Thursday, February 21, 2013

Judging the Past

I love reading historical fiction. You know that. However, some of my favorite historical figures are, well, not exactly the best people. But one thing I always think about is how we can't compare the morals and actions of our predecessors to our morals and standards. For example, look at Henry VIII. He was a terrible womanizer and executed how many people? But look at his surroundings.  His father had only secured the throne a few years back as a result of the cousins' war.  If Henry VIII couldn't provide an heir, the country would be thrown into turmoil once more.  This is not to excuse his actions, but merely to put them into context and give them some perspective. No doubt he shouldn't have cheated, or killed, any of his wives, but were women valued then? Were men, especially the nobility, expected to be faithful? No!! That was part of their power, part of showing the court who was in charge.  One didn't necessarily lose respect by having a mistress then as one loses it now. Think former President Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Henry, on the other hand, was a beloved king. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him.  He wasn't judged then as harshly as he would be by committing the same actions now, because they didn't have the same standards during his reign. It's impossible to judge him, or any other historical figure, by today's standards. We have to look at the whole picture or it's simply unfair. 

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