Are bows the weapon-du-jour for modern heroines?

So, I’ve noticed recently that bows and arrows are cropping up a lot in films. I’ve covered swords in other blogs, and why the Avengers, in general, need to upgrade for the 21st Century, but now it seems we’ve got to have words with the ladies. Because you’ve all gone and gotten tooled up with bows and arrows. And it’s scaring me.

Brave-Wallpaper

Dale at The Fourth Wall makes some interesting observations about the new archery trend, tying it back to goddesses like Artemis, or the Amazons (who allegedly chopped off a boob in order to use the bow better).

While it’s a perfectly acceptable back story, in think there’s probably another explanation. And it lies in what the bow itself represents. I have a slight suspicion that it might stem from a desire to keep our heroines out of immediate danger. However, the two modern ladies I’m going to feature in this article absolutely buck that trend.

img_20140711_224137_by_jionni1986-d7q8xjq

Katniss Everdeen and Lara Croft both go through absolute hell in their adventures. They both suffer such brutal poundings that you can’t really argue that a bow and arrow keeps them out of physical danger.

However, there are other parallels. They both get stuck waist-deep in survival situations, where a simple easy-to-maintain weapon with a reusable ammunition is a massive advantage. Could you consider them a more skilled weapon than a gun? It’s open for debate. But there is (possibly) something more feminine about archery. Just ask Legolas.

So I guess what I’m saying is, can we let the girls explore the armoury a bit? I’d like to see what they do with the maces! And god only knows they’ve been scrounging on the armour…

Sex in historical media: are we doing it right?

borgias Jeremy Irons

If you’ve tried to watch a historical TV show recently, at some point you probably enjoyed a good bit of on-screen screwing. Perhaps more than any other genre, history media contains a hell of a lot of fucking (though all bets are off in the gaming world).

Why?

Well, the flippant answer is that sex and death are right up there in terms of excitement. One of the main reasons we consume media is to be excited, so any studio looking to reap the most rewards would do well to throw some sex in there. In fact, it would be safe to assume that media like The Other Boleyn Girl and The Borgias specifically sets out to target this market. And if you’re HBO, you take any opportunity to throw some sex in to spice up a boring scene.

Other Boleyn GirlBut the choice of stories should also tell you something as well. Because this is history we’re talking about. Just like death, sex did happen. Like, a lot. It is only fitting that it should crop up in the history books now and then.In fact I’m going to go out on a limb and say there has probably been more in the way of historically-noteworthy shagging in our past than there has historically-noteworthy killing. And just look at how much media there is about that!

And sure, it’s probably more exciting in a scandalous situation because the stakes are upped. But just regular husband-and-wife stuff is all good, too.

However, there is a risk that we end up focusing on the weird stuff entirely, to the extent of distorting historical accuracy completely. For example, HBO’s Rome spent a hefty amount of time focussing on affairs, incest, homosexuality and prostitution, and while the trend may have been real, the extent, or particular incidents depicted, were not.

HBO Rome Lesbianism

The media industry has a serious problem with the glamourisation of sex. They portray sex as a beautiful art, where anything can be erotic, so long as it is lit appropriately. The grunting, sweating and giggling are rarely depicted. On top of this, the fetishisation of exotic sexual situations means that the most scandalous historical gossip is represented as truth for the audience. When there isn’t enough of that to go round, the media will fabricate their own history to fit the bill. And that’s not really the point of history, now is it?

Things We Did To History In 2014

Dracula Untold

This was the year I started this blog and, looking at how popular it has been, I think it was a good time to do so. 2014 has been a very interesting year for history. We really won’t just let it stay in the past. We insist on bringing it up again and again, and we don’t mind distorting it for our own entertainment. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to run down the top 12 posts of the last year for your consumption.

#12 American food in Lord of the Rings

This February blog argued that, if Middle Earth is supposed to be set in prehistoric Europe, the tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins are completely out of place. What’s more, strictly speaking, it probably should be cannabis they are smoking, not tobacco.

Radagast the Brown gets high
If ‘Old Toby’ was really just tobacco, would it have this affect?

#11 Counterfactual histories are *so* hot right now

When it comes to history in popular culture, counterfactual histories (which did not happen, and would’ve changed the course of history if they had) are pretty damn popular. Don’t be surprised if we revisit this topic later. Hat tip to Alternate History for linking to this article.

