Shopping

Shopping can be exhausting, especially when the list of things you want to buy is rather long. Mine included everything from chocolates to tea towels, souvenir name items to action figures and, especially, jewelry.

I have wanted an artistic piece of jewelry for a decade or so, but invested in handbags and good shoes first. I knew from prior trips that Saint Germaine had the type of store I would be looking for, and I was going to be content with costume jewelry if nothing else spoke to me.

We went to dinner the other night at Au 35, on Rue Jacob, and saw lots of wonderful jewelry in the windows of the closed shops. One place in particular, the shop of John Agee, stood out in my mind and V. said that we had to come back. He has good taste in jewelry and looks at me way more than I look at myself, and I loved the art deco but modern feel to the pieces. I wanted several things I saw, but upon returning found that I was going to have to narrow my choices or give up doing any more shopping in Paris.

I also wanted chocolates and tea towels.

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Louvre Grand Gallery, a bit of sculpture & Dinner in Saint Germain

There is more Paleolithic art at one site in southern France than in all the rest of the world at 20,000 years ago. The world’s first representational art belongs to France although the area around Kiev is closely tied to the early artists of France. For a long, long time the only pigments people had were in the black-gray-white range or the brown-ochre-gold range, no greens or blues. France is the first place on Earth to begin working with blue and green, but the entire art of making those pigments was lost the rise of the great civilizations of the Near East and, of course, flourished in Greece and Rome.

Medieval times saw a great revival of art in religious contexts (my own love for medieval art is perhaps born of the fact that I recognize all too well the primitive skill sets and difficulties with composition and perspective that characterize medieval painting). Then, by 1300, especially (or only) in Italy, something else happens and somehow, the Louvre (and the Hermitage, France and Russia again) make extraordinary efforts to collect that art. Of course, there’s still plenty of art left in Italy! But the Louvre has the most astonishing and instructive display of Renaissance art, when the joy of bright pigments returned to painters (with the possible exception of Mantegna – if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was poorly paid for his paintings, which are dim and dark, and done at the same time as Ghirlandaio’s amazing paintings which are shown opposite early Mantegna). One can only suppose that Mantegna was, in his way, painting what he saw – an early impressionist. I have to say I prefer the intense, bright colors. Skies really do appear to be that blue in real life, why not show them?

Yes, a lot of the paintings are religious, but what a glorious time for honoring mothers and children. Perhaps it was because so many women – perhaps one in five – died in childbirth before modern medicine that men, as priests or as artists, valued the feminine, especially mothers. Back then, people really believed in their God – and the painters were exceptionally literate in all things Biblical (most of them). But it’s not just the Bible that shows up on the walls, it’s also Greek mythology – the painting of Themis and Peleus is one of my favorites, showing a happy bacchanalia going on below their thrones in the sky – divine Feminine and Masculine looking on approvingly. The satyrs are pretty naughty.

The Madonnas are all different. They are all serene and composed, but some look sad and wistful as they think of their baby’s fate, others seem more focused on treasuring the baby, while the baby looks sad. The baby almost always has an expression of wisdom beyond his years, as he should. Some of my favorite paintings are of the Annunciation, a theme that means more and more to me as years go by. The paintings of the elderly Elizabeth, long past the age of child-bearing and barren, receiving the news that she’s going to give birth to John the Baptist (not John the beloved apostle – the other one, Jesus’s cousin) depict a woman caught between faith and common sense (aren’t we all?)

We didn’t get to the Medieval Collection on this, our13th trip to the Louvre, and we spent 5 hours. There was a time when that would have seemed like way too much time. But this time, it was like seeing old friends, particularly the faces of the two D’Este sisters. Isabella D’Este, the most lettered woman of Renaissance times and Duchess of Mantua would be delighted to see her image in so many paintings (her studiolo paintings are all in a row in the Grand Gallery, and the altarpiece that depicts her husband – by Mantegna – is across from those, although the Louvre has loaned two of her portraits to the new Louvre Lens project). I’m convinced that the handsome Conditierri portrait is that one of the old Severino brothers, staunch supports of the Este’s and of the Sforzas.

Many artists seem to have a hard time transitioning from mythologically/Biblically themed art to portraiture (Boticelli’s portraits are nothing like Leonardo’s) and one can see that specialization in the Renaissance is leading to new art movements. However, it’s hard to understand Impressionism – or Neoclassicism or Modernism – without a good look at the Renaissance. For Leonardo, the only thing I can figure out (for the Madonna of the Rocks) is that he wanted that strong, forceful composition (and in the painting of Mary sitting on the lap of Saint Anne, he wanted something that hadn’t been done before – and he certainly achieved it, again, in terms of composition). Salai’s face keeps turning up in Leonardo’s paintings (Salai is the subject of Saint John the Baptist, whose sly smile is repeated in Leonardo’s famous – but rarely exhibited nude of Salai, done while Salai was posing for John the Baptist – and generously exhibited in Los Angeles at the Italian-American institute a year or two ago). Leonardo writes of the difficulties of painting without the subject right in front of him (and of a series of techniques for doing so), but Salai was always there – almost until the very end of Leonardo’s life and is probably the person who sold the painting now known as Mona Lisa (a misnomer if ever there was one) to François I.

The Louvre now recognizes formally that the Belle Ferrioniere might be Beatrice D’Este (whose childhood statue by Romano is in the Italian sculpture room elsewhere in the Louvre – we did manage to stop by and see her – and I couldn’t believe the number of pieces in that Italian sculpture room that I had neglected to really admire on the many other trips to the Louvre). The portrait of Ludovico Sforza’s mistress (Lucrezia) is also in the Grand Gallery (Beatrice was his wife – something like 25 years his junior), attributed to the “School of Leonardo” but done by Leonardo & Co. during the same period when Beatrice sat in the Salla de Assi for her portrait by Leonardo. Her sister, Isabella D’Este was supremely jealous of the fact that little sister got her portrait done by Leonardo. I believe Leonardo finished the portrait posthumously as Beatrice died in childbirth at about the same time that he was painting her. I also have the fantasy that it was this portrait that Tolstoi saw in the Louvre and incorporated into the famous scene in War and Peace, when a young, unloved wife dies in childbirth and a portrait is painted of her looking reproachfully out at the world ever after.

I don’t try to rank the parts of the Louvre any more, but I do like the big format French paintings better than all those Roman heads they have. Odalisque never fails to make me smile and to remember how good certain shades of blue look next to human skin. David, Íngres, Le Brun (her self-portrait in Neo-Classical style might be easy to miss among all the paintings, especially with Napoleon taking up all that space with his coronation across the room), all the masters who led to Impressionism are there. I’m reading a biography of Picasso, who was delighted to move to Paris (he had exhausted his copying of his favorites in El Prado), and I know that these were paintings that Manet, Monet, Renoir and Matisse (among many others) treasured and copied from as they were learning. There was a little boy about 8 years old with colored pencils and a lot of talent copying one of the Îngres paintings.

