Tuesday, 26 July 2011

That’s the sound of A. J. P. Taylor spinning in his grave

OK, I’ll admit that I’m being a bit of a history snob about this. I’ll admit that there are a lot of complexities to the nationhood and status of the various islands and bits of islands that make up the British Isles. I’ll accept that the various royal families of England and Scotland can get a bit confusing.

However, it still doesn’t stop me grimacing when I hear other people making some quite interesting “factual” statements about, what we’ll generalise as, “British History”

The tour guide round the castle today was talking about the Elizabeth gate, erected overnight by the Prince Elector to impress his 19 year old bride Elizabeth Stuart. She was the Granddaughter of Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots).

The tour guide then went on about the part of the palace where Elizabeth lived and described it as “fitting her as it was in the English style”. And I know with that statement a small part of Alec Salmond dies. Technically it’s true, it is in what is called the English style, and with her Dad having been King of England as well as Scotland, she may well have felt more English than Scottish, it’s just deep down, this bit of the castle looks more like Linlithgow palace near Falkirk than anything I’ve seen in England, so I’d say it’s more in the Scottish style, fitting her ancestral roots (though trying to explain the difference between England, Scotland, Britain, the UK etc. would take several blog postings, so instead you could watch this short video)

The comment by another tourist that Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) was married to Henry VIII had me wanting to hit my head against a brick wall. Not because it was wrong (which it is), but because it was backed up with the authority of – it was in a mini-series I watched last year. This same tourist then wondered how it was Henry kept managing to attract all the ladies given how fat an ugly he was.

Yes, I’m happy to take it as read that by the time he died Henry was a particularly unpleasant human specimen (look up Wikipedia for the full gory details), bloated, gouty and partly responsible for sowing the seeds of sectarianism in the UK. However, prior to the over indulgence he was, by most historical accounts one of the most eligible and handsome royal bachelors in all Europe. But again, because the mini-series had only portrayed him as this overweight tyrant (obviously married to Mary Queen of Scots at the time), this tourist felt it was perfectly acceptable to try and correct her friend when she queried it because – it was in a factual mini-series I watched last year, so it must be true.

If the walls of the castle at that point hadn’t been 21 feet thick and likely to cause lasting injury, I would have been tempted to bang my head against them until something broke.

No comments: