Great Lady Offerant

Great Lady Offerant

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Lady Jane Grey

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Lady Jane Grey, also called (from 1553) Lady Jane Dudley, (born October 1537, Bradgate, Leicestershire, England—died February 12, 1554, London), titular queen of England for nine days in 1553. Beautiful and intelligent, she reluctantly allowed herself at age 15 to be put on the throne by unscrupulous politicians her subsequent execution by Mary Tudor aroused universal sympathy.

What was Lady Jane Grey’s childhood like?

Lady Jane Grey received an excellent education and could speak and write Greek and Latin at an early age. Grandniece of Henry VIII, at age nine she briefly lived in the household of Catherine Parr, Henry’s sixth wife. After Jane’s father was created duke of Suffolk in 1551, she was frequently at the royal court.

How did Lady Jane Grey become queen of England?

Lady Jane Grey was a cousin of Edward VI, king of England from 1547 to 1553. Before Edward died, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, persuaded him to make Jane his heir, even though Edward had two half sisters. Jane’s Protestantism made her the preferred candidate of those such as Northumberland who supported the Reformation.

How long was Lady Jane Grey queen of England?

Lady Jane Grey reigned as queen for nine days in 1553. The English people, however, largely supported Edward VI’s half sister Mary Tudor, the rightful heir by Henry VIII’s will. Jane was persuaded to relinquish the crown she never wanted. At the beginning of Mary’s reign, Jane was arraigned for high treason and later executed.

Lady Jane was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII through her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, whose own mother was Mary, the younger of King Henry VIII’s two sisters. Provided with excellent tutors, she spoke and wrote Greek and Latin at an early age she was also proficient in French, Hebrew, and Italian. When Lady Jane was barely nine years old, she went to live in the household of Queen Catherine Parr, and on the latter’s death in September 1548 she was made a ward of Catherine’s fourth husband, Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, who planned her marriage to his nephew and her cousin, the young king Edward VI. But Seymour was beheaded for treason in 1549, and Jane returned to her studies at Bradgate.

After Lady Jane’s father, hitherto marquess of Dorset, was created duke of Suffolk in October 1551, she was constantly at the royal court. On May 21, 1553, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who exercised considerable power at that point in the minority of King Edward VI, joined with Suffolk in marrying her to his son, Lord Guildford Dudley. Her Protestantism, which was extreme, made her the natural candidate for the throne of those who supported the Reformation, such as Northumberland. With the support of Northumberland, who had persuaded the dying Edward to set aside his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth in favour of any male heirs who might be born to the duchess of Suffolk and, failing them, to Lady Jane, she and her male heirs were designated successors to the throne.

Edward died on July 6, 1553. On July 10, Lady Jane—who fainted when the idea was first broached to her—was proclaimed queen. However, Edward’s sister Mary Tudor, the heir according to an act of Parliament (1544) and Henry VIII’s will (1547), had the support of the populace, and on July 19 even Suffolk, who by now despaired of success in the plans for his daughter, attempted to retrieve his position by proclaiming Mary queen. Northumberland’s supporters melted away, and the duke of Suffolk easily persuaded his daughter to relinquish the unwanted crown. At the beginning of Mary I’s reign, Lady Jane and her father were committed to the Tower of London, but he was soon pardoned. Lady Jane and her husband, however, were arraigned for high treason on November 14, 1553. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. The execution of the sentence was suspended, but the participation of her father, in early February 1554, in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion sealed her fate. She and her husband were beheaded on February 12, 1554 her father was executed 11 days later.

The cool kids

Village's Lady D failings begin with its structure. It's main villain, Mother Miranda, is made out as this mysterious, ancient entity, but because Village is structured like an anthology of discrete horror dioramas, our time with Miranda is saved for the end. And when we do meet her, she's 100 times less interesting than any of her "children": Moreau, Heisenberg, Beneviento, and our favorite child Lady Dimitrescu.

Hell, Village begins with Lady D, but because we're introduced to each minor villain in vacuum sealed chunks of play, the best character in the damn game is gone within the first couple hours. It sets a precedent that everything that follows will match the novelty, presence, and surprise of a 10-foot tall elder vampire that makes blood wine out of people, but Village never quite reaches the same heights again.

I love the Lovecraftian notes of Moreau's sunken fishing village. And his pitiful whimpering, even after his transformation into a huge mutant fish with eyes like blisters crowding his back, is comedic and sad and awful to look at. You can almost smell him through the screen. Beneviento's hallucinogenic fetus monster is the scariest shit in Resident Evil's history, the way it peeks around corners, dragging a mangled umbilical cord the size of a firehose behind it. Heisenberg's junkyard take on mad science is one of my favorite secret lab sequences in the series.

But nothing compares to Lady D stooping over to squeeze through a 7-foot tall doorway, her gleaming white grin easily visible from across the cavernous rooms that make up her opulent castle home.


Anne Boleyn’s birthdate is unknown even the year is widely debated. General opinion now favors 1501 or 1502, though some historians persuasively argue for 1507. She was probably born at Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Her father was Sir Thomas Boleyn, a minor courtier with a talent for foreign languages he was of London merchant stock and eager to advance in the world. Like most men, he chose to marry well. His bride was Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the second duke of Norfolk and sister of the third duke.

Anne had two surviving siblings, Mary and George. Their birthdates are also unknown, as is the order of their births. We only know that all three Boleyn siblings were close in age.

miniature portrait of Anne Boleyn

In 1514, Henry VIII married his youngest sister, Mary, to the aged king of France. Anne accompanied the Tudor princess as a very young lady-in-waiting and she remained in France after the French king died and Mary Tudor returned home. Anne gained the subsequent honor of being educated under the watchful eye of the new French queen Claude. This education had a uniquely French emphasis upon fashion and flirtation, though more intellectual skills were not neglected. Anne became an accomplished musician, singer and dancer.

In 1521 or early 1522, with war between England and France imminent, Anne returned home. When she first caught Henry VIII’s eye is unknown. He was originally attracted to her sister, Mary who came to court before Anne. She was the king’s mistress in the early 1520s and, as a mark of favor, her father was elevated to the peerage as viscount Rochfort/Rochford in 1525. Mary herself would leave court with only a dull marriage, and possibly the king’s illegitimate son, as her reward. Anne learned much from her sister’s example.

Anne’s first years at court were spent in service to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon. She became quite popular among the younger men. She was not considered a great beauty her sister occupied that position in the family, but even Mary was merely deemed ‘pretty’. Hostile chroniclers described Anne as plain, sallow, and possessing two distinct flaws – a large mole on the side of her neck and an extra finger on her left hand. Such praise as she received focused on her style, her wit and charm she was quick-tempered and spirited. Her most remarkable physical attributes were her large dark eyes and long black hair.

The king’s attraction was focused upon her sharp and teasing manner, and her oft-stated unavailability. What he couldn’t have, he pined for all the more. This was especially difficult for a king used to having his own way in everything. Anne was also seriously involved with Henry Percy, the son and heir of the earl of Northumberland there were rumors of an engagement and declarations of true love. The king ordered his great minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, to end the match. Wolsey did so, thus ensuring Percy’s unhappy marriage to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and Anne’s great enmity. It was safer to blame the Cardinal than his king. Also, Henry’s jealousy revealed the depth of his feelings, and Anne quite naturally thought – if she could not be an earl’s wife, why not try for the crown of England?

When Anne avoided Henry’s company, or when she was sullen and evasive to him, he sent her from court. The king hoped that a few months in the country would persuade her of his charms. It did not work. Anne was already playing a far more serious game than the king. Later, after she had been arrested, Henry would claim he had been ‘bewitched’ and the term wasn’t used lightly in the 16th century. But perhaps it was simply the contrast between her vivacity and Katharine’s solemnity, or perhaps the king mistook the inexplicable ardor of true love for something more ominous, long after that love had faded.

It is impossible to fully explain the mystery of attraction between two people. How Anne was able to capture and maintain the king’s attention for such a long while, despite great obstacles and the constant presence of malicious gossip, cannot be explained. Henry was headstrong and querulous. But for several years, he remained faithful to his feelings for Anne – and his attendant desire for a legitimate male heir.

Miniature portrait of Katharine of Aragon

One cannot separate the king’s desire for a son, indeed its very necessity, from his personal desire for Anne. The two interests merged perfectly in 1527. Henry had discovered the invalidity of his marriage to Katharine. Now it was possible to annul his marriage and secure his two fondest hopes – Anne’s hand in marriage and the long-desired heir.

Cardinal Wolsey had long advocated an Anglo-French alliance. For that reason, he disliked the Spanish Katharine of Aragon. He now set about securing his monarch’s annulment with the intention of marrying Henry to a French princess. And if not a French princess, perhaps a great lady of the English court. Wolsey did not like Anne, and she despised him for that earlier injury to her heart. She did what she could to work against the Lord Chancellor. And Wolsey’s ambitious protégé (and successor) Thomas Cromwell became her close ally.

But Anne alone did not cause Wolsey’s fall from grace, though she took the blame for it. Indeed, ‘Nan Bullen’, as the common people derisively called her, became the scapegoat for all the king’s unpopular decisions. But it is important to remember that no one – not Wolsey, not Cromwell, and certainly not Anne Boleyn – ever controlled Henry VIII, or made him do other than exactly what he wanted. He was a king who thoroughly knew and enjoyed his position. Sir Thomas More would aptly point this out to his son-in-law, William Roper – ‘If a lion knew his strength, it were hard for any man to hold him.’ And later, when Roper commented upon the king’s affection for More, the philosopher replied that if his head would win the king a castle in France, then Henry would not hesitate to chop it off.

But most people found it easier to hate Anne than to hate their monarch. As the king’s desire for an annulment became the gossip of all Europe, she was roundly criticized and condemned. She was not popular at the English court either. Both her unique situation and her oft times abrasive personality offended many. And Katharine’s solemn piety had impressed the English court for three decades her supporters were numerous, though not inclined to face the king’s formidable wrath. In truth, Anne was sustained only by the king’s affection and she knew his mercurial temper. It is possible that she was as surprised by his faithfulness as everyone else.

As the struggle for an annulment proceeded and the pope prevaricated between Henry and Katharine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Anne’s position at the English court became steadily more prominent. There were at first little signs. The king would eat alone with her she received expensive gifts she began to dress in the most fashionable and expensive gowns the king paid her gambling debts since Anne, like most courtiers, enjoyed cards and dice.

The king was not too outlandish at first for he had no desire to prejudice the pope against his case by flaunting a new love. But as the delays mounted, and rumors of his new love spread, Henry realized there was no purpose in hiding the truth. By 1530, Anne was openly honored by the king at court. She was accorded precedence over all other ladies, and she sat with the king at banquets and hunts while Katharine was virtually ignored. The pretense of his first marriage was allowed to continue Katharine continued to personally mend his shirts and send him gifts and notes. But it was an untenable situation. It grated on both women. Anne perhaps taxed the king with it. To placate her, she was titled marquess of Pembroke on 4 September 1532 at Windsor Castle she wore a beautiful crimson gown and her hair hung loose. Now elevated to the peerage in her own right, she had wealth and lands of her own. But when she accompanied Henry to France on a state visit a short while later, the ladies of the French court refused to meet with her.

It is believed that her elevation to the peerage marked the physical consummation of Anne and Henry’s relationship, as well as a secret wedding. The circumstantial evidence is compelling. Anne would give birth to Elizabeth just a year later, in September 1533, and it is very unlikely that she and Henry – after waiting for years to be together – would suddenly have sex and risk an unplanned and, most importantly, illegitimate pregnancy. Secret weddings were hardly uncommon at the Tudor court. If they had a secret ceremony and consummated their relationship, then Anne became pregnant with Elizabeth just a few months later and that made a second, unquestionably legitimate wedding necessary.

Sepia-tinged sketch of Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger

The king had his fondest wish within his grasp. Anne was pregnant with his long-awaited son, or so he thought, and this son must be legitimate. He could no longer wait upon the pope. Henry rejected the authority of the Holy See and Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, annulled his marriage to Katharine. Henry and Anne married again in January 1533 in a small ceremony. But though they were now husband and wife, few recognized the fact.

Her coronation was a lavish affair the king spared no expense. But the people of London were noticeably unimpressed. They cried out ‘HA! HA!’ mockingly as tapestries decorated with Henry and Anne’s entwined initials passed by. Henry asked, ‘How liked you the look of the City?’ Anne replied, ‘Sir, I liked the City well enough – but I saw a great many caps on heads, and heard but few tongues.’

