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.
Hello Scandalites! It’s back to school time, and in honor of all the wee baby scandal-lovers that are headed, freshfaced, off to another year of
equality-promoting peace-mongering liberal bullshit indoctrination higher education, For Shame! brings you a theme week close to our collective hearts: Siblings Week.
LH and MR are not the only historically minded gossip hounds in the respective B and G families, no, no! We’ve got raunchy tales of debauchery, told in the blog’s trademark (charmingly) foul tongue, and served hot and salacious by the native brilliance of REB and AMG. Their posts won’t necessarily be about scandalous bloodlines, but trust us when we say that the our fascination with ye-olde p-in-v is clearly genetic.
Unfortunately, KAB’s siblings are, in her words, “lame,” and will not be participating unless there’s some kind of 11th hour sports movie miracle. But, we love her anyway, so we’re not too put out. And I, JAF, have been tasked to introduce this exciting new foray into having other people write posts for us, because sadly I was destined to tread the paths of this earth in fraternal exile, carrying on the legacy of the great House of F solely upon mine well-developed shoulders. Either that, or I resorbed all my potential siblings in the womb, we may never know.
So, as a bit of an appeteaser for the week (and, in vain personal honor of my recently completed master’s dissertation on “The Medieval Ages”), I’ve got a mini post about the all kinds of fucked that Charlemagne’s 18 kids were.
Now, Charlemagne himself was a pretty scandalicious slab of man meat. He was shredded like lettuce, over six feet tall, with soul-piercing blue eyes, and a luscious ginger mane and a magical mustache that just begged to give rides. He was generous with his cashmoney, his kingdom essentially created the French and German empires, his patronage of the arts created a cultural renaissance, and he loved to partay, but disliked drunkenness (because he had class, bitchez). He had four and a half wives (one was annulled, but whatever, they totally boned), five known concubines, and probably like a bazillion other pieces on the side, because, come on, he’s the most powerful man in Christendom and he looks like a Ken doll. What wench in her right girlbrains isn’t gonna try and get into those hose, amirite?
Via these prime lays, Charlie, in his seventy odd years in this mortal coil, sired a slew of progeny: 11 ladybabies, and 7 normies (boys). He was exceedingly devoted to all of his children, legitimate and otherwise. They willingly traveled with him nearly everywhere he went, including military campaigns, and were uniformly highly educated in The Seven Liberal Arts. These, thankfully, have evolved from the totes blahh originals of “Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music,” to “BuzzFeed, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Intro Psych.”
His sons populated the governmental and clerical hierarchy of early medieval Europe (proving the old maxim that kids are “cheaper by the dozen and a half when made for dynastic purposes”), but his daughters were essentially left to their own devices….which was fucking.
There was a reason ol’ Charles was in charge, and he foresaw that if his daughters legally attached their ladybits to corresponding men, he’d have more sons-in-law than you could shake a crosier at, grabbing for a piece of his Holy Roman EmPIEre (DOYOUSEEWHATIDIDTHERE????). So, they were allowed to carry on as many relationships as they wanted, but they could never marry. No forced marriages, no political arrangements were ever made. His daughters’ common-law husbands were even rewarded with places in court (one was actually canonized), and Charles reportedly “loved the shit out of” the buttloads of illegitimate grandchildren which were produced, BECAUSE MAYBE HE TOTALLY WANTED HIS DAUGHTERS TO BE HAPPY LIKE MAYBE JUST A LITTLE I DON’T KNOW EMOTIONS AND STUFF.
Anyway, this fairy tale called eighth-century France ends when Charlemagne dies in 814 and his son, Louis the
Wetblanket Pious, takes over and locks up his sisters who haven’t entered the monastic life for being slorebags.
So that’s my fast n’ nasty introduction to Sibling Week—stay tuned for more scandal de la familia!*
Dearest readers, what better way to begin your bleary-eyed Saturday mornings than with a strong cup of coffee for your overworked bloodstream, and a cup of knowledge for your mindbelly: an only slightly belated super topical post about dirty Popes!
Now please internet, this is not to say that we here at for shame! are in any way accusing Pope Benedict XVI of doing any of the things we’re about mention—in fact, every one of these holy perpetrators lived in my own very favorite times, the Medieval Times ™, and as we’ve established, anything goes before the Renaissance, heyo!
Also, most of this is probably totally bullshit, and anyway, to err is human, etc., etc.
Alsoalso, it wasn’t 100% completely mandatory for someone in holy office to be celibate until 1139, but let’s just say it was a pretty good idea if you weren’t dipping your wick in very saucy inkpot that came along.
Thricealso, MRG has already touched on the beauty of beatific sin, so you should probably read that too because it’s excellent.
