Tears, A Royal Wedding, And A Whole Lot Of Soul

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I’m still slightly reeling from the spectacle, grandeur and emotion that was the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan. As I’ve made no secret, I was looking forward to this event the way most other people would await other key life milestones… like a job promotion, a college graduation, or the birth of a baby— if that baby were a six-foot beardy prince with ginger hair. I was stoked. I was ready.

I set up two DVR recordings in case of a disaster— you never know when one network could go kaput and you need a backup recording to watch, instead. While this may seem excessive and overly-cautious, I really don’t think so. You never know when a stiff breeze could cause a piece of the thousand-year-old Windsor Castle to fall down on top of the ABC News truck. Shit happens. Just ask all those people in Hawaii who have molten lava running through their neighborhoods.

I woke up early to watch the event and all the guests arriving to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. It was a beautiful, clear day— I didn’t notice a big wind, which boded well for the ABC News truck. There were celebrities and royals, and a lot of people that I didn’t recognize. I assume these people were friends, or family— and not random strangers or seat fillers like they have at the Oscars.

The sea of arriving colored hats, pastel frocks and dreary grey suits did grow tiresome after a while, which made me briefly regret waking up so early for the wedding in the first place. But, then, when the bride arrived and stepped out of that super old and fancy Rolls Royce, I was transfixed. She looked like a princess from an old Hollywood movie, wearing a simple, classy dress that could just as easily have been fashionable in 1950, as it would be in 2050. Timeless. She floated up the stairs and the church aisle like a veiled pixie. And I mean VEILED! That beautiful lace veil had to be at least 15 feet long. It was big enough to double as a WWII parachute. After the wedding this morning, she could have been dropped by a plane over northern France and still have had time to save some poor villagers from Nazis before making it back to the castle for dinner. Yes, the veil was that epic.

So, by this point in the wedding, I was super committed. I was all-in. But, then, as Meghan swept to the front of the church, where Harry awaited, I saw a glisten in the groom’s eye. I felt a mountain of “awws” rush up from inside of me, in a place in my heart that I usually only access when I’m watching a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts.

It got worse. As Meghan and Harry were beaming and holding hands during the beginning of the service, I saw beads of moisture escaping his eyes. He reached up several times to brush them away. He was crying. PRINCE HARRY WAS FUCKING CRYING. Holy shit. I felt tears prickle my own eyes.

This was an astonishing development, because I, like, NEVER cry. I’m not one of those girls that cries at the drop of a hat… or when there is an especially touching Hallmark commercial with an old man wearing suspenders and a bow tie. I cry only when I really, really mean it. Like when a loved one dies, a pet has to be put to sleep, or my internet goes down for more than twenty minutes.

So, the fact that I was crying watching a British prince tear up at his own wedding is quite a feat. I didn’t know Harry had it in him. I didn’t know I had it in me.

Luckily, as the boring parts of the service began, Harry and I worked through some of our emotions until we were on a steady keel, again.

Until… Bishop Michael Curry, a high-ranking preacher from Chicago (yes, Illinois, USA!!), took the pulpit for the main sermon. His rousing, passionate speech had the effect of a lightning bolt striking Windsor Castle. It was like a revival had taken root inside of St. George’s Chapel.

Half the gathered 600 guests were struck dumb— confused and bewildered by the crescendoed words flying from the first African-American leader of the Episcopal Church’s soul. A sermon, such as this, had never been delivered at a royal wedding before— events that are generally known for their stoicism, tradition, and… yes, I’m gonna say it… boringness.

The other wedding guests, not incapacitated by shock by Bishop Curry, were either smiling, smirking, or, if you were Prince William, slightly giggling (and hoping no one saw).

But… yes, William, I did see you.

I’m certain William was thinking of his own wedding service, and how staid and vanilla that it was. And that only his cheeky little brother, Harry, could get away with having a rousing wedding service such as this. Lucky bastard.

A gospel choir followed up this sermon with a gorgeous version of Stand By Me, which nearly had me yelling AMEN! at my television while I tried not to cry again. I think I did hear Elton John sniffing, at this point, also, but it could have just been all in my head. (So many things are, after all.)

It was beautiful. But, for fuck’s sake, the crying needed to stop.

I made it through the vows. And all the remaining loved-up cuteness of the bride and groom, to the point when they all exited the church— to the sound of the gospel choir, again— to wave to the crowds outside. Then, Harry piled Meghan, and her parachute veil, into a horse-drawn carriage that they stole from Disneyland to take a ride around town.

Okay, so maybe they didn’t steal the carriage… but, those horses looked so damn perfect that I’d swear that they were animated.

By this point, I was glad the wedding was nearly over. I didn’t think I could handle any more emotion, or pomp, or circumstance. I was emotionally and physically spent. My soul was full.

