Saturday, February 01, 2003

The dispossessed King Edward II was killed by a red-hot iron poker shoved up his anus. This savagery partly reflected hostility on the part of the church and other opinion-makers to the king’s homosexuality and his favoritism toward his young French male lover, but it also reflected the general malaise, anger, and pessimism of the new age of global cooling.

Norman F. Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague (75)

Yet the first estate rarely played an important role in politics, legislation, and law. Contrary to the anachronistic liberal dreams of nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians, the great aristocracy in the fourteenth century did not accomplish much in politics and legislation. Whenever they bestirred themselves to take an active role, after generating a momentary crisis by impeding the royal administrators and drawing up some sonorous oligarchic reform placing the government in their own hands, they very quickly lost interest. The only issue that could truly engage the House of Lords for a few months was the hateful pursuit of some royal favorite, usually gay. That normally ended in violence and the great men then dispersed to their country estates and resumed their well-tilled behavior of feasting, drinking, hunting, and sex.

Norman F. Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague (60)

The passing of the vast Lancastrian holdings and the ducal title to John of Gaunt destabilized the Plantagenet family, because John of Gaunt, now duke of Lancaster, could command as much property and as many soldiers as the rest of the royal family. Almost inevitably Henry of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s heir, threw out his gay cousin Richard II and seized the crown with parliamentary approval. Henry IV had Richard II taken to a bleak castle and probably starved to death.

Norman F. Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague (56-57)