Assassin's Creed I's Altair
Assassin’s Creed I’s Altair

#10 Chatting with Brick to the Past

2014 has also been the year of the Lego brick, with the franchise releasing a major blockbuster this year. In much the same spirit, I had a conversation with James Pegrum, who specialises in building historical Lego models. Since that conversation, he has set up a group, called Brick to the Past, and they go from strength to strength.

I’m a firestarter by James Pegrum
I’m a firestarter – courtesy of James Pegrum – the Great Fire of London begins

#9 Interviewing Mr Happle Tea: Scott Maynard

We are very lucky to have spoken to a large number of creative history fans this year. One man who embodies this trait is Scott Maynard, the illustrator behind the Happle Tea web comic. If you’re into crude humour and interesting historical facts, this is the place for you.

Horus gets The Talk
With a back-story like this, who needs childhood trauma?

#8 The time that cinema forgot

As someone who is interested in film and history, I can’t help but notice that some time periods just don’t get the same kind of coverage that others do. In this blog, I got all analytical and worked out exactly *how* neglected those periods are. Verdict? There’s plenty of scope for more films throughout our earlier history, but that imbalance isn’t likely to be fixed any time soon.

graph showing that recent history is far more popular as a film subject than older topics
Prehistory is particularly neglected

#7 Historical Honey tells us what historical figures would be doing now

Bored with modern celebrities? The lovely Historical Honey gave us a guest blog about what the heroes and villains of our past would get up to if they were around today. Would they slink to the shadows? Or are they more likely to grab the limelight, ever the attention grabber? What do you think?

What would Lucezia Borgia be doing now?
Is this what Lucezia Borgia would be doing now?

#6 Anne Boleyn is my spirit animal

One thing that I definitely needed to address this year is just why Anne Boleyn is so popular with the world of web historians. Because she is. If historians anywhere need a figurehead, this woman is, apparently, the one to go for. Thanks again to Historical Honey for the inspiration.

Anne Boleyn
Natalie Portman’s Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl

#5 Profiling the most influential wizard in the modern age

Alan Moore is, primarily, a graphic novelist. But he’s also a wizard, and a cult icon, and he really doesn’t like it when people get taken advantage of. So when he cropped up in the news twice in one week, in historically-related areas, I figured it was only fair we had a look at him, and why he matters.

This is Alan Moore in 2009. He's speaking at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, but I like to think he's rolling his lucky D20. Published under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0, courtesy of Matt Bidulph https://www.flickr.com/people/51035707449@N01
This is Alan Moore in 2009. He’s speaking at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, but I like to think he’s rolling his lucky D20. Published under Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0, courtesy of Matt Bidulph https://www.flickr.com/people/51035707449@N01

#4 Vampires; what history wouldn’t say if it could speak

If there’s one vaguely-historical thing the public loves, it’s vampires. They’ve got that whole neck-nibbling thing going on. What with them being immortal, any film, TV series, or game that features them could quite justifiably see itself heading into the past at some point. But how helpful are vampires as a medium for history?

Dracula Untold
Dracula as he probably never looked

#3 That time I interviewed a YouTube sensation

Epic Rap Battles of History is an important part of modern culture, inasmuch as it teaches young people about important historical figures through the medium of confrontational music and aggressive posturing. With that in mind, I felt it was only appropriate to get one of the show’s creators in to discuss the hows and whys of the show.

 

#2 Someone we should all know more about

Janine Spendlove is a high school history teacher/US Marine/pilot/published author/mother/historical cosplayer. While all of those things are pretty impressive, and combined they’re are totally awesome, it was that last one that particularly interested us. We had a chat with the woman behind the outfits to find out how she does it.

Janine's Wonder Woman costume
Janine’s Wonder Woman costume

#1 When feminist satire ruled history

By far my most popular blog this year has been the time I interviewed Erin and Morag from Manfeels Park. The web comic combines quotes from actual comment threads and combines them with art from Jane Austen films, to highlight just how silly they are. Further comment threads ensue.

