History of the World According to the Movies: Part 28 – The Age of Sail and Other Things


I know that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, but if there’s any film that embodies the Age of Sail, it’s this one. Of course, this movie was based on the Aubrey-Maturin bromance series by Patrick O’ Brian with the characters played by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Nevertheless, this is a fairly more accurate film than a lot of Age of Sail films Hollywood has made. Nevertheless, by the standards of his day, Jack Aubrey is a fairly good captain though the contentedness of his crew may not have been typical on a British war ship. I mean there has to be at least many British seamen on the HMS Surprise who didn’t want to be there since many were kidnapped by press gangs at the time, especially since the British Navy’s habit of abducting American sailors led to the War of 1812.

In a way, the age of Colonial Empire in movies could never complete without discussing the Age of Sail which spanned from the 1400s up to the mid-19th century. It was an era of great big wooden ships with high masts, billowing sails, and a crew of jolly old sailors. Of course, these ships were among the primary methods of long distance transportation for nearly 400 years and it’s usually with these ships that European nations were able to become rich, build navies, and create a colonial empire ushering an age of globalization. Nevertheless, naval strength in the Age of Sail also made countries powerful, explaining why Great Britain managed to become a world superpower with an empire that lasted so long. Since Hollywood has made pirate movies and adventure films in the era of colonization or Napoleonic Wars, you will certainly see ships like these time and time again. The Age of Sail is also a highly romanticized era because of how much it has been depicted in movies, books, and television despite that life aboard these sailing vessels wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be since these were the days that people didn’t have refrigeration, modern medicine, proper sanitation, adequate pest control, or even swimming lessons. Oh, and there were so many things that could kill you.Not to mention, many of the ships in movies tend to look too much alike and are sometimes much bigger than what many of these seafarers would’ve actually used. Yet, this is mainly because smaller ships wouldn’t be good filming locations. Nevertheless, movies continue to romanticize this era and this is where inaccuracies come to play.

The Age of Sail:


Maps were always accurate and precise. (Many times they weren’t. Also, remember that until the mid-18th century, there was no such thing as longitude.)


Steel haul tall ships existed in the late 1700s. (They came into fashion 100 years later.)

Late 16th century Dutch ships had arched type sterns. (They had high castle-like sterns. Arched type sterns came a century or two later.)

Wooden sailing ships sailed in every direction in all kinds of weather with the main and topsails square to the masts at all times. (They only did this when navigating by the wind in their favorable direction, and only in good weather.)

Fully rigged wooden sailing ships could be turned simply by spinning the wheel. (There’s a whole array of multi-man complex procedures to turn a ship, even for a close change. They didn’t operate like cars do today. Steam engines and electric motors didn’t exist before the 19th century.)

Disabling the rudder chain cables on a large wooden ship only took a single man a few minutes. (Disabling a rudder chain took a single man days and only with the proper implement.)

A large wooden ship could be successfully operated by a small crew. (I’m not sure if one could be operated by less than ten guys. Then again, one of Magellan’s ships was successfully crewed by eighteen guys by the end {though he had died in the Philippines}. Still, no pre-19th century naval officer would worry about two men trying to steal a ship because it couldn’t be crewed by two guys.)

All British Men of War ships were painted in the “Nelson Checker” pattern around 1720. (This pattern wasn’t common until 1720 when used by Admiral Horatio Nelson.)

18th century wooden ships had a Plimsoll line. (This wasn’t used until the 19th century.)

Wooden ships were always impeccably clean. (These were notoriously filthy and infested with vermin.)

Wooden ships always consisted in wood that was in the best condition whether submerged or not. (Wooden ships weren’t in nearly as ship shape upon returning. They had barnacles on the hull and perhaps rotting wood. Plus, if it’s a warship, there would need to be some repairs and cannon blasts through it. Also, a ship’s carpenter was perhaps the second most valuable person on the ship next to the doctor.)

