Monday, March 31, 2008

Diana, Dodi and Hasnat

Hello! Magazine reported recently that Princess Diana's former boyfriend Hasnat Khan testified at the never ending inquest to determine whether or not the late Princess's death was accidental or part of a conspiracy several weeks ago via a statement that Diana broke up with him not the other way around as been reported in various biographies since her death. He insists that she came back from her first vacation with Dodi and the Fayeds and told him that it was over. In Tina Brown's recent book, The Diana Chronicles, she stated that she had it from reliable sources that it was the other way around. Presumably Dr. Khan's statement must have been taken under oath, so he would have no reason to lie.

"I think Diana finally realised that (he) could give her all the things I could not," wrote the doctor. "He had money and could provide the necessary security."

Hasnat added, "She wanted to be with someone who was happy to be seen with her in public and she could do that with Dodi."

Hasnat and the Princess met in 1995 at The Royal Brompton Hospital when she went to visit the husband of her acupuncturist who had just suffered a massive hemmorhage during heart surgery. Dr. Khan, a senior resident, assisted with the surgery and Diana was instantly smitten with his warm, expressive eyes. Unlike most men, he seemed to take no notice of her at first. She spent the next 18 days using her visits to the hospital as an excuse to run into Hasnat. After accepting an invitation to go for a meal at his uncle's home, the relationship turned into a love-affair. "After this our friendship turned into a relationship. We had a normal sexual relationship," he said. Diana would sneak into the hospital and watch him perform surgeries, sitting up in the gallery (the way the surgeons do on Grey's Anatomy).

According to his testimony, Princess Diana loved to do "everyday things" that we ordinary people take for granted, like going out to pubs. During their relationship, they discussed marriage, and Diana told him that she desperately wanted to have a daughter. "Emotionally she felt she was still young," wrote Hasnat. "She wanted a husband to be there for her, to have a normal relationship with him."

For two years, Diana managed to keep the relationship relatively secret from the public. When a photographer noticed her arriving at the Royal Brompton Hospital with Hasnat Khan worked one night, she spun him a story about visiting deathly ill patients several nights a week. The headlines in the tabloids led to jokes of people instead of adding 'do not resuscitate clauses' adding 'do not call Princess Diana clauses'.

But Diana was serious about this relationship. She called Hasnat 'the One,' 'Mr. Wonderful,' she was convinced that he was her soul mate. She loved the times when they could be alone and she could be domestic just like any other woman. Tina Brown writes in her new biography that Diana loved to go to Hasnat's flat to iron his shirts, vaccuming and clean. She would even attempt to cook for him, having discovered Marks and Spencer's ready to prepare meals (I've had them and they are delicious and easy to cook!). And unlike her relationship with Oliver Hoare or Will Carling, her love was returned. She learned everything there was to know about cardiology, keeping a copy of Gray's Anatomy (not the TV show) on her night table. She starting watching Casualty, a nighttime TV soap set in an emergency room at a hospital.

He spent time with her sons, talking to William about his future aspirations. Unlike most men, he didn't want anything from her except to be with her. She even offered to buy him a new car but he turned her down. The relationship was so serious that Diana actually contemplated converting to Islam. She had her butler, Paul Burrell investigate the possibility of the two of them secretly marrying, perhaps in her Kensington Palace apartments. She had become good friends with Jemima Goldsmith, the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith, who had married Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan and moved to Lahore to be with him. She spent time in Pakistan wtih Jemima under the guise of helping to support Imran Khan's cancer hospital, but really to decide whether or not she could actually live the life of a normal Pakistani wife. She even went so far as to drop in on his family in Pakistan bearing gifts, dressed in the traditional Pakistani costume of shalwar kameez and headscarf.

However a marriage between the two of them would have been an impossibility. Not so much because of their cultural backgrounds but because of Diana's emotional neediness. She began to page Hasnat Khan up to twenty times a day. She began to meddle in his career, talking to the renowned heart surgeon Dr. Christian Barnaard about the possibility of Khan getting a job in South Africa. She wanted Khan to schedule his surgeries around her schedule so that he could travel with her. Not the life that any proud man would want to contemplate, being an appendage to celebrity like Diana. Hasnat Khan was and is a very private person, the idea of being subjected to media scrutiny, dealing with the hoardes of photographers that inevitably followed the Princess everywhere was painful to him. Despite his love for her, he knew in his heart that the relationship could never work in the long run.

And his family had other ideas as well. They had already attempted to arrange a marriage for their son with a suitable Pakistani bride. Hasnat Khan is a Pathan, a noble tribe in both Pakistan and Afghanistan (The Kite Runner gives a good example of the different clans that make up modern Afghanistan). The idea of their son marrying a Christian white woman was not in the cards. Diana's mother was also against the relationship, leading Diana to cut out of her life for good. His father was even quoted in the papers stating unquivocably that Hasnat would marry someone from his cultural background.

The end came because Diana wanted to them to come out in public as a couple and Hasnat was reluctant according to Paul Burrell, Diana's butler who now makes a living doing reality TV shows like American Princess. Simone Simmons, Diana's healer (one of several alternative therapists Diana had on the payroll after her seperation, including an astrologer), turned out to be on the payroll of one of the tabloids and had already spilled the beans about her relationship with Hasnat. When Diana was contacted for a statement, she made the mistake of trying to pass it off like a joke, which wounded Hasnat's pride.

Diana told her friends that Hasnat had broken up with her. Was this another case of Diana playing the victim of her circumstances? Sort of "Oh poor me, I can't find a man because I'm a Princess?" Paul Burrell has stated that her break with Hasnat, the man who was apparently the love of her life, was done with the hope that he would turn around and ask her to marry him. Instead she ended up in rebound relationship with Dodi Fayed, with the sole purpose of trying to make Hasnat Khan jealous. That he would get over his feeling that he would be nothing more than an appendage, that her life would get in the way of her career.

Diana had struck up a friendship with Mohammed Al-Fayed through her step-mother Raine Spencer who was on board of directors at Harrods. Mohammed Al-Fayed was rich, he'd bought the former of home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and turned it into a museum. Along with Harrods and the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Mohammed had tried to buy his way into British society. He'd already been turned down numerous times for a British passport, and been under investigation for his business practices. The chance to host the Princess on a cruise on his yacht the Jonikal must have seemed like a gift from Allah.

Diana was drifting into what Tina Brown calls 'the darkness,' a type of depression that would take over her, leading her to become reckless in her behavior. Along with the end of her relationship with Hasnat Khan, Diana was having to face the fact that her boys were growing up and would be spending more and more time with Charles and his family including the annual holiday at Balmoral in Scotland, leaving her at loose ends. While Diana was still searching for love, Charles seemed to have settled down with Camilla. The final blow that summer was Charles hosting a 50th Birthday party for Camilla at Highgrove, Diana's former home.

So she eagerly accepted Al-Fayed's invitation to spend a few days on his yacht with the boys. To entertain her, Mohammed Al-Fayed summoned his son Dodi to be a companion to her. Despite his engagement to another woman, Dodi dropped everything and joined the cruise. Dodi must have seemed so attractive after a workaholic like Hasnat Khan. Dodi was rich and dabbled in a career as a film producer. He'd gone to school in Switzerland but was an indifferent student. He had credits as an Executive Producer on several films such as Chariots of Fire, but his involvement in those films were minimal at best. Meaning he provided a certain amount of financing and he received a credit on the film. Like Prince Charles, he seemed to have been constantly fighting for the love of his father, who alternately lavished it on him, or withheld it on a whim. He too was a child of divorce, his father having divorced his mother when he was two, winning custody and remarried.

Mohammed Al-Fayed spoiled his son with money and gifts instead of spending time with him. In a way Dodi was as emotionally needy as Diana. His life was controlled by his father's purse strings. Dodi spent most of his time with various hangers-on, spent lavishly on parties and drugs. With no purpose in life, he spent most of his time floating among the various Al-Fayed properties, dating various models. He was the epitome of Eurotrash.

Diana loved all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and film stars. After all didn't Kevin Costner claim that they had talked about doing a sequel to The Bodyguard with Diana in the starring role? (Does anyone else find that idea as horrific as I do? A real actress, it might work, a real Princess, no way. Not that Queen Elizabeth wouldn't have nipped that idea in the bud real quick). Plus Dodi had plenty of money from his daddy, Mohammed, who would have had no problem opening up the purse strings for his son's relationship with a member of the Royal Family. Dodi must have seemed like a big kid in a way, devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. At one point on that first trip, he bought her an armful of cashmere sweaters in every color in the store.

Still it is doubtful that her relationship with Dodi would have lasted much longer. At first the relationship probably seemed like something out of the Barbara Cartland novels that Diana read by the bagful as a teenager. But there is evidence that Diana was getting a little bored of all the conspicuous consumption. Despite Dodi's money and attentiveness, after awhile, Diana would have looked again for a man with substance like Hasnat Khan. It seems that what she really wanted was someone with a career and a purpose, but who would have lavished attention on her.

Unfortunately men like that are impossible to find. All her life it seemed that she swung between men who lavished affection on her that were lightweights like Dodi and James Hewitt, and strong men who had lives like Oliver Hoare, Hasnat Khan, Prince Charles, men who she could look up to but who weren't about to change their lives for her. Several of her friends have stated that she told them that she wasn't in love with Dodi, that it was just a summer fling. Prince William was not happy with the relationship. According to Tina Brown they even had a row about before her second trip on the yacht. Despite his father's claims that they were engaged, or that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death, it was just a summer fling that ended tragically.

At the time, he was just what she needed, a man who devoted his undivided attention to her. Diana told a friend that "he takes care of me." That he didn't demand anything of her, certainly not intellectually. However, she kept in contact with Hasnat Khan, but the media firestorm just convinced him even more that the relationship would never have worked out. However, Diana reveled in the fact that Palace, the establishment as she called them, was appalled at her behavior. The trip with the Al-Fayeds was her way of stealing focus once again from the Royal Family.

Diana made a point of alerting her friends in the media of where the yacht would be in order for photos to be taken, including the one of her diving into the cool waters of the Mediterranean at the same time that Charles was hosting Camilla. Meanwhile Mohammed Al-Fayed was doing his best to imply that his son's relationship with the Princess was the love story of the century, that rivaled even that of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, whose home he owned on the outskirts of Paris.

Was Dodi even really serious about Diana, given that he had been engaged to another woman when they met? Or was he just following his father's orders, the price that he had to pay for being Mohammed Al-Fayed's son? We'll never know for sure but it appears as if he were just being a loyal son. Of course, he must have enjoyed being in the company of the most famous woman in the world, who wouldn't have been? However, during that first trip on the Jonikal, Dodi had his fiancee Kelly stashed away on another boat. While he paid court to Diana during the day, at night he would sneak off to see another woman. It wasn't until the famous picture of Dodi and Diana kissing on the boat, that Kelly realized that she was being played, that her fiancee was two-timing her with the most famous woman in the world. How could she compete? She couldn't so instead she filed a breach of promise lawsuit against Dodi.

Diana had plans for her life now that she was no longer a member of the Royal Family. She wanted to make documentaries that would spotlight a certain issue to raise awareness. She felt that this was the best way that she could make a difference in the world now that she was free from the shackles of the Royal Family. The plan was that she would highlight an issue, and then make a documentary about it. She had already done a great deal to raise awareness about the problem of landmines (certainly more than Heather Mills). There is a famous picture of Diana walking through a field in Angola, wearing a clear helmet for a documentary for the BBC. It was only after her death, that her work began to be appreciated.

Three people whose lives might have turned out differently if Diana had been thinking clearly that final summer of her life. The tragedy is that Diana had counted on Dodi to protect her and instead he let her down. If they had just stayed at the hotel instead of deciding to try to go back to the Al-Fayed apartment, or never left the apartment in the first place, but Dodi's restlessness and Diana's need for attention led them down a slippery path. Diana might have finally found the love that she was looking for her entire life.

After summing up all the given at the inquest into the death of Diana, Prince of Wales, on Monday, the coroner dismissed Mohamed Al-Fayed's claims there was a plot to kill the late royal. After listening to more than 250 witnesses Lord Justice Scott Baker addressed the conspiracy plot claims, saying: "They are not being pursued because there is not a shred of evidence to support them."

"There is no evidence that the Duke of Edinburgh ordered Diana's execution, and there is no evidence that the security intelligence services or any other government agency organised it," Justice Scott Baker emphasised.

As for Dr. Hasnat Khan, he now lives and works in Malaysia. His marriage to a much younger Pakistani woman from a good family ended after less than two years. Whether it was from incompatibility or having to live in the shadow of Princess Diana, Dr. Khan will not say. Unlike most people who knew the late Princess, he has been remarkably discreet about their relationship and incredibly loyal to her memory.

He stated in a recent interview that since Diana is no longer able to speak for herself, he couldn't in good conscience speak about their relationship further. However from the few statements he has made, it is clear that Princess still looms large in his memory as she does for so many others that knew her.

He does not, however, think that a fountain in London built in the Princess's memory does her justice.

"Creating a fountain is not how you should remember a great person. You put great people up as high as possible. Look at Nelson."

Mohammed Al-Fayed has left Britain behind, leaving now mainly in Switzerland, still insisting that a vast conspiracy existed that killed Diana and his son. There is a shrine to his son and Princess Diana at Harrods, including the ring that to this day he insists was an engagement ring from his son to the Princess.

All her life Diana had been looking for her knight in shining armor, her Prince, someone straight out of a Barbara Cartland novel. Someone to fill the emotional blackhole at her center. She thought she had found that man in Prince Charles, but instead she fell in love with a man as emotionally wounded as her. What she never realized was that only person who could rescue her from 'the darkness' was herself.


The Diana Chronicles - Tina Brown
The Way We Were - Paul Burrell
Sex with Kings - Eleanor Herman
Diana, Her True Story - Andrew Morton

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair

In the wake of the recent revelations that the now former Governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, had been having relations for years with a series of high class call girls, it made me think of other sex scandals, and who does a sex scandal better than the British? Particularly when it involves politics. Charles Stewart Parnell and Kitty O'Shea, Jeffrey Archer, but the biggest sex scandal ever in Britain was the Profumo Affair. By the time the dust cleared, the Prime Minister had resigned due to 'ill-health' and the Labour party was swept into office with Harold Wilson as its leader and the new Prime Minister.

Let's go back into time shall we to 1963. Long before the swinging 60's were in force, and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones launched the British invasion, England was still recovering from the devastation it suffered during WWII. Rationing had only ended in the late 1950's. King George VI had died and his daughter Elizabeth II was celebrating her tenth year on the throne. She'd given birth to a son, Andrew, the future Duke of York in 1960 and would give birth to her last son, Edward, in the next year.

1960 was also the year that the publisher Penguin was prosecuted for publishing D.H. Lawrence's racy novel (for the time) Lady Chatterly's Lover. Penguin won the case and was able to publish 200,000 copies as people raced to get their hands on it. The old order was being challenged and a new order was just beginning. The children born just before and during the war were coming of age. Ian Fleming's spy novels had hit the screen starring the very sexy Sean Connery as 007. The newest actors in Britain were not Hollywoodized versions of British men, but actors like Albert Finney and Michael Caine who were working class.

New magazines like Private Eye which poked fun at everyone and everything was established. Beyond the Fringe starring Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller hit the West End. And David Frost became a national celebrity hosting the hit TV show That Was the Week that Was (a more topical version of VH-1's Best Week Ever).

Politically however, things were much less happier. Although Harold Macmillan had swept into office in 1959 with a majority in the House of Commons, there was discontent in the country. While Japan and Germany had recovered nicely from the war, the economy in Britain was stagnant. There was inflation and labor unrest. Unlike America, with its young, vibrant president, Irish-Catholic, war-hero with a beautiful young wife, and two adorable children, it seemed that politicians in office reflected a by-gone era, the era of Churchill and Lloyd-George, old school politicians.