We managed to dash over to Marly, Puget and Khoursabad Courts just as the sun was beginning o set and had most of it to ourselves. Louvre was open until 9:45 and after going in circles through cuneiform and getting sidetracked by Ninevah (Sumeria is the world’s first civilization according to V. Gordon Childe, whose definition of the term is the most widely-accepted – and it is a marvel to see pieces that are already so sophisticated and tell so much about a culture and are 4,500 years old). I agree with the Code of Hammurabi – if you are adopted, your *real* parents are the ones who raised you and anyone who returns to the “house of the ones who are the blood relatives” and abandons their real parents is an ungrateful and immoral person. On the other hand, I hope the Code doesn’t prohibit curiosity and love toward all the people who help make us who we are. I don’t think it does – I know exactly what it means and I thought of my amazing real dad, back in Santa Paula, impatient for me to get home – because my well-being and safety is so important to him.

Later on, after sitting in the pink sunset near the Carrousel Arch and then going down into Saint Germain for an absolutely amazing dinner at Au 35 (thanks to Paris forum members for that recommendation), we realized we were more or less on Parisian time. Although we arrived for dinner at just after 10 pm, we weren’t the last people to come in and the place was gently bustling. My husband’s beet and tomato gazpacho (soupe froid) was perhaps the most interesting part of the meal, and if I could figure out the yellow pepper sauce that accompanied my poached egg appetizer (I know, it’s the height of decadence), I’d be very happy. I am not an expert in Bearnaise sauce, I only know what I like and each morsel of my plat was enhanced by it, if I chose to abandon the delicate and perfect flavors of the unsauced potatoes, mushrooms and beef to use it. Now I realize I’ve never actually had good mushrooms before (these tasted in a way like mushrooms back home, but the intense richness of the flavor was something I’ve never tasted). It’s only been a few hours since I ate that meal and I’m already wishing I had more mushrooms. Too full for dessert (we had eaten at the Louvre Carrousel food court because we got up too late to eat any sort of regular lunch or breakfast – we had excellent couscous and garbanzo beans and vegetables – but in portions large enough to feed three people on each of our plates – so if you choose the couscous place at the Louvre – and I would recommend it for a basic, fast food type meal – you might consider ordering just one lunch for two people; let me know if two people can even finish one lunch there).

I knew before going to Au 35 that they made good steaks (and I know another few places to get good steaks in Paris; I find that many places have entrecôte on the menu but really, you’re better off skipping steak unless you can see that others are enjoying it – or you have read a review). With Brouilly as our wine, two entrées and two plats, our bill came to a mere 88€ (and we had three items on our plats). We were the only English speaking people there.

An older and distinguished looking French couple were seated just before us. They had two éntrees and two desserts – no mains at all. He was wearing cream colored pants, fisherman sandals (at 70 years of age or thereabouts, I imagine he is placing comfort before style but his green sweater was beautiful) and she had on cream pants, a cream top I’d described as within the “peasant” genre, but her scarf – which I could never have tied in that manner if my life depended on it, was one of those big square ones but not shiny silk, instead an abstract set of prints in mostly blues, she had on velcro-closed Birksenstock type sandals and a giant red tote (birkin-shaped but definitely not a Birkin) that really set off her outfit.

The waitress at Au 35 spoke English, but humored me by also speaking French and we both resort to using whatever words got the meaning across. Almost everywhere we go, people are interested in California (and the sea, and how lucky we are to live near it) and almost everyone has a cousin or brother or someone who has lived somewhere in SoCal for awhile. Au 35 is near the René Descartes school of medicine and Science-Po, and there were some very lively and interesting art gallery openings going on in the neighborhood. After dinner, strolling down the street, we could enjoy window after window of contemporary art – a good appetizer for today’s event, which is seeing the Angel of the Bizarre at the D’Orsay and seeing the D’Orsay in general.

Paris is lucky

Photo_July_Column_by_night_Paris_France_2007-09-09

I know that Parisians have their own problems, as all people do. And as we gazed tonight on the Golden Being atop the July Column at Bastille, I thought about how hard Paris tries to remember its past. The memorials to the people who disappeared into Auschwitz and into other atrocities are everywhere.  Memorials to historic events reside in so many street names.  Pont Alexandre III commemorates a gruff, somewhat ill-mannered Tsar known for his musicianship and his dedication to making sure he remained The Tsar of All the Russias, an autocrat who just missed being a tyrant.

Earlier today, we walked in Le Marais to one of our favorite gardens, which is near an elementary school and on the school building is a memorial to the children who were taken away with the cooperation of the Vichy government.  The memorial is right next to the place where parents are reminded about upcoming school events – no one can truly forget.  We took a different route than usual (and ended up finding a side door into St. Paul’s) and found another garden, gated, and placed at the spot where a 45 year old man and his 15 year old son fought, to the death, rather than be taken by the Germans. The daughter of this man survived, and the garden is her memorial to them. It was lovely, it was sad, and it was about courage.

We also saw, again, the longest segment of Paris’s old defensive wall, built 1190-1200 (Louis-PhilippeI think). This time I really took the time to marvel at its turrets and its age. It’s now the back wall of a playground/basketball court and still doing its job. It’s also on the street where Rabelais once lived and there’s a plaque at the point where they think his home once stood. Husband and I are both big fans of Rabelais.

This was all on the way to St. Paul’s, sans breakfast.

I am not a traditionally religious person, but you’d have to be anti-human not to be moved by the reminders of how often gallantry and courage are rewarded by a painful death, or how sad it is for mothers (and fathers) to lose their children. To me, it seems good to remember, because it brings us all together in our collective mourning – and for those who are incapable of this kind of sentiment, I feel both pity and a definite sense of being “other”.  This is a reason I like to go to churches, to ponder the circumstances that made so many people turn to faith.  Perhaps it was because they felt their feelings so strongly, and there was so much despair.

Most people, though, are moved by sculptures like the Pieta once owned by Marie de Medici (cruel as she was, she loved her son) which is now inside St. Paul’s.  I’m on something of a quest to see as many works of the prolific Delacroix as I can.  A master of realism, in a way not often seen since, he is called a romantic because, well, he puts so much emotion into his work.

christ on the mount of olives

His painting of Christ on the Mount of Olives is filled with the pain of a man contemplating his ultimate fate and knowing, as only some of us do, in what manner he will likely die. I think about the people I know with serious illnesses, people who will not survive those illnesses, people who have already died bravely – like Moira, who fought breast cancer from age 28 until age 42 and died between our visit last year and this year. And you know what? There was a glow about her.  Delacroix captures that in a way that even I, a non-student of art, can see.

