Tag Archives: Henry V

The Royal Baby and the paparazzi

Kate's baby bumpMostly, I don’t really want to write this post, if I’m honest.  But it is a huge event in the course of British events, and will be much talked of over the coming year.  And, of course, it has already been surrounded by controversy.  So, it seems like some comment is necessary.

I speak, of course, of the upcoming royal baby.  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (her formal title) is pregnant with what will be (boy or girl) the third person in line to the throne.

I searched for ‘baby bump’ photos to put on this post and the above came up, of Kate at Thanksgiving.  Man, look how fat she is! How did we not know?  I’m joking, of course.  I could lose 30 lbs and still look more pregnant than she does.  But no one shows this early, and the tabloids have been speculating since the day of the wedding that she was pregnant, so every shot claims to display a nonexistent baby bump.  Sigh.  Poor Kate.

I am not much of a follower of the royals. I didn’t watch the wedding, though I did watch the Diamond Jubilee, so maybe my hatred of weddings was more of a factor.  At any rate, the monarchy is not a part of British culture that I feel much affection for.  I feel similarly about the House of Lords.  Maybe some girls think about becoming a princess, but this one would rather leave all the responsibility and need to wear ridiculous hats to someone else.  Not to mention the pressure to procreate.

Whenever there has been a new heir expected or needed, Britain has been rather obsessed.  A prime example is Henry VIII and his inability to produce a male heir to rule upon his death. In those days (and for most of British history), the heir was really important.  Wars would easily and quickly break out if there wasn’t a clear next-in-line to the throne.  There were multiple civil wars over the succession, from the War of the Roses to the post-Reformation confusion between Catholic Mary and Protestant Elizabeth. The country is more stable when everyone knows and accepts who will take over when the current monarch dies.

Combine that historical curiosity with the celebrity status of the monarchy.  Ever since Princess Diana, when the stuffy monarchy was injected with something akin to soap opera drama, the press and the people clamor for information on the (attractive) royals.  Will and Harry seem to get the most of the attention, maybe because they are Diana’s sons and the public feels a sense of ownership and a sense of sharing their family tragedy, maybe because they are the most attractive of the royal family?  In the US, those are almost the only royal family members to which we are exposed.  No one knows about Princess Beatrice or Zara Phillips, except for blips here and there.  Zara Phillips and her participation in the Olympics, Beatrice and her hat at the wedding:

6a00d8341c630a53ef0154323ed96c970c-320wiBut I believe as a country we took more notice of Pippa Middleton than the rest of the royals.  Regardless of how things are different in the UK and the US, this royal baby is a big deal as a curiosity and as a potential future ruler.  But the demented need for information driving behavior in this instance is the same that drives paparazzi to lay down next to limos to get shots up the skirt of whatever celebrity happens to have worn a dress. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I have pity for Kate, for William, and for this child-to-be.

This intense curiosity and feeling of ownership over these public figures has already turned outrageous and tragic with a prank by two Australian DJs to invade Kate’s legally protected privacy. A prank which contributed to the suicide of a nurse that fell for their prank.  I hope they’re proud of themselves.  If I didn’t already hate DJs of all kinds, I would begin to now.

With the nude pictures that have surfaced this year of Kate and of Harry, and this invasion into Kate’s medical status and associated privacy, there can be no hope that this child or this pregnancy will be lived under any sort of protection or respect.  Even if 99% of journalists and humans were to agree that, as a human being experiencing a terrifying and not-fun 9-month journey of biological horrors culminating in a presumably rewarding, but simultaneously horrifying event, Kate deserves privacy and respect…there would be at least one person with a telephoto lens or the phone number to the hospital, who thinks only about what invasion of privacy will get them and not what it will do to Kate, Will, or the baby. I suggest a new punishment for these jerks: publish a photo up a woman’s skirt, or of someone with their romantic partner in a presumably private environment, or publicly air their medical status…do anything to violate the privacy of someone because you think their life is somehow a public entity, and something of your life should become a public entity.  Lets post these DJs medical records.  I’m sure they’ll be thrilled if everyone knows if they’ve ever had a yeast infection, or needed Viagra. Right?  They’re public figures, so it should be allowed.  Find the paparazzi and publish nude photos of them.

