In February of 1542, a young woman was executed for the crime of not being a virgin when she married a king. The king, one Henry VIII, was heartbroken upon hearing this, but more than that….he felt that this woman had made a fool of him. Why? Because Henry bragged that he could tell just by looking at a woman if she was pure or not. And he had announced to all that this young woman, his wife….Catherine Howard, was his “Rose without a Thorn”.
At a young age, Catherine had been molested by a music teacher. Later on, around the age of 15, she had an affair with a young man. When Catherine was brought to court around the age of 17, she had no ambition to be queen. That was Henry’s idea. He was smitten. Catherine was in love with Thomas Culpepper. But she had no choice. If the king chooses you, you do as the king says.
Although Catherine’s past was kept quiet at the time as her family saw her union with the king as a good thing….her being Anne Boleyn’s cousin and all seeing how that kind of put them out of favor….it was Henry himself who looked Catherine over….inspecting her for purity….before the wedding. It was Henry who declared her the best woman he had ever known. At the age of 17, Catherine was nothing more than property in her family’s pursuit of power and the king’s pursuit of his own pleasure….having just recently divorced a woman that he had married and had no physical attraction to.
This was, of course, a man who was grossly overweight, hardly ever bathed, could barely walk, had a constantly oozing leg wound, and who had put Catherine’s cousin Anne, to death for trumped up charges of treason and adultery.
Henry could have had the marriage annulled. But he was so livid at being made the fool…..that he created laws that he had backdated to before he even knew Catherine so that he could charge not only her, but her close family members who knew of her affair, the young man who had an affair with a young lady who he had no idea one day would be the queen, and a member of his court….a gentleman who it is said Catherine was in love with, who some say may have used his position to blackmail the queen into meeting with him.
So why do we care about these people? Obviously Henry abused his power. The young man, Francis Dereham with whom Catherine had an affair prior to her marriage, was totally innocent and yet, due to the backdating of the laws Henry put into place, was found guilty of treason and faced a horrible fate.
But here’s the thing about Catherine. She was young…just about 17 when she married Henry. She had no choice but to do as the king desired. And yet, history has painted her as being foolish and promiscuous. She has been called “slutty” and “stupid”, and it was long held that she deserved her death.
These days, women’s groups and historians are seeing the importance of changing Catherine’s reputation. She was young and it is said she was beautiful, and it is also said that she loved fashion and music….not unlike another recent English woman of royalty….and she was married to an old, disease ridden, angry man. It is said that she was kind and because she was not raised in a rich household, had a sensitivity to the plight of those not as fortunate as royalty.
Catherine is now becoming more of a statement of how women have always been judged on the purity or activity of their sexual past. That, and of course, being seen as property of their husband.
Catherine was betrayed by those around her. It is said that Henry never saw her again once he found out that some man had touched her before him. It is said that there is a haunted gallery at Hampton Court in England where Catherine to this day runs screaming to see Henry, who refused to have anything more to do with her. It seems, he was the victim. In truth, as we now know, it was the ultimate Narcissistic discard.
I grew up reading about the Tudors and loving that part of history, thinking it romantic and full of drama. (Don’t remember reading about the lack of bathing though). I felt a connection to the clothes and the music and I guess the thought about growing up in a castle.
But I also grew up with the myth about Henry’s 5th wife. And when it all became real for me on the day that I was fired, I flashed back to the betrayal people must have felt when one moment they were queen and the next moment, they where being escorted to the tower of London to await execution.
I didn’t have a literal ax awaiting me on the other end of the phone call, but I knew what was coming. I knew what he had done….my boss. I knew what had been plotted and how he had become the victim. What I didn’t know at the time was what exactly I had been caught up in and that the whole ordeal was larger than just what was happening to me. I didn’t know about Narcissistic abuse and that priests could manipulate a person just for the thrill of degrading and destroying them.
And the way women are judged….still very much judged….for the sexuality is something we need to be aware of. I am currently watching “American Crime Story: Impeachment” which tells the story of Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton. When this story hit the news, we heard of Monica’s thong and her flirtations and such…not so much that she was in the presence of power and extreme emotional manipulation by a man with the experience and the means to destroy her.