Mansplaining Manfeels Park
Real-world comments, in the mouths of Jane Austen characters

And that’s about it. It has been a busy first year for History Mine, and of course, we’ll be back next year. I’d like to end by giving further nods to people like Jamie (of History Behind Game of Thrones) and Kelly (of The Archaeology of Tomb Raider) for their support. Happy New Year everybody!

A Quiet Word With: Historical Cosplayer and Complete Polymath @JanineSpendlove

Janine's Wonder Woman costume

I have a new favourite person. She’s a high school history teacher turned US Marine/pilot/published author, but that’s not why I approached her. Her name is Janine Spendlove, and she designs historical versions of historical twists on iconic fictional costumes. One of the projects she has been working on is a renaissance-era Justice League of America. For reasons.

Janine's Wonder Woman costume

History Mine: How exactly did the idea for the Renaissance Justice League of America occur?

Janine Spendlove: At Dragon*Con 2009 our little group of friends all got together for our traditional Monday night dinner (since it seems we rarely get to see each other during the course of the weekend) and we were discussing all the cool steampunk groups we’d seen. We all liked the concept, but none of us were that into steampunk. My husband, Ron, had been trying to convince us to do a Justice League group for a while, but many of us were not keen on running around in skin tight outfits. So then, and I’m not sure quite how it happened, but Ron ended up jokingly saying “Instead of a steampunk JLA, we should do a Renaissance JLA.” And the idea caught fire.

By the end of the dinner we’d had a ton of people say they wanted to do the group, and claiming their characters (Ron and I immediately jumped on Superman and Wonder Woman, our favourites). By the next year many of the original people who wanted to do the group couldn’t, but over the years some people have added in, and others have left. It’s a really fluid group, and any one is welcome to join us. Honestly the only requirement is that you do a Renaissance version of a DC character costume (villains included) – we want to be as inclusive as possible with this group.

HM: How much research did you do?

JS: I knew next to nothing about historical costuming, so I consulted my friend Maggie at Costumer’s Guide, and she pointed me in the right direction. I narrowed down the era and the country I wanted to go with and then settled on a dress that was fairly historically accurate (I ended up picking an Anne Boleyn dress). From there I printed it out in black and white, and coloured it to get the looks and colours I wanted.

Since we couldn’t see Wonder Woman’s iconic boots, I thought using the overskirt to call back to them would be good, so I went with red, lined with two thick white stripes on the outer skirt. This also minimized how much blue with stars there would be on the under-skirt, since I didn’t want to look like an American Flag. I also wanted to have her bracers, so called back to them by having the sleeves lined in metallic silver.

HM: What are your favourite touches from each of the JLA outfits?

JS: This is hard because I really love all aspects of all the costumes. But I’ll name a couple things. For Superman it’s got to be the red striped poofy pants. They make me laugh, and really remind me of Supe’s ‘manties’. For both Batman and Hawkgirl it’s their lovely leather masks – so perfect! The Wonder Twins… their entire costumes crack me up! Jimmy Olsen’s sketch pad so he can draw us is brilliant. Cyclone’s simplicity and focus on her gold logo is perfect, and for my own wonder woman, my favourite part is my lasso!

HM: There isn’t much of a convention culture here in the UK, so could you tell us about it? It seems like you’re changing outfits a lot!

JS: I’m usually at conventions as a writer now, so 99% of the time when I go, it’s to work. Because of my costuming background I do end up judging a lot of costume contests. But, 5-10 years ago there were days at Dragon*Con where I’d wear five different complicated costumes in a day. I honestly don’t know where I got the energy to make all those costumes and change into them and actually get some quality time in them!

Conventions like Dragon*Con have a lot of group meet-ups and it’s a lot of fun, and I wanted to be a part of as many of them as possible. These days, if I take a costume to a con, it’s usually something to compliment my daughter’s costume, or something subtle (like Disney Bounding). I do always take a big costume to Dragon*Con. Lately it’s been my Thor costume for my Avengers group. SO MUCH FUN!

HM: You based the ‘historically accurate Snow White’ outfit on Claire Hummel‘s cartoon. What was the particular appeal of that outfit for you?