And so her coronation was yet another reminder of her complete dependency upon the king.

Anne enjoyed her triumph as best she could. She ordered new blue and purple livery for her servants and set about replacing Katharine’s badge of pomegranates with her own falcon symbol. She chose as her motto, ‘The Most Happy’, in stark contrast to her predecessor. Katharine had been ‘Humble and Loyal’ Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York had chosen ‘Humble and Reverent’. But humility was not a marked characteristic of Anne Boleyn.

She was pious, though not as rigid and inflexible as Katharine of Aragon. Anne’s sympathies naturally lay with the progressive thought now challenging Catholic orthodoxy with Henry’s rejection of the papacy and his creation of a new Church of England, the Reformation had come to England. It was not as revolutionary as Luther’s movement in Germany. Henry actually remained a devout Catholic, only denying what he now regarded as the illegitimate authority of the papacy. Anne knew that her marriage and future children would never be recognized as legitimate by Catholic Europe. She had to support the new church, otherwise she was no more than the king’s mistress.

And this new emphasis upon debating even the most esoteric bits of theology appealed to her nature. She was always curious and open to new ideas she never blindly acceptedThe above portrait is of Anne Boleyn, painted by Lucas Horenbout dated 1525-27. Sir Roy Strong identified the portrait. Anne wears a necklace with her falcon badge. anything. But this is not to deny her deep faith. As queen, she was close friends with Thomas Cranmer and she also sponsored various religious books. She had none of the hard-fought pragmatism of her daughter, Elizabeth. Religious faith was a vital part of Anne’s life, as it was for every person in the 16th century.

She entered confinement for the birth of her first child on 26 August 1533. The child was born on 7 September 1533. The physicians and astrologers had been mistaken it was not a prince. But the healthy baby girl called Elizabeth was not the disappointment most assumed, nor did she immediately cause her mother’s downfall. The birth had been very easy and quick. ‘There was good speed in the deliverance and bringing forth,’ Anne wrote to Lord Cobham that very day. The queen recovered quickly. Henry had every reason to believe that strong princes would follow. It was only when Anne miscarried two sons that he began to question the validity of his second marriage.

Elizabeth’s christening was a grand affair, though the king did not attend. This fact was much remarked-upon, but Henry confounded all by his continuing affection for Anne. He also promptly declared Elizabeth his heir, thus according her precedence over her 17 year old half-sister, Princess Mary. Anne could breathe a sigh of relief, recover, and become pregnant again.

Immediately after Elizabeth’s christening, Henry wrote to Mary and demanded that she relinquish her title of Princess of Wales. The title belonged to his heiress. He also demanded that she acknowledge the validity of his new marriage and legitimacy of her half-sister. But Mary could be as obstinate as her mother she refused. Enraged, Henry evicted Mary from her home, the manor Beaulieu, so he could give it to Anne’s brother, George. In December, she was moved into Elizabeth’s household under the care of Lady Anne Shelton, a sister of Anne’s father. It was an understandably miserable time for Mary. When told to pay her respects to the baby Princess, she said that she knew of no Princess of England but herself and burst into tears.

The above portrait is of Anne Boleyn, painted by Lucas Horenbout dated 1525-27. Sir Roy Strong identified the portrait. Anne wears a necklace with her falcon badge.

Henry was infuriated and Anne encouraged the estrangement. Her daughter’s status depended upon Mary remaining out of favor. In the two and a half years she lived after Elizabeth’s birth, Anne proved herself a devoted mother. Soon after the birth, Elizabeth had to be moved from London, for purposes of health London was rife with a variety of illnesses – sweating sickness, smallpox, and plague. Elizabeth and Mary were sent to Hatfield. Both Henry and Anne visited their daughter often, occasionally taking her back with them to Greenwich or the palace at Eltham. During these visits, Mary was kept alone in her room.

There are account books and letters which reveal certain facts about Elizabeth’s early childhood: bills for an orange satin gown and russet velvet kirtle, for the king’s heir had to be fashionably dressed a letter in late 1535, after her second birthday, from the wet nurse asking permission to wean her a plan of study in classical languages, for Anne was determined her daughter would be as educated as Mary.

The conflict with Mary dominated a great deal of Henry and Anne’s thoughts. In January 1534, the king’s new chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, went to visit Mary at Hatfield. He urged her to renounce her title and warned her that her behavior would lead to her ruin. Mary replied that she simply wanted her father’s blessing and the honor of kissing his hand. When Cromwell chastised her, she left the room. Mary, and indeed most of England, believed Anne to be the cause of Henry’s disgust with his eldest child. In truth, Henry had far more to do with it than Anne this was proven after Anne’s execution. Mary believed that she would regain her favor with the wicked stepmother out of the way but she was proven terribly wrong. Eventually, under threat of her life, she wrote the letter her father had long desired.

He and Anne also tried a gentler course with Mary their goal was to show that she had brought Henry’s displeasure upon herself and that he and Anne were quite willing – under reasonable conditions – to receive her. At their next visit to Hatfield, Anne arranged to see her stepdaughter. She invited Mary to come to court and ‘visit me as Queen.’ Mary responded with a cruel insult – ‘I know no Queen in England but my mother. But if you, Madam, as my father’s mistress, will intercede for me with him, I should be grateful.’ Anne did not lose her temper she pointed out the absurdity of the request and repeated her offer. Mary then refused to answer and Anne left in a rage. From then on, she made no attempts to gain Mary’s friendship.

The problem with Mary highlights the untenable positions Anne and Elizabeth occupied in English politics. Many of Henry’s subjects did not know who to call Princess, who was the rightful heir, and who was the true wife. Katharine of Aragon lived on, still calling herself Queen, and Mary, encouraged by the spiteful Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys, still called herself Princess. Furthermore, Chapuys, who openly despised Anne, told Mary that Anne was planning to have her murdered. It was a terrible lie but one that Mary, in her hysterical state, was inclined to believe. When word came that she and Elizabeth’s household was moving from Hatfield to The More, she refused to go. She believed she would be moved and quietly murdered. Guards had to actually seize her and throw her into her litter. Her distress naturally made her ill.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, was too young to notice any of this. But such events helped cement the lifelong hatred Mary would have for her half-sister. Her Spanish friends continued to spread rumors about Anne and Elizabeth, saying the infant princess was physically deformed and monstrous in appearance. To dispel this, in April 1534, Henry showed the naked infant to several continental ambassadors. In that same month, Anne announced she was once again pregnant. Nothing could have pleased Henry more. She may have had a miscarriage in February for there were rumors she was pregnant in January but nothing came of it given the heightened circumstances, it is unlikely she could have hidden her condition. Even a suspicion of pregnancy was sure to become gossip. But the main source of this miscarriage is Chapuys, hardly an impartial observer. At any rate, she was definitely pregnant again in April 1534.

sketch of Anne Boleyn by Hans Holbein the Younger

The elated king took his wife to the medieval palace at Eltham there, they sent for the princess Elizabeth. Henry was often seen carrying her about and playing with her. The king and queen soon returned to Greenwich and then Henry left on a progress, leaving Anne at the palace. This was probably out of concern for her health and lends some credence to the belief she miscarried in February. If she had, Henry would show special concern for her health, and this he did. He was supposed to meet Francis I of France in June at Calais to sign a treaty but decided not to attend, writing that Katharine and Mary, ‘bearing no small grudge against his most entirely beloved Queen Anne, might perchance in his absence take occasion to practice matters of no small peril to his royal person, realm, and subjects.’

His extra attention to Anne did not help her health. In September 1534, she miscarried a six-month-old fetus it was old enough for features to be discerned – it was a boy. Henry was bitterly disappointed. Anne was likewise. She was also angry for Henry had begun a casual affair that summer. She reproached him and Henry replied, ‘You have good reason to be content with what I have done for you – and I would not do it again, if the thing were to begin. Consider from what you have come.’ The scene was furious and overheard by her attendants. But it was a passing storm. Henry was already tired of his new mistress and, within days, Chapuys was sadly writing to Charles V of Henry’s continued affection. But there were other signs that things were not progressing smoothly.

For example, Henry had hoped to cement his relationship with Francis I by betrothing Elizabeth to Francis’s son, the Duc d’Angouleme. After Anne suffered two miscarriages, as the French ambassador reported to Francis, the French king grew wary of such a betrothal. To him, it must have seemed that Anne’s position was weakening after all, Henry had dismissed one wife because she had no sons – would he do the same to Anne? And, if he did, then what good was a marriage to Elizabeth? Of course, it was in France’s interests to promote Anne for Katharine of Aragon and her daughter were Charles V’s pawns. But his doubts highlighted the instability of Anne’s position.

This undoubtedly affected her mental and physical health. Henry was never the mercenary adulterer of legend. In fact, he was remarkably conventional in his sexual appetites, unlike his French rival. Any affairs would have been widely reported and yet, during his long marriage to Katharine of Aragon, there were just a handful of mistresses. He enjoyed being around attractive women. He was flirtatious and would joke with them, compliment them, but only rarely did he enter into a physical relationship.

But for Anne, any occasional fling was devastating, especially if it followed upon a miscarriage. Such behavior was said to indicate his displeasure with her this she could not afford. They were occasionally estranged and the effect was to increase her already-noticeable anxiety. In late 1534 Anne, accompanied by the duke of Suffolk, her uncle Norfolk, and other courtiers, visited Richmond Palace, where both Elizabeth and Mary resided. Anne entered her daughter’s rooms only to realize that the two dukes had left her. They were paying court to Mary and remained with her until Anne had left. Still, this slight could be forgotten when the Treason Act was passed in November. It was now a capital crime to deny the legitimacy of her marriage or children. By December, she and Henry had made up yet again.

A scandal occurred shortly thereafter which added further damage to Anne’s reputation. Her sister, Mary, who had been Henry’s mistress years before, married Sir William Stafford without her family or the king’s permission. Because Stafford was poor, Mary’s father was angry and cut off her allowance. She appealed to the king and Anne but they would not help. (Mary did not attend court during Anne’s reign, since her presence would have been an embarrassment for the king and queen.)

Always fascinated with rumors surrounding his English ‘brother’, Francis I decided to hedge his bets in the mercurial Tudor court. In other words, he would remain friendly with Anne and also with Mary Tudor. And so he instructed his new ambassador, Admiral Chabot, to ignore Anne when he arrived at court. Chabot was received by Henry and two days passed without any mention of the queen. Henry asked if Chabot wanted to visit her. The ambassador replied, ‘As it pleases Your Highness’ and then asked permission to visit Mary. Henry refused, but Chabot made certain everyone knew of his request. He also told courtiers that Francis wanted to marry the Dauphin to Mary when Henry reminded him of the union with Elizabeth, the ambassador said nothing. Still, Francis did enrage Charles V by acknowledging Elizabeth’s legitimacy.

It was a tedious and frightening dance for Anne. During the two and a half years after Elizabeth’s birth, she was rarely secure, certain of her position and the king’s affections. Her little daughter received every favor she could bestow Anne insisted Henry favor Elizabeth because it strengthened her position. But she was surrounded by fair-weather friends who, at the slightest sign of Henry’s disfavor, ignored her. She only trusted her brother, George, whose wife, Jane Rochford, was a viper in their nest. Meanwhile, Henry was again flirting openly with another woman. This time it was Anne’s cousin and lady-in-waiting, Madge Shelton. Anne still had influence over her husband, but knew only one way to make his favor permanent. She must bear a son. Henry would never dismiss the mother of his long-awaited heir. Her enemies would at last be silenced.

Meanwhile, Henry’s health had begun to worsen. The first signs of the illness which would kill him (occluded sinus on the leg) appeared . Headaches became frequent and severe. The king was a hypochondriac. Now unable to indulge his love of sports, he instead indulged his fear of pain and illness. And he was frequently impotent. He was in his mid-forties and increasingly obese this, combined with his other ailments, made his continued virility questionable. Certainly his ‘mistresses’ did not conceive. But the continued lack of an heir and Anne’s miscarriages must have reminded him of Katharine. How could it not? Like most of his contemporaries, the king blamed his wife when she did not conceive or carry to term.

And, like Francis I, Thomas Cromwell – that influential and brilliant man – was keeping his options open as well. He visited Mary and was rumored to promise support for her reinstatement. Anne was terrified at this loss of her one-time supporter who was also the king’s most trusted advisor. But Anne had one last chance, and in June 1535, became pregnant again. She lost that child as well, in January 1536 she was reported to have said, ‘I have miscarried of my savior.’

