Reprint (sort of): Paris when it giggles

So I finally got around to watching Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola’s reimagining of the tragic Last Queen of France as an…um…an 18th-century version of a 21st-century Paris, is the best way I can describe it. This would possibly be a good time to reiterate that the French Revolution has been a hobby of mine for about twenty years now, which as far as I can tell puts me way out of the target demographic.

See, the thing is, this lady was the, y’know, Queen and stuff. That’s the reason people want to make a movie about her in the first place, 200-odd years later. Meaning you can’t tell the story only from her POV, as though she were Jane Private Citizen, accountable only to herself; it doesn’t work. Or perhaps it does…just not solely as a series of Uplifting Shopping Montages. Set to I Want Candy, yet. Accompanied by endless shots of Antoinette and her pastel posse biting into luscious – wait for it – cakes. I think I’d be truly miffed on Coppola’s audience’s behalf if I hadn’t watched Clueless: The Series one too many times. More


Epilogue: What happened to the children of Henry VIII?

Short answer: In soap-opera terms, Henry VIII’s kids were totally The Colbys to his Dynasty…only maybe not so much with the UFO abductions.

Edward VI was nine when dad handed over the reigns – or, more accurately, handed him over to his uncle, Edward Seymour, the Protector. (actually, Henry had envisioned a co-regency of many nobles, but in true Aaron Spelling fashion, whoopsie, the will got lost in all the confusion surrounding the burial.)

Little Eddie was quite the fun kid. Fanatically Protestant, ie disapproving of anything that might be remotely construed as self-indulgent; the phrase most historians use is ‘priggish’. One of those pale little child geniuses forever trying to win acceptance with the popular kids – or in this case, live up to his larger-than-life father. The story goes that he once called for a pet falcon and proceeded to tear the poor thing to pieces bare-handed, remarking that this was how he was treated now, but when he reached the throne…well, you get the picture. More

Reprint: “Never with the mother…”

So you thought I was kidding when I mentioned the French Revolution, didn’t you? Hah.

Actually, I thought I’d start off with something a little less apocalyptic, not to say a neat tie-in with the new movie, The Other Boleyn Girl. Not entirely certain if I want to watch that one or not; for the same reasons why I haven’t read the Philippa Gregory book it’s based on. Tudor history was so determinedly florid as it was that any effort to fictionalise and sensationalise tends to come off as unnecessary at best, and wholly ridiculous at worst.

In real life, almost nothing is known about the the Boleyn sisters’ relationship, for the simple reason that quite frankly nobody cared until Anne vaulted onto the English throne; they were women, after all, and commoners to boot. Mary, the eldest (although even their exact birthdates are unknown) does seem to have been a very pretty girl in a soft, Scarlett Johanssen-y way, all blonde curls and blue eyes. In no time she became basically the court hobbyhorse, racking up an impressive mileage even before King Henry – still in his tall athletic Golden Boy stage himself – decided to try her out.

Anne, on the other hand, was either much more demure or much more cunning, depending on who’s telling the story. It’s assumed from the modern perspective that she must have been at the least rather contemptuous of her sister, whose royal liason lasted all of about six months before she was married off to an obliging minor nobleman, but there’s no contemporary evidence to show it. Mary simply retired to the country, while Sister Anne, her replacement in Henry’s heart if not his bed, became Queen.

The legend goes that some years later, accused of sleeping with all the Boleyn family women in succession, Henry muttered ‘Not with the mother – never with the mother.”

At any rate, it all makes a nice preamble to a piece I wrote for the old forum some while ago, plus some later addenda…


…I listened to a knowledgeable schoolchild pronounce on a presumed portrait of Anna of Cleves: “That’s her, the ugly one.” To which her companion agreed: “That’s right, she’s dead ugly” – except that they were both actually looking at a picture of the Temptress, Anne Boleyn.

–Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII More