Friday, July 2, 2010

Marriage musings and The Other Boleyn Girl

I finished the copy of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl that my sister Shauna'h lent to me last night. Very compelling book. I will grant, this is historical *fiction* and the author makes some assumptions that are necessarily back up by a lot of evidence. It does get a tad salacious at times, just fyi. Overall though, I couldn't put the book down. Which surprised me considering that we all know how this sad story ends.

What I didn't know, though, was a lot about Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, who is the narrator of this story. So that was interesting. Plus, it was intriguing feeling as if you were getting an inside look into what went wrong with King Henry VIII and what led to Anne's downfall and demise.

I've always been fascinated by Anne Boleyn. I do think that she got on a bit of a power trip (although that was at least somewhat instigated by her family) in her quest to be Queen, and she has to take responsibility for that. However, that being said, she certainly didn't deserve what happened to her. And by all accounts, she was an intelligent, well-versed, devout and forthright woman who took her husband to task for thinking only of his own desires, all things that I admire. And very courageous in the face of an appalling end to her life.

I also enjoyed learning more about Katherine of Aragon, as I mentioned a few posts ago. A very devout Catholic woman who prayed daily and was committed to her marriage. And I enjoyed one sequence in the book that I thought I'd share, because it bears on a marriage in a way that I thought poignant.

The "trial" is underway to judge the validity of Henry and Katherine's marriage. As Katherine makes a public appeal that their marriage was valid from the start, Mary muses to herself:

"There was complete silence in the hall, everyone was listening to the queen. Henry, pressed against the back of his throne, was pale with embarrassment. He looked like a fat spoiled child confronted by an angel. I found that I was smiling at the sight of her. I found that I was grinning, though it was my family whose cause was sinking with every word she spoke. I was near to delighted laughter because Katherine of Aragon was speaking out for women of the country, for the good wives who should not be put aside just because their husbands had taken a fancy to another, for the women who walked the hard road between kitchen, bedroom, church and childbirth. For the women who deserved more than their husband's whim."

Last week, one of my Living Faith devotions touched on the same subject:

"A scribe approached and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Matthew 8:19

Marriage vows are often preserved on videotape, leaving a concrete reminder of one's promises. When those promises are broken through infidelity or some other failure, the video reminder must be heart-wrenching.

When we are young, we find it relatively easy to make sweeping promises, but as we age our initial enthusiasm over wanes and our commitments lose their appeal. We may discover that some of what we did in the name of Jesus was driven more by fear than faith.

We are in good company. After proclaiming his complete faithfulness, Peter failed miserably and experienced the kind of self-knowledge that purifies us of self-righteousness and reminds us that, as Dorothy Day said, 'all is grace.' Peter was transformed because grace and repentance came together to allow him to experience a love that was not conditional and a forgiveness that was not earned. May our wounds become a source of healing for others."

I found that all very touching. Things change the longer you are married, and although the initial "floaty" feelings don't remain, what comes in their place is so much deeper and richer. It's too bad when people (HENRY) choose not to see it this way. All very intriguing.

If Tudor history is interesting to you, and you're also a fan of racier romance :) I definitely recommend the book. I enjoyed it very much.

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