JS: I love Snow White and she’s my favourite Disney princess. I took one look at Claire Hummel’s historical version and was like “I MUST HAVE THIS DRESS, LIKE; YESTERDAY.” It was a very visceral reaction. I loved it! This dress is actually my fourth different Snow White costume, so pretty much if you make awesome Snow White fan art, I’ll probably try to find a way to make a costume of it.

 

HM: How much wardrobe space do you need?

JS: HAH! When I was at my peak (sewing a ton of costumes and wearing 15 different costumes at a con) I had an entire room dedicated to storing my costumes and their accessories (in all fairness, like a third of the costumes were my husband’s since we like to do ‘couples costumes’). Then we moved away from the countryside and our large house to a tiny apartment in the city, and had to get rid of a lot of stuff, so I culled down my costumes. So I’d say that my costumes now fill up an entire hanging closet plus four to five large bins of accessories. And I haven’t even touched shoes…

HM: Could you tell us a bit about your books?

JS: I write all kinds of fiction, military sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and more. But what I’m best known for is my fantasy trilogy; War of the Seasons. It’s about a girl named Story who falls into a world filled with trolls, dwarves, elves, dryads, and really nasty faeries that try to kill her a lot.

My favourite part about writing is the research aspect of it, because whether I’m writing fantasy or non-fiction, I’ve always got to dig into history somewhere. For example, my War of the Seasons trilogy is deeply steeped in Celtic mythology, and that was an absolute blast to research not just the mythology itself, but the time period. My next book series will be based in Norse mythology so I’ve been studying up on Vikings; absolutely thrilling!

HM: How the hell do you fit the time in?

LOL! Well, I have written a blog post about that. The big thing is I prioritize my time. For example, with both my Renn Wonder Woman and Snow White I was in the middle of working on a novel I had to finish. There are only so many hours in the day and there was just no time to do both. So in this case, since no one else could write my books, I hired a friend of mine, Jess, to sew my costumes. She had the time, needed the work, and I knew she’d do an amazing job because I’d seen her other work first hand. Win/win for both of us. There are some costumers out there who turn their nose up at people who don’t sew their own costumes. To that I say I’m very sorry for them and their snobby, cliquey attitude. Costuming should be inclusive, not exclusive.

Thanks very much to Janine for chatting with us. The first book in the War of the Seasons trilogy is available to read for free on Wattpad. You check out Janine’s costumes here and her author website is JanineSpendlove.com. She is on social media as JanineKSpendlove or JanineSpendlove.

If you enjoyed this blog then you might also like some of the other interviews I have done, such as the one I did with the ladies behind Manfeels Park, or my chat with historical Lego modeller James Pegrum.

A Quiet Word With: @ManfeelsPark Creators Morag and Erin

Mansplaining Manfeels Park

From simple puns, mighty web comics spring. That is the premise behind the brilliant new satirical feminist site ‘Manfeels Park‘, a riff on Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’. Web comics are a crazy popular place for people who want to do modern riffs on history, as my current favourites Hark! A Vagrant and Happletea happily demonstrate. So I thought it was only fitting that I got Manfeels Park creators Morag and Erin to share their love with you.

History Mine: Where did the idea come from?

Morag: It’s Erin’s fault, really. We were chatting about some internet comment thread or other, and I said something sarcastic like, “Aww, you hurt his poor man-feels.” She commented that whenever someone used the word ‘man-feels’, she always mentally thought of the pun Manfeels Park. We immediately decided that this was too good a pun to be allowed to go to waste, and the other ideas – using genuine commentary, using TV stills – that was all borne of laziness really!

HM: What is the particular appeal of Pride and Prejudice?

Mo: Well, it had to be Austen, obviously, or at least recognisably Regency, for the sake of the pun. The more we got into it though the more we realised that Austen was perfect due to the gender politics of the novels. Obviously they’re of their time, but even then Austen had a lot to say about how confined and subjugated women were, how ridiculous it was that they were expected to live their lives waiting and hoping for a good match, that estates were entailed away from the female line, and the unreasonable expectations placed on women in terms of their virtue and chastity while men got to do as they please with comparatively little in the way of punishment or consequence – Austen is, let’s not forget, awash with repeat male offenders like Wickham and Willoughby. Alongside the bounders and cads are the stiff-upper-lipped self-important posh boys with entitlement complexes, most of whom either think they’re God’s gift or at least think they should be. It’s not universal – some are shy, some are older and wiser – but there’s plenty of mockable behaviour from these guys in their less self-aware moments.

