I'll begin with a couple of misapprehensions spotted online this week:
From a forum about Braveheart: "Just leave out that whole love story between Wallace and Edward II’s little wife! Yuch! Never happened! No such thing! In real life, it was Edward I (Longshanks) who fathered the child, and probably by raping the poor girl."
Yes, Edward I, who died on 7 July 1307 and who never even met his daughter-in-law Isabella, fathered Edward III, born on 13 November 1312. But of course.
A friend of mine on Facebook told me the other day that her sister's teacher once explained to the class that William Wallace's fathering Edward III (as invented in Braveheart) was the source of the Stuart claim to the English throne. Entirely understandably, my friend remarked "my brain melted from the sheer stupidity."
Spotted on a blog: "Nottingham Castle nearby is said to be the residence of Nottinghams [sic] most famous ghost, Queen Isabella. Isabella cheated on husband King Edward II with her lover Mortimer in 1330 and is said to still wander the underground passages of the castle where they were caught."
Heehee, the way some people mangle the story can be so funny. And my, Isabella's a busy ghost, isn't she? I read this on a website about Castle Rising: "As a former resident, Isabel played an important role in the horrific murder of her husband, Edward II, which took place in 1327. After the incident, it is believed that she was struck with dementia and spent the rest of her life wandering about the upper floors of Castle Rising...The rumors of her ghost began when people started to claim they could hear the sounds of a mad woman coming from the castle in the middle of the night. Many believe it is the ghost of Isabel causing such terrible noises."
Or possibly it's me, shrieking in disbelief at the historical inaccuracies. This page is even better, so utterly wrong in so many ways in its earnest wrongness it's an absolute scream. Poor Isabella! And talking about the 'She-Wolf' sobriquet, I giggled a lot recently at the claim on Facebook that it "was Edward her husband's boyfriend Hugh Despenser's idea. She was not known as such in the period after his presumed death." The sobriquet 'She-Wolf' in fact comes from Shakespeare's Henry VI Part III where it referred to Margaret of Anjou, and was appropriated for Isabella by Thomas Gray in his 1757 poem 'Pindaric Ode'. But hey, Hugh Despenser, William Shakespeare, a poem written 430 years after Hugh's death, what's the difference? I assume 'presumed death' is meant to refer to Edward II, not Hugh Despenser as it seems to. Not a whole lot of doubt that Hugh died in Hereford on 24 November 1326.
And, saving the worst crap till last, check out this utterly dreadful and offensive rubbish about Edward II posted on Facebook recently by the same person who thinks that Hugh Despenser called Isabella 'the She-Wolf'. We are informed that Edward was
"a fastidiously gay guy who begat children on her [Isabella] - note not with her - as a painful duty. Roger Mortimer came as a happy thunderbolt into a bleak life...Edward was the very reverse of uxorious at a time when it was important to demonstrate respect for women. His own parents were very well-married so he didn't lack example...even though men shared beds and were much freer about showing affection than present day men, there were a lot of people who picked up an extra sexual vibe. Ed's lack of resolution may well have led to his assumption of a subordinate role with his puppetmasters. Regarding respect for women: one thing publicly noticed was the contrast between that which he had for his relatives and Eleanor [Despenser], and incidentally his other niece Margaret who was married to Gaveston, and the frosty and dismissive tone he used to his wife. I used the word uxorious, indulgent and attentive to a wife, which Edward I for all his sins was to BOTH of his. As was Edward III when he acquired one, for thirty years anyway."
It's bad enough that anyone, especially a person who elsewhere claims to support gay rights and gay marriage, can come up with such painfully stupid, ignorant, bigoted, offensive and entirely invented ("frosty and dismissive tone"?? "painful duty"??) nonsense in the first place, but to state it as though it's fact...! Does this person truly believe that a gay man should be able to have a successful sexual and romantic relationship with a woman and be 'uxorious' simply because his parents were happily married and therefore he had an 'example'? Seriously? How absolutely extraordinary. My friend Rachel hit the mark with a brilliant response: ""Fastidiously gay" - as opposed to what, sloppily gay or untidily heterosexual?"
Anyway, onto to the day's main business! I have the pleasure of announcing a guest post by Rachel, who, as those of you lucky enough to know her will already be aware, is completely awesome and made of awesomeness. In case you're wondering what it's all about, it's inspired by the claim made in a book published a while back that Roger Mortimer was "everything that Edward II was not: strong, manly, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, courageous, audacious and decisive." Rachel and I just find it impossible not to endlessly take the p*ss out of such a bizarre statement, especially given that Edward II was described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm," "of outstanding strength," "tall and strong," etc etc. We're not so much mocking Roger Mortimer himself, who probably was "unequivocally heterosexual" and "virile," whatever that's supposed to mean, as stereotypical attitudes towards sexuality which, unfortunately, still persist.
Rachel's main area of historical interest is the Tudors, especially Queen Anne Boleyn and the five men executed with her in May 1536, so decided to write about Roger Mortimer trying to befriend men he thinks were a queen's lovers...
Roger Mortimer: You're men after my own heart! In of course an unequivocally hetero and not at all gay way. I've rogered a queen or two in my time myself, you know. Get it? Rogered, he he he.