Still for all the changes, Britain was stuck in the 1950's. This was still the era when unmarried girls who found themselves in the family way were packed off to places where they could have their babies in secret and then give them up for adoption. The pill didn't come out until the end of 1960 in the States. If you've seen Mike Leigh's movie Vera Drake, you know that back-street abortions were still in existence. Promiscuity was something that the Upper Classes indulged in, not nice middle-class girls and boys.

It was the height of the Cold War, and Britain was still reeling from the revelations that Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean were Soviet spies. The idea that a British politician was not only cheating on his wife, but sharing her with a Soviet diplomat sent the public reeling. In 1963, Kim Philby would be revealed as the Third Man in their spy ring and would also defect to the Soviet Union.

The chief players in our little drama:

John Profumo - Secretary of State for War, married to the actress Valerie Hobson
Harold Macmillan aka Supermac - Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Christine Keeler - goodtime girl and model
Mandy Rice-Davies - fellow goodtime girl and model
Stephen Ward - osteopath and panderer
Lord Astor - owner of Cliveden, the great estate (now a posh hotel where anyone can come and stay. Kenneth Branagh got married there) where the shenanigans took place.
Yevgeny "Eugene" Ivanov - senior naval attache at the Soviet Embassy

Christine Keeler was one of those babies born during the war in 1942. She grew up in Middlesex, where she was raised by her mother and stepfather. She never knew her real father who left during the war. After an unhappy childhood (she felt threatened by her step-father although she admits that he never touched her), she left home at sixteen, finding work as a model in a dress shop in Soho in London. At 17, after having a brief affair with an African-American servicemen stationed in the UK, she gave birth to a baby that died after a few days (earlier she had tried to abort the baby using a knitting needle but it didn't work).

While working as a waitress, she met Maureen O'Connor, who worked at a club in Soho. Through her, she started working as a topless dancer. While working at Murray's Cabaret Club she was introduced to Stephen Ward, the unwitting architect of the Profumo Affair as well as another showgirl, Mandy Rice-Davies.

Ward was an osteopath and socialite. His father was the canon of Rochester Cathedral and he was educated at Highgate School in London before qualifying to practice as an osteopath in Missouri of all places. Ward used his social skills and his job as an osteopath to work his way into the homes of the rich and power members of London society. He was also a portrait artist who had several members of the Royal Family including Prince Philip, sit for him.

Ward was attracted to pretty girls from a lower-class background and Christine Keeler fit the bill. Soon she was living with him, along with Mandy Rice Davies, although she claimed that it was more platonic than anything else. Ward and Keeler had a tumultuous relationship, breaking up and getting back together several times. He introduced his new friends, Christine and Mandy into his circle of wealthy, sophisticated older men.

In July of 1961, Ward held a pool party at Cliveden, the home of Lord Astor. It was at this party that Christine Keeler met John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War. Profumo was the son of Albert Profumo, a prominent barrister, who held the title 4th Baron Profumo (originally awarded to the family by the Kingdom of Sardinia). On his father's death in 1940 Profumo inherited this title, but did not use it. He was educated at Harrow School and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he took his degree in agriculture and political economy. He had served in the army during WWII, and was awarded the OBE for services on Field Marshal Alexander's staff. He was highly regarded in the Conservative party having won his first election in 1945, becoming the youngest MP at the time.

Profumo and Christine started having an affair, but what he didn't know at the time was that Christine was also sharing her favors with Yevgeny Ivanov, among many others. But it was Ivanov who was the problem. It turned out that Ward was involved in helping MI-5 to entrap Ivanov. Sir Norman Wood warned Profumo about his affair with Keeler, and to warn him to be careful around Ward who was known to be indiscreet. When MI-5 tried to recruit Profumo to help them trap Ivanov by compromising him sexually, so that Ivanov would be enouraged to either defect or pass secrets, and informed him that Keeler was also involved with Ivanov, Profumo refused. Instead he dropped her but the damage was already done.

The affair came to light when Christine Keeler was involved in a shooting incident at the home of Mandy Rice-Davies. She had been involved with two other men, 'Lucky' Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe, two West Indians who were living in London. Gordon had been Keeler's lover and was a bit obsessed with her. She enlisted Johnny Edgecombe as a sort of bodyguard to protect her. In October of 1962, Gordon and Edgecombe got into a fight at a London club, and Edgecombe slit Gordon's face with a knife. Edgecombe went into hiding from the police, and asked Keeler to help him find a lawyer before he turned himself in. But Keeler refused out of jealously that Edgecombe had found another girlfriend. She told Edgecombe that she wouldn't help him and that she would testify against him at the trial. Incensed, Edgecombe showed up Mandy Rice-Davies flat where Christine was living, and blasted the door with a revolver when Christine refused to let him in. Hearing the commotion, someone called the police, and soon the Wimpole Street flat was crawling with police and reporters.

The press began to investigate Keeler, and soon found out about her simultaneous affairs with Profumo and Ivanov. Because of Ivanov's connection to the Soviet Embassy, a simple sexual affair took on a National Security Dimension.

Things might have turned out differently if Profumo hadn't made the fatal mistake of lying to House of Commons. Instead in March of 1963, Profumo told the House that there was "no impropriety whatever" in his relationship for Keeler and to make it even worse he said that writs would be issued for libel and slander if the allegations were repeated outside of the House.

Profumo's denials didn't stop the press from continuing with their stories on Christine Keeler. On June 5th, Profumo finally admitted that he had lied to the House, which was an unforgivable sin in British politics. He not only resigned from office but also from the House as well. Before his public confession, Profumo told his wife, and she stood by him (shades of Silda Wall Spitzer). In spite of the scandal, it was never proven that his relationship with Keeler had led to a breach in national security (presumably Profumo was too busy doing other things to whisper state secrets to his lover). Profumo never talked about the scandal for the rest of his life, even when the movie Scandal came out in 1989, and when Keeler published her memoir of the affair. After his resignation, he worked as a volunteer at the Toynbee Hall, a charity in the East End of London, cleaning toilets. Eventually, he ended up the charity's chief fundraiser. Fortunately for him, he was independently wealthy, and had no need to work for a living. He died in 2006 at the age of 91, after receiving the OBE from the Queen. Like Richard Nixon, another disgraced politician, he learned that career rehabilitation was entirely possible.

The biggest fallout of the scandal was not Profumo, but Stephen Ward, who was prosecuted for living on immoral earnings. To make matters worse MI-5 denited that Ward had informed them of Keeler's affair with Profumo and Ivanov. On the last day of his trial, he took an overdose of sleeping pills. He was in a coma when the jury reached its verdict, that he was guilty. He died a few days later from the overdose. Harold Macmillan resigned in September of 1963 due to ill health. He was replaced by the foreign secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home.

Keeler was found guilty of perjury in the trial of Johnny Edgecombe and sentenced to 9 months in prison. Mandy Rice-Davies was the only one to escape prosecution, becoming famous for her statement at the trial "Well he would, wouldn't he?" when she was told that Lord Astor had denied her version of events.

An official report was released 2 months after Stephen Ward's death. Hundreds of people queued up for copies. But like the Warren commission or the Starr Report, there was no dirt to be had, just a lot of criticism for the government failing to deal with the affair quickly.

Mandy Rice-Davies traded on the notoriety the trial brought her, comparing herself to Nelson's mistress, Lady Hamilton. She married an Israeli businessman, Rafi Shauli, and went on to open a string of successful nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv. The restaurants and nightclubs, which bore her name, were called: Mandy's, Mandy's Candies and Mandy's Singing Bamboo. Rice-Davies also parlayed her minor fame into a series of unsuccessful pop singles for the Ember label in the mid-'60s, including Close Your Eyes and You Got What It Takes.

As for Christine Keeler, she claims that the true story never came out during the height of the scandal. She wrote a book (ghost-written of course) claiming that not only did Profumo knock her up, but that Stephen Ward was a leading Soviet agent and that Sir Roger Hollis, who was then the head of MI-5, was working alongside him. Of course there is no proof of any of this, but it has kept her name in front of the public over the years as she works to 'clear her name.' After her prison term, she has repeatedly tried to restart her life, but the scandal continues to hang over her head like a sword of Damocles. She married and divorced twice, and had two sons. Over the years, she's held various jobs as a receptionist, and as a dinner lady in a school in London, all under an assumed name.