On top of Austen’s derision for these bounders and heroes, though, there’s a layer of fondness. Darcy is a total pig for a large chunk of Pride and Prejudice; his proposal scene is utterly cringeworthy in its self-importance and disregard for Lizzy’s feelings, treating it as obvious that she was an unworthy match and perfectly reasonable that he should feel so conflicted – moreover even as he denigrates her family and her connections it’s obvious that he thinks he can abuse them all he likes and Lizzy will accept him regardless.

Tantrums Manfeels Park

And of course (SPOILERS!) she doesn’t. But she does grow to love him anyway. She learns that he has a core of decency in spite of his self-importance and entitlement. Maybe I’m reading more in than folk will find in these comics, but I feel like this context – the meta-text I suppose – gives a note of sympathy to the male characters. In ‘Feminism in the Anglosphere‘, the two characters have a short, hostile exchange, and then after a moment’s pause head off toward the house together – they haven’t fallen out. Most of us hardened feminists have dear male friends who frustrate us on a nigh-constant basis with their pig-headedness about issues like privilege, rape culture and representation of women in media, but we love them anyway. I would like to hope that the Austen lovers who read the comic pick up on that dimension – who knows.

As to Pride and Prejudice specifically, to be honest any Austen-y, Regency-era stuff would be fair game in theory as a setting. I’ve thus far been using screencaps from the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice specifically for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s an iconic adaptation. The people who love it have often watched it over and over again, and could I’m sure tell you the exact scene used for every comic in the series so far. This gives it extra appeal for those readers because references make our brains happy. Relatedly, using this version I was able to create comics like ‘Lake Scene‘, which exploits the infamous ‘Darcy jumps in a pond because of his man-feels’ beloved by Colin Firth fans everywhere. This scene isn’t actually in the book, but the fans love it anyway. Additionally, I’m not sure any Lizzy Bennet has rolled their eyes heavenward quite as well as the wonderful Jennifer Ehle did!

Secondly, it’s an adaptation I personally know backwards and have thousands of screencaps for. I can scan very quickly to the scene I want to use. Then I pull it into Photoshop, hand trace over it using a graphics tablet, and BOOM, comic drawn. Basically it’s all about laziness again! It takes some skill and patience I suppose but it’s much quicker than drawing from scratch would be and since I have no artistic integrity whatsoever I have no qualms about cutting said corners, particularly when the end result looks pretty good.

HM: Us guys come out with some absolutely bat-shit crazy things when we get typing, how do you pick the nuggets of gold from the mountains of bullshit?

Erin: A lot of trawling through manure, basically. We’ve been engaging with online discussions of feminism for so long that we know all the tried-and-true arguments, so it’s really about looking for relatively short exchanges that sum up the common things that come up. There are a couple of reliable places to go to find guys trotting out these gems, though it’s meant reneging on the ‘no reading the comments’ pledge that I made to keep my blood pressure down. For every MP comic you see assume there are about a dozen more people expressing that same opinion at any given time, just with worse grammar and spelling.

HM: The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of image and text, but how do you match them up?

Mo: Well about half of them are pretty interchangeable – our heroes chatting while dancing, walking on the grounds or what-have-you. In theory I didn’t go into this with any particular plans to customise the image to the text (in fact, I originally intended to do it ‘Dinosaur Comics‘ style and just reuse the same two or three strips over and over with different dialogue and I may yet begin to repeat art). But as I look through the quotes we’ve collected, sometimes scenes from Pride & Prejudice just come to me – the speech in ‘Monster‘ I read and knew it needed to be Darcy’s proposal speech, likewise I saw the quote in ‘Sporting Craze’ and heard Mr Bennet utter it, and the single piece of dialogue in ‘Lake Scene’ just fit perfectly. And as for ‘Handmaiden of the Patriarchy‘, well…

Mansplaining Manfeels Park

HM: You’ve linked to other comics, such as Hark! A Vagrant. What is the appeal of the medium for you?

