he naturally CUT THE BABY OUT OF HER and ATE IT ohmygoddddddddisturbing.
I think maybe we should end here.
Obviously Cal wasn’t the most popular guy in the world after all of these shenanigans, so there were a lot of murder plots afoot. The one that succeeded — the Praetorian Guard, in an empty passageway, with
the candlestick lots of knives and swords — is notable because even his body guards, who swore a blood oath of loyalty, were over his bullshit.
Cal’s uncle Claudius, who had a stutter and club foot but was a sweet guy in a sour world, was made emperor, and the rest is this 1970s BBC miniseries I keep referencing (and if you aren’t intrigued already, Caligula is played by a young Mr. Ollivander). And there’s another Caligula movie in which you see Dame Helen Mirren’s royal boobs!
So maybe treat yourself on this Ides of March. To a little IDES CANDY. It’s what Caligua would have done (except there would probably be a few more naked corpses and horses around).
I’m about to drop a TruthBomb on you, For Shame! Faithful, and it’s going to fucking hurt. LHB has barely recovered herself, and she’s known for weeks. I shudder to think what JAF will say. KAB and I are new friends, so she’s probably cool with it.
THE TUDORS HAS BEEN SUPPLANTED AS MY NUMBER 1 FAVORITE PREMIUM CABLE SMUTTY HISTORY PROGRAM.
Shh. Calm down.
I remember all of those things. I do. Which is what makes this so hard. I just…I couldn’t control myself. This whole joblessness thing has turned me into a monster. An online video-streaming monster. I spent a whole month on a Netflix trip, and when I came to, the N just wasn’t enough for me anymore. I needed something else. So I turned to premium cable shows. And that’s where I found it. My new TV drug, The Borgias.
When it premiered last year, I read an article or two about it and dismissed the show as a blatant attempt by Showtime to recapture the success of history/blood/boobs circlejerk model that was The Tudors (RIP 2007-2010 Gone But Never Forgotten). You can’t just fucking put Jeremy Irons in a pope outfit and call it a new show!
But, dear buttons, that was when I was a young, naive little guppy, still in school, writing a thesis and auditing extra classes. I didn’t have time for a new television addiction. I had books to skim and beers to demolish.
Yet now that I am comically un-busy, I have watched this program, this seeming pretender to the Jonathan Rhys-Myers Memorial Sexy Historical Pay Cable Program Crown®, and I have seen the error of my ways.
The Borgias is fucking fantastic for many reasons, so in an effort to be brief and not spoil anything I will summarize, telegram-style: Pope in Renaissance Rome has kids, 3 sons, 1 daughter, a mistress, and an unnofficial wife. -STOP- Eldest son super fucking hot despite Cardinal outfit and curly shoulder-length bob. -STOP- Next son petulant but charming; in command of papal army but shitty at the job. -STOP- Daughter totally pretty and sweet and marriageable. -STOP- Other son unimportant to plot because he’s like 10 and can’t have sex with or kill anyone yet. -STOP- Mistress and wife smart, savvy, respect one another. -STOP- Political intrigue clear and important, but nuanced relationships, personal and divine, are central. -STOP- Phenomenal character arcs. -STOP- Subtle and funny references to Italian Renaissance culture/figures. -STOP- Beautiful costumes and sets. -STOP- Excellent plot development and pacing. -STOP- Lots of butts and boobs, but not too many. -STOP- Appreciate the depiction of my cultural heritage pre-mobs, pre-pizza. -STOP- Did I mention the hot Cardinal son?
So it’s RULL good and I can’t recommend it enough. And much like its inferior stepbrother, The Tudors, The Borgias is absolutely RIPE with based-on-actual-historical-events sexy scandal.
Showtime, you beautiful bastards.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist profiling one of the Borgias after I finished watching the only two seasons that have aired. I’m sort of going through Borgia withdrawal. So today I’m going to focus on the sexytimes of Lucrezia Borgia, the aforementioned sweet and marriageable daughter of Pope Alexander VI, but please rest assured that every fucking one of these mofos was laughably promiscuous and corrupt.
Not much is known of Lucrezia, really, as with most historical ladies. But that’s the way the gender-inequality cookie crumbles, I guess. Historians think she was born in or around Rome in or around April of 1480, but they know she was the daughter of then-Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Jeremy Irons Primus) and his main mistress, unofficial wife, and mother of his four known children, Vannozza dei Cattanei.
Now the actress they have playing Lucrezia on the show, Holliday Grainger, is wonderful at her job, has a great showbiz name, was in Any Human Heart, and seems pretty visually accurate, given contemporary descriptions of Lucrezia. Additionally, I sort of kind of want to be her.
This is a roundabout way of saying that The Real Miss Borgia was the fucking shining exemplar of ideal feminine beauty in late fifteenth-century Italy. She had blond hair that fell past her knees, hazel eyes, big boobs, straight white teeth (which was a BFD in an era before dentistry, mind you), a long graceful neck, and people said that she walked like she was “floating on air,” which apparently was pretty boner-inducing among the cortigiani. Anyway, she was widely renowned for her beauty, mostly because every painter in the Eternal City wanted to get their paws on her, plus her popedaddy could afford to commission a lot of paintings of her. Plus-plus, in a country without a centralized monarchical system (this was when the Italians were still down with all that feuding kingdoms jazz), she was essentially the Princess of Christendom once pops put on the Holy underpants, which made her HELLA marriageable in addition to being HELLA pretty.
Maybe I should pump the brakes here. From your extensive knowledge of Catholicism, you’re probably thinking that this all seems a little…unCatholic. Because of that little priestly celibacy rule. Were Mr. Borgia celibate, Lady Lucrezia would not exist. And even if Mr. Borgia managed to cover up the fact that he was getting his D wet all over Rome, one would think that perhaps he might not want to parade his beautiful daughter around for suitors, or appoint his younger son Giovanni head of the papal armies, or very publicly name his extremely hot older son Cesare a Cardinal. That’s the thing about these Borgias, people. They just don’t give a fuck! Watch the show! Mr. Pope Borgia was like “I am Pope. I have sex. These are my kids. They exist and will get nice things because I said so. Kiss my goddamn ring and bring me a calzone.”
He spake and it was done.
And one day, while he was calzone-grubbing, Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pisaro, cousin of the powerful Duke of Milan, barged into the PopeRoom, and was like “GIMME DAT DAUGHTER.” Such a marriage would be politically advantageous, so the Pope finished chewing and was like, “Blokay” and shipped his THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD BABYDAUGHTER off with this hairy caveman of a dude twice her age.
Naturally this was probably not what happened, exactly, but I like to pretend. Keeps me young. Anywhooo, the show depicts this marriage as terrible and abusive for little Lucrezia. No one knows how it really went, but it is known that fairly soon after the wedding, the Pope really didn’t need this cousin-of-someone-important in the papal court so much anymore, politically speaking. He realized he could use Lucrezia’s hand in mawwiage for more useful alliances were she conveniently not married, so after planning to have Sforza murdered, the big softie had a change of heart. Instead, he summoned his daughter and her cavehusband to Rome for a groundless annulment hearing in front of the entire College of Cardinals.
Sforza, although a Neanderthal, knew he had a good thing going with his beautiful Renaissance trophy wife, and refused to agree to the annulment. That’s when Lucrezia, daddy’s little girl, pulled out the big guns and claimed that the marriage had never been consummated due to her husband’s impotence.
EXCEPT, OH YEAH, SHE WAS SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT. On the witness stand. No one knows who Lucrezia made that little guy with, but she named him Giovanni (possibly after her Neanderhusband) and he went on to be remembered as the Roman Infante.
Sforza, understandably, was pissed. He was being emasculated in front of God, the Pope, and the forty most important men of the cloth in Christendom. So he accused Lucrezia, her father, and her super hot Cardinal brother Cesare (played on the show by up and coming ladyboner insipration Francois Arnaud, whose name is comically sexy) of some kind of incestuous love triangle thing. It was probably a last-ditch effort at saving face, but historians believed for a very long time that the Roman Infante was actually Cesare’s son. Which is icky and most likely untrue, but TOTALLY SCANDALOUS. Now it may seem that Lucrezia did not deserve this divorce, what with being visibly pregnant and really having no case whatsoever, but one of the perks of being the illegitimate child of the Pope is getting whatever the fuck you want, so BOOM, annulment acquired by 1497.
Next, daddy needed a little help from the Neapolitans, so he had Lucrezia marry Alfonso of Aragon, the brother of her youngest brother’s wife (take a second to process it) less than a year after the divorce and a few months after giving birth to her son (and possible son-nephew if the incest thing is true). He died by 1500, and Cesare might or might not have killed him. But probably not. Italians: great at pizza and paintings, not so much at keeping accurate records.
Third time was a charm for Lady Lucrezia, who married Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, early in 1502 (people did not fuck around when it came to getting hitched back then – in frequency or efficiency). By this marriage she’d presumably figured it all out; she popped out a lot of kids for him, but also embarked on a couple long-term affairs almost immediately after the honeymoon was over. First girlfriend flipped back through her 1497 little black book and booty called Francesco of Gonzaga, who’d been her brother-in-law when she was married to Sforza the Milanese Yeti. According to Mother Wiki, their affair lasted a while and was “more sexual than sentimental as can be attested in the fevered love letters the pair wrote one another.” They had to call it quits when Fran got syphilis BUMMER. Lucrezia also boned the poet Pietro Bembo, and their letters have survived. Lord Byron famously called them “the prettiest love letters in the world,” and when Lord Byron gets a woodie from your writing, YOU KNOW shit was hot.
Lucrezia died in 1519 at 39 giving birth to her eighth child, after a life of distinguished boning. Yes, she was essentially a political pawn for her father in the early years, but you’ve got to admire the sexual gumption it must have taken to juggle innumerable lovers (ITALIAN lovers, at that) across marriages, illegitimate kids, and social diseases. Additionally, she might have had sex with her hot brother, and I know incest is bad, or whatever, but………he’s so fucking attractive on the show…let’s just call it a gray area, okay?
So let’s all watch The Borgias, raise a meatball, and pour out some Prosecco in honor of Lucrezia Borgia, who didn’t let Catholicism, conventional gender roles, a Neolithic first husband, or shared genetic material get in the way of her boning spree. Cin cin!
Additionally, I don’t know if I’ve articulated this clearly, but BROTHER HOT ON SHOW.
Anne Boleyn. Anne Bullen. Anna Bolina. Six-fingered whore-bag. Home-wrecking witch. Brother-fucking traitor.
These are some of the names we call history’s most scandalous woman. What do I call her, you ask? My fucking IDOL is what. Last semester in Bath, I would often attempt to offer scholarly remarks on the aforementioned perp in class, and Ruth would look at me quizzically and say something like, “are you saying that because you read it in The Other Boleyn Girl.” The answer was always a sheepish, “yes.” But for the record, I’m currently reading David Starkey’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, which might not be scholarly, but it’s a step above historical Romance, ok?! The point is, I have reveled in this story for some time and have fallen very deeply in love.
Other than being the strongest Strong Black Woman we’ve written about to date, Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII whose feminine power and intellectual prowess started the English Reformation and changed the course of western civilization, and perhaps most importantly, she was the mother of England’s greatest queen.
The story begins at a small estate called Hever, and ends exactly 475 years ago TODAY at Tower Green atop a charming little scaffold. But we have a while before things get grim, so let’s enjoy our heroine’s childhood while we can, am I right?!
Anne was the second daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard. They were a power couple if I’ve ever heard of one. They probably sat up in bed at night with their Macbooks and a copy of the wall street journal, moving little chess pieces that looked like their children around on a map, plotting world domination.
Their first daughter was a sassy little tart named Mary. Contrary to Phillipa Gregory’s entertaining but inaccurate portrayal of Mary, Anne’s older sister was probably kind of a dumb-dumb. She got kicked out of the French court in 1519 for boning too many dudes, namely the King. Let me repeat that. The FRENCH kicked HER out of court. For boning TOO MANY dudes. Not something the Frenchies are typically concerned with, so she must have been getting WAY too many D’s wet is all I’m saying.
See, while Mary was off learning how to give BJ’s and having two of King Henry’s illegitimate children (YUP!), Anne was sent off to the most elite educative households on the continent where she learned French and Latin, read Aristotle and Socrates, was exposed to the new Humanism of the English Renaissance, learned french fashion, dance, and music, theology and political theory and became quite the smarty pants along with her brother and best friend, George Boleyn. Aside from her excellent education, one of the most indelible marks on Anne’s adolescence was her sister’s affair with the King and how she never became anything other than the Other Woman. Savvy and sexy young woman that she was, girlfriend knew she was never going to spread her legs unless he put a ring on it (to quote another strong black woman I know.)
At the court of H.VIII, where she was a lady in waiting to wifey numero uno, she had an affair with a man named Henry Percy. They entered into a secret betrothal but then Percy’s dad found out and was like, “HA! No.” and Anne was sent off to the country to lay low for a while. She came back to court eventually and then might have had a little flirtation with the poet Thomas Wyatt. Or maybe he was just obsessed with her. We don’t really know. What we do know is that Wyatt wrote some beautiful poetry that was later used as evidence to condemn Anne to death on charges of adultery. WOOPSIES. But let’s not get aHEAD of ourselves (DO YOU GET IT?! It’s not a BJ joke this time! It’s an execution joke!! HA! Those are the best kind.)
In 1526, H.VIII fell in love with Anne and wanted to get what was his one way or another. He spent a year begging her to be his mistress — who would say no to that you ask? the answer is NO ONE which is why Anne was so incredible — she was like, “I’m a lady! I do lady things! And you’re going to have to marry me if you want to see what’s under these bloomers.” I want you to forget the image of Henry as a fatty right now because he didn’t put on those lbs for a few more years. When he met Anne, he was said to be the handsomest prince in Christendom. (And Anne, Catherine of Aragon said, was the “scandal of Christendom.”) So, reason number one why Anne was a badass, she refused to lay one of the hottest, most powerful men in Europe and he stayed real fucking interested for, like, 6 years! According to wiki, scholars maintain that they probably weren’t doing it for MOST of their relationship. I think we can all agree that Blue Balls champion of the world for the years 1526-1533 goes to King Henry VIII of England. Rock on, man. After a year, Anne coyly (I imagine) agreed to marry Henry. But OOPS, Henry was still married to Queen Kat.
We’ll skip over the next six years because MRG pretty much covered the basics in our last post. Here are the highlights:
- Bye bye Queen Catherine!
- Hello Act of Supremacy!
- Adios Catholicism!
- Shalom Church of England!
- Tata Thomas More!
- Bonjour Thomas Cromwell!
- Ciao checks and balances!
- Aloha absolute power!
After that delightfully linguistic summary, let’s conclude our story.
So Catherine was stripped of her title and sent to die in a very drafty castle built on a swamp, and on June 1, 1533, Anne’s coronation took place at Westminster. At the time of her coronation, she was pregnant with a baby that everyone was SURE was a boy. SO…FUN FACT courtesy of MRG…because everyone was so certain that she was pregnant with the future King o’ England, she was crowned using the crown that is only used for Kings. Pretty cool, huh?
But, SHOCKER, it wasn’t a boy! Anne gave birth to princess Elizabeth who later became my number two favorite historical figure ever, Elizabeth I of England. (Number One goes to Anne and a Number Three goes to early 20th century American attorney, Clarence Darrow.) Not to get all sappy, but I think you can tell the kind of woman Anne must have really been when you look at Elizabeth. She was brilliant and beautiful, with a terrible temper (that probably came from her father), fiercely outspoken, assertive, headstrong, and an inspiring leader with impeccable taste.
People were OK with the baby being a girl. This time. But pressure was ON for her next pregnancy. It HAD to be a boy. Or else. (Jeezuz, can you imagine carrying a baby to term under that kind of stress?! Yeah. Me neither.) She was pregnant again in 1535 and everyone was SURE it was going to be a boy. I mean, all of the best astrologists told them it would be. Early in 1536, Anne was watching Henry joust in a tournament when he was unhorsed and knocked unconscious for, like, 2 hours. Miscarriage 5 days later. Who can blame her?
Answer: a lot of people. Vicious court rumors about her started to flare up around the time of the miscarriage. People said she was a witch, some people blamed her for the Henry’s tyrannical government, others said that she had a secret miscarriage or stillborn early in 1534 and that the baby was a monster, and that she maybe kind of was having affairs with several other men and maybe kind of also her brother. Uh. Oh.
As she was recovering from the miscarriage after the tournament, Henry started to lose interest. What was the easiest way to get rid of your wife when you’ve already changed the religion of an entire country in order to get permission for a divorce from your first wife? Answer: Kill the bitch.
Anne was brought up on charges of adultery, incest and treason. George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton, a court musician that he was probably boning were brought up on charges of treason and sodomy (ie doing it in the butt.) After probably hours of torture, Smeaton admitted to being the Queen’s lover. The two perfectly coiffed men were executed on tower green outside Anne’s tower room window on the 16th of May, 1536.