The 1989 movie Scandal starring Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler, Ian McKellan as Profumo, and John Hurt as Stephen Ward introduced the story to a new generation. The Profumo Affair opened the door in Britain to the type of tabloid journalism its now become famous for. No more were politicians coddled, their foibles covered up by the press. Now it was open season on everyone.

This post was prepared using sources including Wikipedia.

Derek Brown - 1963: The Profumo Scandal

1989 - Scandal - movie based on The Honeytrap by Stephen Dorrill

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pauline Cushman - Union Spy

In 1863, a beautiful young actress was appearing in a theater in Union-controlled Louisville, KY when she was approached to give a toast to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the stage for a considerable sum. The actress was a staunch Union supporter and at first wasn't interested. However, an idea came to her, and she approached the Union General in the area (Kentucky being a border state was forced to stay within the Union, despite the fact that half the state had sympathy for the Confederates). She offered her services as a spy for the Union. After testing her loyalties, she was given permission to accept the money and to make the toast. For her audacity, she was fired by the management. The actress's name? Pauline Cushman.

Pauline Cushman was actually born Harriet Wood in New Orleans in 1833. After her father lost all his money when she was 10, they subsquently moved to Michigan where Harriet grew up. She was a tomboy who loved to ride horses, and play sports as well as her 7 brothers. Her father had a violent temper and after a particularly nasty disagreement, when she was 18 she left home and moved to New York. She changed her name to Pauline Cushman, persumably taking the name Cushman after one of the most celebrated actreses of the day, Charlotte Cushman (who excelled in breeches parts, plays where she played men. Off stage, she liked to dress in men's clothes as well).

She wasn't very successful as an actress, and gave up the stage when she married a musician Charles Dickinson, who she met while appearing in a theater in her hometown of New Orleans. They moved to Cleveland near his family, while Charles took a job as a music teacher, living with his parents. Pauline gave birth to two children, Charles Jr. and Ida. When the South seceded from the Union and war was declared, Charles Dickinson joined the Union army as a musician in the band of the 41st Ohio Infantry.

Shortly after the battle of Shiloh, he was stricken with illness as were many in the army due to a poor diet, and harsh conditions. He was discharged and came home to his family, having lost over 50 pounds. Charlotte sent him to stay with his parents while he was ill instead of taking care of him herself. Her excuse was that she had two small children to think of and that his family could take care of him far better than she could. Charles Dickinson died in December of 1862 from head injuries he sustained from a fall. Pauline was not with him at the time which caused a rupture with her in-laws, particularly when she left the children with them to go back on the stage.

It was March of 1863 when she was infamously approached by two Confederate officers who offered her the considerable sum of $300 to propose a toast to Jefferson Davis from the stage. Thinking quickly she went to the Union provost marshal and told him what was what. The marshal recognized that Pauline's proposing the toast would lead people to believe that she was all for the South's cause, and that it could be useful in the future. She was recruited as a spy and told to make the toast.

"Here's to Jeff Davis and the Confederacy," she said during one of her performances, "May the South always maintain her honor and her rights."

At this time, during the war, most of the spies for the Union army were men, or freed slaves who used the ignorance of white Southerners to their advantage (after all no Southerner would expect a negro freed or otherwise to have the intelligence to be a threat or a credible spy. Sojourner Truth was a spy for the North during the Civil War). After Pauline was fired from the theater company, she became an instant celebrity with the Southerners. Her first assignment was to gather intelligence on local Southern sympathizers in order to find out where the Confederates were getting their information and their supplies.

Pauline eagerly set herself to the task. After all, in a way, it was like another acting job only this time with very real consequences. She was sent to Nashville to get instructions from Colonel Truesdail, chief of the Union Army police. He propsed that Pauline go behind enemy lines in order to scout out the state of Confederate defenses in Tennessee. He warned her that the mission was dangerous, and could result in her death if she were caught. However, despite knowing the hazards involved, Pauline accepted the challenge, taking the oath while clutching an American flag to her breast.

She was then publicly evicted from the Union lines, on the pretext that she was a Southern sympathizer. To cover her activities, Pauline told people that she was looking for her brother who she claimed was fighting on the Southern side. It worked like a charm. She quickly became the darling of the Southern troops. Her beauty and her ability to feign interest in her escorts gained her invitations from officers to accompany them along the Confederate lines. It was in this way that she was able to garner most of her information.

One day after she had been escorted by a Confederate captain around the neighboring county, he asked, "What would the Yankees give to know what we know."

Pauline replied, "What indeed!"

Pauline Cushman's fatal mistake was in not adhering to Truesdail's instructions to not make written notes or drawings of the fortifications of the enemy but to instead memorize everything, an easy enough task for an actress. Instead at Shelbyville and Tullahoma, she made drawings of the rebel works which she concealed in her boots between the inner and outer sole. She also stole a map from the desk of a Confederate officer.

She was arrested while attempting to make her way back to the Union lines. Escorted under heavy guard, she was delivered to Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who later served as the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan after the war. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Forrest was the only solider to enlist in the army as a private and end up as a General officer. He discovered and established new doctrines for mobile forces.

Pauline tried to escape but was thwarted. This time when she was searched, the incriminating notes were found. Although she was treated with deference by Forrest, it was made clear to her that she not try and escape again. Forrest told her that he had no time to investigate her case, so he passing her on to General Braxton Bragg at Shelbyville. She was also told that unless she could prove her loyalty the South, she was more than likely to be hanged as a spy.

When Pauline was questioned by Bragg, she told him her cover story, that she had been kicked out of the Union lines because of her Southern sympathies. When she was confronted with the sketches found in her boot, she claimed that they were guess work that she made up to fake out the Yankees so that she could go back and claim property that she was forced to leave behind when she was evicted.

Unfortunately her performance was not convincing enough. Instead of boos, and debris thrown on stage, Pauline was to be tried as a spy. For 10 days she waited for the verdict. Not suprisingly, she was found guilty. Here is where Pauline's story becomes miraculous. Prison conditions had eroded her health. Although she was ill, Pauline managed to convey that she was already at death's door. The authorities couldn't bring themselves to hang a dying woman. They decided to postpone her execution until such a time when she recovered her health. More fun for the viewing public as well.

While they were waiting for her to get better, the Union Army of the Cumberland under the direction of General Rosecrans began to advance on Tullahoma. The rebels were forced to flee Shelbyville on June 27, 1863, leaving Pauline behind. She was rescued by the Federal army three days before she was scheduled to be executed!

The trauma that she had undergone would stay with Pauline for the rest of her life. Clearly she suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome. Coming so close to death and yet cheating it. According to one of her biographers, "Fits of depression would seize her and great tears would steal unconsciously down her marble-like features."

Pauline's days as a spy were now over. With her cover blown, she was no more use to the Union army. However, in recognition of her service to the cause, Generals Gordon Granger and James A. Garfield (future president of the United States and victim of assassination) awarded her the honorary rank of major of calvary. What's a former actress and union spy to do? Go on the lecture circuit of course!

Under the auspices of P.T. Barnum, Pauline toured the North to great acclaim for several years, usually dressed in the uniform of an army major. She told paying audiences embellished stories of her days as a Union spy. Since her work for the Union had been secret, there was no one to cooborate or disprove her stories. However, tragedy was not far behind. Her first biography appeared in 1865, written by a friend Ferdinand Sarmiento with the grandiose title, Pauline Cushman: The celebrated Union spy and scout. Comprising her early history; her entry into the secret service of the Army of the Cumberland...prepared from her notes and memoranda.

In November 1864, her son Charles jr. died. Not longer after that her other child, Ida died as well by 1868. After the war, Pauline teamed up with Irish comedian, James M. Ward, touring the West for several years. She also continued to find work for awhile as an actress on the West Coast. She also remarried to man named August Fichter. The marriage was short-lived and she was once again left a widow. She married for the third and last time in 1879 to Jeremiah Fryer. Fryer was the sheriff in Pinal County, Arizona. The couple managed a hotel and stagecoach stop for a number of years, but by 1890 the marriage had floundered and Pauline moved to San Francisco and then later El Paso, TX. By now her beauty was fading and she had turned to opiates like laundanum to make it through the day and to ease the pain of rheumatism and arthritis.