Of course, I don’t actually think that’s a good punishment, but I do think there needs to be some sort of responsibility.  Kate and Will, and anyone else who happens to be known, are not property of all of us. They are human beings who have to live every day in the spotlight.  Unlike Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears, they can’t have a public breakdown, shave their heads, and go into rehab.  They have to maintain composure and a semblance of grace.  Can you imagine how difficult that has to be when magazines are publishing or radio shows are airing your most private and intimate secrets? How would you feel about the people who gobbled up the articles and paid for the pictures?  Or the people who looked at them and claimed it was no harm done? Can you imagine the guilt and the rage that your stay at a hospital would end with a nurse taking her own life because people were desperate to get information about you and your constant vomiting?

I’ve gone off on a rant here, but really, I do feel an incredible amount of pity for Kate and for this baby.  I hope that, if nothing else, the death of that nurse will make a few people think twice about the obsessive need to know the details of this pregnancy.

On that note, here are a few facts about the baby, which do not in any way violate anyone’s privacy:

The rules that previously established the succession of the crown (from 1701) declare that the first-born male child of the monarch will be next in line.  That meant that if 6 girls were born and then a boy, the boy would become king. Sorry, ladies.  The current Queen is queen because she has no brothers.  But, Parliament and the monarchy are working/have worked to change this law to indicate that the first-born (primogeniture) of children will be next in line, regardless of sex.  I have a different suggestion: a man becomes king only if he has no sisters.  Radical, yes, but perhaps a good plan. Let’s look back at the British monarchy over its many year history.  Arguably, the most successful monarchs have been women–Elizabeths I and II, and Victoria.  Victoria, I think was the best monarch the UK ever saw. The men had winners too, of course, but they were very hit and miss. For every Henry V and his valiant Band of Brothers speeches on St. Crispin’s day, there was an AEthelred the Unready.  Just saying.

Experts (who on earth can call themselves an expert on this, I wonder) think that the names Elizabeth and Diana will probably be middle names if the child is a girl.  Royals are typically given 4 or 5 names. Edward VIII was named Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David.  So, there are plenty of names to go around.

As to the baby’s title, it’s complicated. Most Americans still call Kate by her name (Kate Middleton) or they call her a title she doesn’t actually have (princess). Because Prince William is not the son of the monarch but the grandson, when he got married he was given the title of Duke of Cambridge, and therefore Kate (now called Catherine) is the Duchess of Cambridge. Their first child will be called His/Her Royal Highness the Prince/ss of Cambridge.  Later children, if there are any, will be called Lord/Lady. Once the Queen dies, all of the children get the Prince/Princess title.  I’m not sure how this all works, but so says the interwebz.

The royal family doesn’t really have last names, because their titles are sufficient.  If a last name is necessary, the name Mountbatten-Windsor is used.

Assuming The Queen lives to see this child, she will be the first monarch to meet a great-grandchild who was directly in line for the throne.  The last was Queen Victoria, who met the future Edward VIII in 1894.  Edward VIII was the one who later abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson.  So let’s hope that isn’t indicative of anything.

Apparently invasion of privacy isn’t all that new.  Historically, the Home Secretary (sort of like our Secretary of Homeland Security in the US) had to attend royal births in order to ensure that the babies weren’t switched at some point. This tradition stopped in 1936, thank god.

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Anonymous–Shakespeare and Conspiracy Theories

Reluctant as I was to watch this movie, I have done it.  And because I have, I can firmly tell you that you don’t have to.

Let me start by saying that I love Shakespeare. I have read all of his Sonnets and poems, and I think I’m up to about 20 of the 37 plays. I have taken 3 college Shakespeare courses, and done a two-week program at the Globe in London that taught everything from acting and makeup to set design and costumes.  I enjoy Shakespeare. I am not a Shakespeare scholar, but I am an educated English major who has read a lot of his work.  As such, I find the ‘Oxfordian theory’ completely and utterly ridiculous, as well as being infuriatingly pompous and pretentious.  But I’ll get to that later.  I’m going to discuss two aspects of my dislike for this film: the film itself, and the conspiracy theory that makes up its premise.

First, the film.  The basic plot revolves around the life of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  (In the film) he was a gifted writer and actor whose passions were squashed by his Puritanical guardian/advisor to Queen Elizabeth, William Cecil.  Puritans certainly hated the theatre, closing most of them down during the reign of Cromwell, but this was a good 40 years before the English Civil War and I’m not certain they held that much sway in England at the time.  But I digress! Young Edward can’t write publicly, but he does so privately.  The film shows him first performing what appears to be a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he is only a tween, and then later reveals him to have stacks and stacks of completed plays in his manor house.  As an adult, when he sees the influence that theatres are beginning to have on the English public, he convinces Ben Jonson to help him get his plays performed under a pseudonym.  Ben Jonson, being one of the protagonists of the movie, and a good man, refuses to attach his own name to the play that he did not write.  Will Shakespeare, an actor who can read but not write (in this fetid nonsensical ridiculous film) scoops up the acclaim when he sees that the play is a hit.