Anne was originally sentenced to execution by burning, but loving husband that he was, Henry had it switched to a beheading. He also had a skilled swordsman sent from France to execute her with a sword rather than the typical axe. SO KIND! According to Showtime’s The Tudors (which is all about historical accuracy) Henry had her execution delayed several times to fuck with her mind. I don’t know how true that is, but it makes a good story. She saw Thomas Cranmer on the morning of her execution for her last confessions and swore that she was never unfaithful to the King.
On MAY 19 1536, Anne Boleyn’s head was chopped off by a French swordsman in a private execution in the Tower of London. And just like that, one of the most brilliant but fatally ambitious women in history was gone.
What do I think? Did she do her brother? Did she have any affairs? Was she a witch? WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Anne Boleyn was brilliant. So no, she probably didn’t do any of it. She was too smart, too ambitious, too cautious, too aware of the system of the English Royal Court to make a wrong move. I think that she was the victim of an immature, resentful, and impatient King and a jealous court. And that’s it.
So let’s call this post what it is. A love letter to my historical idol. Let’s just make it official, shall we?
(Queen) Anne Boleyn,
I wish you hadn’t died when you did because it was probably really unfair, but your story has provided inspiration and material for countless artists, playwrights, novelists, Showtime producers, and college girls who write history blogs. So for that reason I’m not entirely upset about your untimely and probably unfair execution. I just have a really big historical boner for you and your sexploits, OK?! There, I said it. It’s true.
Just in case you haven’t heard, your daughter ended up leading England through its greatest years all by herself, no cray-cray king by her side.
In conclusion, you are super interesting and I love learning about you.
With an embarrassing amount of nerdthusiasm for your story,
PS — I love that necklace you always wear! I have one just like it!
Break out the tiki torches and mom’s Malibu rum, because For Shame is about to get real tropical. And real scandalous. INVERSELY SCANDALOUS, in fact. But more on that later.
That’s right, for our penultimate installment of Diversity Week, we’re checking off that most coveted of college application ethnicity boxes: Asian/Pacific Islander. We’re going to Hawaii! Beautiful beaches, probably unsafe volcanic activity, coconuts, coffee, Lost, Barack Obama, a twelve-letter
alphabet, poi. So many wonderful things to be had.
And one of the most interesting things about Hawaii is its complex royal history. Only four states were independent nations prior to joining the home of the brave/land of the free – Vermont, California, Texas (typicallll), and you better believe it, HAWAII! And not only that, Hawaii is the only state to have been a motherfucking kingdom before William McKinley came in and annexed that shit right up just to be a douche (and probably also for other legitimate political reasons). I’m not saying that McKinley’s assassination was deserved (Kahma’s a bitch, am I right?!) but I’m also not not saying that it was deserved.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s head back to 1810, when the eight main Hawaiian islands were unified under Kamehameha I, who was the first monarch. He had a ton of kids (being a royal and doing it right) and that’s where we begin our INVERSELY(!) scandalous tale of royal lovin.
Our hero, Kauikeaouli, was Kamehameha’s second son. His big bro Liholiho took the throne as Kamehameha II when papa Kam died in 1819; Kam II died in 1825 in London on a diplomacy trip after catching measles.
Which left young Kauikeaouli King of Hawaii at the age of 11. Upon ascending the throne, his name became Keaweaweʻula Kiwalaʻo Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kiwalaʻo i ke kapu Kamehameha. Just rolls off the tongue. The history books call him Kamehameha III, but even that’s too long for me and my digital-age attention span, so I’m going to call him K3.
K3 was sort of a loose cannon. When he was a kid, his stepmom acted as Queen Regent and was a huge Puritan. John Winthrop would have been proud. K3 was faced with a choice: Should he respect his stepmom by buying into her Western Jesus nonsense? Or should he honor the awesome traditions of his people? I can only speak for myself here, but even if you just look at the fashion, it’s an easy choice. Modest bonnet or grass skirt? Black scratchy wool dress or coconut bra? High ruffled collar or lei?
But K3, respectful young man that he was, had a hard time deciding. And in response to his anxiety, he did what any young (seriously, he was 11) person of means would do: he got smashed.
The mayor of Oahu was a close family friend and was moonlighting as a liquor store owner, and he hooked our boii upppp with the finest tropical beverages. More Mai Tais than you can imagine. All the Bay Breezes you could ever want. Obviously, an endless Blue Hawaiian river. Actually, K3 wasn’t a middle-aged woman so it was probably just rum and malt liquor. Either way, his drinking subverted the shit out of his stepmom’s Puritan ideals.