When her destruction came, it was rapid and unbelievable. Henry had always been one to plot against people while he pretended affection. Anne suffered the same fate as Katharine. She knew he was dissatisfied with her but he maintained their lifestyle together. And all the while, he was seeking the best way to destroy her. Katharine of Aragon died in January as well, just a few days before Anne’s miscarriage. These events, taken together, pushed Henry into action. While Katharine lived, most of Europe, and many Englishmen, had regarded her as his rightful wife, not Anne. Now he was rid of Katharine if he were to rid himself of Anne, he could marry again – and this third marriage would never be tainted by the specter of bigamy.

an 18th century portrait of Anne Boleyn

Henry’s decision to thoroughly destroy Anne baffled even her enemies. There was a possible way out which would spare Anne’s life. Henry had admitted an affair with her sister,Mary. He could have argued that was as damning as Katharine’s marriage to his brother. But he chose a more direct route. He had her arrested, charged with adultery, witchcraft, and incest the charges were ludicrous even to her enemies. Her brother George was arrested as well. His despised wife, Jane Rochford, testified about an incestuous love affair. Whether anyone believed her was irrelevant. Henry VIII wanted Anne convicted and killed. George would also lose his life, as did three of their friends. Only one had confessed to the charge, and that was under torture it was still enough to convict them all.

As queen of England, Anne was tried by her peers the main charge was adultery, and this was an act of treason for a queen. No member of the nobility would help her her craven uncle Norfolk pronounced the death sentence. Poor Henry Percy, her first love, swooned during the trial and had to be carried from the room. As a concession to her former position, she was not beheaded by a clumsy axe. A skilled swordsman was brought over from France. She was assured that there would be little pain she replied, with typical spirit, ‘I have heard that the executioner is very good. And I have a little neck.’

‘You have chosen me from low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire if, then, you found me worthy of such honor, good your grace, let not any light fancy or bad counsel of my enemies withdraw your princely favor from me neither let that stain – that unworthy stain – of a disloyal heart towards your good grace ever cast so foul a blot on me, and on the infant princess your daughter.’ from Anne Boleyn’s last letter to King Henry VIII, 1536 its authenticity is debated.

She had prayed for exile, to end her days in a nunnery, but now faced a more tragic fate. She met it with bravery and wit. She was brought to the scaffold at 8 o’clock in the morning on 19 May 1536. It was a heretofore unknown spectacle, the first public execution of an English queen. Anne, who had defended herself so ably at her trial, chose her last words carefully: ‘Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.’ She was then blindfolded and knelt at the block. She repeated several times, ‘To Jesus Christ I commend my soul Lord Jesu receive my soul.’

It was a sardonic message to the king. Even now he waited impatiently to hear the Tower cannon mark Anne’s death. He wished to marry Anne’s lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. They wed ten days after the execution.

Elizabeth was just three and a half when her mother died. She was a precocious child, though when her governess visited her just days after the execution, Elizabeth asked, ‘Why, Governor, how hap it yesterday Lady Princess, and today but Lady Elizabeth?’

Anne was buried in an old arrow box since no coffin was provided. But the box was too short her head was tucked beside her. The remains were taken to St Peter ad Vincula, the church of the Tower of London, where they would later be joined by her cousin, and Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

‘And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best.’
from Anne Boleyn’s speech at her execution

Mask of the Flower Prince

Far too often, the stories of great women—or perhaps more accurately, great writers, politicians, scientists, and leaders who simply happen to be women—have been lost, forgotten, or otherwise written out of history. All of us have a duty to help reclaim these stories… to bring these voices back into the open.

With that in mind, I wanted to share the story of a remarkable woman, whose story really deserves to be better known. She was Lady Six Monkey (Mixtec: Ñuñuu Dzico-Coo-Yodzo), a great warrior queen of the Mixtec people of southern Mexico who was born into the royal house of the Mixtec city of Jaltepec in 1073. Lady Six Monkey was a formidable empire builder who played a pivotal role in the history of the Mixtecs.

The warrior queen Lady Six Monkey in her element, leading an attack and capturing prisoners of war

And believe me, Six Monkey lived in a dangerous time. In 963, a century before Six Monkey was born, a clash of dynastic politics had ripped the Mixtec world apart, culminating in a ferocious war known as the “War of Heaven.” Whole cities were annihilated, and whole royal dynasties wiped out. The conflict led to a major restructuring of Mixtec power politics, with a number of new centers rising out of the ashes. One was a new kingdom centered around the city of Tilantongo, another was a neighboring kingdom based at Jaltepec—Lady Six Monkey’s hometown. Between these two kingdoms was the smaller kingdom based in Huachino. In the War of Heaven’s aftermath, Huachino was one of the last of the older, classical kingdoms left standing. It was much reduced in power, and struggled to hold its own against the new kingdoms rising around it, but its royal house was still one of the most ancient, venerable lineages in the region. Six Monkey’s story played out against a backdrop of these feuding, rival kingdoms that sought to seize ultimate power in a Mixtec-style Game of Thrones involving communities across La Mixteca.

And for a while, no one played this game better than Lady Six Monkey.

A quick word about Mixtec naming conventions. Mixtecs took their names from their date of their birth. This name consisted of a numeral from 1 – 13 and one of 20 day glyphs (e.g. crocodile, house, monkey, etc.). A rough modern equivalent for us would be naming a child “Four July” or “Twenty-five December.” This system features frequently-repeating names that were applied regardless of gender, which sometimes confuses modern readers. As a result, most modern writers preface the name with the word “Lord” or “Lady,” or at times use the ♂ or ♀ symbol to add clarity. Because there were only a finite number of names available, Mixtecs were given a more specific, personal name when they came of age. Once given, these “nicknames” generally were used for the remainder of a person’s life, but as we will see with Lady Six Monkey, they could be changed in response to extraordinary circumstances.

The Mixtecs in Ancient Mexico

The Mixtecs (or Ñuù Savi in their own language, meaning “Rain People”) have long been recognized as one of Mexico’s largest, and most fascinating indigenous groups, but they are not widely known today (they briefly flared into the public consciousness due to the Oscar-winning film Roma—the maid Cleo and her co-worker Adela are Mixtecs, and speak together in Mixtec over the course of the film).

Their ancestral homeland, La Mixteca, is in the western part of the modern Mexican state of Oaxaca. In ancient times, this region was one of the wealthiest and densely populated in ancient Mexico. Mixtec cities never rose to the size of the Aztecs’ great imperial centers of Central Mexico but even so, these cities were still quite large by global standards of the time—on the eve of the Spanish conquest, the great Mixtec cities of Yanhuitlán, Coixtlahuaca, and Tututepec were all comparable in size to London.

The Mixtecs never organized themselves into a single, great Mixtec “empire.” Instead, the region was dotted with a number of smaller kingdoms that jockeyed for political power, trade routes, resources, and farmland. In this way they were somewhat like the ancient Maya… or in a European context, like classical Greece or Renaissance Italy. In lieu of a central power, the Mixtec kingdoms engaged in a complex web of alliances cemented by dynastic marriages that remained fairly stable across centuries.

The Mixtecs were noted for being accomplished, brilliant artists. Mixtec pottery was particularly prized, as were Mixtec mosaics, painting and above all, gold work. In fact, at the time of the Spanish conquest, Mixtec artists and artisans had developed the essential iconography, design conventions and artistic techniques—the basic artistic lingua franca—that was used from central Mexico to Costa Rica. So valuable were Mixtec craftsmen that when the Aztecs conquered the region in the 1400s, Mixtec artists were taken as captives to serve in the imperial workshops of Aztec Tenochtitlán, in conditions not unlike the Murano glass workers in Renaissance Venice.

By the time the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, much of La Mixteca had been conquered by the Aztecs, with the major exception of coastal Mixtec kingdom of Tututepec. This kingdom successfully defeated the Aztecs in several battles and created an expansionist empire of own—and had even begun the process of re-conquering Mixtec territory from the Aztecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Tututepec remained independent until 1522, when it was conquered by Pedro de Alvarado.

Mixtec Writing and History

Today, the Mixtecs are most widely known for their advance writing system, which used to record history in a series of books, annotated maps, and similar documents. Eight ancient history books have survived, detailing battles, marriages, and political intrigue going back to at least the 10 th century—more than 500 years before the arrival of the Spaniards. This unbroken, 1,000-year span of history is unique among the people of the Western Hemisphere.

The books are made of long strips of deerskin, which were coated with a thin layer of plaster to create a paintable surface, and folded accordion-style to create discrete pages. Scribes then filled these pages with hieroglyphic, picture writing painted in an assortment of bold colors. While these history books can certainly be read as-is, they also were designed to serve as storyboards to guide historical performances. For these performances, a cantor would recite the historical account in the form of epic poetry, to the accompaniment of music and dancing.

The Codex Zouche-Nuttall, a Mixtec book of history now held at the British Museum

The story of Lady Six Monkey is told in greatest detail in the Codex Selden, a manuscript located today in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. It was commissioned by the royal family of Jaltepec, Six Monkey’s hometown and original base of power, and tells her story with all the local pride one would expect. But such was Six Monkey’s importance that she appears in many of the other manuscripts, which helps fill in the details of her remarkable life.

New Beginnings: Lady Six Monkey’s Mother and the Rise of a New Dynasty

By the year 1040 of the common era, a generation before Lady Six Monkey was born, the Mixtec kingdom of Jaltepec had fallen into crisis. Jaltepec commanded a strategic location in the Nochixtlán valley, giving it control of water resources and access to trade routes, and over time it had become wealthy. But after a hundred years of growing prosperity and influence, its last ruler had died without an heir, and the royal succession was thrown into chaos.

At this point, Lord Eight Wind from the city of Suchixtlán stepped into the picture. Eight Wind was an elder statesman who commanded great authority in La Mixteca. He had shrewdly built up a web of alliances which were held together with armed force… and skillfully-made dynastic marriages involving his children. And he knew an opportunity when he saw it.

In a bold move, Eight Wind used his influence to install his daughter Lady Nine Wind as Jaltepec’s ruling queen. The Codex Selden depicts her entrance into the city in full splendor, showing Lady Nine Wind as a dynastic founder, offering tobacco in an elaborate ceremony in Jaltepec’s main plaza.

To secure his daughter’s future, Eight Wind went on to arrange a marriage with Lord Ten Eagle of neighboring kingdom of Tilantongo—a kingdom that had long had a love-hate relationship with its eastern neighbor. Clearly, Eight Wind had hoped to strengthen relationships between these two emerging powers, and to cement his own family at the center of it. What’s curious about this wedding is the vast power differential between Lady Nine Wind and her new husband—in the history books’ depiction of the wedding ceremonies, she is enthroned as the central figure on the wedding platform, while the groom Ten Eagle is seated on a small side cushion that only lightly touches the edge of the main platform. In the lingo of an earlier time, it seems that clear that Lord Ten Eagle had “married up.”

Lady Nine Grass’s ascension to the throne of Jaltepec. At number 22 she is shown as the founder of a new dynasty, and at number 23 she is shown getting married.

All seemed to go well for a few years, and in due course the new royal family produced their first child, a boy. In rapid succession Lady Nine Wind gave birth to two more sons.

But something was not right.

For reasons that are not clear, in 1073 the three princes were taken to the city of Chalcatongo, a place of royal burials and the home of the powerful Oracle of the Dead, Lady Nine Grass. There, the three boys were sacrificed. We don’t know the reason, but it seems to have been with the understanding and support of Lady Nine Wind. But in that same year, a new royal child was born there: Lady Six Monkey. Unlike her brothers, Lady Six Monkey was blessed by the Oracle of the Dead, and formally named the heir to Jaltepec’s throne. As a further sign of support, the Oracle provided Six Monkey with a priestly tutor who went on to serve as an advisor to the royal family. This was the beginning of an important alliance that would shape Six Monkey’s rise to power.

Tilantongo and Jaltepec at War

For the next few years, relations between Tilantongo and Jaltepec remained relatively calm. There is even some indication that the young Lady Six Monkey was intended to marry the young ruler of Tilantongo, a boy-king named Lord Two Rain.

But again, something was not right.

By 1081, it is clear that the royal wedding between the young rulers of Tilantongo and Jaltepec was off, although the reasons and the timing were never spelled out. While the dynastic match made sense on paper, as a way to further integrate the families of these two rising powers, it is clear that there was an inherent tension underlying the process. For one, it has to be noted that Tilantongo’s ruling dynasty was on precarious grounds—no polity that has to crown a six-year-old boy as ruler is politically healthy. But also, this particular marriage would set up another generation where the ruler of Tilantongo would rank “beneath” that of Jaltepec, a situation that no doubt rankled the boy king.

