The Lazy Person’s Guide to Early Roman Emperors

Sometimes I cannot explain my fixations with history, nor my devilish need to mock it. I could argue that certain topics, such as Roman Emperors, are discussed with such reverence and so little endeavor at levity, that there is a vacuum of historical entertainment. I am painting these men as mortals, defying the dusty, pretentious misconceptions of their demigod natures. Or I could just confess that my trivia and quizzing skills were a little less than on-point in this arena. (Get it?) And the only way I could bring myself to actually learn about the Emperors was to thoroughly laugh at them. I’ll leave it to you.

“Don’t ‘asp’ me what happened to Cleopatra [snicker, snicker]”

1. Augustus

(Sep, 63 BC – Aug, 14 AD)
Reputation: Ushered in an era of peace, development, and innovation.
What He Was Known For: Augustus (aka “Octavian”) was Julius Caesar’s heir before Caesar was poked to death. Augustus fought Mark Antony and Cleopatra for control of Rome until it drove the lovers to suicide, allowing Augustus to consolidate power as the first Emperor of Rome. He built roads and infrastructure. Oh, and he named the month of “August” for himself, since it was his most successful month for battles. I wish I had a month named Katius.
Age at Death: 75
Cause of Death: Unknown natural causes

“Poor Sejanus, I guess Mercury was in retrograde [glug, glug]. Heh-heh.
I can’t wait to tell Caligula that one.”

2. Tiberius

(Sep, 14 AD – Mar, 37 AD)
Reputation: Mama’s boy, brooding, disliked, really unpopular with the Senate
What He Was Known For: He was Augustus’s stepson who wasn’t up to the challenge. Lots of people wanted his throne, and he became tyrannical and murdery to keep it. He kept a pet henchman, Sejanus, for murdering his rivals and their kind, until the henchman was also whacked, under Tibby’s orders, completing the circle of death. In his old age, Tiberius ran and hid in Capri, drank wine, and studied astrology until his dying day.
Age at Death: 77
Cause of Death: Probably natural causes (maybe a pillow to the face)

“What did you just say to me?”

3. Caligula

(Mar, 37 AD – Jan, 41 AD)
Reputation: Really sick and twisted dude, hated
What He Was Known For: He was named as Tiberius’s heir, even though Caligula HATED the emperor for murdering his father. Living with the old emperor in Capri really messed up Caligula in the head, and he may have snuffed out his predecessor with a pillow to the face. His reign started off fine enough, but after a brief illness, Caligula became a strange sort of monster. It wasn’t so much that he liked to pace the halls dressed as a woman (which, hey, ya know, whatever), it was more that he enjoyed the cruelty of executions and declared himself a god. His people hated and feared him.
Age at Death: 28
Cause of Death: Stabbed 30 times by his own guards, and dumped in a shallow grave

“Who threw that chicken leg?”

4. Claudius

(Jan, 41 AD – Oct, 54 AD)
Reputation: Disfigured, weird, but beloved. Also, kinda looked like Daniel Craig.
What He Was Known For: As Augustus’s last remaining direct descendant, Claudius was a disfigured weird dude whose family would pelt him with food when he fell asleep at the dinner table. Despite this, the people of Rome adored him. He was a friend to the poor, the sick, women’s interests, and people in general. He also made his mark by conquering Britain–where many had tried, he, Claudius finally succeeded.
Age at Death: 63
Cause of Death: He was somewhat ill, but his power-grabbing wife, Agrippina, may have had a physician posion him, or fed him bad mushrooms

Continue reading “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Early Roman Emperors”

If you could invite any 5 people From history to a dinner party, who would you choose?

Welcome, friends to a fantastical dinner party of your own making and imagination. Yes, it’s time to play a grand game and intellectual exercise, somewhat akin to the lunchroom game of Stranded On a Deserted Island. However, instead of imagining implements of survival, escape, and spiritual fulfillment, you are being asked to host a grand dinner party with the most intriguing, exciting, or entertaining guests you can cook up. Here is the beautiful scenario: You are to host a dinner party for which you may invite up to FIVE guests–living or dead. Deep in a distant wood is a secluded cabin with comfortable furnishings and a crackling fire that is waiting for your party. The linens and place settings are in place. The food’s piping hot and ready, dessert is chilled, coffee and tea are brewing, and the bar and wine cellars are endlessly stocked. All that’s needed from you is the guest list! Whom shall you invite?

Oh, sorry. Of course there are rules.