Our day had started by getting up early to meet a professor of art history and architecture, from whom my husband had purchased a painting, a minor impressionist who painted the first known impressionist painting of Saint Etienne-Du-Mond, one of my very favorite churches.  The man has an apartment in Paris and came up to do some errands and hand deliver the painting on our first full day here.  It is really a treasure and now we have to figure out how to get it home. We’ll need a big suitcase, I guess. We see other people with huge duffel-rollers, so they must exist.

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting St. Paul’s to compete with Saint Etienne-Du-Mond.

We’d seen the outside of St. Paul’s, of course, and I had heard the interior wasn’t “all that.”  That’s because it lacks the stunning stained glass of the Gothic churches, and, for a royal church, it does seem rather plain.  Louis XIII died before completing it, I think. The first mass held there was conducted by Richelieu, which made me sit and think a bit more about history.  The church tries hard to be a royal interior, but without a mandala, without a unifying and universal symbol of light and enlightenment, the interior is a bit too much of a memorial.  Joan of Arc, whose representations I always want to see, is tucked into a corner, but she’s there, as much a reminder of human excess and violence as Bastille or Place de la Concorde.

But Paris does remember, it’s all there, in plaques and commemoratives, for the person who can read.

So we strolled down the street opposite St. Paul’s to catch the classic view of the façade and found a little Spanish tapa place, dedicated to bull-fighting, where it was good to have lunch.  I had quiche and some spicy potatoes (I’ll eat red chile whenever I can find it in Paris, Paris’s only real contemporary misfortunate is to be lacking enough spicy chile).  There were red chiles strung all over  and blinking red lights behind the little bar, and tables full of mostly grown-up and older French people ordering huge broquettes and dozens of tapa dishes.  I had a wine called de Solsticio, from Spain, and it was touched with vanilla and was a nice contrast to the excellent potatoes.  France may not have chile, but it has surely embraced the potato and they taste better here than in the US of A.

Then, we walked over to Hôtel de VIlle and found the fashion exhibit. For years, I’ve wanted to visit Galliera or whatever the fashion museum is called, but it’s always closed. Too delicate to be exhibited in the current space or something.  So they designed this amazing space inside Hôtel de Ville and put up dresses from 1865 to now, often with older pieces side by side with the modern dresses they inspired.  My favorite was a green 1920’s gown by Madeleine Vionnet (I need to check her name, not sure that’s right).  But there were so many dresses from the 10’s and 20’s that were just…beyond words, in real life. Something happened in the post-War years, the 50’s dresses were just as I remembered them, even the haute couture looks like it belongs at a barbecue instead of on the runway. Okay, I exaggerate, but only a little.

They wouldn’t let us take pictures, but here is a sample of  Vionnet (not the one I saw, but two other designs):

vionnet2 vionnet

And here is Mme Vionnet herself:

drapery-dress-fashion-trend-Madeleine-Vionnet

Yes, there was a real Chanel suit from the 1950’s, but the Chanel blue beaded dress from the 1920’s was a show stealer and even Coco’s “daytime” dresses (so simple, so feminine – why can’t they make a simple dress these days?) had an entire audience of admirers. The exhibit wasn’t too crowded, mostly women of course.  Lots of mothers and daughters, and quite a few grandmother, mother and granddaughter trios, most of them so tastefully dressed – well, that spoke for itself. That’s why Paris is lucky. It not only has many people willing to allow their treasured garments to be exhibited (the pieces were owned by so many different private individuals), but it has people willing to dress to come out to see them. The gloves, the fans, the shoes, the bits of embellishment exhibited as art rounded out the exhibit.

The exhibit was free.  We were there maybe two hours.

Then, back to the apartment on Ile Saint-Louis for a nap. We’ve given up on jet lag management and just sleep whenever. Husband wanted to go hear jazz, but was so hesitant to propose it, as the idea was that we were already tired. But, I pointed out, we were also going to be hungry eventually (I had ordered two small tapa dishes, and he ate half of one of them, not realizing that was my whole lunch, and we didn’t have breakfast). So he called and got a reservation for one of the few remaining tables at the jazz club and we found the bus to get there. This is quite a step for a person who started speaking French just last year and who hates telephones. The person on the phone switched to English (and greeted my husband warmly when we arrived).  We took the bus (for the first time, actually) to get out to Rue de Charonne, just beyond Bastille.

Angelo DeBarre is one of the world’s finest and most accomplished guitar players. He often plays much larger venues, but his “home club” is in Bastille and there, the lucky locals get to hear him frequently, and people come from all over the world to listen. His quartet (violin, rhythm guitar and bass) are superb musicians as well. The food wasn’t bad either.  Now, I know I’m going to be eating lots more French food, and since I actually love steak tartare, I know that a French cheeseburger is, well, for me it’s ambrosia.  Fresh sesame bun, the best onion, and nearly raw hamburger (it is warm in the middle though, husband swears the last French hamburger he had was still frozen in the middle). This meat was never frozen, well seasoned and so tasty.  Could not eat the rest of the meal (too full), but the fingerling potatoes were great. Of course there was an entrée first, I had creamy risotto with mushrooms (excellent) and he had salmon tartare (also excellent and we think we worked out the recipe well enough to try it at home).  He had chicken tikka masala as his main, and he said it was great. Usually I’d taste it, but…really, had to have every bite of that burger (I don’t eat burgers much at home, only in Paris, because they taste the way they used to taste out on the plains of eastern Colorado and Kansas when I was a kid, and they don’t taste that way most places back home). We joked about dessert.

Angelo and his quartet are Rom (gypsy) and there were quite a few gypsies at the club. Angelo seemed to remember my husband (also a musician) from last year, smiling a greeting as he passed. We were too tired to go out and talk to the musicians and their crew, but they were friendly and lots of other people did.  Lots of video-making and picture-making. GIrls in lovely outfits, my favorite was a white tiered miniskirt paired with a black lace turtleneck and black leather jacket on a winsome young redhead.  They played this song:

And many others.

In the end, we stayed through two or three sets of amazing music, including Michel LeGrand’s I Will Wait For You and My Blue Heaven and a lot of other standards.  Vioinist Florin Niculescu has those jazz harmonics down perfectly and DeBarre’s 20-something son is coming along as a second rhythm player.  There were these moments of musical humor too, and a lot of the audience got it.  Los Angeles is known for its music, but you’d go a long time to jazz clubs in L.A. and never hear anything like what we heard tonight on our second night in Paris.  Yes, it was like Django and Stephane (and I’ve heard Stephane live – I’m that old).