Quadralso, all of these men have been dead for a reaaaaally long time, and no further defamation can been brought upon their reputations that hasn’t already been set down in a textbook you were maybe probably definitely supposed to read for your intro to religion class in freshman year but were too busy making desperate eyes across the library floor at the junior field hockey bros. Ha, turned that shit back around, now didn’t I!
So be quiet, sit back, and enjoy a list (because there’s a lot here, and I’m just as tired as you this aftermorningnightnoon) in which we bring you history’s most scandalous papal authorities. More like Holy LOVEsee, amirite???!!?!?
Pope Sergius III (904-911)—the father of Pope John XI, but NBD, they did that a lot though in the early Middle Ages. Oh, those wacky papal dynasties! The better bit involves Sergius’ ladylove, Marozia, a Roman nobelwoman and senatrix—that’s right Latinfans, a lady senator! Marozia was John XI’s mother, BUT, after Sergius died, she started sleeping with his sucessor…..
Pope John X (914-928)—he gave Marozia the title of senatrix. She was seen by many historians as the power behind the papal throne, and probably an inspiration for the legend of Pope Joan (which, unfortunately so soon after International Lady’s Day, I have to debunk as medieval myth—take my word for it, I’m an historian.).
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
So while John X was fooling around with Marozia, HE WAS ALSO SLEEPING WITH HER MOM, THEODORA!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!111!!!!!11!! She was characterized by a contemporary chronicler, Liutprand of Cremona as being a “shameless whore… [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man.” Which, is actually kind of a compliment. Own it Theodora, own it. Through her powerful poonnections, Theodora got Marozia married off to Alberic I, duke of Spoleto in 909, whose supah riches didn’t stop him getting killed in 924.
At some point, Marozia turns against John X, and after Alberic dies, marries John’s archnemesis, Guy of Tuscany. They then attack Rome, arrest John (Guy smothers him with a pillow, #goodnightsweetpope), and Marozia sets up two puppet popes, Leo VI and Stepehen VII until her son, John XI comes of age in 931 and can be made head of all Christendom from 931-935.
Guy dies in 929, and in 932 Marozia marries her halfbrother, Hugh of Arles (more like Ewwww of Arrghdonttouchme!!!!1! Ahh, shit, I’m on fire today.), King of Italy. Marozia’s son, Alberic II, from her marriage with Alberic is NOT into this, and instead of sending a polite decline to the wedding invite, he brings an army to their wedding, imprisons his mom, chases his stepdadhalfuncle out of Rome.
She dies probably in 936, but still, woman did werk. Check this: Her other son with Alberic, David, was father of Pope Benedict VII (974-983). Alberic II was father to Pope John XII (955-964), and a kid named Gregory, who would father both Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024), and Pope John XIX (1024-1032), and another son called Alberic III who would father Pope Benedict IX (1012-1055) (he was an antipope, but it totally still counts).
Phew, so I know that was a lot, but to sum up, Theodora and Marozia either slept with, controlled, or directly or indirectly sired 8, count ’em, 8 popes, arguably the most powerful position of authority in medieval Europe.
I, on the other hand, haven’t gotten out of bed today. Hey, different strokes.
The others are far less complicated, but no less interesting. Please stand by for further popesex in 5, 4, 3, 2,
Pope John XII (955-963, son of Alberic II)—was described as having has a collection of women, and making the sacred palace into a whorehouse, and living the lifestyle much more suited to a secular prince than, you know, a pope. He apparently had a thing for adultery, sleeping with (according to our old, reliable friend, Luitprand), “the widow of Rainier, with Stephana, his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece.” Some historian I’d never heard of calls him “the Christian Caligulia,” which is a fine bit of alliteration, if I do say so myself, sir! Also, his mistress could be another progenitrix for the Pope Joan myth (It doesn’t really matter, because either way, the medieval people were just hellafraid of a ladypope. I get it, I mean, she probably would have redecorated all that gilt and incense and heavy velvet and made everything sooooo gaudy.). Apparently John died Downtown-Abbey style, after being stricken with paralysis during sex. That, or he was murdered moste fowlee by a jealous husband—either works for me.
Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044, 1045, 1047-1048, and son of Alberic III. These guys are everywhere!)—he was ousted twice in favor of other, probably less shitty popes, as you will see. Apparently, he was between 18 and 20 (or maybe even 11 or 12) when he became pope, and had no actual qualifications other than family connections. An actually holy man, St. Peter Damian, described him as “feasting on immorality” (which, in my mind, is like a chocolate fountain with the insane calories as a proverbial stand-in for sin). He was probably homosexual, but it also just seems like he slept with anything that moved. There’s intimations that he also killed and raped people, which seems like a fast escalation from “orgy,” but then again, if the Middle Ages were anything like a Starz show, then he was probs burying bodies like erryday.
Pope Paul II (1464-1471)—alleged by some to have died from indigestion because he ate too many melons. That’s “science,” and I don’t understand it, so I’m going to go with the rumor that he actually died while having the secks with another man.
Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484)—handed out papal offices in return for blahjays. Jeanyus.
Pope Julius III (1550-1555)—had a hugely scandalous relationship with Cardinal Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte, who he took in as a ward from the street, then made cardinal when he became Pope. Innocenzo was totally unsuited to the responsibility he was given, but the two openly shared a bed, and nobody could really tell him to GTFO, and it was just a PR nightmare for the Church at the time. When he died, nobody was all that sad.
So on that note, the end!
Hey guys. Hey. It’s me. JAF. I’m not dead. I’m not even critically injured, horrifically maimed, or otherwise physically incapacitated. I’m just lazy. So incredibly, amazingly, astoundingly, mind-bendingly lazy.
I last appeared as a blip on the proverbial blogosphere radar 6 months ago, and I genuinely have no adequate reason for my absence from this, my internet baby. So I’ll just put it out there that MRG, LHB and KAB are the best (and most forgiving) minds of my generation and thankfully they have not been destroyed by the madness of my Chris McCandlessian self-indulgence. Thank you, bless you, I’m sorry, let’s move on.
As it so happens, I am currently back in the Old Country, from whence the germ of this blog was first conceived, studying the things I study the best—whiskey, unfiltered cigarettes, odd sleeping hours, and Medieval Literature. So as a “welcome back, old bean” sort of post, I’d like to introduce you to a dear, dear frienemy of mine, Petrarch.
I often ask myself hypothetical questions to while away the hours in between my various pretentious activities, and I have pondered on more than one occasion, “Can I have a deep and
completely only somewhat irrational antipathy towards someone that I have not only never met, but who died approximately 600 years ago?” When it comes to Petrarch, the answer is absofuckinglutely.
You see, Francesco Petrarca, as the Eyetalyuns knew him, was the first to call that roughly thousand year period between the Fall of Rome and the beginnings of the European Renaissance, “The Dark Ages.”
What an utter bastard he was.
As a member of the Italian intellectual class, and an early Renaissance humanist, Petrarch didn’t cast too kindly an eye upon the lives and times of his forefathers—and who can blame him, really? The oceanic-trench of a chip on my shoulder about how people don’t “appreciate” the “cultural” “flowering” of the medieval period is my cross to bear, and hopefully some day I’ll be able to hear that most well-meaning of phrases, “Oh, you study the Middle Ages? So you like Ren Faires, right?” without weeping. So, as a staunch defender of my world lit only by fire, I fundamentally despise Petrarch in the same way that popular fiction tells us dogs fundamentally have to pee on fire hydrants.
But I also feel bad for Petrarch. You see, among all his genuine achievements—like collecting, preserving and translating a multitude of Classical writings that would most likely been lost without his efforts, and various original writings on Christian philosophy, diplomacy and the usage of the Latin language—Petrarch is, and probably will only ever be, remembered best for his incredibly passionate, declarative poems to a woman he met once.
There’s a certain type of sympathy (alright, it’s actually pity) I reserve for men who spend their lives writing reams to a slampiece they’ll never have. Everyone knows this is a well–honored literary tradition—Petrarch was by no means the first sad sonovabitch to lust after that (always) perfect and (always, for some unfathomable reason) unobtainable poon, nor will he be the last. But thank Jesus for those men down the ages who have tried to come to terms with their goshdarned unfortunate sexual frustration through painfully personal verse, and, either because of shamelessness or on the “advice” of vindictive friends, have decided to let the world in on their emotional constipation and published that shit. Well, thank Jesus for the talented ones, anyway.
Petrarch’s muse was a lady named Laura. They supposedly met in church in 1327, and for the next forty years, almost to Petrarch’s death, he put pen to parchment in her imaginary honor. The collection of his 366 poems is called Il Canzoniere, and is perhaps the biggest influence on love poetry in Europe for the next 300 years. Divided into two sections, “in vita,” and “in morte” by Laura’s death in 1348, Petrarch deals largely with the fact that no matter how much he loves Laura (which makes him happy), he can never have her (which makes him sad), so he refuses to pursue her (since that would be sinful, and sin makes him sad), and just has to deal with loving her passionately from a distance (which makes him sad-happy). (s’dappy).
It all sounds very “dear diary,” since, well, you know, it is, but Petrarch can be forgiven for all the sex he ensured he was not having, because his poetry is so stupidly, asininely, heartbreakingly beautiful. Goddammit I just want to hate him, but he hurts my heart too much:
“If it, indeed, must be my fate,
and Heaven works its ways,
that Love close up these eyes while they still weep,
let grace see my poor body
be buried there among you
and let my soul return to its home naked;
then death would be less harsh
if I could bear this hope
unto that fearful crossing,
because the weary soul
could never in a more secluded port,
in a more tranquil grave,
flee from my poor belabored flesh and bones.”