  1. Your guests may be living or dead, but must have been a real human at some point (in other words, no Mickey Mouse or Ace Ventura).
  2. Languages will be automatically translated in each person’s mind.
  3. If you like, you may specify which point in your guest’s life from which you will draw them (ie “Young Elvis” vs. “Old Elvis”). Generally, the deceased will be invited from the peak of their popularity or accomplishment, and the living will appear at their current age.
  4. With apologies, friends and family are not permitted unless they lived at least 100 years ago. In other words, you may invite ancestors. This is done for your own sanity and to maintain the integrity and spirit of the dinner party.
  5. Sorry, we can’t pull from the future
  6. The dinner party will commence at 6pm and continue until 6am. During this time, no one may leave the cabin where this party is being hosted. Aside from basic utilities, no electronics are permitted. No cell phones, television, cameras, or outside communication. Further, none may isolate themselves through distractions such as reading, napping, etc.
  7. Each guest will arrive voluntarily for this dinner party. So while they won’t be hostile toward the experience out of hand, they will exhibit their true personalities and expect their typical social treatment. Guests from history will be acclimated to the notion of being out of their own time, but their knowledge of the world’s future will be most minimal.
  8. You can’t change history. You can’t convince someone from the past to do or not do something. You can’t fix anything or save anyone. You can’t kill anyone. You cannot profit from anything material. The minute people from the past leave the party, they forget all, and you have no souvenirs but your memories. It *may* be possible for those guests living currently to remember you. Or not. This is an unknown for you.

(VARIATION #1, THE REALISTIC DINNER PARTY: The guests must all be living, and there could be a language barrier)
(VARIATION #2, THE CRAZY DINNER PARTY: Fictional guests are allowed)
(VARIATION #3, THE EMOTIONAL DINNER PARTY: Sure, you can invite as many family and friends past or present as you like–be ready to cry)
(VARIATION #4, THE ANYTHING-GOES DINNER PARTY: Ignore the rule about changing history. Go nuts. Kill someone. Attempt to seduce and get pregnant by someone. This is going to get messy.)

Continue reading “If you could invite any 5 people From history to a dinner party, who would you choose?”

Percy Shelley and His Insane Love Triangle, Most Scandalous

Percy Shelley. You know him as one of those poetry dudes.

He was a privileged young English poet in the 1810s, who had a progressive, yet romantic voice that attempted to influence religion and politics. But, his very brief life was full of secrets and intrigue that eclipse anything he put down on paper. Percy Shelley was at the heart of one of the most mysterious, scandalous love triangles recorded in history. Many women. Two wives. Pregnancies. Deceit. Money. Extortion. Mysterious Death.

What you are about to read is the account that you won’t find in any classroom textbook. This is the story of Percy Shelley and his insane love triangle, most scandalous.

Before the Ladies: Little Percy Breaks All the Rules

Percy Shelley was the first-born child of seven, whelped into a prosperous family with grand expectations and the means to make them happen. He came into this world in 1792, the sire of a member of British Parliament. He was a lucky child who had the breeding and coin to toil his life as a poet, and man, did he meet that opportunity.

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He was known to be a delicate flower who was oft bullied at Eton College. He was a vegetarian, liberal, proponent of sexual freedom, and probably a pampered brat who wasn’t like the other boys. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While most boys were burning toads and playing grab-ass, Percy had published two gothic novels and two volumes of poetry, all before he had come of age.

By 1810, Percy enrolled at University College, Oxford, where he quickly found a disciple in a classmate named Thomas Hogg. The two wrote together (and if we’re honest, probably explored the notions of sexual freedom quite closely), eventually penning a  pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism, which ultimately got Percy expelled from school. His family was fuming with outrage and demanded he tow the line. Percy would do nothing of the sort, and was cut off from his family and their pocketbooks.

This sets the stage for a life of juggling his passionate, artistic nature along with his more practical needs for income and survival. Never able to reconcile these two sets of needs, Percy would embark on a life where he is pulled around by purse strings, emotion, and pleasure.

Continue reading “Percy Shelley and His Insane Love Triangle, Most Scandalous”

Brexit and the Irish Border: Let’s Explain It!

Shout out to my friends and family in America who still think that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are all one country, and part of the UK.

America has its own shitshow of problems, so it isn’t surprising that so many ‘Muricans have no idea what is going not with Ireland and Brexit. It’s okay. I’ll explain it in terms that can make this accessible to most anyone.

Let’s start with the basics:

One Island, Two Countries

Ireland is a single island, but it is comprised of two separate countries: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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The Republic of Ireland is an independent sovereign country that gained its independence from Great Britain between 1916 and 1919. It is a member of the European Union (EU), and uses the Euro as its currency.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is Brexiting the European Union along with the rest of the UK, and uses the UK sterling currency (pounds).