After midnight, as we walked back to Ile, outside Starbucks, a woman (who was probably gypsy) bedded down with a baby and a small child.  Recently, 400 Roma were evicted from an illegal campsite in the woods north of Paris and dispersed. I guess it must be safer for them to sleep in front of Starbucks?  At any rate, for our own reasons and because we have both spent time helping refugees and other displaced persons back home, my husband gave the woman some money and we joked that, as we don’t spend $5 a day on Starbucks like many of our students do, we can afford to help a gypsy woman. So one day, and gypsies in two different lights.  The woman seemed astonished that we’d give her anything and was grateful.  She spoke French.  She was not begging at the time, she was simply trying to get her kids to sleep.

We stayed out later than the bus ran, so we just walked home. On the way home, I kept seeing this searchlight sweep the sky. Being tired, all I could think of was a Hollywood premier – or a car dealership. What could it be, I wondered?

Then I remembered. I am in Paris and that is the beacon on the Eiffel Tower.

It’s okay to be in love with a city, and it’s okay to shed a few tears for the sake of beauty – and the effort that Paris makes to be real and to be beautiful at the same time, for the fact of its survival and its civility.

The War of the Roses, Part Two

Richard II might have gone on with his peace plans (except for attacking Ireland) if things had not deteriorated in France. First, the French King, Charles VI, was apparently insane.

Remember, first, that a couple of generations back, King Philip IV, the Fair, of France had three sons and a daughter (Isabella the She-Wolf). All three sons died either without issue or with only female children, setting off Edward III’s claim on the French throne.

The last of those sons to reign, Charles IV was, like his father, known as “the Fair.” When he died, his wife actually was pregnant, and a regency was set up in case the child was a boy. Charles of Valois, Charles IV’s uncle, Philip VI’s grandson, was the regent. When the child failed to be a boy, Charles of Valois became King Charles V of France. The Capetian dynasty was no more. The Valois dynasty began. It is Charles V’s son, Charles VI of Valois who was King while Richard II was attempting to settle things with the French.

Charles VI is also known as Charles the Mad. So, illness is another factor that these lineages have to deal with, both physical and mental. Charles’s first psychotic episode apparently occurred after the attempted murder of a good friend. While attempting to raid Brittany, where the assailant was hiding out, he appears to have lost contact with reality and attacked his own companions. They subdued him. During some of his episodes, he was unable to respond when asked his name. The exits to his primary residence in Paris had to be walled up or he’d run screaming through the streets.

Sometimes, he believed himself made of glass and made frantic attempts to avoid breakage.

Charles VI’s younger brother watched all this (and more) with some perplexity. You can probably imagine how the younger brother of a King feels about fate, when the King is mad.

It is this same Charles who gave his 6 year old daughter to King Richard II as part of a peace treaty.

When we last mentioned him, Richard II had banished Henry Bolingbroke for life and disinherited them, then gone off to wage more war against Ireland. Henry lost no time in finding an advisor, a former Bishop of Canterbury and returning to England where he used his wealth raise and army and defy Richard. Henry laid waste to Cheshire, which made other areas (many of them already opposed to Richard) very prone to cooperating with him.

By the time Richard II got back from Ireland, Henry had consolidated an army and power, and had no trouble defeating Richard and imprisoning him. This can be seen as the mark of a “true Plantagenet” as it’s the kind of thing Geoffrey did constantly, at which Henry II excelled, and which King Richard the Lion-Heart, King John and Edward I also reveled in. Naturally, Richard II no longer considered Henry IV to be the best choice of an heir.

Without any offspring, what was Richard’s approach to choosing an heir? According to his grandfather’s entailment on the throne, designed to keep the youngster from making errors, only the male line could be considered. But meantime, Philippa, daughter of Lionel, had married a Mortimer and had a son. Edward III had specifically banned any such line of succession; only the male lines could be considered. If Edward III”s will was followed, then Henry was the rightful heir.

But Richard II was a King, himself. Whether or not he ever formally renounced the entailment of his grandfather, he certainly decided to pass the crown to grandson of Lionel even though that boy, Edmund, inherited his rights through the female line. It had been done before (Henry II claimed the throne of England via his mother, Empress Maud). Did it make a difference that Maud was an Empress (the dowager Holy Roman Empress)? Maybe. Philippa was merely Duchess of Ulster.

In every generation of medieval British royalty there are always nobles and hangers-on who are attempting to be ennobled. People do favors for Kings, they put their eggs in one basket so to speak, and through showing loyalty that is often brutal to others, they attempt to protect the King and insinuate themselves into his favor. The Mortimers were experts at this (as were the de Braoses, the de Lucys, the Staffords and many others). Remember that Isabella the She-Wolf had allied herself with Roger Mortimer, her lover and staunch supporter. The entire Mortimer clan benefitted from high marriages, including the marriage of

While Henry would have been Richard II’s closest and most likely male heir, considering the circumstances, Richard II had chosen a more distant cousin – but still a child – as his heir apparent. When Richard II died (mysterious circumstances) in prison, Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, swept the little heir apparent aside and had himself crowned Henry IV of England, Plantagenet.

As the son of the first Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, Henry IV Plantagenet was known as a Lancastrian Plantagenet.

Let’s remember that John of Gaunt was regent for the little boy Richard II, whose father was John’s elder brother. Had little Richard not been born, John might have been King John II. He remained relatively loyal and certainly showed more than simple self-interest in his life, but of course, he loved his own son and was devastated by claims that Henry IV was a traitor.

In the end, this turns out to be a tragic tale of too many sons. Edward, the Black Prince, beloved, heroic and masterful, dies before he can become King. His small son takes over the job while his brothers have to play entirely different roles than they would have played as brothers of a King. John must have been consigned to a minor role in history as the third son of a King (after Edward, the Black Prince, would have come Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Plantagenet, the second son of the King to survive infancy). So what happened to Lionel? Why wasn’t he regent and why was it John’s son who eventually became King?

As befitted a second son, Lionel was given a great marriage and a great patrimony: Ireland. He was Duke of Ulster. He moved to Ireland to oversee its affairs (and received military aid from his nephew, Richard II). He paid up tribute to Richard from Ireland and made himself rich and powerful on his own island. His noble Irish wife died young, leaving him with just one daughter, Philippa of Clarence and Ulster. So, poor Lionel had no son to contribute to the throne of England. John of Gaunt, who was at home and had a son, was positioned to make a move on the throne.

But there were two more sons of Edward III. Once the hereditary schema fell apart at the death of Richard II, one might suppose that the next in line would be…Lionel. Lionel had, however, meantime died. John was rightfully next after Lionel, but he too had died. So, using the same logic as was applied when Richard II’s father died without taking the throne, Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt seems to be a good claimant for the throne in any case. His two younger brothers didn’t see it that.

To the younger brothers, the two eldest brothers, Edward and Lionel, were both out of the picture and it seemed that all ordinary lines of succession were ignored and the throne was in freefall.