But, my stomach wasn’t.

So, I pulled out my tiny curried egg sandwiches, and some tea, and chowed down. I didn’t have any fancy china or teacups to use, so I searched for the most royal-looking cup I could find in my cupboard.

The winner? An Aladdin mug.

Before you protest my choice, please take note of the picture on the mug. The palace in Agrabah. That’s where Jasmine lives. And she’s a fucking princess. So, there.

It seems fitting on another level, too. For as Jasmine and Aladdin sang about “a whole new world” in the movie, Bishop Curry’s final remarks to Harry and Meghan were “…we will make of this old world a new world.

And, if this wedding is any indication, they are well on their way.

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Cripples, Loonies & Richard III

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I’m a sucker for a historical tale— as long as it’s full of drama, intrigue and at least one insane king. If the story also has two or three loony royals, that’s even better. Especially if one is suffering from a questionable mental disease that could have been easily prevented if his parents hadn’t been cousins or he hadn’t shagged every woman in sight.

I have a decided preference for true stories— because, most often, the facts are way more interesting than anything anyone could make up. (Err— perhaps someone should tell this to Donald Trump.)

History is full of stories that are, frankly, unbelievable. If you think Game of Thrones is exciting and awesome, you should pick up a book about the Plantagenet family. Those folks were CRAY. Loco en la cabeza. The kind of crazy where one minute they are achieving remarkable victories for England, and the next they are trying to secretly (or not so secretly) murder all their younger brothers before they had a chance to grow hair on their testicles.

Yeah, I’m not kidding.

If you think George R.R. Martin conjured all of his Game of Thrones storylines from his own mind, you don’t know enough about the Lancasters and Yorks. During their Wars of the Roses, the English crown exchanged hands so many times that you’d think it was a fucking game of Hot Potato. The kind you play on rainy days at school during recess. Well, if “recess” were a battle that you had to wear sixty pounds of armor, that is.

I like reading books or watching documentaries about intense periods of history, like these. In fact, I just spent the weekend reading a book by Dan Jones, my favorite medieval historian. Some people like to go to the beach on their days off, I like to read about revolutions, multi-generational family feuds and all the kings named Henry.

Good times.

Anyway, as I turned the last page after Henry Tudor had emerged triumphant over one of history’s favorite villains, Richard III, I started thinking about poor Richard. Sure, he did lots of bad things… but, frankly, so did many other people at the time. Yet, somehow, in the years since, he has emerged as the great supervillain. The Lex Luthor of the Middle Ages. A grasping Voldemort that would lock young Harry and Ron in a tower.

But, what really separates Richard III from all the other medieval baddies? Of which we have many to choose from? He wasn’t the only one to knock off a relative, or two. He wasn’t the only one to steal a crown that wasn’t his. He wasn’t the only one to turn into a paranoid egomaniac.

But, Richard III did have one distinguishing feature. He had an orthopedic disability that caused him to have a serious case of scoliosis. This made him excellent villain material. It’s not surprising that William Shakespeare took that particular trait and ran all the way to the bank with it. It’s super easy to demonize a dude with a crooked and hunched back.

As a person with a disability (and also, scoliosis!), I’m left wondering… if Richard III hadn’t had this medical condition, would history’s recollection of him have been different? Would his contemporaries (and those in the decades following), have had such an easy time shoving him into the “EVIL” category?

At the time, those with disabilities weren’t looked upon kindly. Abnormalities, birth defects and other medical conditions were often seen as a “Curse from God” and punishment for inherent evilness and other wrongdoings. These prejudices persisted for much of human history, and can even sometimes be witnessed today (as much as I wish I could say otherwise).

The disability of Richard III, without question, influenced others’ perception of him. It’s easy to imagine a man that has been “cursed by God” to be capable of really nasty things. Especially in the medieval world where understandings of medicine, the human body, and religion were best left unexplored— and unquestioned. Even William Shakespeare penned these words for old Richard III, leaving us no doubt about how we should view the man’s nature: “I am determined to prove a villain.”

I can say one thing for certain. I’m really glad that I was not born during this crazy period. And that’s not just due to all the beheadings, the wars, and the general miserableness. You see, a girl with a medical condition, like Spinal Muscular Atrophy, would definitely not have lasted for long.

Seriously.

In addition to all the other preventable diseases that could kill me, all it would take is one tiny sniff of Black Plague and I would have been dropped in a patch of dirt outside the churchyard. You know, where the unblessed and cursed are left to rot? After all, sanctified ground within the churchyard is reserved for way better folks— like those that put the decapitated heads of their enemies on spikes outside the village gates.

In truth, I bet my medieval dirt nap would have been met with some relief. “Yay, the cursed girl is gone! Time to get back to sharpening my axe collection.”