Erin: I think I tend to enjoy webcomics because they really require the author to boil down whatever point they’re making into something that fits in five panels (or whatever). Though I love reading books and long-form articles about history and social movements and the like sometimes it’s really refreshing to just get the ultimate highlights, presented in a visually appealing way. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to share (and expect people to read) a comic than something longer, so it allows for connections and propagation in a way that other forms might not.

Mo: To be honest although I do the art for MP, I’m not a huge webcomic reader myself – most of those were chosen by Erin though I’m a massive Kate Beaton (Hark!) fan. We do have a small collection of hard-copy graphic novels and comics but we’re by no means aficionados. I’m a big fan of comics in principle though – when I was a kid my dream job (don’t laugh) was to be an inker – that’s the person who inks over the artist’s sketches before they’re coloured (back in the olden days anyway, increasingly comic book artists don’t divide up the jobs like that any more). I loved tracing and thought that tracing for a living sounded like the best job ever so it’s awesome to get to (sort of) do that now and actually have people see and enjoy it.

Anyway, comics are a great storytelling method, just like novels, or art, or film, and with the amazing comics and graphic novels being produced (over and above the standard fare DC/Marvel stuff – some of which is also very good) they deserve a lot more attention than they get.

I think in the case of Manfeels Park specifically it became a webcomic because of the particular skillset we had available to us to make the joke we wanted to make. It could probably have been done just using the raw screencaps, without converting them into sketches, and had just about the same effect or impact.

HM: In your ‘about’ section, you mention that “Manfeels Park is an exercise in flogging a pun for all it’s worth.” How long could this thing go on for?

Erin: Until we’re truly internet famous and rolling in bitcoins.

Mo: At the moment, judging by the comments on our own website, it’s self-sustaining!

Thanks to Morag and Erin for putting out such a great comic, and thanks for chatting to us about it! If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy reading about the other people we have interviewed over the last few months, like the guy who makes historical Lego models, or the people behind Epic Rap Battles of History.

Anne Boleyn is my spirit animal

Off with her head! - courtesy of James Pegrum

I have to give credit to Historical Honey for inspiring this blog. Until I read their blog I didn’t quite realise just how popular Anne Boleyn was (because she is completely massive online). People love her. She has fans! Once you grasp this concept, it becomes obvious. For example:

Her Wikipedia biography is over 10,000 words long. In contrast, Henry’s is only 12,000 words and he lived for at least 20 years longer, was a bloke, the King of England, and did quite a lot of crazy shit. Catherine of Aragon has 6,500, Jane Seymour gets just over 2,500, Anne of Cleves gets 6,000-odd, Catherine Howard gets barely 3,500 and Catherine Parr gets around 5,500.

Off with her head! - courtesy of James Pegrum
Off with her head! – courtesy of James Pegrum

This video has inspired me to try and figure out whether there is more going on here than meets the eye. Is Anne Boleyn more than just some broad from the past? Is she my spirit animal? Let’s have a look at the reasons why she is so damn popular.

Reason #1

She died at the peak of her popularity; like Jesus, or Princess Diana. People who die young, or just ‘before their time’ tend to get remembered better than those who live on. Their myth can be gradually sculpted, so that it forms a cohesive character, rather than the shambling, irrelevant, contradictory figure they might have become if they had lived on. Better Lennon than McCartney.

This is a great clip, but the relevant part is at about 3:13

Reason #2

Tragic and undeserved deaths are much more poignant than natural ones or, for example, death in battle. Anne had at least two miscarriages, which might have been sons, at least one of which might have been caused by the fact that Henry had put Anne B in such a compromised position.

Shit, Wikipedia thinks that she might have miscarried when she was traumatised because Henry had been in a coma for two days, or the fact that he was already fooling about with Jane Seymour. No-one should have to deal with that. Of course, had her sons lived, Henry would have had the successor that he wanted, and the situation might have had a happier resolution. But sadly, history doesn’t always take the happy route, and what-ifs and maybes don’t change unhappy facts.

Reason #3

She snagged the King of England – while he was married! As desirable titles go, this one has to be near the top of most ladies’ lists. What’s more, their relationship caused an international political crisis, which is impressive by anyone’s standards. This was kind-of like what happened to Wallis Simpson. Henry divorcing Catherine of Aragon lead to a feud with Spain and the creation of the Church of England. In order to marry Mrs Simpson, Edward VIII had to abdicate the throne. So yeah, that’s pretty damn romantic. Of course, subsequently having the same woman killed kinda ruins that a bit. Damn it all to heck, Henry!