Mark Smeaton: Erm ... who are you and why would you think we needed to know that?
Roger Mortimer: I'm Roger Mortimer. Renowned throughout history as being manly, virile, unequivocally heterosexual and not at all like that tosser Edward II. Just call me ... The Rog. Hey, I like that. It has a nice ring to it. The ROG. Now I have to invent a cool handshake or high five to go with it. Anyway, I see you handsome chaps have had a go at your own queen, so just stopped in to tell you good show and all that. *I* had Isabella - a French princess and Queen of England, how's that for a score? - wrapped around my little finger in my day!
Francis Weston: *is speechless*
Henry Norris: Two things: a) we DIDN'T, you pillock! And b) inappropriate oversharing much?
The Rog: Oh, you fine figures of men - and I mean that in a totally virile, manly, heterosexual way, and not in an I'd-like-to-get-into-your-hose-pronto way, even though I'd totally understand if non-virile or hetero manly men wanted to do that, because as we all know, we manly hetero types who are made of manliness are just irresistible to anything with a pulse - don't need to be so modest! There's no shame in liking to do it with girls, especially queens! It just proves you are all unequivocally heterosexual like me.
Mark Smeaton: *facepalm*
William Brereton: So not only do we get condemned after a show trial, we have to put up with this self-involved git from the 14th century and his sexual identity crisis. Great. Just great.
The Rog: Sir, it's no crisis, I assure you. Wait, that came out wrong. Look at me. I am the original Straight Poster Boy - virile, masculine, hetero and full of manly goodness.
William Brereton: "Full of manly goodness." Is that what your squires said?
The Rog: What have you heard? It's all lies! I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT SQUIRE.
Francis Weston: Oops.
Mark Smeaton: I know. Now I'm getting embarrassed on the poor bloke's behalf.
The Rog: Hey! "Poor bloke"? I don't think so. As for what your friend is insinuating, not even Henry VIII is as hetero as me. Just ask Sir Thomas More.
Henry VIII: ??????????
Anne Boleyn: *sporfle* Roger, I'd quit while you're behind. This CANNOT end well. But thanks for the entertainment during a rotten few weeks.
George Boleyn: Yeah, good old Mort. 200 years and he's STILL bitter that Edward II didn't fancy him.
The Rog > Thomas Seymour: Hey, now YOU seem to be a man a manly man like me can relate to - virile, hetero and made of manliness! Thought we could grab a few pints down the pub. What do you think?
Thomas Seymour: Um, yeah, maybe. Hey, I met a guy from your era you probably know - Piers Gaveston! Yeah, we went for a few drinks last Friday, and had a great time. Cool bloke, that Piers, isn't he? We're off jousting together next week, actually.
The Rog: Gaveston? You went male bonding with GAVESTON? What's he got that I haven't?
Thomas Seymour: Um, well ... self-awareness, for starters.
The Rog: No, no, no, don't go out with Gaveston! Come out for a few pints with me, we'll do a bit of wenching and talk about boobs! Hey, we'll even go jousting if you like. I totally beat Gaveston the last time we went a few rounds. Well, actually, I didn't, but hey, I nearly did. Kind of. In a way. Come on, a manly hetero dude like yourself can't be hanging out with the likes of Gaveston. You'll have way, waaaay more fun with me.
Thomas Seymour: Good Lord, I think you just hit on me.
The Rog: AAARGH! *runs away* *talks quietly to self* Okay, Rog, forget the first half of the 16th century, they obviously made men more girly then. Hey! HERE are some likely prospects! You there! Now here's what I like to see! The flower of English manhood - some fine, virile specimens indeed. Woof woof!
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester: *blinks* Sorry?
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: Oh, it's just some used-horse salesman, by the looks.
The Rog: Not at all, my lords, far from it! You just struck me as manly, virile, unequivocally heterosexual men I could relate to. After all, any self-respecting modern historian will tell you that the ROG is the living definition of manly ...
Essex: Virile, unequivocally heterosexual. Right, we get it.
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell: "The Rog"? Anyway, this is something to do with us because ...?
The Rog: I'm a big fan of fine, virile, handsome noblemen - especially fine, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, handsome noblemen who punch above their weight! Snagging Queens Regnant? You boys are legends. LEEEE-gends! Women with power, being overpowered by manly virile hetero heroes - rowr! Now I'm getting a trifle hot and bothered just thinking about it.
Leicester: Too much information!
Essex: Er. First, you've got the wrong end of the stick where Queen Elizabeth is concerned. Secondly, you're not my type. Sorry.
Bothwell: Mortimer, you are seriously creeping me out.
The Rog: You misunderstand me! I just thought we Manly Hetero Heroes could bond over our shared queen-scoring exploits ... there were exploits, right? Come on, that's what we unequivocally heterosexual men do, talk about how much we like doing it with girls and appreciate each other in an unequivocally heterosexual way.
Essex: *cough* protestingtoomuch *cough*
Leicester: Oh dear. You're not still trying to make Edward II jealous, are you? Because I think you have to face the fact that it's not going to happen. Rog, he's just not that into you.
The Rog: AAAAAARGHHH AGAIN!! *to himself* Okay, maybe try the 19th century. This Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg fellow... surely he must be manly and hetero enough for some male bonding ...