Whatever the cause, the broken alliance was sparking a political crisis.

In 1081, Lord Two Rain conducted a religious ceremony to consult with the spirit of the deceased Lord Eight Wind (who had placed his daughter on the throne of Jaltepec some 40 years earlier). The boy king apparently received the deceased patriarch’s blessing to attack the kingdom of Jaltepec, overthrow its ruling dynasty, and rewrite the political map. Lord Two Rain activated his web of alliances and gathered an army, and selected one of his royal kinsmen to lead an invasion.

What followed was not just a major defeat, but a complete humiliation.

Lady Six Monkey’s father took command of Jaltepec’s forces. He swiftly checked the Tilantongo invasion force, and went on to lead a counter-attack that completely overwhelmed Tilantongo’s army. The Tilantongo captain was captured, and brought back to Jaltepec to be sacrificed as a prisoner of war.

At a stroke, Tilantongo’s political position collapsed. Its ruler was still a child, who had shown himself to be militarily inept and bereft of the gods’ blessings. Given the hit to Two Rain’s standing on the world stage, it was clear that it would be difficult to secure a different wedding match for him. Worse, the attack transformed Jaltepec from a middling rival to an implacable enemy. As she watched her father beat back the invaders, the young Lady Six Monkey was filled with growing hatred nearly every other political action of her life was taken to further squeeze Tilantongo.

A Fateful Marriage

A year after Tilantongo’s failed invasion, Lady Six Monkey began to take control of her destiny. Under advice from a trusted priest, she traveled in secret to Chalcatongo, the home of her benefactress the Oracle Lady Nine Grass. There she petitioned the oracle for help in formally nullifying her marriage contract with Two Rain, and selecting a husband more to her choosing.

In response, the oracle Lady Nine Grass called for a congress that was attended by representatives from most of the local kingdoms, including a young nobleman from Tilantongo named Lord Eight Deer. Eight Deer’s participation in this conference is a bit of an enigma—he was likely there to advocate for Tilantongo’s position, but some writers have speculated that he hoped to present himself as a potential suitor for Lady Six Monkey.

Behind the scenes, Six Monkey worked with the Oracle to propose a new match, and together they announced their decision. At the conference’s end, the Oracle Lady Nine Grass announced that Lady Six Monkey would marry Lord Eleven Wind… the ruler of the small, but venerable kingdom of Huachino.

There must have been gasps in the conference rooms.

With one stroke, Lady Nine Grass and Lady Six Monkey had completely upended Mixtec politics. This was a second marriage for Lord Eleven Wind—he already had at least two sons. More to the point, it forged a new alliance corridor linking Huachino and Jaltepec, creating a powerful joint kingdom right on Tilantongo’s border. Plus, it fused together the wealth and dynamic energy of a rising kingdom with the high status and exalted bloodline of an ancient kingdom.

Tilantongo’s humiliation was complete. And worse, it suddenly found itself surrounded by dangerous foes who were united against it.

As a side note, in the immediate aftermath of the conference at Chalcatongo, Lord Eight Deer of Tilantongo left the region to take control of a new kingdom to the south… the coastal kingdom of Tututepec. It is not clear if the Oracle Lady Nine Grass offered this new opportunity as recompense, or if she ordered him to Tututepec simply to send a pesky rival away. Nevertheless, he was forced to withdraw.

The power of Lady Six Monkey in making this happen is vividly laid out in the Codex Selden. In Mixtec writing, there is a standard convention used when a person is speaking to another—the speaker is shown with a curlicue symbol next to his or her mouth. It is assumed that all others facing the speaker are receiving the message. But in the scene shown in the Codex Selden, the scribe is very specific… the Oracle Lady Nine Grass is speaking, and there is an unbroken line of curlicues that goes over Lord Eleven Wind, and directly to his fiancée Lady Six Monkey. Depicted graphically, the two women are literally talking over his head, and making their plans as if he’s not really in the room.

Lady Nine Grass of Chalcatongo conferring with Lady Six Monkey, over the head of Six Monkey’s husband.

Lady Six Monkey was still relatively young, so the wedding did not take place immediately… it seems that all the players were content to have a long engagement while they consolidated power. But in due time the marriage was celebrated with all the expected royal splendor. During the festivities, the couple took part in a round dance, with the oracle Lady Nine Grass and several other divine avatars encircling the pair, signaling divine favor.

The only thing left was for Lady Six Monkey to be formally welcomed in her husband’s city of Huachino and crowned as ruling queen. But of course, things did not go as predicted.

Lady Six Monkey at War

In 1090, Six Monkey made preparations to make a grand entrance into Huachino to be formally installed. But first, she made the rounds of the kingdom, receiving homage from her subjects and establishing her public presence in her lands. The Oracle Lady Nine Grass had sent priests to accompany her as part of the royal procession, reinforcing the gods’ divine benevolence… and Chalcatongo’s political support.

Along the way, things got ugly. The Lords Six lizard and Two Alligator, rulers from two subject towns, publicly insulted the new queen. They barred her from entering their cities, and prepared for war to destroy her and the nascent Jaltepec-Huachino alliance.

In this first test to her royal authority, Lady Six Monkey sprang into action—decisive action was to become her calling card. She knew her position was precarious and her resources few. Therefore, she quickly led the bridal procession to Chalcatongo, to meet again with the Oracle Lady Nine Grass, her benefactor and patron. The Oracle quickly summoned Chalcatongo’s military forces, and personally provided Lady Six Monkey with the arms and armor to lead the troops into battle herself.

Lady Six Monkey (far right) receiving arms and soldiers from the oracular queen, Lady Nine Grass

Choosing to rely on speed and stealth, Six Monkey quickly moved against the rebel lords. In a series of rapid-fire engagements, Six Monkey caught the rebel lords off guard, isolating them from each other and crushing their forces in battle. She then went on to successfully attack each of the rebels’ strongholds. It was a complete success. Both rebel cities were sacked, and Six Monkey personally captured both the rebel leaders and marched them back to Jaltepec in humiliation.

Once home, Six Monkey arranged a large public ceremony. Standing in for head priest, she sacrificed Lord Two Alligator to the gods by cutting his heart from his chest.

Lady Six Monkey waging war, capturing enemies and leading them to Jaltepec for sacrifice.

Buoyed by her success, Six Monkey resumed her royal tour of the kingdom, receiving praise at every stop for her quick-thinking and military prowess. At last she made a triumphant entry to Huachino, where she received an ecstatic welcome. In a cunning bit of political theater, she marched the last of the rebel lords before her, and to the cheers of the crowd presented the captive to her new husband as a wedding gift. The rebel was subsequently sacrificed in a grand festival at Huachino’s main plaza.

A high priest from Chalcatongo helped oversee the coronation festival, which lasted many days. As part of the festivities, this priest bestowed a great, and rare honor on Lady Six Monkey—given her brilliant success in battle, he presented her with a quechquemitl (an upper garment worn by women) decorated with the Mixtec glyphs for war. He then turned, addressed the crowd and decreed that her personal name would henceforth be “War Blouse” or “War Shirt.” The name stuck, and every subsequent depiction of Six Monkey shows her wearing this fearsome garment.

Moves and Counter Moves

Flushed with success, Six Monkey and her new husband settled in to royal life in Huachino. It seems that from the beginning, they had a bold vision for the future—the creation of a large and expansive kingdom that transcended the poisonous, petty politics of La Mixteca and would come to dominate the entire region. This new kingdom would enforce its rule by military might, but also gain legitimacy from its exalted royal bloodline and the divine support sanctioned by the powerful oracle of Chalcatongo. In their first few years, everything seemed attainable. In 1092, two years after her triumphant entrance to Huachino, Six Monkey gave birth to a son, Lord Four Wind. Her second son was born three years later in 1095. The royal family seemed secure.

But of course, Six Monkey and her husband were wary. Neighboring Tilantongo had been weakened and humiliated, but it remained a potentially dangerous adversary… and one that might be driven by a sense of loss and desperation to lash out.

We see echoes of the political intrigue between these two rivals that boiled just under the surface, but very few specifics. But one curious incident suggest that things were happening behind the scenes. In 1096, the ill-fated Lord Two Rain of Tilantongo, the last ruler of the family’s founding dynasty, seems to have killed himself. The records are maddeningly unclear about why this happened, although his short reign was marked with reversals and calamities. Curiously, one scene showing his death and funeral rites features the priest Lord Seven Vulture, who seems to have been the same counselor that first advised Lady Six Monkey to go in secret to Chalcatongo to seek the oracle’s help in selecting a husband. Was there a connection?

Whether or not Six Monkey had any direct or indirect involvement in Two Rain’s death, she clearly hoped to benefit from it. His passing left the throne of Tilantongo vacant, further destabilizing this neighboring rival and perhaps providing an opening for a friendly (if not subordinate) ruler to be installed.

Modern day interpretations of what Lady Six Monkey (center) and Lady Nine Grass (left) would look like in full regalia.

This may have been Six Monkey’s hope, but events quickly spiraled out of her control. Other actors had also sensed an opportunity.

Lord Eight Deer, the Tilantongo noble who had left the fateful conference in Chalcatongo to take control of the southern new kingdom of Tututepec, sprang into action. Lord Two Rain’s death gave him a chance to return to Tilantongo, seize the throne, and use it as a power base to at last avenge the humiliations of the past decade.

What followed was a whirlwind series of political chess moves. Lord Eight Deer decided to build a new alliance with Toltec nobles in Central Mexico, building up trade alliances and providing military support for engagements in the north. He was ultimately successful in his negotiations, and his Toltec allies declared Lord Eight Deer a tecuhtli or lineage head in the Toltec tradition.

Eight Deer then returned to Tilantongo, where he was invested as new, founding ruler of the city’s second dynasty. With support from Tututepec and his new Toltec allies, Eight Deer was able to build an extensive network of alliances, which he used to subdue neighboring rivals and expand Tilantongo’s sphere of influence. Finally in 1098, he followed the example of Lady Six Monkey and sought divine favor by forging a lasting alliance with the Oracle of the Sun God at Achiutla. Within only a couple of years, Eight Deer had achieved the remarkable… he had linked Tilantongo with the most important Mixtec kingdom of the south, provided it with international alliances reaching into Central Mexico, and secured divine blessing from an important oracle.

Lady Six Monkey watched these developments with growing alarm. She realized the sudden reemergence of Tilantongo was a deadly threat to her plans, and prepared for action.

A Final Showdown

In the year 1100, Lady Six Monkey moved against Tilantongo, hoping to strike a blow against her rival before the Lord Eight Deer extended his power any further. An agent from Jaltepec-Huachino struck out against Eight Deer’s half-brother Lord Twelve Movement—one of Eight Deer’s most trusted and successful warleaders. One evening Twelve Movement was taking in a ritual steam bath. Six Monkey’s agent posed as an attendant, entered the dark chamber with a dagger hidden in a bundle of rushes… and at the moment Twelve Movement was most vulnerable, stabbed the warlord through the heart.

While Jaltepec-Huachino had existed in uneasy tension for many years, this was an open act of war.

Lady Six Monkey gathered up her forces and meant to strike a decisive blow before Lord Eight Deer could respond. Unfortunately, her legendary decisiveness and valor did not help her—Eight Deer was able to marshal his superior forces, and decisively crush her on the battlefield.

Lady Six Monkey and her husband Lord Eleven Wind chose to make their final stand in Huachino. But despite their valiant defense, they were no match for the combined forces of Eight Deer’s army. The city was overrun, and Six Monkey and Eleven Wind were captured.

Lord Eight Deer was in no mood to be merciful. Huachino was burned to the ground, and its ruins were never again inhabited. In a lurid public festival, Lady Six Monkey was marched into the main square and sacrificed to the gods—the same fate she had bestowed on her enemies many years before. As Eight Deer’s principal enemy, her execution was given pride of place in the victory celebrations, and her husband killed shortly thereafter.

Modern reconstruction of Lady Six Monkey, in royal regalia.

In the aftermath, Six Monkey’s oldest son, the eight-year-old boy Four Wind, was taken back to Tilantongo as an honored hostage. The boy was brought up under the watchful eye of Eight Deer, and forced to serve as an aide-de-camp in later campaigns. Lady Six Monkey’s youngest son, now age five, was installed as a puppet ruler in Jaltepec.