Reason #4

You may be wondering why she’s so popular, when none of the five other wives were. I like to imagine that this is down to the law of diminishing returns. Once you’ve beheaded one queen, any further beheading or mere divorce loses its novelty value. She was the one for whom Henry told the Pope to go screw himself, and that earns you serious clout.

Anne Boleyn
Natalie Portman’s Anne Boleyn

Reason #5

She was the mother of Elizabeth I. With Elizabeth succeeding as monarch, Anne beat the five other wives to produce an heir, even if it wasn’t quite the one Henry would have liked. But there is another relevant point here. The online world is pretty heavily influenced by women. The web is way more democratic than the academic world, and so it is of little surprise that female heroes should come to the fore. We love strong women, and here we have one who is the mother of another. It’s thematic, and there’s nothing a historian loves more than a theme.

Reason #6

She was executed with a sodding sword! She’s practically Eddard Stark. It was a horrific way to go, but it was way more punk-rock than Henry, who died of obesity aged 55.

Anne B is massively popular online because she was an ambitious woman who died before her time, in tragic circumstances, but not before she managed to massively alter the course of history. As a historian in the digital age, she is my spirit animal.

What would the giants of history be doing today? by @HistoricalHoney

In the second half of our blog swap with Historical Honey, we’re taking a look at what historical figures would be doing if they got a second crack of the whip.

Just because you have a slick job in the city today doesn’t mean you would’ve been a high flyer a few centuries ago. Maybe you did get lucky and were a man at court, but it’s more likely that you drew the short straw and were either a farmer, chimney sweep, leather tanner, plague burier or, god forbid, a leech collector.

But what if we did a Blazin’ Squad and ‘flip reversed’ it; have you ever wondered what the giants of history would be doing if they stepped into our 21st century world? Let’s take a look…

Ever wondered what Oliver Cromwell would be doing today?

He’s a man you love to hate or hate to love; the marmite of the English Civil War, and as such he would no doubt take on a similar role in society today. Cromwell was always a man of government before his military career took off, and as such this talented statesman would return to the field he knew best. But with a Cambridge education Cromwell is no fool. After you’ve been posthumously hanged by disgruntled monarchists you would be quite content to retire to a job in the shadows as the nation’s tax man.

What would Cromwell be doing now?

Ever wondered what Pocahontas would be doing today?

Pocahontas managed to build relations between the tribal nations and colonial settlement in Virginia through her sympathies to Englishman John Smith. During her captivity she was forced to embrace other cultures and was even presented to English society as an example of the civilized ‘savage’ in hopes of stimulating investment in the Jamestown settlement – she must have been one brave and courageous woman! For a native tribeswoman to hold such sympathies towards foreigners settling on your land is quite remarkable, and therefore, there is no doubt Pocahontas would continue to maintain international peace as an ambassador of the United Nations.

What would Pocahontas be doing now?

Ever wondered what Catherine Parr would be doing today?

As the last surviving wife of Henry VIII, there is no doubt this woman recognised when it was time to act and when it was time to just shut up! She certainly knew what it took to not make a hat trick out of Henry’s penchant for headless wives. During her time on the throne Catherine demonstrated her intelligence, influence and skill for diplomacy by initiating the Third Succession Act and being appointed as Regent when Henry was on a military campaign in France. She even managed to find time to publish books, becoming the first queen ever to do so!

With a First Lady’s passion for charity and wellbeing, in a country strong on religion, there is no doubt this role would have suited Catherine to a T!

What would Catherine Parr be doing now?

Lucrezia Borgia

Even though she knew her own mind, there is no doubt Lucrezia was used as a pawn in the Borgia game to keep hold of the Popery. Being exposed to such a corrupt world the first time round would make Lucrezia want to break free of her ties and do whatever she wanted. The only people to figuratively ‘get away with murder’ these days are celebrities, and as a real beauty Lucrezia would have definitely followed suit. Nobody does it better than a certain twerk-happy pop princess!

What would Lucezia Borgia be doing now?

If this blog has only served to whet your appetite, you can find more historical figures here.