a.k.a, I’m a HUGE nerd
Buzzfeed posted a piece entitled, ‘The Definitive Ranking Of The 11 Most Badass Queens In History.’
I like history and I really enjoy reading about famous women in history. “This looks like fun!” I thought as I clicked on it. I would, however, be very, very disappointed because the article, in a nutshell, sucked big time. And here’s why.
The first entry was Queen Isabella of Castile. WTH? Are you serious? She funded Columbus’s voyage to America, which was generally a good thing for white Europeans with expansionistic tendencies. For other people? Not so much. Besides as far as ‘discovering America,’ word has it the Vikings had already been there, done that. (And there’s a rumor that pretty much everyone knew the earth *wasn’t* flat and though Columbus was insane because he would never be able to make it the great distance to the Far East.) Nonetheless, Isabella financed Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the ocean blue. Great. Fine. But badass? She wrote a check. I can write checks.
Number three on the list was Elizabeth Woodville, aka, ‘The White Queen.’ The White Queen is a new costume drama series on the Starz cable network, and, for those of you who don’t know, the words ‘cable network’ and ‘costume drama’ = big budget show with a lot of boobs and naked people.
Anyway, the series is based on the florid Philippa Gregory novel about Woodville and her marriage to Edward IV and the ‘War of the Roses,’ the famous York v. Lancaster battle for the English throne, circa 1455 – 1485. Spoiler alert: the Tudors win in an upset. After all, they were psychopaths. Exhibit A: Henry VIII.
Scrolling on down through the list, I found Queen Mary, aka, Bloody Mary. This is another ‘WTH?’ moment. Aside from providing a name for a terrifying sleepover game for little girls, Mary’s biggest achievement was not being executed by her father, Henry VIII. (See ‘psychopath’ above.)
You see, Mary was a papist, aka, a Catholic. You may recall that Henry VIII had gone to considerable trouble to expunge the Catholic Church from England because the Pope had had the audacity to refuse an annulment of Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After 20-odd years of marriage and zero sons, Henry had grown tired of his wife and her inability to gestate heirs and spares. Meanwhile, he had the total hots for Anne Boleyn, but she wasn’t giving the milk for free, you know. To marry Anne, he dumped the Catholic Church and made a brand new church with himself as it’s supreme – and divine — leader. Think Pope Henry.
Surprise, surprise, the new church had no problem whatsoever granting Henry an annulment and clearing the way for him to marry Anne. Another upside was the fact that Henry banished all things Catholic from the country. This meant closing down a bunch of corrupt abbeys and seizing their large treasuries and assets and turning them over to the corrupt Treasury de Henry. It was a win-win all around. For Henry.
After Henry died and Mary (eventually) became Queen, she thought it would be good to inject a little Catholic religious fervor into her subjects. She did this by boiling alive anyone she deemed not church-y enough. Or burning them at the stake. Basically torturing and murdering people for not being Catholic when, under her father’s regime, they had been persecuted for being Catholic. Yeah, it was fun times in England in the 1500s.
Bear in mind that it wasn’t enough to simply believe in a Christian god. To avoid the label of ‘heretic,’ you had to demonstrate your Christian faith in a satisfactory manner, which sounds simple enough until you understand that what constituted a ‘satisfactory manner’ changed constantly. So basically you were screwed if they set their sights on you. Royally screwed, as it were.
The main reason why the Buzzfeed article sucked is due to the fact it omitted Eleanor of Aquitaine, the quintessential Badass Queen. Born in 1122, she has the distinction of being the only woman ever to have been both Queen of France and Queen of England. She owned property and titles in her own right and did things pretty much her way during an age when women were bought and sold like livestock, only less humanely.
If you want some truly badass credentials, consider this: she fought in the Crusades. The freaking CRUSADES! We’re talking full-on chain mail, swords and horses. We’re talking Game of Thrones-style combat here, people. (I’m guessing there was less nudity in Eleanor’s day, though.)
Speaking of crap, she didn’t put up with it. When she got tired of her whiny husband, King Louis of France, her eyes wandered over to Henry II of England, a strapping 18-year old 11 years her junior. Soon she had the total hots for him, and he for her. She secured a promise of marriage from him, then dumped Husband 1 – and her two daughters – and ran off to England with Henry, thus becoming a Queen for a second time.
She would eventually bear eight more children, including five much coveted sons, with Henry. When said sons grew up, she egged a couple of them on and tried to overthrow Henry. (I’m guessing that for her the whole ‘hots’ thing wore off after eight kids and enduring the humiliation of an untold number of Henry’s mistresses and illegitimate children.)
Anyway, Henry threw her in prison for 16 years because it’s never a good idea to piss off the king by taking an active role in plotting to overthrow him. How she escaped execution is a mystery. Henry eventually released her and she lived until the age of 82, which was a nearly supernatural accomplishment back in those days, when top flight medical care meant bloodletting and/or the application of leeches.
And that, my friends, is why the BuzzFeed article sucks.