How Ireland Split in Two

From 1801 to 1916, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and subject to the laws and rule of the British. This was not a happy time for most of Ireland. There was massive exploitation, starvation, and a myriad of abuses on the part of Britain, not to mention the Great Irish Famine. For much of its union, the English ruling class looked down on the Irish as helpless children who couldn’t manage their own affairs, and treated them with contempt and neglect. To sum it up: The Brits were huge dicks. Continue reading “Brexit and the Irish Border: Let’s Explain It!”

A Tragic Bar Fight, 1884

A terribly true story of my great-great grandfather, Lorenzo, and his brother, Rufus, taken directly from eyewitness
accounts in court records.

On the afternoon of September 16, 1884, Rufus Eldridge and Lorenzo “Ron” Stevens, farmers living on adjoining properties in London, Ontario, drove their horse-drawn wagon to Nilestown, Ontario to purchase “domestic supplies”.

Lorenzo was a 41 year-old bachelor who managed the family farm and cared for his mother. Rufus was his 48 year-old half-brother and close friend who was recently married and had just become a father for the first time. His son Freddie was a little over one year old.

The two journeyed to Nilestown that day, as they had so often in the past, probably to purchase goods like sugar, fabrics, or fencing. As the pleasant afternoon turned to evening, the brothers were apparently in no great rush to get home. They settled in at the Nilestown Hotel with drinks, their wagon and horses stationed nearby. It was there, at the saloon, where they came across strangers John Richards, William Butt, Edward Noulty, and Henry L’Ansette, among others.

The group caroused well into the late evening, when sometime after 10pm an argument broke out between Rufus and Edward Noulty about which man was the better man–especially which man could “draw brick” better. Rufus began to brag that he could “lick” any man in the room, pressing his hand onto Noulty’s shoulder he exclaimed “I can draw more brick than you, or I can lick you either”. 

Noulty turned to L’Ansette and suggested “Here’s a man can ‘lick’ you”, indicating the inebriated Rufus.

Jeremiah McRoberts, proprietor of the hotel came over, grabbed Noulty by the shoulders and took him to the corner of the room to reprimand him not to cause a fight. Noulty relented and agreed, but as soon as he returned a scuffle broke out between him and Rufus. Shoves. Jabs. Maybe even a punch or two.


The dispute, which began at the Nilestown Hotel soon shifted just down the street to the Byers Hotel. Rufus and Lorenzo had left the first hotel, and walked down the street a short way to the Byers, not ready to end the evening, and presumably to lick their figurative wounds and grouse about the troublemakers. 

The two weren’t long at the Byers before Noulty and L’Ansette reappeared. Almost immediately, “Rufe” threw Noulty to the ground and began choking him, prompting the hotel-keeper to pull him off.

At the same time, Ron had started brawling with L’Ansette. The latter hit Ron, knocking him down to the ground. Witnesses differ on whether Ron crawled or ran behind the bar, but all agree that then, with L’Ansette reaching for him over he bartop, Ron grabbed a liquor bottle and broke it over his attacker’s head. As blood ran down the Frenchman’s head, Ron reached for more bottles to start throwing, when he was grabbed by a witness and pulled to a hallway at the back of the bar. Rufus was escorted back there as well.

Noulty and L’Ansette were ejected out the front door.

After much protest by Noulty and L’Ansette, they were shortly allowed back in and L’Ansette was said to be quite worked up, holding his bleeding head and muttering that “a man that would do that would kill his own brother.”

The aggravated Frenchman was about 27 years old, and was said to be stout and powerful in appearance, with a “bulldog”-like head and an aggressive countenance. He was well known around the neighborhood as a fighter with a bad temper–a trait that was on full display as he paced, threatened, and ranted, hoping to get revenge against the older men. He was heard shouting “Rufe, you —–, I can lick you, and I will!”

By that point, Ron and Rufus had moved into the kitchen, where a witness told them to sit tight for a while before leaving. The altercation had already gotten too hot, and the brothers were determined to leave. Rufus pulled out a knife saying that no one was going to prevent him from going home. 

Continue reading “A Tragic Bar Fight, 1884”

What Happened to the 1890 Census?

Genealogy nerds like me frequently weep and fan themselves to exhaustion over a gaping hole in America’s historical record: The 1890 U.S. Census is gone.

The original was destroyed. No copies exist. No scans. No photos. Therefore nearly all of it has been erased from history.