The rest of the film is two stories, one of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson dealing with the glory and success the plays receive.  The larger and more difficult to follow plotline involves Edward and the Queen.  It is revealed that Edward de Vere had an affair with Queen Elizabeth and fathered a secret son, the Earl of Southampton, who gets mixed up in a rebellion with the Earl of Essex (also a secret son of Elizabeth who seems to have been quite up for it, considering she was known as the virgin queen), and they are both sentenced to death.  Confused yet? Because it gets even more ludicrous.  Edward finds out that not only does he have a son with Elizabeth, but he himself is a son of Elizabeth.  Yep, he had a child with his own mother.  Originally, William Cecil wanted him to become king (there’s a ludicrous side-plot about the ascension of James I upon Elizabeth’s death), but that’s gone out the window now.  In the end, Edward begs Elizabeth to spare their son (never telling her that the kid is also her grandson and that she is really gross). She agrees to spare him, but as punishment, Edward’s name will never be attached to any of his plays.

As if this isn’t bad enough, it all takes place through continuously shifting timelines and flashes forward and back! Edward de Vere is played by 3 different actors, Queen Elizabeth by 2 different actresses.  If you can manage to keep track of what’s going on and who’s who, you’re a better viewer than me.  But even if you do, the movie just isn’t that good.  The acting is competent, the costumes and the recreation of Tudor London is great to see, but that’s the most praise I can heap on this film.

I feel I’m being a bit unfair.  It’s not the worst film ever–Michael Bay didn’t make it, after all.  My hatred of it is mostly due to my hatred of the theory behind it. But even if I subscribed to the theory, the film does a terrible job supporting it! So allow me a small paragraph to dispute some of the inaccuracies and nonsense that the film employs to make this theory more believable.

First of all, the idea of a young de Vere performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream some 40 years before it was first showed on stage is akin to (as the NYT puts it) Jay Z putting out The Blueprint in 1961.  Or (to use a reference I feel I understand better) the Beatles releasing Sgt. Pepper’s in the 1920s.  The genre did not exist yet, is the material point.  But beyond that stupidity.  The timeline of plays being released does not even remotely match the accounts we have from diarists of the time or from the playhouses themselves.  Henry V is the first play that is attributed to Shakespeare, in this film.  According to most chronologies, Henry V wasn’t performed until 1598ish, whereas over 15 other plays are believed to have been performed earlier than that (as early as 1590). There doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought put into which plays they chose to include in the film in terms of chronology, these plays are just chosen to advance the plot.  They use Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III. All of these were performed before 1599, but they are used in this film to incite a rebellion which actually took place in 1601.

At one point, in order to gain an audience with Elizabeth, Edward de Vere publishes the poem Venus and Adonis to get her attention.  The poem, based on the Greek myth, features the god Venus essentially attempting to rape a young and disinterested boy who only wants to go hunting.  Later, he dies after being impaled by a tusk.  I suppose you could make some allegory of Elizabeth the Queen embodying Venus the goddess, and young Edward making a good Adonis.  But…in the film this is seen as a love poem intended to make Elizabeth remember the love she shared with Edward de Vere.  The poem is pretty graphically sexual for the time period, something of the 50 Shades of Gray of that era, but let’s rewind.  Remember 2 seconds ago when I said the plot was that she wants Adonis but he couldn’t care less?  He tells her to go away, despite her throwing herself at him, and then he goes off hunting and dies.  If the Queen is Venus, how is this meant to woo her?  It doesn’t even make sense.

Also, even if I believed this theory, the film portrays Edward de Vere as a writer and a nobleman.  When he goes to the theatre to see his own plays performed, he is more or less uninterested and detached. He is pleased to see the influence his plays can have, but has no attachment to the actor’s performances or the reception his work gets.