Eight Deer went on to become the most powerful ruler La Mixteca had ever seen. Six Monkey’s dream of a powerful, pan-Mixtec kingdom had come true… but it was led by the royal family of Tilantongo, not that of Jaltepec.

Lady Six Monkey’s story had come to an end, but there was a bit of an epilogue. In 1115, her young son Four Wind had come of age. He never forgot Eight Deer’s murder of his family and plotted to avenge his mother in secret. He ultimately raised an army of his own, defeated Eight Deer in battle, and had the great warlord sacrificed to the gods. A few years later Four Wind married one of Eight Deer’s daughters, finally uniting the royal bloodlines of Jaltepec, Tilantongo, and Huachino.

Lady Six Monkey was a remarkable ruler from a dangerous age. Even though she ultimately went down in defeat, her actions marked clear turning points in Mixtec history. As a result, for more than 400 years, Six Monkey was remembered—she was venerated as a historical figure, and held an exalted position in Mixtec historical consciousness. The stories of Six Monkey’s meteoric rise to power, and subsequent clashes with Eight Deer, remained some of the most popular stories in the Mixtecs’ historical canon, providing lessons and inspiration across generations.

Our History

Walmart as we know it today evolved from Sam Walton’s goals for great value and great customer service. “Mr. Sam,” as he was known, believed in leadership through service. This belief that true leadership depends on willing service was the principle on which Walmart was built, and drove the decisions the company has made for the past 50 years. So much of Walmart’s history is tied to the story of Sam Walton himself, and so much of our future will be rooted in Mr. Sam’s principles.

The Road to Walmart

Sam Walton was born in 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In 1942, at the age of 24, he joined the military. He married Helen Robson in 1943. When his military service ended in 1945, Sam and Helen moved to Iowa and then to Newport, Arkansas. During this time, Sam gained early retail experience, eventually operating his own variety store.

In 1950, the Waltons left Newport for Bentonville, where Sam opened Walton’s 5&10 on the downtown square. They chose Bentonville because Helen wanted small-town living, and Sam could take advantage of the different hunting seasons that living at the corner of four states had to offer.

Inspired by the early success of his dime store, and driven to bring even greater opportunity and value to his customers, Sam opened the first Walmart in 1962 at the age of 44 in Rogers, Arkansas.

Changing the Face of Retail

Sam's competitors thought his idea that a successful business could be built around offering lower prices and great service would never work. As it turned out, the company's success exceeded even Sam's expectations. The company went public in 1970, and the proceeds financed a steady expansion of the business. Sam credited the rapid growth of Walmart not just to the low costs that attracted his customers, but also to his associates. He relied on them to give customers the great shopping experience that would keep them coming back. Sam shared his vision for the company with associates in a way that was nearly unheard of in the industry. He made them partners in the success of the company, and firmly believed that this partnership was what made Walmart great.

As the stores grew, so did Sam's aspirations. In addition to bringing new approaches and technologies to retail, he also experimented with new store formats—including Sam's Club and the Walmart Supercenter—and even made the decision to take Walmart into Mexico. Sam's fearlessness in offering lower prices and bringing Walmart's value to customers in the U.S. and beyond set a standard for the company that lives on to this day. His strong commitment to service and to the values that help individuals, businesses and the country succeed earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

It was during Sam's acceptance remarks that he articulated what would come to be Walmart's official company purpose.

Today, "saving people money so they can live better" is the driving force behind everything we do.

10 Rules for Building a Better Business

Sam Walton believed running a successful business boils down to 10 simple rules and they helped Walmart become the global leader it is today. We continue to apply them to every part of our business. Read his 10 rules for building a better business »

Mr. Sam's Legacy

Sam Walton died in 1992, shortly after receiving the Medal of Freedom, but his legacy lives on. To this day, Walmart remains a leader in the retail industry. We are committed not just to expanding the business to better serve our customers, but also to improving the communities we serve through our efforts to constantly improve what we do and how we do it, and through the impacts we're able to achieve through the Walmart Foundation. Through this daily dedication to our business and our customers, we honor Mr. Sam.


Walmart's history is more than just the stores we've built, the partnerships we've made and the customers we've served. So much of our history is in the details. See how Walmart began, how we’ve grown and how our leadership has changed the retail industry.

The Lady Who Lives by the Sea

NOT LONG AGO, NBC newsman Sander Vanocur visited San Diego. This writer invited Vanocur and his wife to have dinner at Hotel Del Coronado. Just as the meal was served, he was paged for a long distance call. He came back in a few minutes, chuckling. The call, he said, bad been relayed from his hotel and was from a friend in Washington, D.C. The friend, an architect, had called long distance to say that by all means he, Vanocur, should make a point of visiting Del Coronado. “If you don’t,” the friend said, “you’ll miss one of the great experiences of a lifetime.”

The number of persons who, over the last 77 years, have visited and admired this great resort hotel is uncountable. Princes and politicians have stayed here, magnates and movie stars, presidents, honeymooners, retired ladies and fun-loving conventioneers have all had their own memories of the Lady by the Sea.

For there is something distinctly feminine about Hotel del Coronado. Says present owner Larry Lawrence, “It’s like having a love affair with a beautiful woman. Sometimes late at night, after a hard day, I’ll just roam through the halls. I feel like I’m having a date with my best girl.”

But this grand dame, this almost exquisite example of pure Norman architecture, wasn’t built because San Diego needed a hotel. It wasn’t built because in 1888 tourists were clamoring for a place to stay. Not at all. It was the biggest, fanciest, gaudiest real estate sign ever conceived. Not only that, as a hotel it was and is a work of art. As a real estate promotion it was only partially successful.

In the mid-1880’s as Richard F. Pourade has so ably documented in “The Glory Years,” Southern California was having its first big real estate boom. Land developments were springing up in the middle of sand and sagebrush, stirred by the new transcontinental railroad and rumors of other railoads.

Now in those days, if you wanted to sell land — especially barren, dusty California land — you built a hotel. Why? Well, you could draw up a prospectus that spoke glowingly of balmy temperatures and oranges in the front yard — and you could skirt carefully around the availability of water. But when you got right down to the old hard sell, you had to give that Eastern or Midwestern prospect something he could sink his teeth into. What better than a hotel?

Hotels, in the Innocent Years, spelled respectability. Often a town’s stature was measured by the size and opulence of its leading hotel. So the California real estate promoters built — or promised to build — hotels in the middle of the empty prairies. Hotels were built in Lakeside, Del Mar, National City, San Diego. Others were promised for such romantic developments as “Oneonta by the Sea (later to become San Ysidro). And the real estate brochures would say…� well appointed rooms. Running water on every floor. 35 baths and four telephones.”

In 1885, San Diego was yeasty and bubbling, convinced of future greatness. Population had zoomed from 2,400 to some 10,000 in one year. Into this winey atmosphere came two of the most unlikely hotel builders one could imagine. They were Elisha S. Babcock, retired railroad executive from Evansville, Indiana, and H. L. Story, of the Story and Clark Piano Company of Chicago.

How the two had met and, indeed, how well they knew each other, we don’t know. We do know they went to the barren Coronado peninsula (then un-named) to hunt jack rabbits. While there, Babcock grew excited over the possibilities of turning the area into a massive land promotion. As a railroad man, he knew something about Western land sales. After all, transcontinental lines were offering to transport you from Chicago to Los Angeles for as little as 990! They not only had their own land to sell — they wanted to help populate the West as quickly as possible.

On December 19th, 1885, Babcock, Story and Jacob Gruendike, president of the First National Bank of San Diego, bought all of Coronado and North Island for $110,000.

In early 1886, Rand McNally published a 24-page prospectus or real estate ad, if you will, titled “Coronado Beach. San Diego, California.” The first page reads: “The Coronado Beach Company has been organized with a capital of One Million Dollars, and with the following subsidiary companies.”

Coronado Beach and Water Company $500,000.00
San Diego and Coronado Ferry Company $100,000.00
Coronado Railroad Company $ 24,000.00

Listed as directors were Babcock, president, Story, vice-president and Jacob Gruendike. Also involved with the company by now were three men from Indiana, Josephus Collett, Heber Ingle and John Inglehart. Inglehart, a miller, later became famous through the development of Swansdown flour.

The prospectus, which was undoubtedly either written or supervised by Babcock, is a classic among early-day real estate promotions. The preface says, in part…”we have, however, done much — in fact we have left nothing undone — preparatory to offering of Coronado beach to the esthetic (sic) as an Elysium, the more practical and less critical as a home, to the invalid as a sanitarium, or to the fashionable as a seaside resort of unrivalled beauty.”

But it was when he described his great hotel that Babcock pulled out all the stops. Again, quoting the pamphlet in part:

“To a vast number of people, the word HOTEL has a double meaning. It signifies their home, as well as a place of temporary meals and lodging….Inside the Hotel Del Coronado, the guest is at once gratified and delighted with the perfection of all the appointments. You wonder if you are in a fairy palace or a hotel of the 19th Century. The soft Persian rugs, the Oriental tapestries, the antique design of the furniture, the luxurious baths, the odor of orange and pomegranate blossoms, all appeal to you and you join the throng of devotees to Coronado the Lovely….Close by the hotel is the lawn tennis court, and when the guests, costumed like the knights errant of olden time appear, you might imagine yourself transported to the court of Louis the 14th.”

There is more, a description of a typical dinner menu that would include “mackerel, smelts, barracuda — followed by quail, venison, canvas back duck and fresh vegetables grown every month of the year.”

All this when the only activity to be seen on the peninsula was a team of men burning brush, Babcock had made his brag. Now he had to live up to it.

Late in 1886, Babcock brought architect James Reid and his brother Merritt to San Diego. He gave them instructions to build a resort hotel that would be, to quote Reid, “the talk of the Western world.” Simultaneously, Babcock started selling land.

The first land auction was on November 13, 1886. More than six thousand people crossed the bay, some by skiff, others by launches, and the rest by Babcock’s ferry Coronado. The first parcel of land went to a San Diego attorney, Major Levi Chase. Reports are that he paid $1,600 and was offered $2,000 the same day. The auctions went forward, with balloon ascensions, offers of free water for a year, free tickets on the ferry and street railway system. Sales ran from $100,000 to $400,000 per month. Babcock was certain he had plenty of income to finish his grand hotel. He was almost right.

In 1938, to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hotel, Reid wrote a monograph recounting the start of the building. He wrote:

“At the time our story begins, the enterprise (Coronado land sales) was sufficiently developed to take part, in full swing, with the boom that was surging through the whole of Southern California. Mr. Babcock, who had kept in contact with the writer, was urging a visit to Coronado, and in December telegraphed most earnestly to come on, no matter how brief the stay. ‘Right here,’ Mr. Babcock said, ‘we must build a house that people will like to come to long after we are gone — I have no time, it’s all up to you.'”

Reid added that a stenographer was called and given this rough description:

“It would be built around a court…a garden of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers, with pleasant paths…balconies should look down on this court from every story. From the south end, the foyer should open to Glorietta Bay with verandas for rest and promenade. On the ocean comer there should be a pavilion tower, and northward along the ocean, a colonnade, terraced in grass to the beach. The dining wing should project at an angle from the southeast corner of the court and be almost detached, to give full value to the view of the ocean, bay and city.”

To construct a hotel that would meet Babcock’s dream posed some major problems to the Midwest architect. First, San Diego had no source of building material to even partly meet the demand. Here, Heber Ingle of Indiana, a retired lumber man, came into the picture. Ingle, Reid and Herman Shussler, a minority stockholder and a San Franciscan, met in San Francisco and contracted for exclusive rights to all lumber cut by the Dolbeer and Carson Lumber Company, one of the West’s largest.

For it was to be a building built of wood, Douglas fir, sugar pine, and redwood. There was brick and concrete, too. Reid built his own brick kiln, a planing mill, a metal shop and an iron works. There was good reason for the planing mill, as the timber from Northern California was rough cut and green. It had to be finished and cured in San Diego.

In March of 1887, Mrs. Babcock turned the first shovel of earth.

There was another shortage in San Diego, even in the boom days of 1887. This was a shortage of skilled carpenters. So Reid turned to unskilled labor. He said that it was not difficult to obtain good, unskilled labor, of the only kind there was, by applying to the Chinese Seven Companies in San Francisco. As many as could work were employed at once. A further paragraph underscored the boom feelings of the times:

“Realizing the difficulty of obtaining skilled workmen, where everyone was rich — or would be tomorrow — the foundations were started along the north front, as simpler in construction, progressing southward.”

