Sunday, March 31, 2013

Give me books, or give me death.

There is one thing in life that I cherish above all else (besides my family) and that would be books. I am one of those people who would rather hold the object in my hand to feel the weight of the story I'm about to dive into. If you haven't noticed by now 16th century England more than piques my interest, so if I come across a book I haven't read that places itself in that setting I'm bound to snatch it up. For this blog entry I've decided to create a list of 10 books that I have read, which I deem "must reads" at this moment in time: 5 history and 5 fiction. (Keep in mind there are MANY worthy of reading and everyone has a different taste)


  • Heretic Queen by Susan Ronald
  • Elizabeth by David Starkey
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
  • The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty by G.J. Meyer
  • The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Series)
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
  • The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory
  • Pavane by Keith Roberts
  • The Candlemass Road by George MacDonald Fraser
I'm not going to give a review of any of these books. I want all of you to explore them for yourselves and form your own opinions if you so desire. I would love to hear any suggestions on what to read next or if anybody has their own thoughts about the books I have listed. 

Read on!


The wars of religion during the 16th century were no laughing matter...the English (not to mention the rest of Europe) took their faith rather seriously. It was a stressful period in history for the religious world; were you to be loyal to the monarchy or to the church, and were you ready to give your life for your beliefs? Cast your mind back into the centuries and imagine a life driven by religion, where every aspect of your day was infused with your beliefs in some way. Imagine a life wondering if the scaffold was waiting for you around the next corner. The wars of religion continued to torment the country of England for centuries as intolerance ran rapid and civil war bubbled over. From the dark days of "Bloody Mary" to the "tolerance" of her sister Queen Elizabeth, the evolution of religion in England shaped the country's future.

Queen Mary got the ball rolling in 1555 on a lovely, brisk winter day by burning a priest at the stake who was of the Protestant faith. He was charged with heresy and executed for all to see, sending home a message that Christianity was to be the ruling religion and all others were not be practiced. As onlookers watched the flames engulf the priest, one is inclined to think that they thought back to the times of her dear father, King Henry VIII, who invoked the same form of execution. It was made clear that no one was truly safe. Mary had her own sister imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of leading an uprising in hopes of becoming the new Protestant Queen. Queen Mary's disgruntled feelings toward Elizabeth and the subject of faith stemmed from the circumstances under which the Church of England broke from Rome. She saw the church's break as merely an act of getting rid of her mother, Katherine of Aragon, by her father so he could proceed with Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. So, really it's no surprise why Mary harbored bad feelings towards her Protestant sister and was set on implementing her vision of what England should become. Mary proceeded to return the church back to Roman jurisdiction, while executing hundreds of Protestants under the revived Heresy Acts. Now, maybe it's just me, but does anyone else think she could have benefited from a therapist? Girl had daddy issues.

Elizabeth Tudor

Enough of Mary, let's turn our minds forward to the reign of Queen Elizabeth who was determined not to replay the bloody days of her not-as-nice-looking sister (so sorry Mary, but it's true). Elizabeth understood the need for balance in a world that needed little excuse to start a civil war. I'm not one to brag about myself, but you best believe I will brag out about "Good Queen Bess."Up until the 16th century religious tolerance was hard to come by and even unwelcome to an extent. Like I said before, people were serious about their beliefs and those who practiced an opposing faith were often times given the cold shoulder. The Catholic peeps ran together, while the Puritan posse embraced...well, themselves (and I don't mean to speak for everyone here). Elizabeth only had to set her sights on France and the Netherlands to remind herself that taking the middle-ground was what worked in this instance. However, as much as I would like to say her plan for a tolerant society worked flawlessly I must confess that it did not, but the effort was to be applauded. To appease the Catholics and radical puritans she searched for a Protestant answer, but the Puritans called for extreme reform for which she was not prepared to give. Elizabeth became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Act of Uniformity passed in 1558, requiring attendance at church and the use of an adapted version of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Although, Elizabeth learned a thing or two from her sister: What not to do. She repealed the Act of Heresy laws and punishments for not attending church did not include having your head sliced off. Necks could breath again.

The wars of religion raged on into the 19th century, but it seemed a step forward had been taken in regards to tolerance. To those who fell under the religious oppression of 16th century England, I'm terribly sorry, but you are remembered.