That, my friends, is no small deal. Every ten years since 1790, we have records of who lived where, with what family members, how old they were…and assorted other nuggets of personal history. Try to research your family history, and you will quickly understand what a treasure chest each census is–“oh look, my great-great grandfather was a ‘gentleman’ by profession in 1910, while in 1900, he was a fruit peddler.” I can tell you when my great grandparents took in my young, distant cousins (after their mother’s dress caught on fire from the stove, and her instincts to run across a field to a neighboring home while aflame were fatal). I can point to the empty, weed-filled lot in Detroit and say with confidence, “Yep, that was my family’s home for over fifty years.” I know all of this because of census records.

But thanks to a deep and bizarre mystery that culminated in the obliteration of the 1890 U.S. Census, I cannot track much of my American ancestors’ history and movement from 1881 to 1899. What happened to it? According to most stories it burned up in 1921. But that isn’t really the truth. Something far stranger happened, and to this day it isn’t clear at all why it happened.

This is the story of the 1890 U.S. Census and how it went from controversial marvel, to disappearing pile of ash. What you are about to read is a tale of greed, incompetence, and mystery.

1890: The Eleventh Census is Taken

It is June, 1890. Across the country, about 86,000 men had recently been hired for temporary work as census enumerators. Now, in the June heat, each man plods door to door within his assigned district to take down a wide range of personal  and confidential family details about births, residences, parents, occupations, race, ethnicity, education, and impairments. For the first time (and what would later turn out to be the only time for many decades to come), there is a separate schedule (sheet of paper) for each family, allowing for unprecedented details to be recorded–and making it a back-breaking job to shuffle all of that paper. (It is said that there is more paper used in this census taking than in all previous ten censuses combined!)

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When a family cannot be questioned personally, it is within the power of each enumerator to obtain the needed information from neighbors as proxies. It is important to be efficient in the collection, as the job must be done and reported back to Washington by the July deadline.

The untrained enumerators have sworn an oath to be courteous, confidential, and thorough–the last part being nearly guaranteed, as the men are paid according to what each records. According to the 1890 “Instructions to Enumerators” guide, they are each to be compensated to the tune of 2 cents per death reported, 5 cents per person with a mental or physical defect, or for each prisoner, pauper or homeless child. Each also receives 5 cents for each veteran or veteran’s widow from the “war of the rebellion”, and 2 cents for every other living person.

The data collection is likely grueling, tedious work without long-term prospects, but it is in service of their country and history–or, in some cases, it is a wonderful gesture of patronage by powerful friends and muggity-wumps who want well-placed (and untested) enumerators to advance their political or business agendas. Many deals across the nation hinge on the outcome of this census and what it reveals about changing populations, movements, and resources. In short, a lot of money may be made or lost over the results.

Once the work is complete, each man wraps up his work by following these guidelines as described in the August 30, 1890 issue of Scientific American:

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This is a deviation from the practice of enumerators in past decades, who had previously filed their completed census schedules with County Clerks offices before they were forwarded to Washington. But this year, there is so much data (*sigh*) that the hand-copying burden is an easy excuse for the census records to bypass local offices and head straight to Washington, and only Washington. All eggs in one flammable basket.

Continue reading “What Happened to the 1890 Census?”

American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hangs in the Oval Office, and the POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.

Solider Boy

Jackson grew up dirt-poor and poorly educated in the Carolinas, and was a tween during the American Revolution. Inspired by his older brother’s grizzly death, his mother made him join the local militia at the age of 13. He was almost immediately captured, and was held as a prisoner of war. Though his military incarceration was quite brief, he nearly died of small pox. Shortly afterward, he lost his remaining brother and mother to disease, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge led him to a life of military service and a deep, festering sense of vengeance.

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Donald Trump Comparison!:
A young, wealthy, athletic Trump graduated college and avoided compulsory military service in the Vietnam War because of a dubious diagnosis of having “bone spurs”. Consequently, he has never served in the military. And he once had this to say: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity

As an orphan, Jackson was still really poorly educated until he fled his hometown to study law informally in modern-day Tennessee. And it turns out Tennessee, as-was, had a boatload of hookers and gambling opportunities. So that was great for him.

He passed the bar and had friends pull a few strings to get him a gig as a government prosecutor. At age 21 he bought his first slave, which was probably his way of feeling really awesome about himself. By age 39 he was even wealthy enough to buy his own cotton plantation, the Hermitage, with nine slaves working the fields. Of course, this number went up quite a bit under Jackson’s management. Eventually, hundreds of slaves would be incarcerated at the Hermitage. Some historians think he was a relatively “kind” slave owner because he “let” the slaves bear babies and only whipped them when they really deserved it. But hell naw, the man ran a cotton plantation his entire life.