The fourth son’s name was Edmund, Duke of York, Earl of Surrey and Earl of Cambridge. Only a year younger than John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley was sent to the Earl of Surrey for fostering, as was common in those days. He saw military service in France and was wounded there. His first wife was the daughter of King Pedro of Castille. When she died, he married one of those Hollands, who had ingratiated themselves so well into the reign of Richard II. With Isabella, Princess of Castille, he had two sons and a daughter. The eldest, Edward, died in the Battle of Agincourt (part of the Hundred Years’ War; a British victory over the French). So unlike Lionel, as things got more tangled in the succession, Edmund did have sons – the second of whom, Richard of Conisburgh, would attempt to claim the throne from his cousin, Henry IV.

Richard of Conisburgh was an ambitious young man. He was married to his first cousin, twice removed, Anne Mortimer. Now pay attention here, because in addition to being part of the Mortimer clan of constant ambition, she was also the granddaughter of Lionel. Lionel’s daughter, Philippa was her mother.

Now, Philippa, had she been a man, would have had a much stronger claim to the throne than Henry. Now her daughter, who might have been a Princess of England, is married to a man just one step away from being King. This is a volatile mixture when so much is at play and at stake. This is why Lionel’s side of the family is “Yorkist” (they joined with Richard of Conisburgh, son of the Duke of York). They had to get a papal dispensation because they were too closely related.

Richard, 2nd Duke of York, and Anne Mortimer had two sons, one of whom died young, and a daughter, Isabel. The surviving son, also named Richard, became the 3rd Duke of York.

Meanwhile, many people felt that Henry IV had killed Richard II (which sounds about right) and grabbed the throne. Even though he had a strong and rightful claim to the throne, the whole part about imprisoning the King and then the King dying while imprisoned was not good. Uprisings began, chief amongst them was a new uprising in Wales, which had been denied its independence thoroughly since the time of Edward I. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland also refused to serve King Henry IV.

But Henry IV had an army, and he trained his own eldest son, Henry, in the arts of war, so as to have a loyal co-commander, in the style of a good King. He was able to use young Henry and an army of about 400 to quell both the Welsh and the Northumbria uprisings. He also suffered a good deal from health problems.

The health problems would prove significant. For more, you’ll have to wait until I write Part Three.

Los Angeles to Paris

From curbside to security at Tom Bradley, including stopping to check our gate on the Big Board (to the right as you enter), about 6 minutes. Security, including passport and boarding pass check – 13 minutes to when I sat down to put my shoes back on. Lots of yelling in English, didn’t help for those who didn’t understand to have it yelled louder. Some people had the wrong things in their bags, or it would have been even faster. No belts, jackets, coats or scarves – nothing in pockets at all. But glasses and jewelry were fine. Just inside the North Area (Air France gates are to your right as you go through Bradley) there’s a See’s Candy, a place to rent a mobile hotspot and to buy a global SIM card and other misc. phone stuff. Also the usual news stand. Outside the sterile area is duty free shopping. There’s a very limited Duty Free shop inside the sterile area – so if you want anything besides cigarettes and hard liquor, you’re out of luck once inside.

No problem getting my extra bag of contact lens related stuff (lenses, salines, hand wipes) through security (I carry the prescription just in case) in addition to the quart bag. Got through with my travel scissors and my TSA approved wine bottle opener.

Good place for spotting unusual and expensive Hermes bags (no proper accent on my Logitech LIghtweight Travel board) and Louis Vuitton bags. My Balenciaga Velo is inside her sleeper bag in the bottom of my carry-on, after reading about a poor young woman who posted on The Purse Forum about catching her Bal-bag on the underseat hardware on a plane and ripping it…so mine is protected.

I’m wearing skinny jeans, mephisto oxfords, compression socks (once you learn to put them on they aren’t so bad), Épice scarf, Ann Klein beaded V-neck top with tank tops underneath, my Balenciaga bracelet and other costume jewelry.

Services inside security are pretty limited. There’s one bar (Sam Adams) with paninis and juice and fruit. There’s a coke machine nearer to the gates, but in the Air France area, the snack bar is (as usual) closed. The line is out the door at Sam Adams right after we got the last table. Music is horrible (cheesy hip hop and screechy no-name R & B, there oughta be a law against auto-tuned songs).

Gotta say these Southern California girls rock their outfits. The younger crowd is especially chic, lots of skinny jeans (black and denim) and cute tops, and oh, Louis Vuitton would go out of business without the Paris-bound. The older ladies, like me, have made some effort too. The most notable is a 60ish woman in white jeans and white top with a red sweater carefully tied in a rakish manor around her neck. Another is a woman in a dark blue pant outfit with a very carefully tied light and dark blue floral scarf. Am going to try and retie mine.

Since we’re still in L.A., we can break all the rules of vigilance and leave our cell phones on our table while I type and drink my bourbon and coke. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying hearing French to the left of me (a man in a pink shirt and a straw cowboy hat discussed with a man with a huge Ralph Lauren logo how long it took them to plan their trip to Los Angeles, and how they didn’t get to doing all the things they wanted to do. Traffic is bad in L.A., they say. One man says that his wife was fearful the whole time they were driving.

But, oh, the shoes and the hand-bags!! So many adorable ballet flats!

On flying Air France: attendants are very nice and the plane is brand new. Seat back entertainment units work, and there’s a wide selection of offerings. Service of drinks and food is slow by American standards, but the wine and other beverages are free. At 2 hours into the flight, most of us are ready for dinner and a nap, but we’re getting a second round of beverages. One thing I will say: these new air buses are great and they have worked out the seats so that if you have a big, bouncy person sitting in front of you (as I do), your food tray does not jerk around as in some older plans and the entertainment screen is barely affected.

In a fit of excitement, when Air France sent me a pre-flight message about 10 days ago, I ordered my husband a special seafood meal for $20. It did not materialize and after some phone calls around the plane, no $20 seafood meal could be found for him. He made do. However, I would not spend any extra money on AF food next flight. I suppose I’ll email their customer service about it – but not real hopeful about getting the $ back. Says right on his ticket that he is supposed to have the meal…I figure it went to some picky eater in first class.

On the Paris side, it took 20 minutes for us to set foot on the jetway after our jet rolled up to it (it was about 25 minutes after landing; AF has a camera on the tail of the plane so you get see just how close you are to the end of the runway before the thing actually comes to a stop). We were in row 35. Then, it was 40 minutes from the moment we exited the plane until we were through passport control. We did not speed walk, but we weren’t walking all that slowly, either. After that, some people had to go get their luggage – we didn’t have anything checked through. We went past exit/taxi area (unusually long line), and down to the RER ticket area. We don’t have a chip and pin card, so didn’t even try the machines. The line looked long, but it was only 15 minutes before we had our cards recharged and another 5 minutes – and we were seated (almost the only people) in the RER B train which – unfortunately for us – was not going, that day, to Notre-Dame-Saint-Michell (or Chatelet), which was where we were intending to go. But more on that later – the RER B did take us to Gare du Nord – so, technically, we were in Paris!