Reid hoped he could train his coolie labor as he went along, but complained that he lacked competent foremen.

Despite the problems there is no doubt that Reid built a masterpiece. The Crown Room was his special pride. The ceiling is of sugar pine, fitted together with pegs and glue, without a nail in it. The shape was intended to be that of a king’s crown, except that — due to the length of the room — any king who wore it would have to have a very narrow head. When the Crown Room opened, February 19th, 1888, a reporter for The San Diego Union wrote: “This vast and elegant room, with its wealth of appointment, is a rare sight, especially under the brilliant incandescent lights that illuminate it. The polished floors, over which an army of trained servants noiselessly glide, the high inlaid ceilings, the snowy linen and the flitter of the silverware and glassware combine to make it a most charming picture. The room may have its equal…but it certainly is not surpassed anywhere.”

During the construction, Reid was also much concerned with water and with fire hazards. Babcock had formed the Coronado Beach Water Company, bringing water from Old Town wells by way of pipelines under San Diego Bay. Reid, though, was a cautious man. He installed two giant cisterns in the hotel basement, with concrete walls more than a foot thick. They were to store rain water, a plan that never came off. There are rumors that they were used to store a variety of alcoholic beverages during Prohibition. And there are further rumors that in the dead of night a truck pulled up to the hotel and a crew loaded such beverages aboard with instructions to proceed to the Spreckels mansion. But then, Hotel del Coronado has been the subject of quite a few rumors over the years.

Reid also installed gravity flow sprinklers, with tanks on the upper story. There were two-wheel fire carts, many now still in usable condition. In 1916, the gravity flow sprinklers were replaced by 12,000 Grinnell pressure sprinklers, giving the hotel even today one of the lowest fire insurance rates in the country. They do add another mild annoyance. Resident manager Carleton Lichty says that at almost every convention some merry conventioneer will decide to find out if the sprinklers really work. So, he lights a newspaper, holds it near a sprinkler and gets a free shower bath.

Reid added some other innovations. He installed an oil furnace, one of the first in the world. The infant oil companies of the Los Angeles area built special tankers to carry fuel to Coronado.

Del Coronado was the first hotel in the world to have electric lighting throughout. But Reid, the Midwesterner, was a man to copper his bets. The electric wiring ran inside gas lines, so if the new-fangled electricity didn’t work, they could always pipe gas to the rooms. It did work, so well that some of the original cables were only pulled out in the spring of 1965. The steam electric plant supplied the entire city of Coronado with power until the mid-20’s. Thomas Edison inspected the final installation, as a guest of the new hotel.

In February of 1888, the hotel opened for business and 1,440 persons traveled from San Diego just to see the great hotel — even though it would be two years before the entire structure would be finished.

Already, reservations had been made by the wealthy travelers of the day. The San Diego Union reported that even before the opening:

“A suite of nine rooms was prepared for occupancy by Nelson Morris, the great cattle king, and Don A. Sweet, assistant to the vice president of the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe.”

In the December 22nd issue of Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a correspondent identified only as D.J.K. told of a visit to the hotel earlier that year. He wrote glowingly of Babcock and added:

“The story of Aladdin and his wonderful palace, built in a single night, comes closer to being realized into actual fact upon this Coronado beach than possibly any other place on earth known to man.”

Some several hundred equally fullsome words later, he compared the hotel’s inner court to the gardens of Versailles.

But Babcock, who courted the press, and Story, who did not, were in trouble. They were getting a good press but they owned a white elephant. In fact, Babcock didn’t have enough money to finish the hotel. The boom of the 80’s had busted. You couldn’t give real estate away. People were leaving San Diego in exact ratio to how they could find the money and the means to get out of town.

A few more months and the glittering castle could have become the most expensive billboard ever built, a ghostly landmark to a real estate promotion that failed — to burn to the ground on a empty prairie — as with the stately Lakeside Hotel, or to live half empty until the wrecking crew came — as did many another early promoter’s venture.

The difference was a man whose name rings through much of San Diego’s history, John D. Spreckels. Spreckels was already involved in San Diego business and he obviously must have liked Babcock’s style. The two became involved in a costly San Diego street car system. Babcock got Spreckels interested in a salt refinery in the South Bay. Spreckels loaned Babcock $100,000 to finish the hotel, money that was never repaid.

The historians of the time were charitable of what was happening. They chronicle Babcock’s efforts to keep Coronado from being a part of San Diego City. They tell of the many times Mrs. Babcock appeared as a leader at charity functions and of Babcock himself leading the pack at the Sunday morning rabbit hunts. But the cold facts are that in July of 1889, Spreckels bought out Story’s interest in the hotel for $511,050.

In 1890, Babcock sold his interest in the Coronado Water Company to an English firm — and then spent many months defending himself against outraged San Diegans who resented this foreign intrusion. In 1893, Spreckels took over the San Diego Street Car Company and within a year later, the sugar millionaire owned Del Coronado outright. What money changed hands, if any, is not readily known.

Hotel literature of the period listed Spreckels as owner, Elisha Babcock as manager.

Even this was to change. By the early 1900’s, the manager is shown as John J. Herman, the owner as Spreckels.

Another of the rumors about the Lady by the Sea is that Spreckels and Babcock had a falling out — that the sugar millionaire grew to distrust the sharp promoter he had admired. Again, this is merely rumor. It seems safe to assume that the dynamic Babcock, seeing the one great dream of his life slip away, did not take easily to the role of second place in his dream hotel. We only know that he left the hotel, later to practice law. For one glittering moment he had been a millionaire. But he kept his word and put it all into the grand hotel.

Hotel del Coronado remained with the Spreckels family until April 1, 1948.

The great and the near-great and the common every day tourist began to flock to the grand hotel. Private railroad cars slid smoothly up the Silver Strand to deposit financiers and their families, while visitors from all over Southern California enjoyed the simpler accommodations of Tent City. Five Presidents have stayed at the Del, starting with Benjamin Harrison in 1891 and including McKinley, Taft, Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At the turn of the century, the hotel was literally San Diego’s biggest single industry.

Tourism, at the turn of the century, was something more than just visiting new places. Travelers, especially the wealthy, did so for their health, believing that salt air and balmy breezes would cure asthma and gout and other minor medical disturbances. And the hotel was quick to seize on these beliefs. Along with advertising San Diego’s salubrious climate…the management offered a variety of mild and vigorous forms of exercise…and especially bottled mineral water. It didn’t matter that the health-giving water was really from the wells in Old Town, a chemist certified that it did really contain a variety of chemicals supposedly beneficial to man. The water was hard even then.

To help guests become physically fit, tennis courts were built…the first ones being across the street. Later, when tide action built up the seaward side, the present courts were added. There was a salt water plunge and in the early part of the century…the present Olympic size pool was built, one of the last salt water pools on the West Coast.

There were other forms of exercise and diversion. The Yacht Club was completed shortly after the main structure…and there was sailing, boating and deep sea fishing. By the early 1900’s, a group of dashing Navy officers had organized a polo team. The more sedentary could visit the ostrich farm and buy a souvenir plume or stroll through the “Japanese Tea Garden.” The hotel also boasted a billiards room and men and women’s bowling alleys in what is now the downstairs shopping area.

But perhaps the most charming bit of Victorian style physical activities were the regular rabbit hunts. Guests would dress in a variety of English hunting attire or cowboy outfits to go galloping over the sand dunes…chasing jack rabbits.

In the twenties, two things happened to help spread the fame of the already popular hotel. The Prince of Wales attended a ball at the hotel, causing a major social flap in unsophisticated San Diego. An interesting sidelight is that Mrs. Wally Simpson, for whom he was to relinquish his throne years later, also attended the ball.

At the same time, a young, carefree Hollywood discovered Del Coronado. For the stars of the silent screen, the Hotel Del was the “in” place to go. Tom Mix, Charley Chaplin, Ramon Navarro and scores more made the pilgrimage…many to go on to the Caliente Casino, where a teen-aged Rita Hayworth danced with her father. This affection of and for theatrical personalities hasn’t ended. On any given weekend, it’s not unusual to see a movie or television star at poolside or strolling through the lobby.

At least two full length movies have used the hotel as a backdrop. In 1935, Coronado’s own Johnny Downs starred in the musical, “Coronado” and in 1958 Billy Wilder chose the hotel as a setting for “Some Like It Hot.” Old-timers in Hollywood remember that the hotel was often used for silent comedies and location shooting.

In the period from 1948 to 1960, the grand lady began to grow shabby. The basic architecture remained superb, but the interior showed lack of care. The furniture was a combination of sagging wicker, 1920 overstaffed, 1930 chrome and 1950 Grand Rapids. A slightly musty air of neglect hung about the upper rooms.

Then, in 1960, Hotel del Coronado had its second great rejuvenation, from another millionaire, John Alessio. In all, Alessio spent some two million dollars in redecorating and refurbishing. Most of this went into the interior, with special wallpaper, carpets woven to order, a spruced up lobby, new private dining rooms and a plush new bar. A leading Hollywood scenic designer, Al Goodman, supervised the work…attacking the problem as he would a stage set. The result is a return to the basic Norman style Reid had conceived, without sacrifice of comfort.

The present owner, Larry Lawrence, who acquired the hotel in October, 1963, has continued to clean and remodel, with two full-time painters busy 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.

We’d venture to guess that could Elisha Babcock come back to Hotel del Coronado today, he’d think his “fairy palace” was a true reality.

Hotel del Coronado ad text follows:

Hotel Del Coronado
Coronado, San Diego County, California

A Building as Notable for Internal Comfort as for Size and Elegance.

This gorgeous structure of Oriental magnificence stands on the Southeastern portion of a beautiful mesa, overlooking the ocean. The design is a combination of old classical architecture, so modernized and modified as to partake of the excellencies of the different schools it represents. The whole has been so successfully harmonized as to produce a structure remarkable for its size, symmetry and grandeur. It is three, four and five stories high and is the admiration of all who are so fortunate as to visit it.

The Hotel del Coronado, too, is as famous for the physical comfort and enjoyment it furnishes as for its immense size, its fine situation and its lovely surroundings. Everything is provided that the heart can wish, both as to diet, recreation and exercise.

The building is grouped around a quadrangular court of 150 by 250 feet, which is exquisitiely beautiful and already noted for the variety of its tropical and subtropical shrubs and plants. It is said to be unequaled either in Europe or America. Each of its four fronts is a really handsome facade, and the one facing the ocean is encased in glass. The grounds in front of it are terraced down to the very beach, where the waves of the gentle Pacific sometimes overleap their limits to steal a kiss from the bright green grass that there fringes on the skirts of Mother Earth.

All who have visited Coronado are loud in its praises, and seem at a loss to find language sufficiently strong to express their great admiration of the many charms of this locality, the magnificence of its gorgeous Hotel and the amount of varied comfort and enjoyment provided for the guests. As a real sanitarium, and a pleasant all-the-year-round resort, Coronado is believed to be unrivalled. The atmosphere is mild, dry and as pure as that of the primeval paradise. The temprerature iseldom reaches 80 o and owing to the dryness of the climate, that is quite as pleasant here as 60 o where it is humid. The difference of the summer and winter temperature is comparatively small — so small indeed, that woolen clothing is comforable all the year round, and blankets are always used at night. From April to October there is seldom andy rain here, and during the othermonths there are some months there are some 20 rainy days, or rather nights, for the rain falls mostly at night. Here the whole year may be said to be almost one continuous summmer, for flowers and fruits continue to grow simultaneously nearly all the year and the vegetation, both of temperate and semi-tropical climes, grows here luxuriantly. The regular daily alternating movement of the winds is here a grand preventive of disease and hay fever that much dreaded and insidious affection, cannot exist here. This climate is a specific both for hay fever, asthma and other ailments of the respiratory organs. The discovery, about a year ago, of inexhaustible springs of pure and wholesome mineral water on the property of the company, was a most fortunate one it is in general use among the guests, and has proved of great value, as the water has remarkable curative properties, especially in kidney and bladder ailments. Hundreds have been cured of troubles, which had long resisted medical treatment, by using Coronado Natural Water simply as a beverage. This provision of Nature in so bountifully supplying these springs with an endless volume of pure, wholesome water, stamps Coronado as a sanitarium that has no equal, as well as a delightul retreat, where life is a continual pleasure.

Number and area of some of the principal rooms.