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Continue reading “American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson”

Ronald Reagan Was Awful: A Comic

Over 35 years ago, the young Republican up-and-comers in Washington were called up to serve the new president, Ronald Reagan. Saint Reagan reached down from his “shining hill on the city”, pulled them up from the pits of Carter hell, anointed them, and in turn they pledged their undying fealty. “Forever, Master Reagan.”

Today these same people men are in their 50s and 60s, with a lot more visible nose hair and bad comb-overs, and are now the “swamp things” who  squawk on talk radio, write political speeches, and blather on 24-hour news channels. And it is these vassals whom we can thank for our country’s strange and undue esteem for Saint Reagan as the epitome of successful presidents and brilliant political thinkers. He wasn’t.

You know what? I’ll just let President Reagan explain it himself. I’ve pulled the old resurrect-a-tron out of the closet, dusted it off, and prepared it to bring Reagan back just for this explanation. I just needed to load it with some gold cufflinks, Chesterfield cigarettes, an American flag, and some cowboy boots, and it was fired up and ready to go.

So, President Reagan, what do you have to say to your disciples?

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Game of Thrones: How it Parallels the Wars of the Roses

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the The Wars of the Roses lately. Maybe that’s hard for some people to understand, but I look at it like a really, really old season of Scandal, just with much worse hygiene. But apparently I’m not alone in my fascination, because author George RR Martin has made no secret that his A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) is based loosely on The Wars of the Roses. Cool. GRRM gets it.

Now, while the books/TV show that you and I know by heart is no allegory for the multi-decade conflict, there are a whole lot of parallels we can draw. So here is where I tear into the major characters like I am Henry VIII clawing apart a whole roasted chicken (I know, I know, the Tudors come later, but seriously, that man could really eat!).

The Lancasters Always Pay Their Debts

First, you need to understand that the (over-simplistic and somewhat misleading) gist of real-life The Wars of the Roses is that it’s a tale of two families battling for the English throne.

First, the Lancasters ruled. Then the Yorks.

And back and forth, and a bit wiggly all around for a while. Complicated. Now, notice the similarities in the names. Familiar, eh?

Lancaster = Lannister,  York = Stark

Lancaster’s (alleged) red rose sigil = Lannister’s red lion sigil

York’s (alleged) white rose sigil = Stark’s white dire wolf sigil

You see? Even linguistically and symbolically, it’s pretty obvious where GRRM started. Even the map of Westeros loosely resembles the UK.

In fact, the only place where the allegory really falls apart is how kindly the Starks are portrayed by GRRM. The real-life Yorks were mostly some really greedy assholes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about the Wars of the Roses in a fun and delightful way, I retell the history here. One can never get enough of laughing at history.

Okay, let’s just jump in and look at how I see the characters lining up:

Richard II = Mad King Aerys (Aerys II)Richard II and Aerys

Richard II

King Richard II is largely considered the first major victim of The Wars of the Roses (TWOTR). See, Richard II had ruled the kingdom since he was only ten years old, and by most accounts, he had grown up to be a right little shit. His egocentric hobbies included building monuments to himself and surrounding himself with sycophants. After his wife, Anne of Bohemia, died, Richard started to become outwardly paranoid and began executing and banishing most of his rivals. This didn’t go over so well with his (recently banished) cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who raised an army against him, and threw him in prison, where he shortly thereafter died–possibly murdered, possibly starved to death, accounts differ.

Mad King Aerys II

Aerys II also ascended to the throne via largely non-disputed lineage. Good for him. But that didn’t help him much after his paranoia and general insanity caused him to start offing rivals, oh yeah, and playing with fire. As with Richard II, those who had once been close to him started throwing shade his way, distrusting the king’s actions and motives. Eventually Aerys II was overthrown in Robert’s Rebellion. Of course, Aerys’s death was much swifter…and pointier. No prison for him.

There are, of course, many differences between the characters. Aerys’s affinity for kidnapping and pyrotechnics sets him apart from his historical doppelgänger. But ultimately, both lost the throne that rightfully belonged to them because they lost their grip on reality. And when that happens, there is always someone waiting in the wings to pluck the crown of the king’s head.