Human Nature: a special kind of ethics for a special kind of beast?

Years ago, I read a philosopher who stipulated that human beings that didn’t treat others humanely were not, in fact, entitled to the word “human” in their title.  He argued, further, that they were not persons.  An anthropologist would say this has to do with reciprocity, Jesus would call it the Golden Rule argument, Kant incorporated some version of it into his categorical imperative(s).

The Los Angeles Times, today reported that some complete assholes stole a priceless work of art.  Petroglyphs are near and dear to my heart, so of course this makes me angry.  The furies and the muses compelled the Ancient Greeks to action:  to philosophy, to writing, to theater, to art.  We have to take all that inspires us, whether blissful or…something like this story…and turn it into something else.  So I write about it.

Here, first, are some pictures of what these people destroyed:

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On the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, Native Americans kept track of their use of space through calendar-like petroglyphs.  This system of petroglyphs stretches from the California Coast to the Plains.  Paiutes still used this site in sacred ceremony and they believe the petroglyphs were carved by shamans (so do I).

Somebody came in with a winch, a jack hammer and probably a skiff loader and chopped these out of the earth.  Here’s a picture of damage at another nearby site:

Unbelievable.

The Bureau of Land Management offers a mere $1000 reward for information leading to the capture of these…thieves, and if it’s their first conviction, they face only a year in federal prison (whereas students who commit financial aid fraud face up to 20 years in prison).

Something’s broken here.  Maybe we need skiff loader laws that are like gun laws.  Maybe every skiff loader should have a GPS chip that traces its movements and another 20 years in prison for removing it.  Or, as an online friend of mine said:  The death penalty for this crime and only for this crime.  (Those of us who are anti-death penalty have a hard time using reason sometimes too).

There are no funds to police these sites.

And I have no further words to express what I’m feeling, but I am inspired to donate further to the Archaeological Conservancy, and to other entities I trust to protect our earthly heritage.

The War of the Roses, Part I

I’m on the Crimson side, by kin and by loyalty.

While it’s a tad frightening to see how many of my various 18th and 19th century ancestors in the Taylor clan are descendants of some de Braos or another, there’s way more information on some of our later, more famous ancestors:  the Plantagenets.

One of the reasons I find genealogy so interesting is that, as a modern person, I know that it’s partly fortune that determines whether boys or girls will be born.  Now, I know that there’s been some recent research indicating that several variables are involved in whether people have boys or girls.  I want to mention some of the proposed variables.

Men who have a disproportionate amount of brothers are more likely to have sons.  This would be passed along the male line if it is genetic as opposed to environmental or epigenetic.

Bolder, more assertive women are more likely to have sons.  Now this one seems like a long shot to me, but the theory would be that women’s bodies are more likely to host and keep a masculine pregnancy if they’re already rather more testosteronized.  Lots of assumptions there – and yet…well, who could have been bolder than Eleanor of Aquitane, maternal founder of the Plantagenets?  At the same time, she gave her first husband, Louis VII, King of France, only daughters.  Louis’s siblings were almost 50/50 in terms of sex ratio, but with each of his wives he had mostly girls.  Which is interesting.  But, if this one is true, then was Eva Marshall, wife of Black Will de Braos a timid woman?  Would love to know.  Anyway, she had only girls.

Older couples are more likely to have daughters.  Statistical fact, apparently, no one knows why.  Less support for Y-sperm from the man’s body?  I don’t know.

Men with high functioning “male brains” have more sons; women with high functioning “female brains” have more daughters.  This was reprinted from a set of studies in Psychology Today.  What they’re talking about is a broader hypothesis that in order for certain traits to take hold in a population, they must be passed on, so successful men must pass on traits that make men successful to boys, and the same for women.  Okay, makes sense.  But is it true?  In my family, it seems to me that lots of “successful” males and females were born, but only the men were given much opportunity to avail themselves of wealth, power or thrones.

Were you waiting for me to mention culture?  Because, in the end, that’s what I’m interested in.  What kind of system takes high functioning women like Eleanor of Aquitane and locks them up for 15 years for no other reason than that their husband wants to?  I realize he was a king and back then, kings attempted to get their way in all things and Henry II was definitely no pushover.  But it isn’t just Eleanor.  It’s so many women of that period – and onward – whose lives are hedged in, fenced in, boxed in, so that there’s virtually no room for them to breathe, much less be educated.  They’re having so many children, for one thing.

Religion is the linch pin of this system.   Not only does the church dictate male primacy, it also dictates legitimacy.  A man can only have one legitimate wife.  Until the Reformation, that wife had to be the one that the man married in the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church – of Rome, if you were European.  Illegitimate children abound in my lineage (I’m one, myself, of course).  A very big deal was made of illegitimacy all the way down through the ages, in my family.  Is there some kind of gene for conventionality?  If so, some of my family members had it – and others delighted in flouting it.  Mostly, of course, it was the men who flouted convention by taking concubines regularly.  One can understand this in kings like Llewellyn Fawr and Henry II, whose marriages had to bring political alliances, regardless of what their hearts or loins told them.

So, anyway, Henry II was very powerful.  He managed to run off with the King of France’s wife, and she had to leave behind her two small daughters, princesses Marie and Alys.  Marie’s lineage would eventually join with her mother’s descendants – some 8 generations later, when one of her great-grand-daughters married another descendant of Eleanor, but through Henry II, not Francis VII – a Plantagenet, but a Yorkist.   Both Marie and Alys are maternal ancestors of U.S. Presidents, contemporary British royalty, Churchill and Lady Diana.  Alys is a maternal ancestor of Louis XVII, even though for centuries, her descendants held no thrones.  They still kept in the game, so to speak.

So Eleanor, Queen of France and Duchess/Queen of Aquitane runs off with Henry II, who is about to become King of England after one of those big succession crises.

Henry II is not the son of a King.  He is the son of a daughter of a King.  When Henry I died, his eldest son had already died in the tragic, Titanic-of-its-Day, the wreck of the White Ship.  At least three of Henry Beauclerc I’s children were on that ship, which was supposed to be the best and fastest ship in the world, when it capsized off the coast of Normandy.