Ahh, history. What tangled tales you weave!

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Netflix, Stones & Scones

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When I get bored, or if I’m a little sad, I like watching documentaries on my laptop about old, historical things— like English castles, Russian tsars and evil Nazis dickheads. It’s calming and therapeutic… yet, cheaper than Xanax.

Today, I stumbled upon a documentary about Westminster Abbey on Netflix. You know that big, old Gothic church that Prince William and his wife, Kate, got married a few years ago? Yeah, that building. It’s been around for nearly a thousand years… and it’s THE place to get buried if you are super cool and accomplished. There are kings, queens, princes, dukes and even scientists— like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. There are scads of writers, too, including Aphra Behn— who, in the mid-1600s was the first woman to make a living as a novelist, playwright and poet. #oldtimeygirlpower

Westminster Abbey is also the place where the kings and queens of England are crowned. During the ceremony, the monarch sits on this really old wooden chair that was built in 1296. The chair still exists today. It’s survived generations of termites, vandals, and the really fat ass of King George IV, who in the mid-1800s spent most of his time eating large amounts of food and shagging women— all while being addicted to opium. He was a real winner. #momoneymoproblems

The chair was designed to house a special slab of stone beneath the seat. This slab is called the Stone of Scone. It’s important to note that the name has nothing to do with actual breakfast scones, much to George IV’s utter disappointment. Rather, the stone was the seat upon which hundreds of years of Scottish kings were crowned a really long time ago. In 1296, though, King Edward I of England took the stone from the Scots so that it could become the coronation seat for his many future, royal, and sometimes tubby, descendants.

As you may guess, this did not sit well with the Scottish. It didn’t take much to inflame their ire during this time, but stealing their favorite old rock was an easy way to do it. In between eating haggis, playing bagpipes, and drinking whiskey, the Scots stewed about this horrendous act for hundreds of years— even after the two nations joined together under one monarch. The English refused their many requests to have the stone returned— unwilling to compromise with the plaid-wearin’, brogue-talkin’ heathens to the north.

Fast forward 700 years. (I didn’t promise this would be a short story.) On Christmas Day in 1950, four Scottish students broke into Westminster Abbey with a crowbar and snatched the Stone of Scone from beneath the seat of the coronation chair. Okay, snatched might not be the best word for something that weighs 336 pounds. Rather, they dragged the stone out of the Abbey on an old winter coat and managed to secret the slab of rock across the border to an eager, and joyous Scotland.

British police vigorously searched for the stone for three months before the Scots finally relinquished the stone in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation months later. The boys that took the stone were pardoned and details of the investigation were plastered all over the newspapers. Yet, each side still claimed ownership of the Stone of Scone and its history. Eventually a deal was reached so that Scotland could keep the stone for most of the time, except during coronations… every other Christmas, and the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Like a divorced couple’s joint custody arrangement of their 336 pound baby. It was all very complicated.

Strike that. No… no, it wasn’t complicated. It’s actually very simple. England and Scotland, two very advanced nations and pioneers in the development of representative democracy, were fighting over a FUCKING ROCK. A piece of goddamn stone that you can find in any riverbed, on any hillside… hell, even in someone’s weedy backyard.

See, this is why history is so awesome. And this is why I watch historical documentaries to make myself feel better. Because even if I’m having a bad day, a sad day, or I’m depressed about what’s on the 5 o’clock news, I know that we humans have done stupid stuff all throughout our history. The dates and years on the calendar may change, but our stupidity does not.

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Don’t you think?

#onthisday

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On this day, 50 years ago, a baby boy named David William Donald Cameron was born to somewhat posh parents in a somewhat posh part of London, England. Baby David would grow up to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 until this July. In order to secure his political future and the future of his political party, the Conservatives, Mr. Cameron had the grand idea of allowing the British people to vote on whether to remain as a member of the European Union (EU). This brilliant plan was supposed to appease the discontented white folks that hated EU immigrants, distrusted a globalized economy, and wanted to go back to the good ol’ days when the British Empire controlled most of the planet. Ahh, those were the days. Nothing like the smell of brewed tea & biscuits served by assorted caramel-colored servants to make middle-aged white folks feel better about themselves.

Anyway, Cameron’s “Brexit” referendum ended up biting him in his posh ass when the British people actually voted favor of leaving the EU. *gasp* Chaos, confusion and tears ensued— and not all of them were from Mr. Cameron.

Instead of staying to clean up the mess he made, David decided to resign as Prime Minister, paving the way for Theresa May to become the new PM. Frankly, it’s not surprising— men throughout history have been making messes that women are forced to clean up.

Nonetheless, I wish you a very Happy 50th Birthday, Mr. Cameron. Good luck to you… I think you may need it…