The Portrait And Landscape Of Lady Jane

I suppose this is where my inner-history student comes to the surface of my poetry. This discusses the way that the personality of Lady Jane Grey has been interpreted in history. From victimised puppet, to a cunning woman, clever in the coup that gave her the crown. I’d like to think that the actuality of the situation is much less black and white than this interpretation suggests. Lady Jane Grey, in order for a Protestant succession to be achieved was named as heir to the throne of Edward VI. It is likely that his will was hastily altered in order to accommodate for this to happen, and it was not his decision. This was to stop the Catholic Mary I from coming to the throne. This, predictably did not work. Public support generally went in favour of those who had the natural right to rule, and this was seen as Mary’s right. Mary became Queen of England in 1553, and Lady Jane was confined in the Tower of London. Originally, she wasn’t going to be executed, but it was on the insistence of Philip of Spain, Mary’s to-be husband that Jane be executed, as she was seen as a possible figurehead of rebellion, which Mary (popularly and inaccurately demonised as being evil) was extremely reluctant to do, but knew that it was inevitable. 

A planned construction like the scaffold,

a calculation of canvas and oil paint.

Herself, not central, but her white gown

on her, she was transformed into

the immaculate virgin raped by the axe.

The head that harboured the crown;

guileless, apparently so.

The chest that took anointing oil;

a pale close to snow.

We observe her memory

through stained glass.

We see her outline,

but let our minds be coloured.

The paints of propaganda,

the murmurings of martyrdom,

whisper the stories of

a flowering rose of red and white,

and a severing of the stem.

An undercurrent still remains,

suggesting a sliver of guilt.

She is now stripped of petals,

causing the core to wilt.

The Grey Veil Of Griselda

This poem centres around the struggles and the defiance of Katherine of Aragon, Queen Consort of England and the first wife of Henry VIII. She held on to her rights, and refused to be co-erced into retiring into a convent as the King turned her over for Anne Boleyn (who’s story is equally as sad – though, it is not within the study of history to debate who had a worse time). Although, not in her own words, she refused to be a quiet ‘Griselda’ and take the veil.

I sheath my stubborn sword
and draw the queen of hearts
from the deck of a patient sufferer
mired in matrimonial repression.
I may be the pride of the people
but even the crowned can court concession.

Don’t think I choose to cross you
with my silent sacrifice.
I close my eyes and then my heart;
you do know submission is my station.
Trained to brew a fictitious acceptance
I smile and ignore this vicious aberration.

When her ribbon adorns your lance
you turn the tiltyard into an arena of envy.
The loyal heart emblem wasted by years,
seventeen of which to her I am elder.
I am resolute not to relinquish
and hide under the grey veil of Griselda.

From The Battlefield’s Garden

This poem centres on Elizabeth of York, Queen Consort of England, but on a time just before her reign as Queen Consort had begun. At the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485, the crown of England was won by Henry Tudor over Richard III (without conjuring any images of a crown hanging from a thorn bush). Now, Elizabeth, being Richard’s niece, was seen as a way to unite the struggles of the Lancastrians (of Henry’s side) and the Yorkists (of the side of Elizabeth and Richard). The solution was to marry Elizabeth and Henry. Their marriage was said to be a happy one, but this poem focuses on how it would have been directly after the battle had finished.

She wore a garland of ivory and scarlet;
a circlet woven with blood and bone.
The famed daughter of the royal harlot,
with the red dragon claiming her home.
In all but his name, he took her throne.

They say the snow lay white no more,
they day decay has touched heaven’s door.

We sacrificed England’s frosty flower,
to the incoming serpent of the seas.
Her blood is the structure of our power,
diluted by pretence as he pleased.
Now the country bends for his alien needs.

Her soul flies with the ravens of the Tower,
stolen away with her gold and her dower.

The shining purity of the fleur-de-lis,
is violated with the slashings of red.
The hopes and ambitions of a queen to be
are burned to cinders and long dead.
She is the silent petal, it has been said.

And so the rose closes up to the sun,
for it’s sojourn to splendour is surely done

A Beggar Of Splendour

This poem features around the 14th century mistress of King Edward III of England, Alice Perrers. Adopted from a convent by Queen Philippa of Hainault at a very young age, she was taken into the court and given employment. Although having base parentage, the King clearly took a liking to her and she eventually became his favourite mistress and found considerable infamy from those who found her display of wealth to be vulgar and not befitting a woman of her birth. However, she was also a very clever woman, and this is not something that should be ignored.

With a mantle coupling gold thread upon crimson,

the beams of sunlight teased an ocean of blood.

From a long neck, sapphires flirted for all to see;

pleasure on the throat of such a lady,

so they all swore, the gemstones bred in shadow.

Deep seas encased in a circular gold casket,

screaming soundlessly echoes of familiarity;

a hand me down, as if fallen from the palace rooftop.

 –

Stripped from the spectrum of adornments,

the ornamental girl was struck a deal.

A black market solution for a consort in despair.

The spice and flame of the vigour of youth,

to be tasted once more by the lion of years.

She took her taste of hierarchical diamonds,

and together they came into the offense of Artemis.

 –

She would soon find each stair lowering itself for her,

and so she ascended in the gloom of secrecy.

Fragile chains of jewels slept under her cuffs,

waiting for the emergence of light to reflect,

not yet mystifying with their luminosity.

Dull pearls fuelled her course of action,

inspiring a carefully controlled, whispered rhetoric.

Like a poet, she recited her pleas as performance

and clutched his beating heart, chained in gold.

 –

When the Queen fell from the chequered chess board,

shattering her crowned head on forgotten floors.

The borrowed pawn usurps the unfilled space,

as the king drenches her in gold and ermine.

A spirit overtaken by finery and splendour,

did become she; the lady of the sun