King Henry IV = Robert Baratheon

Henry IV

As we already noted above, Henry IV (Henry Bolingbroke, as-was) raised an army to overthrow his king and take the crown for himself. Had he been unsuccessful, this would have been foul treason. Luckily for him, his successful campaign put him and his family in a position of power. Not so luckily, this also set a dangerous precedent that family members could overthrow each other in order to take the crown. His reign was marked by ongoing war with France (started by his grandpappy, Edward III), but was otherwise largely unremarkable. Henry IV lived to the age of 45, and died in his bed of still-undiagnosed mystery disease(s). The throne passed to his son, Henry V without incident.

Robert Baratheon, First of His Name

Yeah, tying these two together almost exclusively hinges on their common rebellions, and the fact that they both died in bed-–in Robert’s case, suffering from a boar mauling while hunting. In both cases, the case for the rebellion seemed, to most historical perspectives, at least partially righteous given the foulness of their predecessors. But in both cases, the bloodshed to take the throne may have been the first bit of dye spilled in what would become horrible and magnificent wars to follow. Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Henry. Your kingdoms owe you.

Richard, Duke of York = Ned StarkRichard and Ned

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York (3rd Duke of York)

We now speed forward in Roses history to approximately 60 years after Henry IV took the throne. His grandson, Henry VI, is the out-to-lunch King of Great Britain.

At the royal court, Richard, Duke of York, by all accounts, was a loyal servant to his Lancaster king, Henry VI, and worked tirelessly to protect the realm, especially once King Nuttypants went into a a catatonic stupor at the age of 32. Once that happened, Richard was named Protector of the Realm. Score. Unfortunately this did not sit well with Mrs. Queen Nuttypants, Margaret of Anjou, who was fiercely protective of the 7 year-old shithead son, the prince, and had every interest in keeping her drooling husband on the throne and preserving the power for her spawn. Protector Richard was a threat to all of that. She was especially rattled that Richard had openly accused her of illegitimately conceiving the little prince, since…you know…King Nuttypants had been staring at his toes and drooling for many moons before the child’s conception. Funny notion, eh? It didn’t help his case when Henry eventually “awoke” and declared that the child was fathered by the Holy Ghost.

Displeased by Protector Richard’s accusations and powerful role in the kingdom, Margaret of Anjou had Richard dismissed from office (picture Ned slamming his Hand of the King pin down on the table). Former Protector Richard was riled by the thought of this Queen dismissing loyal servants in order to put her bastard on the throne, and raised an army against her. Richard and the Yorks (cool band name, right?) ultimately routed Margaret’s forces, capturing the throne for themselves.

Sadly, though, Richard did not survive to see it. He died in battle, and his head was  placed on a spike atop the castle walls. His eldest surviving son would go on to become king in his place.

Eddard Stark

When you think of Ned Stark, you think loyalty. And maybe that sexy voice. No, stop it. We have to focus on history. Ned served his king, King Robert Baratheon, loyally and worked tirelessly as Hand of the King to protect the realm from the unscrupulous servants who borrowed money for king’s tourneys and poisoned the last Hand of the King. While Robert Baratheon didn’t check out due to mental health issues, his analogous undoing was a combination of the distracting whores who kept his attention away from the realm, and the boar that laid him low. Ned and Protector Richard both had bigger problems than distracted and disabled kings. They both had a queen problem. And when Ned ran afoul of Cersei and her children, he ended up with his head on a spike atop the castle walls, just like Headless Richard. Both started a battle with the noblest of intentions, more or less, and both didn’t live to see the fruits of their efforts. Did I say “fruits”? I meant shitstorm. Neither lived to see the shitstorms they started.

Margaret of Anjou  = Cersei LannisterMargaret Anjou Cersei

Margaret of Anjou

As we just learned above, Margaret of Anjou’s tale almost perfectly parallels Cersei’s beginnings. She had a king husband who had checked out–in her case, mentally. And she had a son, Edward of Westminster, who was said to be illegitimate (granted, by opposition forces), a real cruel shithead by most accounts, and had a very weak claim to the throne if pressed. Margaret ousted the king’s favorite and most loyal advisor, Richard, Duke of York, in favor of putting…(maybe her baby daddy?)…Edmund Beaufort in the Protector seat of power. No incest involved. Probably. This blond queen was a cunning upstart who surprised a lot of men in her grab for power. Her tale ends in defeat and exile. But she never knew the meaning of surrender.

Cersei Lannister

Cersei is such a strong and central figure that it’s hardly fair to compare her only to a single historical figure, especially as she evolves in later books/seasons. But her beginnings, at least, are very closely framed around the Margaret of Anjou story. Instead of Edmund Beaufort being her champion and baby daddy, she had her twin brother, Jaimie Lannister. Poor Baratheons and Lancasters. They never saw either of these ladies coming and lost it all to their fierceness, cunning, and love of their children. One wonders how Cersei’s story will end.

