Friday, November 18, 2005

A Brief History of the English Renaissance

1485 -- The Renaissance period in England begins with the Battle of Bosworth Field, in which Henry Bolingbroke (soon-to-be Henry VII) kills Richard the Third, who sold his kingdom for a horse, something like Esau and his birthright but not quite.

1489 -- The first pound is minted, a coin which will never be of the slightest use to anybody but continues to greatly annoy American cashiers when accidentally given in place of U.S. currency. Will be of still less value when England finally sucks it up and gets on board with the Euro like all the other European countries.

1496 -- England makes a commercial treaty with the Netherlands. No one has ever been quite sure why, since the Dutch are of even less use than the pound.

1497 -- John Cabot, in the interests of scientific exploration, discovers Newfoundland. Tragically, no one cares because while the Spaniards were busy discovering America, he has only discovered Canada.

1509 -- A syphilitic, lecherous old coot known as Henry VIII begins his reign, which some historians contend was even more prolonged and painful than that of FDR.

1515 -- Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, is made Lord Chancellor of England. He was renowned and well-respected, mostly for his corpulence.

1517 -- The Protestant Reformation begins in Germany, but the English don't much care, as they historically don't much care about anything.

1521-- Henry VIII defends the Catholic Church against the assaults of the Protestants and is named Protector of the Faith.

1529 -- Henry VIII decides he doesn't much like being Catholic after all because it means he can't sleep with whomever he'd like. Begins to sever ties with the Catholic Church over this vastly portentous issue. Appoints Sir Thomas More Lord Chancellor.

1530 -- Thomas Wolsey, due to both fatness and being sick of dealing with the whims of syphilitic demanding tyrants, dies.

1532 -- Thomas More resigns from his post, also sick of dealing with the whims of syphilitic demanding tyrants, although not fat.

1533 -- Henry VIII divorces his nice Catholic wife and marries his mistress Anne Boleyn, whom history tells us had eleven fingers and three breasts. Pope Clement VII excommunicates him, informing him that sleeping with random women simply for the sake of bearing progeny is not a practice condoned by the Catholic Church.

1534 -- See Henry. See Henry fume. Fume, Henry, fume. Henry, irritated, declares himself Head of the Church in England with the Act of Supremacy, otherwise known as the "I-Can-Be-Pope-Too!" Parliament.

1535 -- Thomas More, wisely recognizing that Henry cannot be the Pope because there already is a Pope, refuses to take the Act of Supremacy. Henry has More sent to the Tower of London and his head chopped off, because that is what English monarchs do with people they don't like.

1536 -- Henry, grown tired of sleeping with Anne Boleyn, has her accused of witchcraft (Because having three breasts and eleven fingers didn't tip him off?), and summarily beheaded. Marries Jane Seymour, Wife #3.

1537 -- Jane Seymour, afraid of having her head chopped off, dutifully bears Henry a son and then dies to avoid further confrontation.

1540 -- Henry VIII marries Anne of Cleves, a German princess, due to political negotiations, but decides she looks like a horse and he doesn't want to be married to her. So he divorces her and marries Catherine Howard instead.

1542 -- But he doesn't much like her either, so he has her beheaded too.

1543 -- However, he does like the name Catherine, so he marries his final wife and third Catherine, Catherine Parr.

1544 -- Bored because he figures six wives is enough for any man, Henry VIII decides to invade France.

1547 -- Fortunately for Catherine Parr, Henry dies from the syphilis he has incurred from sleeping with too many women (In pace requiscat.) His young son is crowned King Edward VI.

1549 -- The Book of Common Prayer, and a consistent liturgical service, is instituted throughout England. This is basically a Mass but the English pretend it isn't.

1553 -- Edward VI dies and Lady Jane Grey is placed on the throne for a grand total of nine days until Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife and rightful heir to the throne, notices and gets understandably annoyed and deposes her.

1554 -- So annoyed in fact, that she has Jane Grey's head chopped off. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

1555 -- Mary then kills some Protestants and reinstates the Catholic Faith as the religion of the realm. She is known as Bloody Mary to history, because it is not nice to kill Anglicans, even if they are very, very stupid.

1558 -- Mary dies. Elizabeth I, who was Queen for about nine hundred years, give or take, ascends to the throne and starts butchering Catholic priests left and right, but for some reason that is okay, which is why we call her "Good Queen Bess". Catholic legislation is repealed.

1563 -- The Thirty-Nine Articles are published, definitively instituting Anglicanism as the religion of the realm, making the Church of England the first church in history to think it's Catholic when it's not. Fortunately, the Catholics know better, so no one is really fooled.

1564 -- William Shakespeare is born.

1567 -- Lord Darnley, whom no one really cares about until he gets murdered, gets murdered by the Earl of Bothwell. Then his wife, Mary Queen of Scots, makes a possibly ill-advised strategic move and marries her husband's murderer. The Scots are a bit down on the whole adultery-murder-remarriage thing, so she escapes to England where they are more open-minded about that sort of thing.

1584 -- Mary wants to be Queen, and conspires against Elizabeth.

1587 -- As is the usual fate of such aspirees, she is executed by the state.

1588 -- The Spanish Armada is defeated by the English fleet under Sir Francis Drake, which is in fact the only point in history that the English ever kicked the Spanish's butt at anything, so they like to make much of this point.

1597-1601 -- The Irish rebel against Elizabeth. The rebellion is squashed, so then they feel sorry for themselves and eat too many potatoes, which will eventually cause the Great Potato Famine.

1603 -- Elizabeth dies. James VI of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots' son, is crowned James I of England. History does not tell us how he kept track of which Roman numeral to put after his name.

1604 -- James bans Jesuits and Puritans. The Church of England is also the only Christian church in history to persecute both Catholics and Protestants equally.

1605 -- Catholic conspirators, led by Guy Fawkes, attempt to blow up Parliament. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but they wind up getting found out and beheaded. The English resent him so much for his treachery that they named a holiday after him.

1611 -- The King James Version of the Bible is disseminated, under King James, who named the translation after himself to ensure history didn't forget that he was the one who oversaw its completion.

1616 -- William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon dies. People start to wonder if he really wrote his own plays, or if another man by the same name did.

1618 -- The Thirty Years' War begins, which surprisingly ended in 1648, so it was lucky they happened to name the war that.

1620 -- Puritans, being persecuted in England, go to America to find religious freedom and gold. Finding neither, they eat turkey instead and start a new holiday tradition.

1667 -- Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is published, a book so phenomenally bad that it ends the English Renaissance.