One more note about the film before I get to why the whole Oxfordian theory makes my blood boil.  The film depicts a righteous but incompetent Ben Jonson and a Christopher Marlowe who is conniving and a backstabber. I could perhaps forgive that, but their depiction of Will Shakespeare is so pathetic and moronic that I cannot believe it.  It is as if they think we will only believe their theory if we also see a Shakespeare who is a glory-hound, money-hound, cannot even write his own name, borderline-illiterate moron.  The film portrays him with less sympathy and less depth than the puritans or the palace guards.  And they propose that he murdered Christopher Marlowe.  It’s the equivalent of those swiftboat captain ads in the John Kerry campaign.  You can’t believe it’s happening, and even more so you cannot possibly believe other people accept it as true.

Okay, so the movie sucks.  What about the theory? Why do I hate it so much?

The big point of the Oxfordian theory, their bread and butter, is that Shakespeare was uneducated and not a nobleman.  How could a common man from a small town, whose father made gloves, write so well? How could he know Greek and Latin myths without going to Cambridge or Oxford? How could he know about the politics at court without living in that environment his whole life?

Let’s just take a moment and think about what that means.  They are basically saying that only a person of noble blood could write these plays, because…because they’re better than commoners. That’s their main argument. The presumptuousness makes me crazy.  I know I sound pedantic and ridiculous, but I don’t care! In fact, it makes my point for me! I am someone who was born in the Midwest, to parents who didn’t graduate from college (they later went back and got their B.S.s).  I was educated at public school.  When I was 19 I had to leave my (state) university and try to get my life together, because I was a mess.  Anyone might have looked at me at that point, or in the ensuing years, and seen someone completely average or possibly less successful or intelligent than average. I had no experience of high society, of elite education, of culture or financial success. I had never been out of the country or even to NYC.

But those things did not define who I am or my potential or my passion.  I read constantly, I taught myself about history, about literature. I went back to an Ivy League university and got my degree, with honors. I spent 6 months living in Europe and saw 10 countries. I continue to learn and to grow. I write, I read, I embrace all the knowledge I can get my hands on.  And I’m just an average person with a lot of curiosity! Shakespeare was a bona fide, once a century sort of genius.  When has genius ever needed anything other than itself to succeed? Leonardo Da Vinci was the bastard son of a wealthy man and a peasant girl, born in a small town in Tuscany. He received only an informal education. Michael Faraday was a bookseller with no formal education, but he read a lot, and he ended up making incredible scientific discoveries (mostly related to electricity) and making much of our modern life possible. I think the bottom line is that if you are one of those people, a genius, someone destined to forever change the world and how we understand it, the only thing that can stop you is death.  The idea that Shakespeare couldn’t have learned Greek or Latin on his own, or couldn’t have learned of court politics from his patrons and friends in the upper classes, is ridiculous.  Not to mention that the incredible understanding of humanity, of personalities and emotions, that Shakespeare displays is not something that could ever be learned.

That’s my main problem with the theory, the utterly insulting idea that anyone from humble means could not have achieved so much or written so well.  But there are other problems.  Like, for example, Edward de Vere died in 1604 but Shakespeare continued to debut new material much later.  Unless he’s Tupac Shakur, I don’t see how that works.

And what about the performances?  If you’ve ever taken a Shakespeare class (or 10th grade language arts) you’ve gotten the speech about how these were never meant to be read, they were meant to be performed.  And if you’ve ever gone to the Globe or seen a real Shakespeare company (I highly recommend it), you will undoubtedly ‘get’ things that you didn’t understand before (mostly bawdy puns, but still).  We are meant to believe that:

1-de Vere was such a genius at writing plays that he could simply hand them over and not have any part in the production of them. He would just have faith that all the actors would portray his parts as he envisioned them.

2-None of the actors ever had any questions about how things should sound or look.

3-If they did have questions, no one was confused by why Will Shakespeare couldn’t answer them.

And, one last hiccup.  Shakespeare collaborated on many of his later works, most usually with John Fletcher.  Fletcher (or his other collaborators) never noticed that Will didn’t do any of the writing?  Oh yeah, and they are believed to have written these plays together in the 1610s, despite Edward de Vere having been dead for nearly a decade.  Even if I believed the nonsense about a bunch of plays being left behind in Ben Jonson’s possession, that doesn’t really track with the collaboration with other playwriters.  And anyone who reads a lot of Shakespeare can clearly see the writing style differences in his solo plays and his collaborations.

I read one article about this theory that said it was given as much credit in the literary world as the theory that we didn’t actually land on the moon.  I think that’s giving it too much credit! It is absolutely insulting and stupid.  And so is this film!