Edward of Westminster  =
Joffrey BaratheonEdward and Joff

Edward of Westminster

Edward of Westminster (aka Edward of Lancaster) was rumored to be a horrible little shit who loved violence and power. He was raised as the next in line to the throne after his (alleged) father, King “Nuttypants” Henry VI. He was well-indulged by his mother and took great delight in calling for executions, even for members of his advisors’ counsel. His mother, Margaret of Anjou, was not successful in putting him on the throne, despite her mighty and ferocious efforts. The little turd died on the battlefield at the age of 17, either in the course of battle, or captured and beheaded before the battle commenced. Or stabbed in front of the King. Th point is, he died.

Joffrey Baratheon

It’s hard to imagine that even Prince Edward was as vicious as Joff was. The crossbow-wielding mama’s boy liked to use whores for target practice and hide from battle. Sadly for the citizens of Westeros, his aversion to the battlefield meant that he never had a chance to meet the same end as his doppelgänger, Edward. Instead, he sat the throne ever so briefly. With both boys, it is well-implied that had they been sensible and intelligent, they may have been allowed to have and keep their crowns, and the ensuing wars may have never happened. But then we wouldn’t get to see the pigeon pie, and that would be just a shame.

King Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville =
Robb Stark & Jeyne Westerling / TalisaEdward and Elizabeth Robb and Talisa.jpg

King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

Remember the poor ill-fated Richard, Duke of York (aka Ned Stark)? He ran afoul of the queen and ended up with his head on a spike? Well, I mentioned before that his York forces actually won the fray and claimed the throne. Since Headless Richard’s puss was dangling from a spike, his son, Edward had to take the throne in his place, and he became King Edward IV.

King Edward was (allegedly) a hunk-a eye candy who was naturally charismatic, talented in battle, and a decent monarch. But early on in his reign, he decided to marry a commoner in secret, and very much against the wishes of his advisors. His new bride, Elizabeth Woodville, had no international connections, nor a prominent family name. But she was pretty. And their match may have been genuinely romantic.

His marriage created such a division among his supporters that people started to plot against him–even his own brothers, perhaps right up until and still after the King’s death. King Edward IV died rather suddenly of (probably) pneumonia after he caught a cold on a fishing trip. He was only 41. History notes little about his illness, other than to remark how unexpected it was, so those of us with skeptical minds wonder if it was a mere illness, or something more devious that took him out, especially knowing how quickly opposing forces murdered his two boys after Eddie was laid to rest.

Elizabeth Woodville mourned her dead husband and sons, but went on to live fairly comfortably under the rule of the successive victorious kings.

Robb Stark and Talisa (Jeyne Westerling)

Robb Stark was another (arguably more) handsome young man who wasn’t groomed for the throne, but took up the mantle after his father died at the hands of a merciless blond queen and her psychotic son.

Robb may not have taken the Iron Throne proper, but declared himself king anyway. And much like his real-life counterpart, his advisors were quite tickled to wed him advantageously to secure the throne and stabilize his kingdom (as-was). But noooo, primping King Robb of the North couldn’t stand the thought of the poor Frey girls, so he got it on with…well, that depends. If you’re a book reader, he got it on with the woman who nursed him, Jeyne Westerling. If you’re a TV viewer, he got it on with war nurse Talisa. Whomever she is in your mind, Robb married Jeyne/Talisa in spite of her lack of political advantage or the ability to cross the Green Fork river at the Twins. But she was pretty, and their match was steamingly hot romantical.

This imprudent, if romantic marriage, caused some of his officers to plot against him, and ultimately allowed the long arm of Cersei’s power to reach all the way to the Twins and have him executed. This was hardly the death-by-sniffles end that King Edward IV met, but both men were cut short in (more or less) their primes.

Poor Talisa paid the ultimate, pointy price as well (and taking her son with her). But Martin’s Jeyne survives and lives a miserable, if comfortable existence in the shadow of the war victors.

George, Duke of Clarence + Richard III = Theon Greyjoy

George Duke of Clarence  Theon Greyjoy.jpg

George, Duke of Clarence & Richard, Duke of Gloucester

George, Duke of Clarence was the younger brother of King Edward IV of the House of York (aka Robb Stark). And George was an up-jumping ass. He was never satisfied that his older brother got to have the crown and made repeated attempts to overthrow his brother, all of which failed. Most notably, sometime shortly after 1469, George ran off to join forces with Margaret of Anjou (aka Cersei Lannister) in hopes that his brother would be overthrown, and he could take the throne instead. Except that George was a dolt, and when he realized that none of his cohorts were actually going to give him the throne, he ran back to the king begging for forgiveness.