Destitute, she applied to the Federal government for a widower's pension based on Charles Dickinson's military service. Finally in 1893, a pension of $8 a month was awarded but only for the ten years from her 1st husband's death until her remarriage in 1872. It came to a grand total of $1,000, just a little bit more than she had earned that long ago night when she agreed to toast Jefferson Davis.

Finally on December 2, 1893, in a boarding house in San Francisco, she overdosed from narcotics, amid rumors of suicide. Her last years had been spent as a seamstress and charwoman. The California division, Grand Army of the Republic had her buried with full military honors in the Presidio where her body resides today, bearing thesimple inscription, Pauline C. Fryer, Union Spy.

Sources for this post include Wikipedia

References: Petticoat Spies: Six Women Spies of the Civil War - Peggy Caravantes

Pauline Cushman: Spy of the Cumberland - William Christen

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Thistle and the Rose - the Life of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland

The producers of The Tudors have stated that they combined Princess Margaret and Princess Mary into one composite character called Princess Margaret because they were worried that viewers would get confused between Henry's sister and Henry's daughter. Which is Hollywood speak, for "we're too lazy to actually try and make a distinction in the script." Let's remember for a moment, that the future Mary I wasn't even born yet when the events concerning Mary Tudor's marriage to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk took place. That's how the writer's could have made the distinction!

What of Henry's elder sister, Princess Margaret? What was she doing while events were unfolding in England that changed forever the history of the church in England, as well as the monarchy? Well, Mary was in Scotland, a widow after the death of her husband, James III, and about to be divorced from her second husband, Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus.

But let's backtrack a moment. How did Princess Margaret go from being the pampered eldest daughter of King Henry VII of England to Queen of Scotland? A life of that was as contrary and tempestuous as that of her granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots? Both women married handsome younger Earls with more beauty than sense, who had powerful fathers that got them mixed up with the notoriously fractious Scottish nobility and the English monarchy. Both women married their second husbands for love, and both later regretted their impulsive decisions.

Margaret was the eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She was born on November 28, 1489 in the Palace of Westminster, a year and a half before her more famous brother Henry VIII. Because she was the first Tudor princess, Margaret was a valuable prize on the European marriage market and her father Henry VII was anxious to make a grand match to shore up his own shaky claim to the English throne. Despite the Tudor descent from John of Gaunt (Edward III's son, the Duke of Lancaster and father of Henry IV) and also from Princess Katherine of Valois, there was still the view in Europe and even in the kingdom that the Tudors were nothing but upstarts who had usurped the throne from the rightful King. Not even Henry's marriage to Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth had silence the dissenters.

Margaret however had no such qualms. She reveled in being a Tudor princess, and had no doubt that they were meant to rule England. And not just England but Scotland as welll. From an early age, Margaret had a love of pageantry and pomp, something that she shared with her younger brother Henry, and what she missed when she came to the Scottish court. Her education, such as it was, was guided by her formidable grandmother Margaret Beaufort. Like most royal parents, Henry VII was a distant but loving father. During the early years of Margaret's life, he was too busy trying to put down rebellions to spend too much time with her and her brothers. Her mother, in the meantime, was busy either giving birth or pregnant, each pregnancy taking more and more out of her.

As the eldest princess, Margaret loved court life, wearing beautiful clothes, being admired, as well as dancing, music and playing cards. Like most royals, she had no other responsibilities other than being decorative. Like her brother, she also developed a stubborn personality, she was impatient and hated it when she didn't get her way. She was also English through and through, which would cause her problems later in Scotland, when she had a tendencey to put English interests ahead of everything else.

When she was seven years old, she was betrothed to James IV of Scotland in 1496. Her father sought the alliance for two reasons, James had been supporting Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English throne, and an alliance with Scotland would secure her brother Arthur's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Spain was refusing to allow Catherine to be sent to England unless Henry's throne was secure. At the time, Spain was the only European country that recognized Henry's reign. Also, an alliance with Scotland would break the alliance with France, a long standing alliance that had been a thorne in many an English King's side. France had long been the enemy of England dating back to Edward III's claims to the French throne. By this time, the only part of France that remained in English hands was Calais.

James IV was amenable to the match. Although he was 16 years older than Princess Margaret, such an age difference was nothing new in royal matches, and it was certainly a darn sight better than the 34 years that later separated her sister Mary and Louis XII. Even Catherine of Aragon was several years older than Henry VIII who she later married after the death of Prince Arthur. A true Renaissance prince, James IV could speak many languages, he shored up the Royal Navy in Scotland, and was a patron of the arts. When he discovered that his part in the rebellion against his father James III had caused his death, he wore a metal belt around his waist in penance. He was charismatic as well as melancholy. A true romantic, he had been in and out of love, and had several mistresses, who bore him a number of illegitimate children.

One of his mistresses, Lady Margaret Drummond, he loved so much that he had thoughts of marrying her, which sent his privy countil into a tizzy. Marrying any member of the Scottish nobility would raise that family to the highest in the land, which couldn't be allowed to happen (see Mary Queen of Scots and the uproar that went up in Scotland when she married her first cousin Henry, Lord Darnley). Like most Kings of Scotland, when he wasn't fighting the English, James was having to keep trouble from brewing between the Scottish nobility, who seemed to spend more time fighting with each and with the King, than they did anything else. The idea of marrying Margaret Drummond came to an end, when she was poisoned along with her two sisters in 1502. James was distraught, but he quickly moved on taking a new mistress, Lady Janet Kennedy. Still Margaret Drummond is considered to be the love of his life.

This was the country that Margaret was marrying into. To restore Scottish pride and to please his new bride, James spent an exhorbitant amount of money on presents for Margaret as well as a grand trousseau for himself. He spent so much money that he had to fudge a bit when Henry VII inquired as to how much would be paid to Margaret's ladies-in-waiting who would accompany her to Scotland.

Margaret was married to James by proxy in 1502 when she was thirteen years old. Her brother Henry was incensed when he realized that his sister, held higher precedence at court than he did, throwing a magnificent tantrum, the first of many that he would throw through out his life when he didn't like something. Soon after tragedy struck when both her brother Arthur died suddenly after taking ill, and then her mother died after giving birth in rapid succession to two stillborn sons. She died in early 1503, at the age of 37, having given birth 9 times, with only 3 surviving children, Margaret, Henry and Mary to show for her short life.

After her marriage, Margaret spent a year in England getting ready for her move to Scotland. It had been advised by the Pope that she wait a year before consummating her marriage so that she would be more fit for childbearing. Her feelings on the death of her brother and mother are not known. The journey north to Scotland was a grand progression, today there is still a plaque in York commerating the exact spot that Margaret entered the gates of the city. On August 8, 1503, she and James were officially married at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. The Scottish poet William Dunbar wrote a poem called The Thistle and the Rose to commerorate the marriage:

Sweet lusty lovesome lady clear
Most might Kinges daughter dear,
born of a Princess most serene
Welcome to Scotland to be Queen

Margaret and James had six children of whom only the future James V lived to maturity. Although it was a political marriage, Margaret and James seemed to get only well, although his many mistresses seemd to cause her distress. 6 years later, Henry VII was dead and the new King Henry, hothead that he was, had no use for diplomacy. Relations between Scotland and England deteriorated. When war broke out between England and France as a result of the Italian Wars (which are too complicated to go into here, suffice it to say it had something to do with a dispute over the Duchy of Milan and Naples which eventually ended up involving most of Europe at that time. Wikipedia does a better job than I could do.) , James found himself in a difficult position as his obligations under the Auld Alliance with France conflicted with the treaty made he had made with England in 1502 which led to his marriage to Margaret.

Henry attempted to invade France in 1513, so James turned around and by declared war on England. Hoping to take advantage of Henry's absence, he led an invading army southward, only to be killed, with many of his nobles and common soldiers, at Flodden Field on September 9. A body was recovered from the battlefield and taken to London for burial. Because he was excommunicated, the embalmed body lay unburied for many years in the monastery of Sheen in Surrey and was lost during the Reforamtion. James' bloodstained coat was sent to Henry by his queen.