Further Reading: Those who would like to know more about the topic I recommend reading, Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion, by Susan Ronald. Not boring in the least, I promise.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Virgin Queen, Maybe... But Not the Virgin Court

Elizabeth I, Queen of England....and supposed holder of virginity. The year was 1558 and the day was November 17th; Elizabeth Tudor, at the age of 25, had finally come to the moment in her life where she was to fulfill her destiny as Queen (quite incredible how she managed to acquire it at all, but that's a story for another time). Now, for those of you out there that aren't familiar with gender roles in 16th century England, let me just say that, yepp, you guessed it, men were the ones that generally held all the power. When it came to who ruled the country it was a widespread belief that women weren't capable of maintaining such a position. The grumbling that went on when she was crowned was apparent. I'm going to pick on a certain man named Thomas Becon, a clergyman and author, who upon hearing the next monarch was a woman was quoted angrily proclaiming, “Ah, Lord! To take away the empire from a man, and give it to a woman, seems to be an evident token of thine anger towards us Englishman.” Well, Thomas, God must have been REALLY angry at you Englishman to crown Elizabeth right after her dear, dear older sister, Queen Mary, had just royally screwed up holding the position herself. Everyone bloody hated the woman (which is an exageration, but she had to get the nickname, "Bloody Mary," somehow). From day one of Elizabeth's reign the royal council was in a hurry to get a ring on her finger so they could sleep at night knowing there was a man who could rule the country the correct way and create heirs to the throne. Unfortunately, for the council, they wouldn't be getting much sleep that night or in the next 45 years because Elizabeth would never get married. Twenty-one year old, Kelly Clarkson, would have been so proud!

Mary Tudor

Now, on to the topic at hand: SEX. Elizabeth didn't get married for lack of suitors. The girl had them lining up like she was Meghan Fox being auctioned off for a date. Even though she never married any of them doesn't mean she didn't entertain them. She knew how to play mind games and utilized that skill to the utmost extent. There would be times where she told her council should would marry the man they chose for her and then at the last minute change her mind. Many speculate whether this was a tactic she knowingly used to keep the council at bay and keep the power of the crown to herself. But in remaining independent rumors started to fly around Europe that she couldn't bear children. In the next minute, she was already pregnant with Robert Dudley's child. Good ol' Robert Dudley. He was the man who was most frequent in Elizabeth's life. Dudley was a childhood friend of Elizabeth's and was always in her life one way or another (power hungry perhaps?). Some claim he was the only one she was ever in love with, but we can never know for sure. We DO know she rejected his advances to become her husband, so Elizabeth may have been just a little more power hungry than him! There is one other scenario that her council probably didn't even think about for pure absurdity: Elizabeth Tudor wanted to remain single and genuinely didn't want kids. If that's the truth, I have to give her some major brownie points for her forward thinking...and doing it on one of the biggest stages in the world. She's got balls! Well, many would have preferred if that were true. Besides, according to Elizabeth, she WAS married; “I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England.”

What do we know about Queen Elizabeth's sexual relations? I'm sorry to say, not much. She could have been the virgin many wanted her to have been. She also could have gone to bed with every one of her suitors. In that case, she is the all-time greatest sneaker to have ever lived. A sneak here, a sneak there, she be sneakin' everywhere. This idea is favorable to those who like to think she took after her own mother, Anne Boleyn, who had her head chopped off by King Henry VIII (Elizabeth's father) for charges of adultery. I know what you're thinking and, yes, her family history makes the Kennedy curse look tame in comparison.

But the term "sneaky"can not be applied to the ladies and gentlemen of Elizabeth's court. The court was made up of various people who were considered privileged and they lived to serve the Queen. The men and women wore the latest fashion and beauty trends established by Elizabeth. The best-looking, richest, and highly educated people of England under the same roof?? Hormones were flying. Scholar, Paul Hammer, wrote an article on this exact topic, revealing that the subject of sex within the court wasn't written about because it was deemed inappropriate. As gender relations changed throughout the years of Elizabeth's reign, so too did the attitudes towards sex. According to Hammer, the court went buck wild during the 1590's and sex outside of marriage was rampant. S C A N D E L O U S. One reason for this was that Elizabeth was getting older in age and had less authority. When Elizabeth was in her prime she would have taken care of such sexual liaisons swiftly and harshly. I like to picture her nestled on the throne with the culprits kneeling before her as she smugly states, "God forgive you, but I never can."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

About Me

My name is Dakin Hewlett and I am a senior at West Chester University. I am from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania and went to Abington Heights High School. I have two older brothers, Dane and Devin, and a cat named, Edgar.

In my free time I like to play sports, read, cook, and travel. I've been to Panama and Costa Rica twice to live with the Embera Indians in the Panamanian rainforest. I also studied abroad for my junior year of college at Westminster University in London, England.

In this blog I will explore Art, Literature, and Culture in Elizabethan England. I decided on this topic because ever since I was a youngin' I was mildly obsessed with Queen Elizabeth I and the whole time period in general. For that reason I chose to study abroad in London and had the opportunity to learn first-hand about Elizabethan history and culture. I plan to take a fresh approach to the various topics, incorporating modern ideas, and generating edgier dialogue at least once a week.

Hope you enjoy!