Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

28 10 2007

I just finished Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir. It is a historical novel based on the life of “The Nine Days Queen”. If you enjoy historical fiction, this book is one to read.

Alison Weir is a medieval historian who has written many non-fiction books about the middle ages, focusing on the reign of Henry VIII and his the reigns before and after his. Her vast knowledge of the times Lady Jane lived in make this book even more interesting. In the back of the book, an author’s note tells that though most of the book is based on historical fact, she have to use her imagination in some parts of the story. Weir mentions that some of the stranger events in the book were true! I came away feeling as if I knew how the upper crust really lived during that time in history.

This book touched on several topics that I found to be of interest.

  • “Blooding” of children – apparently during the medieval times it was a rite of passage that the noble born children be “blooded” on the hunt. I can find little information in regards to this ritual online. But, what I gather is that a child would be taken on the hunt and when the prey was caught the child would be the one to deliver the deadly blow. Blood from the dying beast would be smeared on the child’s face in order to celebrate the victory. Click here for an article with more information regarding hunt blooding.
  • I really enjoy reading historical fiction. I have read quite a few novels based on the lives of the many wives of Henry VIII – Phillipha Gregory and Jean Plaidy are two of my favorite authors. All of them touch on the ulcer on Henry’s leg. It is always noted as putrid smelling and it seems to be a wifely duty to change the dressing. I am so grateful for modern medicine. Among many other possibilities, historians debate whether Henry died of Syphilis. Syphilis would be one likely explanation for his paranoia and general madness (think wife beheadings!) Others suggest diabetes. Regardless, modern medicine could have cured his problems. Henry VIII had six wives. Check out this portrait of him. He died with a 54 inch waist and he had that putrid leg ulcer. Can you imagine sharing a bed with him??!! It goes without saying that he only married so many times because of his position, because if he was regular Joe Serf the ladies would not have been beating down the door of his hovel.
  • “In this world, there are ways of appearing to go along with other people’s plans, whilst all the time keeping your own counsel and putting things off. And then, before any confrontation can take place, you often find that events have moved on, and that you can do exactly as you please in the matter.” – Lady Elizabeth (the future Queen). This wording of this concept resonates with me. Someone once gave me some advice along the same lines, although not as eloquently worded. It is very true.
  • “A woman may display much cleavage in a low-cut gown, yet seemliness demands that arms be covered to the wrist, whatever the season.” Mores and customs always amaze me. In medieval times it was scandalous to show a forearm but not cleavage. I have always wondered why it is socially acceptable for a man to have his shirt off in public, yet a woman would be arrested. What is it about the breast that makes it so obscene? Furthermore, what is it about a word that makes it offensive? Why are the words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ so offensive, yet ‘copulate’ and ‘feces’ are just fine to say.

On the topic of the English monarchy, I heard an interview with John Lydon of Sex Pistols fame on Broadminded (an XM talk show). During the interview they touched on the song “God Save the Queen.” Lydon revealed that the Sex Pistols were discussed in Parliament under the Treason Act, as their song was considered to be a threat to the English establishment when it was first released in 1977.

One of the “Broads” asked Lydon about the structure of the English government, to explain who had more power Parliament or the Royal family. He stated that the Royal family has no power whatsoever. When asked what their purpose was, he said they are “kind of like our Walt Disney.”

Does he mean that tourists are very interested in them and that they get a lot of publicity? He also said that the Royal family is supported by taxation of the English people. If they are just figureheads, it seems like a waste to allow them to spend so much of the people’s money on things like security, castles, travel, etc.. On the other hand, they are the symbol of an ancient tradition of that country, and many people would be disappointed if the Royal family’s descendants started living the life of the gentry.

I have watched television twice in the past week – and then for no more than one hour at a time. I have been reading voraciously. So what’s next? I resist a trip to the beloved Borders that is less than three miles from my home. The TBR (To Be Read) pile looms behind me.




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