Day Seven: Top Five Favourite Historical Figures
I’m so excited about this one!
1. Henry V – I know I know I know, a geeky answer but really, Henry V is one of my favourite historical figures. I read a book about him when I was about 14 or 15 which was a novellised version of his life story and I was smitten from page 1. Everything I’ve ever read or seen about him ever since has just reinforced my “crush” on him…even Kenneth Brannagh’s version of Shakespeare’s play didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for all things Henry!! I can sum up my pride (?) in Henry V with one word – Agincourt.
2. Anne Boleyn – second wife of Henry VIII, I like her because she was a ballsy woman who didn’t sell herself short about what she wanted from life. She had a tragic end (most people close to Henry VIII met sticky ends….) but she absolutely refused to give in to the conventions of the day and she held out until she got her man right where she wanted him. Women at that time were expected to be little more than chattels; they were property and could be pushed around and used as pawns in all sorts of political games at the expense of their happiness but Anne Boleyn was different. Interesting fact for you, she had six fingers on each hand and she set the fashion for longer sleeves on lady’s dresses to hide her extra digits.
3. Boudicca – another strong woman (I can sense a theme developing here!) Boudicca (or Boadicea as I knew her before her name was politically changed recently) was the infamous Warrior Queen, the female leader of the Icenii tribe when Britain was under Roman occupation. She suffered a great deal at the hands of the Romans, including having all her property taken from her and witnessing the repeated rape of two of her daughters by the Roman soldiers as a punishment from some infringement of a petty law. She led her people into battle against the Romans…and won. She showed strength of character and leadership beyond what most people could ever imagine, and not just because she was a woman. She was the only one really who took on the might of Rome and won. Her victory was short-lived though and eventually her tribe was consumed by the Roman occupation. She is a legend and stands out in my mind as being someone who, like Anne Boleyn above, held onto what she believed in and fought for what was right, even at great personal expense.
4. Queen Victoria – (yes, definitely a theme developing here!). Victoria was another strong woman who tickles my interest. She successfully combined her role as a monarch and empress with that of being a wife and mother in an age where “women should know their place”. She was desperately and passionately in love with Albert and his premature death must have absolutely floored her, but she carried on. She had a whole football team of children which must have been physically demanding of her, not to mention the emotional investment she had with them all. She was head of the state during a time which saw so many changes in industry, medicine, construction, public welfare, laws to help the poor, a population explosion, investment in the arts and culture, transport and travel, leisure activities….good grief the list goes on! I am fascinated with her and the age in which she presided. It wasn’t all good (anyone who has read any Dickens will tell you that) but at least it was interesting.
5. Marcus Aurelius – a strange figure to include at my number 5 slot especially after what I said in number 3, but Marcus Aurelius is the exception to the rule when it came to, well, Roman rulers really. He was a Roman Emperor from 161-180AD and was a philosopher as well as a war general. Strange mix you might say! He wrote a tremendous philosophical work called “Meditations” in which he argues that service and duty are the backbone of living well, and he wasn’t afraid of hard work. I picked up a copy of his work by accident (my mind was on another form of meditation at the time) but I read it nonetheless and I was astounded. Here is a man who lived nearly 2000 years ago who argues that putting others before oneself, working hard and taking joy in nature and well-earned rest and could well be speaking to me just like my Dad does. Very Christ-like in some of his arguments, he is well worth looking up if you haven’t read his stuff before. I’m fascinated by him because he stands out in a legion of rotten Roman Emperors as being one who is fair, just and who doesn’t mind working hard to achieve his goals. I’m not saying that he didn’t have a darker side (who doesn’t?), but his good side is better than the good sides of his contemporaries by far.