A rumour persisted that James had survived and had gone into exile, but there is no evidence to support it. Margaret was left a widow at a relatively young age with a young son who barely more than a year old, was now King of Scotland, and she was pregnant with her last child who was born in April of 1514. James IV's will had left Margaret in charge as Regent until James V reached his majority, as long as she remained a widow, which didn't sit well with the Scottish nobility. However, Parliament met at Stirling and confirmed Margaret as Regent.

Still, Margaret was the sister of Scotland's long time enemy, and she was a woman. A pro-French faction at court, headed by the Duke of Albany, started to take shape. Albany, had been born and raised in France, and was third in line to the throne. At first Margaret proved herself to be a capable Regent, she managed to reconcile all the disagreeing parties, and Scotland made peace with England in July of 1514. But Margaret's fatal mistake was to ally herself with the house of Douglad, in particular Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus who she fell in love with, a man his own uncle described as a "young, witless fool."

Without thinking about the consequences (sound familiar?), Margaret and Archie were married secretly on August 6th, 1514. When it became public, it not only alienated the nobility, but also strengthened the pro-French faction at court. According to her husband's will, she had also forfeited her place as Regent. The Privy Council also decided that she had forfeited her right to her son, James V, in retaliation she took him and her younger son Alexander to Stirling Castle. The Duke of Albany was now regent of Scotland, and his first step was to take custody of the two princes. Margaret finally surrendered custody. She was pregnant by Douglas, and she retired to Edinburgh Castle to await the birth. Her brother Henry had urged her to flee with the princes to England, but she refused. In October, she gave birth to Lady Margaret Douglas, the future mother of Henry, Lord Darnley, consort to his cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

While recovering from the birth of her daughter, she learned of the death of her youngest son. There were rumors that Albany had murdered the prince but Margaret refused to believe it, since it would have made more sense for him to have murdered James instead. While Margaret was in the north of England, her husband the Earl of Angus, returned to Scotland to make peace with the regent, also known as taking care of his own hide.

Margaret took her daughter and went to London to visit with Henry. It was the first time she had set foot on English soil in 12 years. She spent the year in England, finally returning to Scotland in 1517, after a treaty had been concluded between Albany and Henry brokered by Wolsey. Albany was in France, arranging for the betrothal of the young King to a French princess. Although she was graciously received back in Scotland, she was still not trusted, and her access to James was limited.

Meanwhile she had problems in her second marriage. Margaret learned that while she was gone, her husband had been living with his old mistress, Lady Jane Stewart, while living off of her money. Margaret wanted a divorce. When she wrote to her brother hinting at her plans, Henry was not pleased. Douglas was pro-English, a useful ally against the pro-French faction at court. Pissed at her brother's attitude, Margaret went over to Albany's side. While Albany was in France, Margaret resumed the Regency of Scotland, meanwhile her husband feuded with the Earl of Arran. Margaret bounced back and forth between the two men in terms of her support.

Meanwhile upon Albany's return, rumors were spread by her husband, that she and Albany were more than cordial, they were lovers. The truth was, Margaret had finally absorbed just how difficult Scottish politics really were. Albany was useful to her, in terms of access to her son, and his help in obtaining her a divorce. The next several years brought more alliances and broken agreements as Albany was finally removed from power and James accorded his full powers as King at the tender age of 12. Margaret now allied herself with the Earl of Arran and the Hamilton family, and Parliament recognized her as the chief councillor to the young King.

However, Margaret's new alliance with the Hamiltons's didn't please everyone. Her brother made matters worse by allowing her husband to return to Scotland. She fell in love with Henry Stewart, and promoted him to a senior office, pissing off the Earl of Lennox among others. The disgruntled nobles formed an alliance with her estranged husband. When Angus arrived in the capital with a group of armed men, Margaret ordered cannons fired on him from both the castle and Holyrood Palance. Admitted to the countil of Regency in 1525, Angus took custody of James and refused to give him up, exercising power on his behalf for 3 years, leading to Jame's intense hatred of the Douglas clan and the English.

Margaret tried to resist by this time she was obssessed with divorcing Angus. She was prepared to do anything, including claiming that James hadn't died at Flodden. Finally in 1527, Pope Clement VII granted her petition. As soon as she learned the news, she married Henry Stewart. Finally in 1528, her son James managed to get out from under Angus's thumb and ruled in his own right. He created his mother's husband, Lord Methven in honor of "the great love he bore to his dearest mother."

All of Margaret's life in Scotland, she had tried to bring about a better understanding between the country of her birth and her adopted country. She tried to broker a meeting between her brother and her son, envisioning an event along the lines of The Field of Cloth of Gold meeting between Henry and Francois I, but it came to naught. James was too suspicious of Henry. "I am weary of Scotland," she declared, to the point of revealing state secrets to her brother.

She had even more problems with her third marriage. Henry Stewart was proving to be even more of a pain in the ass than Archibald Douglas. Not only did he cheat on her, but he spent her money freely. She wanted another divorce but was thwarted by her son. In June 1538, Margaret welcomed Jame's bride Mary de Guise. To the surprise of many, the two women got on famously. Mary made sure that her mother-in-law made regular appearances at court.

Magaret died of a severe stroke in 1541 and was buried in Perth. How she would have pleased to know that her great-grandson finally ascended the throne of England, uniting the two kingdoms into one. Margaret was a true survivor, however her vanity and capriciousness sometimes got in the way of her common sense. Like her brother Henry VIII and her sister, her personal life often got in the way, and her pursuit of her own interests led her to betray her adopted country, her husband, her brother and her son in turns.

Still Margaret should be admired for the way that she attempted to hold power at a time when women had none. She proved herself to be a skillful politician at times, holding her own against the Scottish nobility, a feat that not even her own granddaughter could accomplish.

Sources: Wikipedia

English A great post on Margaret, particularly her early childhood, although unfinished.

For more information:

Buchanan, Patricia; Margaret Tudor Queen of Scots, 1985.

Perry, Maria; The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France, 1998

Historical fiction:

The Thistle and the Rose - Jean Plaidy (part of her series on the Kings and Queens of England which Crown is republishing in trade paperback. Excellent book)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mary Tudor - Romantic Rebel

These two posts are borne out of one history geek's frustration with Hollywood, in particular, the producers of Showtime's original series, The Tudors. For those who haven't watched The Tudors, the writers decided to combine Henry's two sisters into one, named Margaret Tudor, who in the series marries the King of Portugal and then later kills him.

Needless to say this is not historically accurate, or even really good drama. Henry had two younger sisters, Mary and Margaret and their subsequent marriages and descendents are an important part of Tudor history and shouldn't be ignored.

The lovely lady in the two portraits on the left is Princess Mary Tudor, the youngest surviving daughter of Henry VII and his Queen Elizabeth of York. Mary was born on March 18, 1496, and grew up to be considered one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. She was exuberant and energetic like her brother Henry. Like him, she loved dancing and parties, and spectacle. She also had a huge amount of freedom, her father had died when she was fourteen, and for 5 years , she was virtually unchaperoned at court, taking part in every event.

In the series, The Tudors, Henry betrothes his little daughter Mary to Catherine of Aragon's nephew, Charles, the future the Holy Roman Emperor. However, it was actually his sister Mary who was to be married to Charles until negotiations broke down between England and Spain. Since Charles was 4 years younger than her, Mary was probably pleased at getting out of that marriage.

Unfortunately, Henry was not done using his sister as a royal pawn. Instead, he betrothed her to King Louis XII of France, who was over 3o years older than Mary. Described as feeble and pock-marked, he'd already buried two wives. Mary had no choice in the matter but to obey her brother and her King and agree to the marriage. However, she apparently got Henry to agree that if she survived her husband, her second marriage would be to a man of her own choice. Henry agreed, probably thinking that it would never come to that, and if it did, he would still have control over her marital prospects.