And oops, she acted as his regent until he was eighteen! So needless to say, there was some tension in the Royal Hawaiian Palace. Anyway, she died in 1832, and K3 was free to rule.
Q: When a young man ascends the throne of any nation in history ever, what’s the first thing he should do to make sure everyone calms the fuck down?
A: Find an appropriate lady, marry her, and knock her up, STAT. Repeat as necessary.
K3 was no dummy. He knew what he had to do. And if you recall, he was really into honoring Hawaiian heritage.
And according to ancient Hawaiian traditions, the best way to keep the royal bloodlines so fresh & so clean was to marry other royals. Other Hawaiian royals. From an isolated chain of islands. On which there was an absolute monarchy. Which can only mean one thing…INCEST!
Now, this wasn’t any of that FDR/Eleanor fifth cousin-once removed bullshit incest. This was brother-sister, Flowers in the Attic incest. And among royals, this kind of incest was not only acceptable to the public at large, it was sort of the best possible thing that could happen to the royal bloodline.
So K3, good king that he was, wanted to do things by the ancient Hawaiian book. And he thought, “Welp, this feels a little weird, but my grandparents were also half-siblings, and they were fucking great. Hmmmm, who could I marry? Hey, my sis Nahienaena has been looking FINE lately. And she’s fucking marriageable as shit. And I always liked when we played with blocks together as kids. BOOM, Queen chosen.” Plus, according to many accounts, Nahienaena was also in love with him.
Now get out your old Calc book, because it’s INVERSE time!
K3 and Nahi were all set to tie the knot and get down to business (the business of babymakin’). The bridesmaids’ grass skirts were being fitted, Nahi picked out a beautiful white satin Swarovski-encrusted coconut bra, and the whole island was gearing up for what promised to be history’s most bitchin’ luau/wedding reception. But remember K3’s Puritanical stepmom? She’d invited all kinds of Christian missionaries (haha it’s also a sex position, you guys) to the islands during her lifetime, and most of them stayed along and still had some measure of influence in court. And those missionaries DID NOT like the whole incest idea.
So they flagged what would have been a lovely, happy marriage, satisfying to the bride, the groom, and a lot of Hawaiian subjects. They even found K3 another less-related woman to marry. She was the daughter of the governor, she was hot, and she was wicked smaht, but the heart wants what it wants. K3 pussyfooted around for two years(!) until prospective wife number 2 died. Then the missionaries found him a Chiefess to marry, but she was the daughter of a sea pilot (ie commoner), and K3 said, “Okay missionaries, I see your poor second attempt and I’ll raise you an education requirement.” He demanded that the Chiefess undertake years’ worth of schooling to match his intellectual prowess. You know what they say: never engage in a battle of wits with a Hawaiian. That’s the saying, right?
Meanwhile, K3 and Nahi were getting their bone on. You might be squirming a little bit. I get it. But they loved each other and it was normal according to their heritage which is more than you can say for a lot of royal fornicating. Anyway, Nahi got knocked up and gave birth in 1836. And K3, badass that he was, said “Hey fuckers, this is my kid, I love him, he’s royal as shit, and he’s going to be my heir whether you like it or not.”
But then the baby died a few hours after birth. And Nahi died a couple months after that. I just fucking turned the tables of sympathy, didn’t I?
K3 was left all alone. And the missionaries won. So K3 was like “Fuck it, bring me the dumb Chiefess. Let’s do this.” And the Hawaiian people were absolutely pissed that these missionaries would fuck up centuries of tradition. But they were married and had two kids who died before reaching adulthood.
And therein lies the inversion: he wanted to be with his sister, and the Hawaiian people were scandalized when he didn’t/couldn’t marry her.
Kamehameha III went on to rule Hawaii for almost thirty years. He’s known as one of its greatest kings, he oversaw a switch from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, and his biggest goal and success was in balancing Western ideologies with ancient Hawaiian customs. He was sort of a great dude. Herman Melville (who based a book on K3), didn’t think so, but he was an ass (Not really, he was awesome. But wrong about our friend).
Ultimately, this is the story of a man who said, “Aloha,” and then sadly, “Aloha,” to personal happiness. Sure it was incest. But it was socially acceptable and hoped-for incest. And you can’t fight a love like that.