Monday, May 9, 2016

Historical Fun Findings: King Henry's Brain Injury, More on Witch Hunts, "Indecent" Exposure, and Tattoos

Hi everyone!

Today will be bringing you some short fun findings from the research I've been doing. So here goes:

1.) Why was King Henry VIII such a tyrant and what did he really think of Anne Boleyn?

Historians have debated this quite frequently over the years, including one of my new favorite historians, Suzannah Lipscomb. Lipscomb has done extensive research on the 16th century monarch. One thing she does note (in her book 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII and her documentary Henry and Anne: The Lovers Who Changed History) is the head injury Henry received upon falling from his horse while jousting. In fact, before he became the morbidly obese, mean spirited tyrant modern folks know him for being, he was quite the opposite: charming, good-natured, generous, athletic, and very good looking. There is also much evidence, including letters written from Henry to Anne, that attest to him being very much in love with Anne Boleyn when he decided to divorce Catherine of Aragon and be with her instead. In fact, according to many sources, he basically rocked England to its core in order to pave a way for him to legally marry Anne. And you don't just do that for someone 'you sort of like' as a side dish. Therefore, I - as of now - agree with Lipscomb and others when they say that Henry really did love Anne.
So what changed?
Of course, several factors are said to have played a role in changing Henry, his attitude toward Anne, and his disposition in general. One of these factors being his head injury. According to Lipscomb's documentary and conversation with a neurologist, it seems that Henry experienced brain damage to the point of not only completely changing his personality and disposition but to making him extremely paranoid, hence why he seemed to believe not only in Anne's infidelity but that she was plotting with others to have him killed. While Lipscomb and many of her contemporaries do not necessarily believe that Anne was guilty of all she was charged with, they do think that Henry honestly believed that she was.

Suzannah Lipscomb's website and links to her work can be found here:

2.) Could property and church politics have played a role in the witch trials of Salem?

Recenlty, I finished the book Escaping Salem by Richard Godbeer. In the book, Godbeer delves into a witch trial in Connecticut and is yet another person explaining how these trials were not often so cut and dry. In fact, the towns were divided with some defending the accused woman or man and others being all for the accused being convicted. Even the clergy weren't as quick to condemn (the big mean father-son duo, Increase and Cotton Mather, are documented as saying that it is better to have 10 witches walk free than it is to have one innocent person wrongfully executed) and the justice systems had many hurdles in place for the accusers to get over. So as I've said in previous postings, the Hollywood stereotype of a group of men baring torches and pitchforks pulling a helpless woman from her home and to the stake she was to be burned at was not, according to many sources, the norm. Particularly in America where many founders and authorities wanted to curb the hysteria that was spread across several areas of Europe.
Now, I am currently reading Salem Possessed, which discusses the social origins of witchcraft and would likely explain much of what propelled these trials. Yes, there was a lot of drama brewing within the clergy and politicians of Salem and I look forward to bringing you my findings.

3.) Bare-breasted teas (which is exactly what it sounds like)

Hundreds of years ago, everyone was super modest and buttoned up. Even the thought of exposed ankles were enough to send someone to the fainting couch. Well, not really, or at least not to that point of severity. In fact, in some ways, our predecessors did things that would make many in our day and age blush.
I will not only refer to Abby Cox's article, Revealing the Truth About 18th Century Women's Necklines but also books like Jane Pettigrew's A Social History of Tea which explains how women not only drank tea while 'bare-breasted' but also received visitors and callers in this state. As of now, I have no idea how or why this was a thing, but it apparently was.

4.) Tattoos were sported by both men and women during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the first (known) female tattoo artist

Yes, individuals of the supposedly prudish Victorian era sported tattoos. And it was a thing among the upper class. Men and women often had their family crest tattooed somewhere on his or her body, and some women even had the names of their fiances or husbands tattooed onto her skin.
When Vaudeville was in its heyday, heavily tattooed women and men were quite an attraction, but this along with military men getting rather vulgar tattoos also contributed to making them more taboo.

The Broke Costumer has done a good job with researching not only Victorian and Edwardian tattoos, but also Maud Stevens Wagner, the first (known) female tattoo artist (and she actually uses the more grammatically correct female tattoo artist as opposed to the irritating and grammatically incorrect women tattoo artist). And according to her Wikipedia page, Maud's daughter Lotteva followed in the footsteps of her parents, also becoming a tattoo artist. Lotteva also started tattooing at the tender age of nine.

Sources of interest:
The Tattooed Costumer

Maud Stevens Wagner's Wikipedia Page

In future posts I will be discussing King Charles II and the women who protested coffee houses during his reign and more on The Vanishing American.

Til next time. :)


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