In the meantime, Mary had fallen in love with the King's friend, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. The dukedom of Suffolk had been given to Brandon's grandfather for services to the crown during the Battle of Bosworth. Brandon was handsome, and popular. After his father's death on Bosworth field, Brandon was taken into the royal household as a companion to the young Prince of Wales, Arthur, and then later as a playmate for Henry, Duke of York.

He had a checkered marital past. He'd been betrothed to Anne Browne. Although there was no formal ceremony, they consummated the relationship, and Anne gave birth to a daughter. Although the contract was binding, that didn't stop him from marrying her Aunt. Eventually that marriage was annulled and Suffolk wed Anne. They had another daugher and she died two years later.

Although Brandon was a Duke, marriage to him would still have been considered marrying beneath her. Royal Princesses didn't marry mere Dukes unless they were Royal Dukes. The idea of a princess of England marrying a commoner who could bring nothing to the marriage was unthinkable. Princesses were commodities like grain or sugar to be bartered to the highest bidder, pieces on a chess board.

Good princess that she was, Mary went off to France, hopeful that her marriage to Louis would be a merciful short one, not even being Queen of France was a substitute for not being able to marry the man she truly loved. In Mary's retinue were two young girls who play a part in Tudor history, Anne Boleyn and her older sister Mary, who stayed behind with the Princess with her other retinue had been dismissed.

Mary was married to the King first by proxy, the Duc of Longueville filling in for Louis XII. When she arrived in Paris, she was married to the King for real in the fall of 1514. Three months later, Louis XII was dead, on New Year's Day no less. Now the Queen Dowager (Francois I was now the titular heir), Mary was moved to the Palace of Cluny for 6 weeks while they waited to see if she was with a child, who would replace Francois in the succession if it were a boy and lived.

While Mary waited, she made her escape plan just in case. She knew that her brother would probably send Charles Brandon to escort her home. She'd also heard that Henry had plans to marry her off now to a Spanish prince this time. Mary was not having it, she'd married once to please her brother, the second time would be for her. Luckily for Mary, she had an ally in Francois, who confronted Brandon when he arrived about his feelings for Mary.

Francois wasn't doing this out of any altruistic reason or soley because he was moved by the love affair between Mary and Charles. He had ulterior motives. Helping Mary marry Brandon meant that Henry could no longer use her as a political pawn. Francois knew that Brandon was there to bargain for Mary's return, specifically the return of her jewels, plate and dower rights. Brandon was in a bind though, he had promised Henry before he left that he would keep his relations with Mary solely on a formal basis. Henry had no reason not to trust him. Brandon was his creation, ambitious in his own right, and dependent on Henry for everything. Why would Brandon turn around and bite the hand that fed him?

Francois reassured him that he was their ally, he would take care of everything, including writing to Henry to explain everything. Suffolk wasn't stupid, he made sure to quickly write his own account of his interview with the King for Wolsey, and then went to see Mary. When Brandon admitted that he wanted to marry Mary, that was all she needed to know. She asked him to marry her, if he said no, she planned to enter a convent rather than be married off a second time to a man she didn't love. Even though he knew how pissed off Henry was going to be when he heard the news, Charles gave in and married Mary at the Palais de Cluny. Mary Tudor did the unthinkable for a royal princess, she married the man that she wanted, defying one of the most powerful Kings in Europe.

After the wedding, Francois demanded that Suffolk give his agreement in several disputes over Mary's dowery in exchange for keeping their secret. In the meantime, Wolsey and Henry were demanding that Brandon do the opposite, to stay firm and reject all the French King's demands. Suffolk was now in between a rock and a hard place. Rumors were swirling around Paris about the marriage and Mary was sure that she was now pregnant. Suffolk had no choice now but to write to Wolsey confessing what they had done, putting the most positive spin on it as possible. He wanted to arrange a public ceremony, knowing that it was possible that their secret marriage could be invalidated.

When Henry found out, pissed was not the word. Not only did he demand that Suffolk and Mary repay the treasury the money that was spent for her dowery to France, which amounted to 24,000 pounds, a huge sum at the time, payable in installments of 4,000 pounds a year. She also had to return all the plate and jewels that she took to France as part of her dowery and all the gifts that Louis XII had given her. Both Mary and Suffolk wrote to the King begging his forgiveness, blaming Mary for their impetuous decision.

After a time, Henry's anger subsided, Mary was his favorite sister (he named the famous ship Mary Rose after her, as well as his only legitimate child at the time, the princess Mary.), and Brandon was his dearest friend. They were married publicly in May of 1514 with only Henry and the Queen in attendance. Afterwards, there was feasting and celebrations but it was strictly a family affair. It helped that they named their first son after Henry and their daughter Frances after the French King.

Frances grew up to marry the Marquess of Dorset, their daughter Lady Jane Grey was the 9 Day Queen. Mary was always referred to as the Dowager Queen of France and not the Duchess of Suffolk, a reminder that she had married below her rank. It hardly mattered, Mary was relatively happy with her choice of husband. Suffolk and Mary attended all the major court celebrations, including the famous Field of Cloth of Gold near Calais in 1520, where Mary was considered the most beautiful woman there. Whenever the Queen was ill, Mary acted as her brother's hostess.

Good friends with her sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon, Mary supported her against the King during his "great matter" and rejected her former maid of honor Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile her husband was persuaded to remember that Catherine and Prince Arthur, Henry's older brother, had consummated their marriage. Suffolk had been a childhood companion of the Prince as well as the King, being nearer to Arthur's age then Henry's.

She died at the relatively early age of 38 in the spring of 1534. Her husband was not with her as he was arranging Anne Boleyn's coronation as Queen. While her brother ordered requiem masses for her, he showed no other signs of mourning. Her husband, Suffolk, didn't even attend her funeral, although it was considered to be a marvelous affair. She is buried at the church of St. Mary, in Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk.

Her husband, meanwhile, wasted no time remarrying, this time to his own son's betrothed, Catherine Willoughby, an heiress, who was 14 at the time of their marriage, Suffolk was almost 50. The reason, Brandon needed money badly. His son, the Earl of Lincoln died of tuberculosis at the age of 18 shortly afterward. He and Catherine had two sons, the dissolution of the monasteries gave them much land. He died at the age of 60, almost 18 months before the death of his great friend, Henry VIII.

Mary Tudor should be remembered as the Princess who defied her King and brother to marry the man that she loved, and whose descendant Lady Jane Grey for 9 days was Queen of England.

Sources: Wikipedia

English History. net:

For more information:

Mary, Queen of France - by Jean Plaidy (historical fiction but extremely well written)

Maria Perry - The Sisters of Henry VIII

Tomorrow: Princess Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sarah, Duchess of York

Twenty-two years ago, a fun loving, flame-haired woman named Sarah Ferguson became engaged to the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew. She was hailed as being a breath of fresh air to the Royal Family, with her cheekiness and wacky outfits (does anyone recall some of the horrors that she showed up in at Royal Ascot before the wedding?), the contrast to her sister-in-law to be, Princess Diana whose persona as 'Shy Di' had captivated the nation five years prior.

Unlike the Prince and Princess of Wales, it was clear that Prince Andrew and his bride to be were madly in love. Sarah vowed to be the perfect navy wife, standing by her man, while she learned her royal duties. So what went wrong? How did Sarah, Duchess of York go from being the bright shining hope of the Royal Family to a pariah in less than six years? To being called names in the tabloids like "The Duchess of Pork" and "Freeloading Fergie"?

Sarah Margaret Ferguson was born on October 15, 1959 to Major Ronald Ferguson and his wife the former Susan Wright. Although the Fergusons were not titled like the Spencers, the family were descended from Charles II through two of his illegitimate sons, the 1st Duke of Richmond, and James Crofts. Like the Princess of Wales, she came from a broken home and was raised by her fathers before being shipped off to boarding school. Her mother Susan had run off with another man, in Sarah's case, her mother moved half-way around the world to Argentina to live with her second husband Hector Barrantes, a polo player. Like Diana, Fergie had grown up on the fringes of the Royal Family, her father was for years the polo manager for Prince Charles. In her autobiography My Story, she wrote that as a child she used to sneak away from her father's polo matches, "to play tag with other like-minded truants - including Prince Andrew, who was just my age."