Henry Beauclerc (which means “fine scholar”) was an amazing man who outlived many of his children.  And he did have many children.  He was married in the Church twice, but he had an extraordinary number of illegitimate children.  I am descended both from his legitimate heir (Empress Maud), except that even though he named his eldest legitimate daughter as his heir, his contemporaries weren’t buying that.  No woman could reign in her own right.   Anyway, poor Empress Maud was driven out of her own country by her cousin, Stephen of Blois, who claimed to be the most direct male heir (I am also descended from him, but he blew it and lost the throne – he is perhaps the only English king whose father was not king and whose descendants did not rule).

Anyway, Empress Maud married roguish, handsome, virile and militaristic Geoffrey Plantagenet.  Her father arranged this marriage for her, perhaps thinking that Geoffrey was ambitious enough to make sure his wife retained the throne of England.  But Geoffrey was far more concerned about preserving his own paternal heritage, back in Normandy, where he was Count of Anjou (love their pears) and Maine.  He later achieved his own ambition of becoming Duke of Normandy.  He also didn’t like Maud very much.  Geoffrey’s nickname was “the Fair” and he was apparently very handsome and quite the womanizer.  He liked wearing personal adornment and the nickname “Plantagenet” refers to a sprig of yellow flowers that he wore in his hat.  Maud was rather serious, perhaps a bit mopey and imperious.  Before being married off to Geoffrey, Maud had already been married off at a very young age to the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V, who was basically the King of Germany.  He was 21 years older than herself.  When she was called back from Germany to marry the Norman count, Maud spoke German and had to leave her children from that marriage behind.  Perhaps she was not a happy camper.

But one thing is clear, she fought hard to get that throne away from her childhood playmate and cousin, Stephen of Blois.  A big war ensued.  Maud gave birth to 4 sons from Geoffrey, one of whom died in infancy.  Henry II was her eldest son, a precocious boy who loved both his parents, despite their antipathy towards each other.

Maud raised Henry to be King.  In order to become King, he had to perform a military conquest of England, which he attempted for the first time at the age of 14.  Henry Curtmantle II of England was well-connected.  His father was the Duke of Normandy (Stephen of Blois claimed that title but was unable to defend it).  His great-uncle was King David of Scotland, who became an ally against King Stephen.

Henry did not lack for confidence and he and Eleanor, for a long time, were good partners and together, they had four sons who survived to adulthood and two that did not.  The fact that Maud had been birthing all those boys, that Henry had only brothers, and that Eleanor had sons with Henry and only daughters with Louis VII is interesting.  Eleanor also had daughters with Henry, though.  Altogether, Eleanor produced 12 children, 10 with Henry, 6 of them boys.  Richard the Lion-Heart is perhaps the most famous, and King John the most infamous.

For a long time, Plantagenets ruled in England.  King John begat Henry III Plantagenet, King of England, along with many other children who have surviving descendants today.  Henry III was the father of Edward I Plantagenet, King of England, a great warrior and energetic King.

It is with Edward I that more dynastic troubles begin.   Like a true Plantagenet (or a true descendant of Eleanor of Aquitane), Edward managers to produce four sons who survive past infancy (six total).   Unfortunately, three of the four predecease him and the fourth, as one chronicler has said, “was never worthy to be born.”  Poor Edward II.  He was a boy, a younger brother, and so became king even when he had some sisters (like Joan of Acre) who would have been fine rulers.  But his inability to rule was based largely on sex and gender.  Just as England was not ready for Queen Maud and believed a man, even though more distant from succession, should rule in her place, in the 13th century, England was not ready for a gay King.

King Edward II upset everyone by openly taking a lover (the charming Piers Gaveston).  The story has a tragic ending and I want to say more about it later.  But for now, just remember that Edward’s father, King Edward I Longshanks arranged a marriage for him, with the sister of the King of France, Isabelle – the “She-Wolf of France.”  She got that name because she got to England, was increasingly unhappy with her marital arrangements, and managed to take much more of an interest in actual government than her husband.  I think she also got that name because she insisted on reproducing with her somewhat reluctant husband, with whom she had at least two children before taking up with a lover (so the paternity of some of those royal Plantagenet kids was in doubt; indeed, perhaps all of them should be doubtful – who knows?)

Isabella’s eldest son, Edward III, did resemble his father physically, but his mother made sure he was raised apart from his father, and when the time was right, placed her son in open rebellion against his father.  By then, Edward II had taken a different lover, also handsome and brave. Hugh Despencer.  Isabella had taken herself back to France, where her brother put diplomatic pressure on Edward II to come to France to pay homage for the territory of Gascony.  Edward II sent his young son, instead, which was a huge mistake.  Isabella now had all she needed to essentially launch an invasion.  One of the groups who was opposing Edward II and in favor of putting Edward III on the throne was arranged around the Earl of Lancaster (who was a wicked and terrible man, in my view – but that will have to go in a different chapter if we are ever to get to the War of the Roses).

Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, invaded England and captured Edward II.  With her husband in prison, and public opinion strongly against him, Isabella became the de facto ruler of England, taking the Great Seal into her own hands.  No one was willing to actually kill a King, but life in prison for being gay seemed just to these people.  King Edward II’s trial made no mention of his sexuality, though, only claiming that he had listened to wrong advice, that he was incompetent as a king, and that he had “pursued occupations unbecoming to a monarch.”  This is pretty revolutionary stuff:  that a king could be deposed in this way.  Deposed he was, and his son, Edward III Plantagenet took the throne at the age of 15.

Only two of Edward II’s progency with Isabella ever had children.

Edward III’s rule was complex, but one thing he did was to punish the Earl of Lancaster who had gone against his father by removing the title from him and giving it to one of his sons, John of Gaunt, and elevating the title to Duke.

Had Edward III’s heir, Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, not died young, the war between his brothers would not have taken place.

So we have the ever-lurking main principle:  death, especially infant death and early death, stalking these people’s attempts to keep the rules intact and a direct male heir on the throne.

In order to examine what happened more closely (because it’s a situation that comes up now and again, but is still unusual) we can think about what is supposed to happen with succession today.  In a future world, after King Charles dies, should Prince William die without an heir, then Prince Harry becomes the heir apparent.  Clear, right?

But what if Kate were pregnant or had a small infant?   Now that girls can sit on the throne, I suppose England would wait with baited breath to see if the infant was born alive (which it very likely would be, given modern medical care) and then name Baby as heir apparent instead of Harry.  If this all happened today, the succession would obviously still be Charles first, but if William were gone, then William’s baby.

And so it was with the Black Prince’s son, Richard II.

Richard II would seem an unlikely person to be King of England for 22 years, but he was.  He was the son of the Prince of Wales, the heir apparent, who died before taking the throne.  He had an older brother who was of course the heir apparent, but Prince Edward of Angouleme died when Richard was just four years old, making him heir to the Prince of Wales.

When Richard’s father died, he was 9 and so he became the heir apparent.  The old King Edward III died about a year later, and so Richard was crowned King Richard II (Lion-Heart was the first).

