Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Strange Stories Genealogy Generates


When I was a kid my grandfather used to sit me down on Sunday afternoons and give me a copy of one of the top magazines of the 1950's.  The magazine might be Time Magazine (1923-present), Life Magazine (1936-2000), Popular Mechanics (1902-present), Harper's Magazine (1850-present), Scientific American (1845-present), National Geographic (1888-present) or Boy's Life (1911-present).  He would quiz me on what I knew about the contents.
Since I was the only one in my family who loved to read and learn except Grandpa Pat, I figured he was desperate for intellectual discussions about current events, science or history.  So what if I was a kid, I still devoured magazines and listened to the news on radio and TV.
My grandfather was an immigrant of Scottish-Irish descent and he came to America from Donegal County, Ireland.  Of course his Campbell clan had been forced to leave Scotland a few hundred years earlier when England started enforcing the new Anglican religion in order to cover up King Henry VIII and his frisky ways.
Most of Europe was Catholic in the 1500's when the Pope delayed giving King Henry an annulment from his first wife, a method of divorcing your wife without divorcing her by having the Pope declare the marriage never existed in the first place.
Divorce was not allowed by the church.  Annulment was the only way to get out of marriage and remain a Catholic.  But there had to be a good reason and Henry had none except the need to pursue further peccadilloes with all the ladies of the world who seemed to love him.
Without an annulment the death of his wife was the only way for him to get married again.  Ironically, it was the death of his brother that forced him to get married in the first place.
Back in the good old days of the monarchies when the parents arranged marriages for their children in order to merge with other monarchies, a three year old Catherine was betrothed to Prince Arthur of England, Henry's older brother and heir to the throne, thus setting up a consolidation of the Spanish and English empires.
They were married in 1501, when she turned 16, and six months later Prince Arthur died after both became ill, possibly from sweating sickness.  This caused a royal mess as the whole succession plan to consolidate the kingdoms was unraveling.  So Arthur's brother, Henry, who was five years younger than Catherine, had to marry his brother's widow to keep things on track.
Unfortunately, that same Catholic church had canon law that forbade men from marrying their brother's widow.  Yet there was a way around that canon law as well.  The Pope could grant a dispensation if the marriage was never consummated.
Catherine said the marriage was never consummated during the 6 month period and the Pope granted the dispensation.  It still took several years due to monarchy bureaucratic delays before they were married.  Then Catherine never produced a male heir to the throne with Henry, just a female named Mary, and Henry feared the Tudor family was so dysfunctional a woman could never rule the kingdom.
Henry's first wife at the time, Catherine of Aragon, was the daughter of the most powerful monarchy in the world, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Argon, the Queen and King of the Spanish empire.  Yes, the same Isabella who helped finance the discovery of America by Columbus.
One could write numerous more volumes or scripts on the incredible, bizarre and off-the-wall antics of the royal monarchies that ruled the world and in particular the Tudor family in England.  The truth about them is far more riveting a tale than the fiction of Hollywood screen writers.
Anyway, finding the young maids of his wife far more interesting and desirable than his older wife, Henry needed an out so for the second time he asked the Pope to waive a canon law for him.  First the dispensation and now the annulment.
When the Pope took to much time to act Henry went out and changed the ruling church to Anglican and banned Catholics from England, Scotland and Wales among other places controlled by the British.
A few wives and numerous peccadilloes later, peccadilloes being the insignificance old Henry attached to the affairs, adultery and general debauchery he considered essential to his monarchy, the old boy died.  The cause of death was long attributed to that deadly old venerable venereal disease syphilis.  Imagine that, being killed by too many peccadilloes!
Now historians point to diabetes, obesity, or even brain damage from a 1536 jousting accident.  Aristocrats never stop trying to re-write any history that makes the family look bad.
After his death from diabetes, obesity, brain damage or syphilis his son Edward (King Edward VI), became king at 9 years old and died at age 15.  In order to keep his oldest daughter Mary, a Catholic, from being queen Henry had directed that Lady Jane Grey succeed Edward.  Jane was queen 9 days before Bloody Mary showed up, imprisoned her and then had her executed in 1554.
Thus his daughter Mary (Queen Mary I or Bloody Mary) did become Queen lasing only until 1558  when she died and Elizabeth, Henry's last child and daughter of second wife Ann Boleyn, became Queen.
Queen Elizabeth I, my all time favorite Queen of England, ruled for 45 years and is often considered the greatest Queen of England.  She refused to marry in order to assure there would never be another Tudor on the throne of England.
It seems Henry's legacy was too much for her.  There is an old English rhyme that summarized Henry's rule.
King Henry the Eighth
to six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
two divorced, two beheaded.

For historical accuracy change divorced to annulled.

One of the reasons I thought Elizabeth was great is she refused to enforce her dad's (King Henry) law banishing Catholics from England.  It was not until after she died that Catholics were finally told to denouncement their Catholic faith and become Anglican or leave the country.  They could be imprisoned and even executed for refusing to denounce their faith.

My grandfather's Campbell clan ruled Scotland at the time.  They were Catholics.  In the early 1600's they were ordered to denounce their Catholic faith or give up all rights to ruling Scotland.  Those that remained Catholic gave up all rights to succession and were sent to Ireland, where Catholics still ruled.

So you can see how King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had a direct impact on my family about 450 years ago and why my family immigrated to America.  Ironically, while the Campbell's were my maternal family the Putnam's from my father's side were from England and were Anglican aristocratic defenders of the monarchy.

For some odd reason reunions of my family never seemed to work.

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