And since this show has aired, another woman has come forward to say the Ms. Lewinsky had an affair with her husband as well. Well then, I say that we stone her for sure. Seriously. Are they trying to say that these men had nothing to do with anything or had never had sex with anyone before? Why are we not hearing about their prior sex lives? Of course, we did with Bill Clinton. But his life went on. He remained in office, he remained married, and he went on to eat more cheeseburgers. And his moral slip ups and abuse of power are still pretty much seen as separate from how he did as a president….and in some ways, some may argue….began to lower the bar as far as what we are willing to accept as far as lecherous behavior in the white house. Kind of like we were all groomed into what we see as acceptable behavior or “things we can look past” as long as the economy is flourishing.
And then I read somewhere on one of those on-line forums where people comment, that back with the O.J. thing, Ron Goldman was “more of a victim” than Nicole Brown Simpson because Nicole got O.J. angry by the things she did.
I had mentioned before that someone I used to know when I was married…my ex and I used to go to their house on Saturday nights….their daughter was murdered on the night before she moved out of her apartment. Seems her room-mate had a violent ex-boyfriend and he came to confront the room-mate that night, only to find 26 year old Lauren alone and defenseless so he took his anger out on her…..strangling and beating her to death. Not that it matters, but she was just a tiny little thing. She was not involved with the man who killed her. Was her room-mate guilty of her death because she was not home and she was the intended target? Did her room-mate get the ex so worked up that he was not to blame for his actions? Why do we tend to think that women asked for it when they get attacked by their partners or ex’s?
When we look back at history and we say that those things could never happen now….I think that as long as people tend to hold certain beliefs about things, it’s possible. Perhaps Princess Diana was not put to death because she embarrassed the royal family of a more recent history….but for all of the good she did, why were her romantic encounters under such public scrutiny? Do you ever see a picture of Prince Charles sunbathing just to try to get a picture of his bare bum?
Okay, perhaps nobody really wants to see that, but perhaps things have only changed as far as how the ax is swung and not at whom the ax is aimed.
We as a society need to become more aware of how we tend to slut shame victims. We need to become more aware of Narcissistic power and abuse….not just as a word but people need to be aware that when someone says a person did something to them….understand that they are not saying things for attention. People may only see the wonderful side of a priest or a therapist or a doctor or a friend….because Narcissists can be very good at hiding their evil from everyone else. Part of the game is picking someone vulnerable in some way so that the victim is doubted.
Does the victim have a history of depression? Are they quiet and non-confrontational? Would they rather cut off their right arm than hurt another person? Have they had more than one romantic relationship in their life? Do they dress in a way that would cause attention to be drawn to themselves? Are they attractive? Are they in a position where they would not question the actions of someone in power (and by “power”, I mean anyone that people trust or look up to for answers or guidance) because questioning them could be threatening to that which is important to the victim?
Another thing about the victim, of course, is….you can be a victim and not be screaming, or beaten or have a gun at your head literally. You can appear to be compliant. You can think you have feelings for someone. This can be part of a learned defense mechanism and has been proven to be the reaction of someone who feels threatened and is seeking to attach to their abuser in some way in order to be safe.
But, like in my case, despite the fact that I lost my job and I had no power, and despite the fact that I told people that I was doing what I had to do, I was seen as an unstable woman who had fallen in love with a priest and who should never be around priests again as I was dangerous to them. It happens, my boss said….you know, some women fall in love if you show concern or you try to help them or counsel them.
Isn’t it great that this guy is still a counsellor for people who can’t afford regular counselling? He has an automatic “out” of the situation.
So let’s try to learn at bit from history. Let’s stop grilling the victim as to their fashion choices, their past, their emotions and their willingness and timeliness of coming forward with their truth. Let’s stop accusing them of inappropriateness, instability, false reporting, lack of morality, being a danger to those deemed without sin, or for simply speaking up when they are in a position with nobody else to back them up…..let’s stop minimizing their feelings or their experience because nobody else has seen the wolf under the sheep’s clothes.
Let’s start listening before it’s too late.