Damage caused by naval warfare could be fixed in a jiffy. (Somehow in movies, the ship’s carpenters never seem to get killed or they’re able to patch up a ship very quickly. I don’t think fast repair work is possible without power tools.)


Most wooden-ship era sailors volunteered to go out to sea and were lawful, clean-cut, and loyal members of the crew. (Being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs in the era of wooden ships. Most sailors in the Royal Navy were kidnapped by thugs as a four-limbed drunk at a local tavern and were forced to serve on merchant ships. “Pressed men” were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all}, shackled onto ships while on port so they wouldn’t escape, and were whipped for any minor offense in the navy rulebook they didn’t get to read. They also had little or no chance of advancement and lived in appalling conditions. And of course, they had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, being away from their families, and tropical diseases. 75% of pressed sailors were dead within two years. Also, many Golden Age pirates started out as British sailors.)

Most sailors were content with serving on board a ship. (Most ship crews weren’t really content because many sailors didn’t want to go to sea in the first place. The British Royal Navy recruited press gangs to kidnap four-limbed men on a regular. Also, the British Navy’s impressment of American sailors was one of the reasons for the War of 1812.)

Sailors mostly swabbed the deck on ships. (They did a lot of other stuff than just that.)

Most sailors knew how to swim. (Most of them didn’t and very few captains offered swimming lessons to their crews they didn’t really think it was worth it since swimming would just delay the inevitable or that it would encourage them to jump ship and desert when close to shore {remember this is a time when sailors were treated poorly and many were forced at sea against their will}. Many sailors usually expected a quick death if they were thrown overboard anyway. 16th century chroniclers of sea-life described that swimming and diving skills were valued because they were so rare.)

Drunken sailors were looked down upon. (Actually all sailors were looked down upon whether they were drunk or not. Also, officers thought a drunken sailor was less of security risk because drunk sailors were less likely to mutiny under horrific conditions. Yet, this doesn’t mean they were less likely to get flogged though.)

Most sailors were heterosexual and were willing to delay sexual gratification. (Maybe some sailors but it didn’t seem to prevent them screwing whores at ports, contracting STDs, and having a reputation of being sodomites. And sometimes in situations with a crew full of men, let’s just say there’s so many naval related gay stereotypes for a reason. Not to mention, there may be some gay homoerotic undertones in Moby Dick and Billy Budd. Make that what you will.)

Sailors were usually clean shaven by the time they returned home. (During the Age of Sail, most of them would’ve returned with a full beard since shaving requires fresh water and supplies were limited on a ship. Most pirate captains would certainly have had one.)

Most seamen were very healthy, well fed, and well cared for on a wooden ship. (Medicine before the 19th century wasn’t very reliable and naval seamen didn’t really have a long lifespan since there were so many ways to die on the ship like drowning, disease, starvation, or cannonball. Also, sailors on lawful vessels were usually treated rather shitty.)

Sailors almost never got seasick. (Many did including Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson {yet he was still a very capable officer who rose through the ranks and earned his noble title}.)

Seamen were punished by flogging most of the time. (They could also be tarred and feathered, keel-hauled, or other things and the whole crew was made to watch. Flogging was the most common punishment though and even that could be deadly. However, good captains would try not to punish their men this way unless it was necessary.)

Sailors on wooden ships always had quality food. (Maybe at first, but the quality would deteriorate as the voyage went on and could be infested with vermin. Yet, for some, the ship cuisine would’ve been better than what they ate ashore.)

All seamen were white. (There was a sizeable number of black sailors during the 18th century since officers were willing to take all the healthy four-limbed men they could get even if they were runaway slaves. Practically every harpooner in Moby Dick is non-white.)

There were no children on board. (There were powder monkeys who assisted gun crews, ship’s boys who carried ammunition, and boy cadets as young as twelve or nine. )


Captains on ships usually dished out orders on deck. (They also relied on their helmsmen to do such tasks.)

Captains on wooden ships would halt a thousand man ship of the line battle to rescue a single enlisted man who had fallen overboard. (Captains would’ve done no such thing since a naval battle was impossible to stop. Also, seamen were viewed as expendable in those days. A ship’s carpenter or doctor was more likely.)

Sadistic captains got away with everything. (Captain Bligh would’ve been court-martialed for tying a guy to the masthead during a storm, which he most certainly didn’t do.)

There were no child naval officers. (Most Royal Navy officers up until after the Napoleonic Wars {as far as I know} started as midshipmen  as early as their teens or younger. Midshipmen could be as young as twelve or even nine while lieutenants could be as young as eighteen. Of course, many of these kids were from prominent naval families, aristocrats, or the professional class. Master and Commander is perhaps one of the few movies that shows this. So yes, many seamen had to follow orders from teenagers believe it or not.)


Triple cannons could fire multiple shots around the 17th century. (Cannons were muzzle loading at this time and couldn’t be reloaded.)

No wooden warship ran out of cannon balls.

Sea battles were fairly clean affairs starting with cannons firing at close range eventually with crews engaging in close combat. (Most of the time there would be debris everywhere due to cannon balls at close range.)

Loading cannons on ships took seconds. (It took longer than that.)


The 18th century British Navy used Semaphore code with holding two flags in different positions. (They set up different flags on the masts on ships.)

British fleets in 1720 could have some 10 3-decked ships in a single line. (The Royal Navy had only six of these ships on commission worldwide in 1720.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Commodore during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1996.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Lieutenant Commander during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1877.)

Royal Navy press gangs only kidnapped adults into naval service. (They also abducted boys as young as eleven to serve as powder monkeys or teenage seamen. Powder monkeys assisted gun crews and learned most of the ship basics but were paid little {if anything}, treated poorly, and were expendable. Most boy pirates probably started out as powder monkeys.)


Ship surgeons performed slow and careful surgery. (Most ship surgeons usually cut limbs as fast as they could in order to spare the patient extra pain because they didn’t have any anesthesia in those days {except maybe alcoholic beverages}. Nevertheless, I don’t think that kid in Master and Commander would’ve been so laid back while Maturin was taking his freaking arm off since the pain would’ve been excruciating. I’m surprised this boy wasn’t screaming like a little kid getting a vaccination.)


‘Wild Indians” were vicious, or at least more vicious than Europeans.

Tropical island locals and Africans practiced cannibalism and were headhunters. (Not really. Also, accounts of cannibalism among Indians in the Caribbean were greatly exaggerated and stemmed from the notion of a tribal practice keeping the bones of one’s ancestors in their homes so their spirits could watch over them. There has never been any evidence of indigenous cannibalism ever found in the Caribbean.)

Native warriors were usually bare chested and were threats to civilized society.

Natives had loose sexual customs.

Natives were primitive and savage. (Many indigenous cultures were rather complex as well as sophisticated and not all consisted of hunter-gatherer societies.)

Only converting to Christianity made Indians less violent and savage. (I don’t think this is the case since Indians all had their reasons of whether to convert to Christianity. Indian women in French territories even had French husbands like Sacajawea.)

Indian princesses (or a chief’s daughter) usually ended up with a white protagonist. (Many cultures didn’t have hereditary royalty.However, there were plenty of normal native women who ended up with whites as well.)

Native women were scantily clad. (I’m sure some women from indigenous tribes wore more than a bikini made out of coconuts.)
Natives believed white people were gods. (White people would like think native tribesmen did. However, many natives weren’t that naïve.)

Native Polynesian women wore grass skirts and coconut bras, especially in Hawaii.


Martini Henry rifles had repeating ammunition. (They were single shot breech loading weapons.)

Singapore was a metropolis during the 18th century inhabited by Chinese. (It was a minor fishing village called “Temasek.” Also, it would’ve been inhabited by Malays and nobody would’ve heard anything about it. Singapore as we know it was founded Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles {love the guy’s name} in 1819 on behalf of the East India Company.)

Archaeologists were adventurers who discovered legendary artifacts, lost cities, and fought bad guys. (Even in the time of Imperialism a lot of archaeologists weren’t like Indiana Jones. T. E. Lawrence may have been an exception of this, however. Still, there were plenty of archaeologists with not so glorious discoveries as well.)

Old timey big game hunters were real manly men. (Yet, they somehow put a lot of animals on the endangered species list. Nowadays, many are known as “poachers.” However, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson at least didn’t kill those maneating lions for sport.)

All adventurers, archaeologists, and hunters wore safari outfits in Africa. (Some were in conventional dress.)

In 18th century Tortuga, women could safely walk around without any fear of being raped. (Considering that this was one of those hangouts for pirates who had no qualms about murder and spend long periods of time without women around, would I consider Tortuga safe in the 1700s? Hell, no.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 27 – The British Scramble for Africa


The 1964 movie Zulu which pertains to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in which the exhausted British forces manage to defeat a large Zulu force. Also, this was a big movie for Sir Michael Caine pictured here as Lt. Bromhead. Nevertheless, this features British soldiers fighting in their dress uniforms and severely lacking the Chester A. Arthur whiskers characteristic of 1879. Not to mention, it even slanders a Victoria’s Cross recipient. Oh, and the battle was fought from late afternoon until dawn.

When it comes to movies based in the British Empire, Africa is always one of the more popular locations for some reason. Be it maybe that it’s continent of hostile tribes and creatures, a place of many famous wars, or what have you. Yet, for some reason whenever you see movies on the Scramble for Africa, they will usually feature the British Empire as the entity the white male protagonist is working for (unless he’s an archaeologist). Nevertheless, you have the explorations with men like Sir Richard Burton, Dr. David Livingstone, and others braving hostile natives, Arabs, and jungle to find the source of the Nile. You have the Anglo-Zulu Wars in Southern Africa with British forces going against hostile African tribes wielding spears. Then you have The River War in which the British faced a Islamic fundamentalist leader named the Mahdi who may have saw himself as an Islamic Messiah or Tecumseh. General “Chinese” Charles Gordon is featured in this war as well since he tried to protect Khartoum from falling into Mahdist hands only to die and be immortalized for the British public for generations. Then you have the Boer Wars where the British were fighting against the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Still, when you watch movies relating to the British Scramble for Africa, you may find yourself cheering for the British Imperialists even though they weren’t necessarily the good guys. Also, expect the white man’s burden and other unfortunate implications to turn up as well. Nevertheless, I shall list the historical inaccuracies many of these British Empire movies in Africa tend to make.


Sir Richard Burton published a translation of The Perfumed Garden in the mid-1850s. (It wasn’t published until 1886.)
By the 1850s, Sir Richard Burton spoke 23 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese. (He spoke fewer languages in the 1850s but he definitely spoke Arabic at that point since he was really into Islamic culture. However, he never mastered Chinese and learned Hebrew much later in life.)

Larry Oliphant was gay. (He was straight. The filmmakers in The Mountains of the Moon were trying to make Speke’s betrayal of Burton more dramatic after all they’ve been through. Still, Oliphant was on Burton’s side the whole time and while he did manipulate Speke to gain publishing rights on his claim, he eventually realized his errors. And Speke didn’t really betray him inasmuch as “bruised his ego.” Burton didn’t like being upstaged and tried to make Speke’s discovery of Lake Victoria much less notable than it really was as well as attacked his character. Also, Burton had a habit of making enemies in high places since he was a Victorian non-conformist.)

Henry Stanley was English since he was born at St. Asaph. (St. Asaph is in Wales. Also, he was born John Rowlands.)

Dr. David Livingstone was an honorable man to the very end. (His private diaries tell a very different story. Also, he probably wasn’t altogether there when he met Henry Stanley. Also, Stanley wasn’t what you’d call a Boy Scout.)