As a child, Fergie loved horses and won many prizes in horse shows. Like Diana, Sarah left school early, taking a secretarial course at Queen's Secretarial College, before going to work for a public relations firm. Eventually, she worked for an art gallery and then a publishing company that specialized in coffee table books. Without an inheritance to buy a posh pad, like Diana's in Coleherne Court, Fergie lived with a series of roommates in places like Lavender Hill in Clapham. Unlike Diana, however, Sarah had a past. Not only had she had several boyfriends, but she'd been involved for years with race car driver Paddy McNally, a much older man who had was divorced with two sons. She was at impasse in her relationship with Paddy, when she was invited to spend the weekend at Windsor Castle in June of 1985 to celebrate Royal Ascot where she renewed her acquaintance with the Queen's handsome second son.

Andrew, at this point in his life, was also at an impasse. He'd returned from the Falklands Island war with a taste of what it was like to have actually been in combat, something that his older brother Prince Charles had not experienced. He'd been thwarted in his relationship with the actress Koo Stark, once it was revealed that she'd appeared in several soft-core films. Both seemed ripe to fall in love when they met. There was some flirting over profiteroles that Fergie swore Prince Andrew tried to make her eat, although she was meant to be on a diet. The relationship was virtually incognito for months (unlike Prince Charle's courtship of Diana) before it was revealed when Sarah went to greet Andrew's ship when he returned from sea.

On a house visit to Floors Castle in Scotland, seat of the Duke of Roxburghe, Prince Andrew proposed and was accepted, although Sarah later admitted that she told him that he could take it back in the morning if he changed his mind. After a short engagement, the couple were married on July 23, 1986 at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony that was seen around the world by a billion people. As a sign of her love for her prince, Sarah had even had his initial embroidered on the train of her gown.

And first Sarah could do no wrong. While Diana was coming under increasing criticism for her lavish wardrobe and for eclipsing the Prince, Sarah was seen as jolly good fun, exactly the type of woman that the British love, not afraid to have a good time, bad fashion sense, cheeky and not afraid to poke fun at staid tradition. Diana seemed to have an ally in The Royal Family, another outsider to commiserate with, against the establishment that seemed to want to see her fall from grace. Up until Fergie's arrival, Diana had felt increasingly isolated. Prince Charles had his own friends and hobbies, she never really felt close to the Queen, and Princess Anne had no use for her.

Diana, at first joined in the fun, with Fergie. Poking passers-by with their umbrellas at Ascot, dressing up as policemen to crash Prince Andrew's bachelor party at Annabel's, clowning around on the slopes at Kloster's, but as the press built Sarah up and tore Diana down, it seemed as Diana started to distance herself. Soon Sarah herself felt the string of the press. She was criticized for leaving her baby Beatrice to join Prince Andrew on tour, for her poor dress sense, her weight, and for being less Princess like than her sister-in-law. All the things that the press initially loved about her, now they hated.

Meanwhile, Fergie felt increasingly lonely while Andrew was away in the Navy, she saw him on average 42 days a year. Apparently even when he was home, he spent more time playing golf then he did with his wife, making her a golf widow as well as navy widow. The birth of their two daughters, Beatrice on August 8, 1988 and Eugenie in March of 1990 didn't bring the couple together. Even her attempts to learn to fly a helicopter to share her husband's interests was to no avail, although she became the first royal woman to gain a pilots licence. Like the Princess of Wales, Sarah was thrown into the deep end of engagements with no guidance or training whatsoever, left to make mistakes left and right.

Sarah turned to writing, publishing a series of children's books about Budgie, the Helicopter. Although they were successful, she was again criticized for not donating all the funds to charity, and there were rumors that the stories were similar to another series that had been published years before. Her family didn'thelp matters, her father Ronald Ferguson was caught frequenting a massage parlor, the pictures splashed all over the tabloids. Although he proclaimed his innocence, however it led him to leave his post as Prince Charles's polo manager and his position at the Guards Polo Club. Fergie was also accused of taking too many holidays and of accepting too many free gifts. Then there was the debacle of The Royal Knockabout, a televised tournament that Prince Edward produced with celebrity teams led by Andrew, Sarah, Fergie, and Edward that embarrassed The Royal Family. Despite Prince Andrew receiving an allowance from the Civil List, the money didn't begin to cover their lifestyle. There were criticisms over the building of the York's house Sunninghill, which the tabloids dubbed South York. And the couples agreeing to appear in Hello! Magazine after the birth of Beatrice was also criticized. Sarah found herself increasingly in debt, building up an overdraft that at one point amounted to about $4MM.

Unlike the days of the Prince Regent, who could rely on Parliament to advance him the necessary sums to clear up his debts (which led to his marriage to Princess Caroline of Brunswick), there would be no help from The Royal Family towards Sarah's debts. In early 1992, the Palace announced that the Duke and Duchess of York were separating. It was another blow to the monarchy that had already seen Princess Anne's marriage collapse, and the increasing cracks in the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

After the separation, things seemed to be cordial between Sarah and the Queen, until photographs of Sarah and her 'financial advisor' Johnny Bryan in compromising positions were published in the newspaper. Although the Duke and Duchess were legally separated, the pictures of Johny Bryan sucking the Duchess's toes while she sunbathed topless (Sarah later claimed in her autobiography that he wasn't but the pictures tell another story) led many to believe that she had been cheating on the Duke before their separation. Later on more pictures were found of the Duchess with Steve Wyatt, the son of a rich Texan, that were conveniently left in his flat after he moved back to the States.

Were the pictures just found as was claimed or were they part of a conspiracy to damage the Duchess's reputation further? What about the photographers who just happened to be in the South of France? Theories abound that Princess Diana was responsible for some of the leaks to take the heat of her own situation. Whatever the reason, it damaged Sarah's relationship with the crown, and didn't do much for her public reputation either. Ironically, the Duke stood by his estranged wife. However, they were divorced in 1996 and Fergie was stripped of the title HRH, leaving her Sarah, Duchess of York, a title that she is allowed until she remarries.

Unlike the Prince and Princess of Wales, there was so rancor between the Duke and Duchess. Despite their later divorce, the two stayed friends, taking vacations together with their daughters, even sharing the marital home at Sunninghill until it was eventually sold. Sarah even describes her ex-husband as her 'bestest friend.' Despite both having romances with other people, neither one has ever remarried, and there has always been speculation that one day they might reunite.

Life for the Duchess after leaving the royal fold seemed to go more smoothly then it did for the Princess of Wales. She became the US spokesperson for Weight Watchers, an association that she continues to this day, she published a book on Queen Victoria and her house on the Isle of Wight, she's served as a guest host on Larry King's popular program on CNN, she has her own line of jewelry and candles, and published her autobiography My Story. All her commercial activities are confined to the United States so that she isn't seen to be embarassing the Royal Family. She's become known now more for her charity work, including Children in Crisis a charity that she founded, than for her more scandalous years as a member of the Royal Family.

After her mother's death, it was revealed that Sarah had been taking care of her mother for years after the death of her husband, Hector Barrantes in a car accident, she'd even shared her divorce settlement with her.

Another thing that Sarah and the late Princess Diana had in common was that they were both devoted mothers. Sarah and her two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie are very close. On her 18th birthday two years ago, Princess Beatrice declaired that her mother was the woman who inspired her the most. "She leads by example and her behavior is one that I'd really like to follow," she was quoted as saying. A far cry from the days when the press and the establishment deplored her behavior!

Unfortunately, Sarah and Diana had a falling out before Diana's death over some things that Fergie wrote in her autobiography, including the claim that Fergie ended up with something called veruca from borrowing Diana's shoes. Before they could make up, Diana was killed in France in the car crash that shocked the world.

From being a total embarrassment to Mother of the Year, Sarah, Duchess of York has reinvented herself and become a person of substance in her own right. Now approaching her 49th birthday, she seems more assured and sophisticated than the rather jolly girl who charmed the nation with her lively personality.

In her autobiography, she wrote, "I was never cut out for royalty....I have my life back and I will not let go of it. And I might just live happily ever after."

This post prepared with help from Wikipedia.

For more information:

Sarah, Duchess of York - My Story