Number of rooms, 750.
Dining Room seat 1000 persons.
30 Billiard Tables – four for ladies.
Floor area, 7 1/2 acres.
Ball-Room area, 11,000 sq. feet.
Breakfast Room area, 4,860 ft.
2,500 Incandescent Lights
Four 85-Foot Bowling Alleys.

Yet with all the magnificent splendor, elegant surroundings, and the other excellencies afforded at this charming place, the rates here are as moderate as those of any ordinary hotel, ranging from $2.00 per day and upwards by the month transients from $3.00 per day and upwards, according to room.

[This electronic issue of the Journal was scanned and proofread by Society volunteer Cassius Zedaker.]

The Great Exhibition 1851

It is Queen Victoria’s husband Albert who is normally credited with being the driving force behind the Great Exhibition of 1851, but it appears that just as much praise for organising this remarkable event should also be bestowed upon one Henry Cole.

At the time Henry’s day job was as an assistant record keeper at the Public Records Office, but he had lots of other interests to including writing, editing and publishing journals. Henry’s major passions appear to have been industry and the arts, and he combined both of these as editor of the Journal of Design. The journal encouraged artists to apply their designs to everyday articles which could then be mass-produced and sold to the great unwashed.

In 1846, in his role as a council member of the Society of Arts, Henry was introduced to Prince Albert. It appears that Henry and the prince got on well as not long afterwards the society received a Royal Charter and changed its name to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce.

With its raison d’être now clearly defined the society arranged several relatively small exhibitions to promote their cause. No doubt impressed by the much larger scale of the French ‘Industrial Exposition’ of 1844, Henry sought Prince Albert’s support to stage a similar event in England.

Initially there was little interest in the concept of an exhibition by the government of the day undeterred by this Henry and Albert continued to develop their idea. They wanted it to be for All Nations, the greatest collection of art in industry, ‘for the purpose of exhibition of competition and encouragement’, and most significantly it was to be self-financing.

Under increasing public pressure the government reluctantly set up a Royal Commission to investigate the idea. Pessimism appears to have been quickly replaced by enthusiasm when somebody explained to the ‘powers that be’ the concept of a self-financing event. That now understood, national pride dictated that the exhibition must bigger and better than anything those Frenchies could organise.

A competition was organised to design a building that would not only be large enough, but be of sufficient grandeur to house the event. The firm of Fox and Henderson eventually won the contract, submitting plans based upon a design by Joseph Paxton. Paxton’s design had been adapted from a glass and iron conservatory he had originally produced for the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth House.

The issue of a suitable venue was settled when the Duke of Wellington backed the idea of Hyde Park in central London. The design of the impressive glass and iron conservatory, or Crystal Palace as it would more popularly become known, was amended to accommodate the parks rather large elm trees before building finally began.

It took around 5,000 navvies to erect the 1,850 feet (564 m) long, 108 feet (33 m) high structure. But the work was completed on time and the Great Exhibition was opened by Queen Victoria on 1st May 1851.

The exhibits included almost every marvel of the Victorian age, including pottery, porcelain, ironwork, furniture, perfumes, pianos, firearms, fabrics, steam hammers, hydraulic presses and even the odd house or two.

Although the original aim of the world fair had been as a celebration of art in industry for the benefit of All Nations, in practice it appears to have been turned into more of a showcase for British manufacturing: more than half the 100,000 exhibits on display were from Britain or the British Empire.

The opening of the Great Expedition in 1851 just happened to coincide with the building of another great innovation of the Industrial Revolution. Visiting London had only just become feasible for the masses thanks to the new railway lines that had spread across the country. Church and works outings from across the country were organised to see the “Works of Industry of All Nations” all housed in Paxton’s sparkling Crystal Palace.

Queen Victoria opens the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in Hyde Park

The Great Exhibition of 1851 ran from May to October and during this time six million people passed through those crystal doors. The event proved to be the most successful ever staged and became one of the defining points of the nineteenth century.

Not only was the event self-financing, it even turned in a small profit. Enough in fact for Henry Cole to realise his dream of a complex of museums on an estate in South Kensington which now houses the Science, Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums, as well as the Imperial College of Science, the Royal Colleges of Art, Music and Organists and not forgetting the Albert Hall!

And what became of the Crystal Palace itself? Paxton’s clever design not only allowed the building to be quickly erected but disassembled too. And so shortly after the exhibition, the whole structure was removed from Hyde Park site and re-erected at Sydenham, then a sleepy hamlet in the Kent countryside, now a multi-ethnic part of South East London.

The future for Paxton’s Palace atop Sydenham Hill was however not a happy one. After being put to a variety of uses in the years that followed, the building was finally destroyed by fire on the 30th November 1936. The flames are said to have lit up the night sky and were visible for miles.

Sadly, the building was not adequately insured to cover the cost of rebuilding it. Very little evidence remains of this wonder of the Victorian Age except the foundations and some stone­work. The memory of the glorious past survives today however, as that sleepy Kent hamlet eventually became part of Greater London and the surrounding area came to be known as Crystal Palace.

The Lady’s Not a Tramp: History's Greatest Courtesans

For most of recorded history, women had just a handful of options open to them: they could marry (hopefully to men of means), they could teach, they could join convents, or they could do something a little more exciting &helliplike becoming mistresses to the rich and famous. These eight are among history&rsquos best-known high-class ladies of the night.

1. PHRYNE (Four th Century BC)

As a child, she was called Mnesarete (Greek for "virtue"), but because she was born with sallow skin, she was called Phryne (Greek for "toad"). Still, Phryne became the most successful and sought-after courtesan in ancient Greece, commanding 100 times the going rate. Supposedly, she was even the model for the sculpture called Aphrodite of Cnidus, one of the most famous works of Greek art.

Lust Rewards: Phryne became incredibly rich thanks to her liaisons with powerful men in Athens. According to legend, she even offered to pay to rebuild the city walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC, but there was a condition: the new wall had to contain the inscription &ldquoDestroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan.&rdquo Her offer was declined.

Around 340 BC, Phryne was accused of affronting the gods by appearing nude during a religious ceremony. At her trial, the orator Hyyperides -her defender and also one of her lovers- ripped open Phryne&rsquos robe and exposed her to the court. Why? He considered it a legitimate defense. She was, after all, the most beautiful woman in Athens, and someone that gorgeous must be on good terms with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, no matter what codes of conduct she appeared to have broken. It worked. The judges ruled in Phryne&rsquos favor.

2. THEODORA (497-548)

Theodora&rsquos father died when she was young, so her mother sent the girl to work, first as an actress and then as a prostitute.

Theodora became the mistress to a politician named Hecebolus and then caught the eye of Justinian I, the emperor&rsquos nephew. Justinian was so enamored with Theodora that he wanted to marry her, but Byzantine law forbade royals from marrying mere actresses (and prostitutes, presumably), so his uncle changed the law and Justinian and Theodora became husband and wife.

Lust Rewards: Justinian ascended to the throne in 527, and together he and his wife ruled Byzantium (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire). Theodora proved to be a gifted politician -she helped to create a new constitution to curb corruption, expand the rights of women in divorce, closed brothels, and founded convents for former prostitutes. When she died at around the age of 50, she had been empress of Byzantium for more than 20 years. Historians consider her to be the most influential and powerful woman in the empire&rsquos 1,100-year history.

3. VERONICA FRANCO (1546-91)

Like mother, like daughter: Veronica Franco was the privileged offspring of Venetian courtesan Paola Fracassa. She studied Greek and Roman literature and learned to play the lute. After marrying and divorcing a doctor, Franco consorted with politicians, artists, philosophers, and poets. She became an accomplished poet herself and celebrated her sexual prowess in writing -her book Familiar Letters (published in 1580) was a collection of 50 letters written to her lovers, including King Henry III of France and the Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto.
Lust Rewards: In the 1570s, Franco lost most of her money to thieves, but it was her overt sexuality that was her undoing. In 1580, she was charged with immorality and witchcraft by the Roman Inquisition courts. She managed to avoid conviction by giving an eloquent speech in her defense, and then a wealthy patron named Domenico Nenier came to her aid. She never regained her former glory, though: Veronico Franco lived out the rest of her life in a section of Venice populated by destitute prostitutes.

4. NELL GWYNNE (1650-87)

Eleanor &ldquoNell&rdquo Gwynne had a troubled childhood in London: Her father left the family when she was young, and her mother drowned in a pond after a drinking binge. Young Nell sold oranges to get by, but by the time she was 15, she&rsquod also started working as an actress. Famous playwright John Dryden wrote roles for her, and she proved to be a comedic talent. With fame cam wealthy men -eventually, Gwynne became a courtesan, cohabiting with members of the English nobility, including Charles Sackville, the sixth Earl of Dorset, and King Charles II.

Lust Rewards: Gwynne&rsquos main man was King Charles II, and she was his mistress exclusively from about 1670 until he died in 1685. They had two sons, and Charles built her a mansion near Windsor Castle. On his deathbed, Charles pleaded with his brother, James II, to &ldquonot let poor Nell starve.&rdquo James II carried out those wishes, proving for Nell Gwynne until her death two years later in 1687.

5. CORA PEARL (1835-86)

Emma Crouch was born in Plymouth, England, to a British musician and womanizer who deserted his family and moved to America. At around the age of 20, Emma worked as a milliner, dabbling in prostitution to augment her low wages. During this time, she met Robert Bignell, owner of a dance hall, and became his mistress. He took her to Paris, where she was enamored with the 19th-century Bohemian atmosphere. When Bignell returned to England, Emma stayed behind, changed her name to Cora Pearl, and became the city&rsquos most famous courtesan.

Lust Rewards: Cora Pearl had a series of lovers in high places, including the French statesman Duc de Morny, the half-brother of Napoleon III, and the Prince of Orange, heir to the throne of the Netherlands, who gave her a string of black pearls that became her signature ornament.

Pearl was known for her decadent ways -she once had waiters carry her naked on a silver plate into a fancy dinner, and she sometimes bathed in a tub of champagne in front of her dinner guests. But a shooting at one of her mansions led to her expulsion from France. She ended up indigent, living in a boardinghouse, where she died at age 51 of stomach cancer. In her memoirs, she left no regrets: &ldquoI am far from posing as a victim it would be ungrateful for me to do so. I ought to have saved, but saving is not easy in such a whirl of excitement as that in which I have lived.&rdquo


When Jeanne-Antionette Poisson was nine years old, her mother took her to see a fortune teller, who said that the little girl would grow up to be the mistress of a king. That seemed unlikely for the daughter of a disgraced French financier and a courtesan, but Jeanne-Antionette eventually made good on the prophesy. In 1745, she was invited to a costume ball at the Palace of Versailles. Jeanne-Antionette dressed as a shepherdess -King Louis XV was dressed as a tree. Within a month, she was his mistress.

Lust Rewards: Louis gave Jeanne-Antionette her own coat of arms and the title &ldquoMarquise de Pompadour,&rdquo or Madame de Pompadour. Louis doted on her, and Madame de Pompadour spent fortunes on gems, art, and ornate porcelain. She also became one of Louis&rsquo foreign policy advisors, and even encouraged him to fight the Seven Years&rsquo War with England, which ended in France&rsquos defeat. The public blamed her for the war&rsquos devastation, but Louis remained loyal to her. She died in 1764, still a member of the royal court.

7. MATA HARI (1876-1917)

By the time Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod was 18, she&rsquod married a Dutch colonial army officer who was twice her age and moved with him to the Dutch East Indies. They had two children, but their marriage was on the rocks from the start- Margaretha liked the company of other men, and he liked to drink. Eventually, they divorced, and with little money and no skills, Margaretha turned to dancing and prostitution to make ends meet. In 1902, she moved to Paris, where she gained fame as an exotic dancer. Two years later, she was a sensation, flaunting her sexuality with Indonesian-derived dance and a new name: Mata Hari.

Lust Rewards: Mata Hari became the mistress of wealthy industrialist Emile Etienne Guimet, and she was famous for a cabaret striptease in which she was left wearing only a bejeweled bra and an ornamental headdress and armbands. But she still had ties to the Netherlands, which allowed free entry into Germany. And as the Germans and French got entrenched in World War I, she became an object of concern for the French military.

No one has ever proved that Mata Hari was (or wasn&rsquot) a German spy. According to some researchers, she took money to spy on the French because she was drowning in debt, but never actually participated in any espionage. Others claim she was a German operative with the code name of H-21. Whatever the truth, she was arrested and executed by firing squad in 1917 at the age of 41. Documents concerning her trial have been sealed, not to be opened until 2017. Stay Tuned.