King Edward IV had so much sympathy and love for brother George that he continually let him off the hook. But finally, in 1478, Volatile George crossed the line for the last time by having a servant executed, and King Edward was finally resigned to putting George to death, though he granted his beloved brother his choice of how he would die. George, always the fool, chose to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. And so he went to his grapey death in the Tower of London.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest brother of Edward IV and Wine-Soaked George, and he also had a taste for power. He kept quiet after the whole wine-drowning fiasco, and kindly waited until his King brother died (allegedly) from many diseases before making a move for the throne.

Even though King Eddie IV‘s sons were next in line for the throne, and his eldest was even named King Edward V, Ricky was not having any of it. So he locked 12 year-old Edward V and his little brother, 9 year-old Richard, in a tower. Tragically, Eddie V and Little Richard were probably murdered during their imprisonment. Probably. But to this day, a great mystery surrounds their disappearance from the tower. Most believe that Uncle Ricky was responsible for having them offed. Oh, and you probably know Uncle Ricky as King Richard III. Yeah, he snatched the crown with the boys out of the way.

Theon Greyjoy

Theon was every bit a brother to Robb Stark, so it came as a horrible shock to King Robb (though no one else in the Stark family), when Theon decided to turn coat and join up with his father’s forces in the hopes of securing the Iron Islands for himself as prince…or king…or something. Theon never thought very far ahead. There were certainly points when King Robb would’ve have spared Theon out of brotherly affection, had he come back on his knees, just as George Duke of Clarence had a habit of doing. But we all know he ran out of chances after convincing the world that he had executed the two small Stark boys (in reality, two farm boys).

In the world of Westeros, the official record is that Theon executed the two boys next in line for the northern throne. But, the realm has started to suspect what viewers and readers already know about the charred boys. So what is G.R.R. Martin trying to imply? Does he favor the historical side that believes Richard III could have never really killed his boy nephews? That he let them escape, but kept it secret?

Well, our Theon is still alive, if quite mutilated, and one cannot help but wonder how he might meet his end. Could a butt of wine be in his future? Or at least the infamous Sir Dontos wine bong? Or will he meet an end more like Richard III and be killed and dragged naked through the countryside by horses? Tough call. Tough call.

Henry Tudor = Daenerys TargaryenDaenerys and Henry Tudor.jpg

Henry Tudor (King Henry VII)

Henry Tudor was the descendant of a long-ago monarch, King Edward III. Sort of. Kind of. A wee bit. Okay, his legitimacy was spotty. But at the time that Henry Tudor, a strong, battle-tested warrior and wise ruler (by most accounts) started to reach for power, he was the Lancaster with the strongest claim to the throne. So it was around him that a number of Lancaster supporters flocked when they decided it was time to chuck King Edward IV…and then King Richard III, off the throne. He fought nobly and won the day. Okay, and maybe executed two little princes in a tower along the way and let Ricky III take the blame. Hey, war means death. And when you play a game of thrones you win or…

Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys “Stormborn” is the daughter of a sort-of-long-ago monarch, King Aerys II. Straight-up. No question, silver hair, love of fire, and all. And given that she is the only (known) remaining Targaryen heir left in the world, it is up to her to raise an army and chuck the Lannisters off the throne.

As for her fate? It seems to diverge quite a bit from Henry’s. Daenarys had too much fire in her blood to start a new dynasty. Had they played according to TWOTR script, Dany’s fate would have mirrored that of Hank VII, who married the daughter of a dead foe–and also the sister of the boys in the tower (read: Bran & Rickon) in order to unite the kingdom and solidify power. So if we reverse the genders, subtract the one, and multiply the whole thing by aaah-ooo-gaa!, that means she should have married Jon Snow and made a bunch of babies.

Of course, Henry lived within the realms of men. Long-ago England didn’t have to worry about White Walkers and The Children. And no dragons. And no Benioff and Weiss to utterly fuck it up because they are fascinated with superhero movies at the moment. Damn, the ending of the TV series was unbelievable bullshit. Maybe if the writers had cracked a few more history books, we all could’ve had a very interesting farewell to the show, and I could start writing about Dany’s son marrying six wives and getting fat at banquets. 

I never get my way. Someone get me my butt of Malmsey wine!