He was only ten.

Now age begins to play a role.  Richard II of course had to have regents.  John of Gaunt, the first Duke of Lancaster, became that regent.  By all accounts, John of Gaunt was a very intelligent, well-trained and able man.  Portraits of him show a dark, handsome man who strongly resembles his father, Edward III (son of the She-Wolf).

Now, this was the time of the Hundred Years War, which everyone has heard about.  It was started by Edward III and lasted slight more than a hundred years.  This conflict between England and France was over hereditary disputes dating back to William the Conqueror.  Both sides developed standing armies, and this was the first time since the Roman era that standing armies were kept.  

The war started largely because Isabella the She-Wolf’s brothers all died without male heirs.  Remember that whole thing about Louis VII having mostly girls?  Well, that particular problem did not befall Philip IV, King of France and Isabella’s father – he had three sons.   But only two of them managed to produce children, and all the children were girls.  In a reversal of fate and fortunate, Isabella the She-Wolf had, of course, managed to produce boys – and her boy was the King of England, Edward III, who therefore promptly made a claim on the throne of France when his grandfather and uncles were all dead.  This did not sit well with the French, who did not want a King of England on their throne.

In the end, the French won the war (surprised?  don’t forget – they had Joan of Arc on their side and she’s credited with that win, by me) but not before Edward III himself was long dead.  Richard II had tried to stop the war, but was unsuccessful.

Richard II wanted to stop the war for some very good personal reasons.  He wasn’t a warlike person, he preferred a courtly life.  He believed he had duties as a king, and he did not keep a tremendously lavish lifestyle, but he certainly didn’t want to be mucking about going to war.  The French were threatening to invade throughout his reign and he really wanted to negotiate peace and go on about his life.  Since the French were massing for an invasion, English Parliament wanted to raise taxes and Richard’s Chancellor, de la Pole (descendant of Normans) was at the forefront of pushing for an unprecedented levy of taxes not to lavish upon the King but to fill a giant war chest.  Since Richard II’s own father had gained the throne through the deposition of Richard’s grandfather, deposition was a buzzword.  Parliament threatened to depose Richard II (and they were serious) so Richard II fired de la Pole and was furious about being pushed around by Parliament.

Richard went on a royal circuit around England, appointing a new Chancellor who would attempt to raise a military loyal to the King, so that deposition wouldn’t be such a threat.  Richard did in fact manage to gain quite a bit of support, but at the same time, the anti-taxation, anti-de la Pole forces wanted to push their point by trying de la Pole for treason.  At some point, the young cousin of the King, Henry, Earl of Derby, joined the Opposition.  Henry was the son of Richard’s former regent and uncle, John of Gaunt.

Richard’s side did not win.  Some were executed, de la Pole fled the country (and was condemned to death in absentia).  Even some of Richard’s chamber knights were executed by a conglomeration of forces that now included his cousin.

Richard sought to mollify France (John of Gaunt helped him with that) and restore peace.  France once again demanded that the English King pay homage to France, which if he had done so, would have riled the English population that he had just succeeded in settling down a little.

Instead the King of France and the King of England arranged a 20 year truce based on marriage.

Richard was to marry the daughter of the King of France, a six year old child named Isabella of Valois.  Now, Richard was already married, to Anne of Bohemia.  For whatever reason (one always wonders), Anne had no children.  The marriage was somehow put aside (the wealthy are usually able to get divorces when they are keen on them, Henry VIII wasn’t the first with this problem).  So Richard marries the 6 year old, and everyone understands that this is a real roadblock to him producing an heir any time soon.

Richard was able to go back to his main interests with the truce underway.  He developed a court of art and culture, and banished militaristic, frat boy behavior to the margins of his world.   He was 31, his new wife was 6.  She was in the care of her own ladies within his court.

Somewhat stung by claims that he was too peaceful to be a King (people were apparently calling him a wuss) and with the English still very focused on being irritated with France, Richard chose to head off to Ireland to quell rebellions there.  Now, as everyone knows, the Irish can be rebellious, but they are a smaller island than Britain and the English Crown at that time now had a standing army (prepared for France, but chomping at the bit to be paid in spoils and also, either needing to be disbanded or put into use).  So Richard takes this massive army, geared and kitted up to deal with France over to Ireland, for one of Medieval history’s most infamous and unequal wars.  You might say that Richard only wanted to go to war when he knew he could win.

Needless to say, this was a great military success.  The Irish were still organized along the lines of tribal chiefdoms, fierce and combative, but no match for 8,000 Englishmen with cavalry.

Also, needless to say, as soon as Richard went home to enjoy his glory, the Irish were resistant again.

Riding on his feelings of military triumph, Richard went home and had large parts of his former opposition arrested and placed in prison.  Some were tried fairly quickly and executed.  But Richard couldn’t really put Uncle John of Gaunt nor cousin Henry, Earl of Derby in prison and they had allied themselves with the Opposition.   I probably do have to say that throughout English history (and the history of many peoples), leaders acting like tyrants upsets people even if they previously liked the leader.  That’s another reason I’m very interested in all of this.

John of Gaunt apparently abandoned all allegiance to his former comrades and stuck by the King, even as the King began to levy fines against the lesser members of the opposition and enrich the Crown.  Richard was getting the hang of being a ruler.  He took money away from his enemies and elevated men closer to himself, like the de Hollands, who were his half-brother and nephew, whose only certainty of rank involved allegiance and kinship to Richard.  A series of my male ancestors were in this little gaggle of King-followers, whose children intermarried amongst themselves while the party was still going strong.

Nevertheless, John of Gaunt was the richest man in England.  And Richard had no children.  Who would reign after him?

If Prince William were to be Prince of Wales, but Kate never had children, then Harry would reign after him – right?  So, if Richard has no children – and no brothers – doesn’t his uncle get to rule?

The King’s gaggle of loyalists saw the threat.  What if the King died and an opposition member (either John of Gaunt or his son) became King?  That wouldn’t be good for them and their newly found wealth and power.  One of the loyalists managed to get into a quarrel with young Henry (also known as Bolingbroke) and a parliamentary committee at first wanted the two to to settle their differences by battle.  The King intervened, banishing Henry for 10 years, the other man for life.

Not long after, John of Gaunt died, I think, of a broken heart.  Or stress.  The banishment of his son, his son’s managing to get into conflict with the King’s men, after all John had done to be diplomatic and keep things peaceful, was too much for him.

Richard was quick to react (although in retrospect, it was a stupid move).  Fearing that Henry would come back as his father’s heir and manage to wield all that wealth, he extended the banishment to life and disinherited Henry (he could have confiscated John of Gaunt’s lands, but he did not).

Henry went on living in Paris, with funds from his family.  Richard went back to fight in Ireland some more.

 

 

 

 

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