So while it’s not a particularly scandalous return, I stick by my choice. Because, like that other great Latin poet of libidinal verse said, “I hate and I love.” So here’s to you, Petrarch—you’re too talented to join the great and ever-growing pantheon of pseudo-intellectuals which contains my other nemesi, but I can still have my revenge and tell
the readership of this mildly popular blog the world about how you spent your life alternating between verbally crying and masturbating over The Pussy on a Corinthian Column.
“Fortune and Love, and my own mind, which shuns
what it sees now and turns back to the past,
afflict me so that there are times I feel
envy for those who’ve reached the other shore.
While Love wears out my heart, Fortune deprives it
of any comfort, and my foolish mind
gets angry and it weeps—so in great pain
forever I must live and fight this way.
Nor can I hope the sweet days will return,
I see what’s left me go from bad to worse,
and I’ve already run half of my course.
Alas, not made of diamond but of glass
all of my hope I see slip from my hands
and every thought of mine split down the middle.”
What an utter bastard he was.
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).
The phrase “power couple” seems to be bandied about very loosely these days, much like “the next big thing” or “sexual harassment.” I mean, who gets to decide what truly constitutes greatness between two people who are banging but also bangin’. Rew couples in the history of hotties and/or high achievers have actually come close to power couple status. Par example:
Brangelina– Between them they’ve got an Oscar, 2 SAG awards, 3 Golden Globes and multiple nominations, as well as a huge body of philanthropic work, and are considered some of the most versatile actors of our generation. Plus they’re really fucking hot and worth like a bazillion dollars.
FDR & Eleanor– They single-handedly pulled the country out of the depths of economic and emotional depression, helped defeat the Third Reich, created multiple social programs, and let’s face it, cousins that are doin’ it is pretty sexy. You can’t say you haven’t thought about some covert affairs with those hotties from your dad’s side you only see at weddings and funerals.
Pete Wentz & Ashlee Simpson- Nuff Said.
But I digress. The simple fact of the matter is, no one has yet to measure up to the massive influence, individual brilliance, and raw fucking sexual magnetism of the medieval power couple, Peter Abelard and Heloise d’Argentueil. They were the the first great (and REAL, thank you, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, get your fictional asses out of here) star-crossed lovers. He, a Renaissance Man before it was cool or actually invented, and She, 22 years his junior (get over it) and considered one of the greatest minds of her time. When their intellects combined, the results reverberated across generations; when their bodies combined, it resulted in a scandal bigger than Goldman-Sachs’ profit margins. Because as I always say (which at least four people can attest to), the Middle Ages are just sex and God.
Some backstory: Peter Abelard grew up being one of those shit-poor noblemen who really didn’t have any prospects unless he learned his ass some letters and clawed his way up the nonexistent social ladder. Bro was born poor and died poor (spoiler). Since he was the oldest son in his family, and it was expected that he enter a life of military pursuits, as was common for the eldest boy in the medieval gentry. Instead he chose to become an academic, probably because he was “sensitive,” or “intellectual” or some crap like that. Thus Pete began a life of itinerant wandering where he would debate and study with various French academics for however long he thought their knowledge suited him, all the while creating a following of the medieval quivalent of undergrad English majors. He did genuinely think he was smarter than everyone else, but then again, he also knocked up a 16 year old, so you be the judge.
Eventually he became the most respected philosopher in continental Europe through a wildly popular public debate tour, in which Peter would show up at a university and publicly challenge the equivalent of the dean to an academic throw down. I’m guessing it was a lot like being at a hyper-literate Thunderdome. Around 1115 he settled in Paris around 1115 and accepted the chair of a school at Notre-Dame.
This was a time of great intellectual flourishing in the Middle Ages (yeah, it’s a fucking fact), particularly in France, and Peter owned that shit, calling himself “The only undefeated philosopher in the world.” Around that time he would finally meet his match in the pre-teen prodigy, who’s talents with the classical tongues would only be matched by those of her mouth-tongue…. eyhhhh…..
Heloise was probably 12 or 13 when her uncle, and ward, first contacted Peter to be her tutor, but she was already renowned for being a real goddamn smarty-pants with ancient texts, as well as her insightful and intellectual writings. The two apparently really hit it off, even though he was almost 40 and she was still in a training bra, BUT, intellectual love and inappropriate sexual desire know no bounds. Under Peter’s tutelage, Heloise became a formidable philosopher and dynamite in the sack, and even once their affair was discovered, they continued to meet in secret for sexy, sexy readings on the stimulating topics of ‘Atonement,’ ‘Conceptualism,’ and that perennial favorite, ‘Nominalism.’ Unfortunately, they were discovered once again when Heloise got pregnant (oops.), so her uncle came and chopped off Peter’s Little Peter in the night, then shipped her MTV-ready ass off to a convent.
As well as the sex. So, so much sex.