8. SHADY SADIE (1861-1944)

The closest thing the wild American West has to a famous courtesan is Josephine &ldquoSadie&rdquo Marcus. At 18, Josephine ran away from home to join a traveling theater company as a dancer. While on tour, she romanced Tombstone, Arizona, deputy sheriff Johnny Behan she liked the area so much that she moved there and became a prostitute, earning her the nickname &ldquoShady Sadie.&rdquo

Lust Rewards: In her early 20s, Sadie met famed lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp, who already had a common-law wife named Mattie Blaylock. But Blaylock was addicted to laudanum -an opiate used to treat headaches- and Shady Sadie won Earp&rsquos heart. No marriage records exist, but Sadie adopted the name Earp by 1882, and the couple traveled the West, gambling, hunting for gold and silver, operating saloons as far north as Alaska, and running horse races in San Diego.

Wyatt Earp died in 1929, but Shady Sadie lived until 1944. When she passed away, she was cremated, and her ashes were interred with Wyatt&rsquos remains in Colma, California.

The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader History's Lists. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium

For the past year  I have been working with Britain’s BBC television to make a documentary series on the history of women. In the latest round of filming there was an incident that haunts me. It took place during a segment on the social changes that affected Chinese women in the late 13th century.

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These changes can be illustrated by the practice of female foot-binding. Some early evidence for it comes from the tomb of Lady Huang Sheng, the wife of an imperial clansman, who died in 1243. Archaeologists discovered tiny, misshapen feet that had been wrapped in gauze and placed inside specially shaped “lotus shoes.” For one of my pieces on camera, I balanced a pair of embroidered doll shoes in the palm of my hand, as I talked about Lady Huang and the origins of foot-binding. When it was over, I turned to the museum curator who had given me the shoes and made some comment about the silliness of using toy shoes. This was when I was informed that I had been holding the real thing. The miniature “doll” shoes had in fact been worn by a human. The shock of discovery was like being doused with a bucket of freezing water.

Foot-binding is said to have been inspired by a tenth-century court dancer named Yao Niang who bound her feet into the shape of a new moon. She entranced Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a six-foot golden lotus festooned with ribbons and precious stones. In addition to altering the shape of the foot, the practice also produced a particular sort of gait that relied on the thigh and buttock muscles for support. From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Gradually, other court ladies—with money, time and a void to fill—took up foot-binding, making it a status symbol among the elite.

A small foot in China, no different from a tiny waist in Victorian England, represented the height of female refinement. For families with marriageable daughters, foot size translated into its own form of currency and a means of achieving upward mobility. The most desirable bride possessed a three-inch foot, known as a “golden lotus.” It was respectable to have four-inch feet—a silver lotus—but feet five inches or longer were dismissed as iron lotuses. The marriage prospects for such a girl were dim indeed.

Lui Shui Ying (right) had her feet bound in the 1930s, after the custom fell out of favor. (Jo Farrell ) The author holds a pair of tiny “lotus shoes” common before the practice was banned. (Andrew Lichtenstein) Photographer Jo Farrell set out to document some of the last living women in rural China with bound feet for her series, “Living History.” Among them: Zhang Yun Ying, 88. (Jo Farrell ) “In the past year alone, three of the women I have been documenting have died,” Farrell noted on a Kickstarter page she posted last year to raise funds for her project. (Jo Farrell ) “I feel it is now imperative to focus on recording their lives before it is too late,” Farrell wrote. Ping Yao Lady (above) was photographed at age 107. ( Jo Farrell) The aim of her project, Farrell says, “is to capture and celebrate a piece of history that is currently rarely shown and will soon be lost forever.” (Above: Zhang Yun Ying, 88.) ( Jo Farrell) Farrell worked with a local translator to get the women (above: Zhang Yun Ying and Ping Yao Lady) to tell their stories. (Jo Farrell ) The women in Farrell’s photos are “peasant farmers working off the land in rural areas away from City life depicted so often in academia on foot binding,” she writes. (Jo Farrell ) Filming a documentary series on the history of women, Foreman at first believed she was holding doll shoes—she was stunned to learn that they had in fact been worn by a human. (Andrew Lichtenstein) Author Amanda Foreman compares a pair of the “lotus shoes” with her hand. (Andrew Lichtenstein)

As I held the lotus shoes in my hand, it was horrifying to realize that every aspect of women’s beauty was intimately bound up with pain. Placed side by side, the shoes were the length of my iPhone and less than a half-inch wider. My index finger was bigger than the “toe” of the shoe. It was obvious why the process had to begin in childhood when a girl was 5 or 6.

First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape. Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bent double. Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide. These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus from infecting the foot. Sometimes “excess” flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot. The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches. Over time the wrappings became tighter and the shoes smaller as the heel and sole were crushed together. After two years the process was complete, creating a deep cleft that could hold a coin in place. Once a foot had been crushed and bound, the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again.

As the practice of foot-binding makes brutally clear, social forces in China then subjugated women. And the impact can be appreciated by considering three of China’s greatest female figures: the politician Shangguan Wan’er (664-710), the poet Li Qing-zhao (1084-c.1151) and the warrior Liang Hongyu (c.1100-1135). All three women lived before foot-binding became the norm. They had distinguished themselves in their own right—not as voices behind the throne, or muses to inspire others, but as self-directed agents. Though none is well known in the West, the women are household names in China.

Shangguan began her life under unfortunate circumstances. She was born the year that her grandfather, the chancellor to Emperor Gaozong, was implicated in a political conspiracy against the emperor’s powerful wife, Empress Wu Zetian. After the plot was exposed, the irate empress had the male members of the Shangguan family executed and all the female members enslaved. Nevertheless, after being informed of the 14-year-old Shangguan Wan’er’s exceptional brilliance as a poet and scribe, the empress promptly employed the girl as her personal secretary. Thus began an extraordinary 27-year relationship between China’s only female emperor and the woman whose family she had destroyed. 

Wu eventually promoted Shangguan from cultural minister to chief minister, giving her charge of drafting the imperial edicts and decrees. The position was as dangerous as it had been during her grandfather’s time. On one occasion the empress signed her death warrant only to have the punishment commuted at the last minute to facial disfigurement. Shangguan survived the empress’s downfall in 705, but not the political turmoil that followed. She could not help becoming embroiled in the surviving progeny’s plots and counterplots for the throne. In 710 she was persuaded or forced to draft a fake document that acceded power to the Dowager Empress Wei. During the bloody clashes that erupted between the factions, Shangguan was dragged from her house and beheaded.

A later emperor had her poetry collected and recorded for posterity. Many of her poems had been written at imperial command to commemorate a particular state occasion. But she also contributed to the development of the “estate poem,” a form of poetry that celebrates the courtier who willingly chooses the simple, pastoral life. 

Shangguan is considered by some scholars to be one of the forebears of the High Tang, a golden age in Chinese poetry. Nevertheless, her work pales in significance compared with the poems of Li Qingzhao, whose surviving relics are kept in a museum in her hometown of Jinan—the “City of Springs”—in Shandong province.

Li lived during one of the more chaotic times of the Song era, when the country was divided into northern China under the Jin dynasty and southern China under the Song. Her husband was a mid-ranking official in the Song government. They shared an intense passion for art and poetry and were avid collectors of ancient texts. Li was in her 40s when her husband died, consigning her to an increasingly fraught and penurious widowhood that lasted for another two decades. At one point she made a disastrous marriage to a man whom she divorced after a few months. An exponent of ci poetry—lyric verse written to popular tunes, Li poured out her feelings about her husband, her widowhood and her subsequent unhappiness. She eventually settled in Lin’an, the capital of the southern Song.

Li’s later poems became increasingly morose and despairing. But her earlier works are full of joie de vivre and erotic desire. Like this one attributed to her:

. I finish tuning the pipes
face the floral mirror
thinly dressed
crimson silken shift
over icelike flesh
in snowpale cream
glistening scented oils
and laugh
to my sweet friend
you are within
my silken curtains
your pillow, your mat
will grow cold.

Literary critics in later dynasties struggled to reconcile the woman with the poetry, finding her remarriage and subsequent divorce an affront to Neo-Confucian morals. Ironically, between Li and her near-contemporary Liang Hongyu, the former was regarded as the more transgressive. Liang was an ex-courtesan who had followed her soldier-husband from camp to camp. Already beyond the pale of respectability, she was not subjected to the usual censure reserved for women who stepped beyond the nei —the female sphere of domestic skills and household management—to enter the wei , the so-called male realm of literary learning and public service.

Liang grew up at a military base commanded by her father. Her education included military drills and learning the martial arts. In 1121, she met her husband, a junior officer named Han Shizhong. With her assistance he rose to become a general, and together they formed a unique military partnership, defending northern and central China against incursions by the Jurchen confederation known as the Jin kingdom.

In 1127, Jin forces captured the Song capital at Bianjing, forcing the Chinese to establish a new capital in the southern part of the country. The defeat almost led to a coup d’état, but Liang and her husband were among the military commanders who sided with the beleaguered regime. She was awarded the title “Lady Defender” for her bravery. Three years later, Liang achieved immortality for her part in a naval engagement on the Yangtze River known as the Battle of Huangtiandang. Using a combination of drums and flags, she was able to signal the position of the Jin fleet to her husband. The general cornered the fleet and held it for 48 days.

Liang and Han lie buried together in a tomb at the foot of Lingyan Mountain. Her reputation as a national heroine remained such that her biography was included in the 16th-century Sketch of a Model for Women by Lady Wang, one of the four books that became the standard Confucian classics texts for women’s education.  

Though it may not seem obvious, the reasons that the Neo-Confucians classed Liang as laudable, but not Shangguan or Li, were part of the same societal impulses that led to the widespread acceptance of foot-binding. First and foremost, Liang’s story demonstrated her unshakable devotion to her father, then to her husband, and through him to the Song state. As such, Liang fulfilled her duty of obedience to the proper (male) order of society.

The Song dynasty was a time of tremendous economic growth, but also great social insecurity. In contrast to medieval Europe, under the Song emperors, class status was no longer something inherited but earned through open competition. The old Chinese aristocratic families found themselves displaced by a meritocratic class called the literati. Entrance was gained via a rigorous set of civil service exams that measured mastery of the Confucian canon. Not surprisingly, as intellectual prowess came to be valued more highly than brute strength, cultural attitudes regarding masculine and feminine norms shifted toward more rarefied ideals.

Foot-binding, which started out as a fashionable impulse, became an expression of Han identity after the Mongols invaded China in 1279. The fact that it was only performed by Chinese women turned the practice into a kind of shorthand for ethnic pride. Periodic attempts to ban it, as the Manchus tried in the 17th century, were never about foot-binding itself but what it symbolized. To the Chinese, the practice was daily proof of their cultural superiority to the uncouth barbarians who ruled them. It became, like Confucianism, another point of difference between the Han and the rest of the world. Ironically, although Confucian scholars had originally condemned foot-binding as frivolous, a woman’s adherence to both became conflated as a single act.

Earlier forms of Confucianism had stressed filial piety, duty and learning. The form that developed during the Song era, Neo-Confucianism, was the closest China had to a state religion. It stressed the indivisibility of social harmony, moral orthodoxy and ritualized behavior. For women, Neo-Confucianism placed extra emphasis on chastity, obedience and diligence. A good wife should have no desire other than to serve her husband, no ambition other than to produce a son, and no interest beyond subjugating herself to her husband’s family—meaning, among other things, she must never remarry if widowed. Every Confucian primer on moral female behavior included examples of women who were prepared to die or suffer mutilation to prove their commitment to the “Way of the Sages.” The act of foot-binding—the pain involved and the physical limitations it created—became a woman’s daily demonstration of her own commitment to Confucian values.

The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women. Though utterly rejected in China now—the last shoe factory making lotus shoes closed in 1999—it survived for a thousand years in part because of women’s emotional investment in the practice. The lotus shoe is a reminder that the history of women did not follow a straight line from misery to progress, nor is it merely a scroll of patriarchy writ large. Shangguan, Li and Liang had few peers in Europe in their own time. But with the advent of foot-binding, their spiritual descendants were in the West. Meanwhile, for the next 1,000 years, Chinese women directed their energies and talents toward achieving a three-inch version of physical perfection.     

About Amanda Foreman

Amanda Foreman is the award-winning author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War. Her next book The World Made by Women: A History of Women from the Age of Cleopatra to the Era of Thatcher, is slated for publication by Random House (US) and Allen Lane (UK) in 2015.