John Speke was gay and in love with Sir Richard Burton. (There’s no evidence he was one way or the other or even in love with Burton. Speke is said to harbor a deep resentment toward Burton and was willing to hide it until they returned to London. There, he beat Burton to the report of the Royal Geographic Society and claim success as his own.)

John Speke had light hair and was clean shaven. (Photographs depict him with dark hair and a beard.)

John Hanning Speke committed suicide. (An inquest into his death concluded he died in a hunting accident and he had a fatal wound just below the armpit. Nevertheless, even a Victorian gentleman like Speke who had so many years of meticulous gun handling could die of a an accidental gunshot wound. Gun owners know that accidental discharges happen all the time.)

Sir Richard Francis Burton was a believer in racial equality.  (Burton was no less racist than his contemporaries and enjoyed living and studying with other cultures as well as wrote numerous travel books. He also knew 29 languages, some of which he mastered so well to pass as native. Speke, on the other hand, thought living among Africans was repugnant and referred to them as creatures and savages.)

John Speke met Sir Richard Burton in Zanzibar. (They met at Aden in Yemen.)

Sir Richard Burton went into Harrar with John Speke. (Speke wasn’t with him in Harrar.)

Anglo-Zulu War:

Color Sergeant Bourne was a towering middle-aged man. (He was a slight build and 24 years old as well as the youngest Color Sergeant in the British Empire. His nickname was “The Kid.” At least he had some decent Victorian whiskers in Zulu.)

The Battle at Rorke’s Drift was fought in broad daylight. (It began in the afternoon and went throughout the night.)

Most of the 24th Regiment of Foot B Company were clean shaven. (From the Guardian: “photographs of the real veterans of Rorke’s Drift look like candidates for Britain’s Best Walrus Impersonator 1879. (Winner: Lieutenant Chard; Mr Congeniality: Lieutenant Bromhead.)” Yeah, but I don’t think Michael Caine would look good in a pair of mutton chops. Besides, the walrus mustaches may have made it very less likely to take Zulu seriously.)

Private Henry Hook was a shambling boozehound, dirty coward, and a trouble until his moment in battle when he had a sudden burst of courage that he was bayoneting and shooting Zulu warriors all over the place. (He was a churchgoing teetotaler with an exemplary record who earned a Victoria’s Cross for saving a at least a dozen patients in a hospital. Hook’s daughter was so offended by her father’s portrayal in the film that she walked out of Zulu’s premiere. Also, he received a distinctive scar due to his encounter with a Zulu assegai knocking off his pith helmet while he was defending a hospital. And he doesn’t wear a pith helmet in the movie.)

The last shot at the battle at Rorke’s Drift was fired at first light with another wave of Zulu turning up. (The last shot of the battle was fired at 4 a.m.)

The 24th Regiment of Foot consisted of Welshmen in 1879 and their song was “Men of Harlech.” (It would become affiliated with Wales in 1881. The 1879 24th Regiment was affiliated with Warwickshire and most of the men at Rorke’s Drift were English, Welsh, and Irish. Oh, and their song was “The Warwickshire Lads.”)

Gonville Bromhead and John Chard received their commissions in 1872. (They had already received them by that year. Chard had held his commission three years and three months longer than Bromhead.)

Bromhead was a fresh young lieutenant. (Both him and Chard were old for their rank who’ve been repeatedly passed over for a promotion as unlikely to amount to much. He’s also said to either be partially death or suffering from PTSD. However, Bromhead would later end his career as a major while Chard’s would end up a colonel.)

Zulu chief Cetshwayo sent his impi to attack Rorke’s Drift. (He actually ordered his impi to leave the installation alone for good reason. However, it was his half-brother Dabulamanzi who ordered the attack thinking he would get a quick victory that would impress the king. He also commanded the uThulwana and led the Zulu forces in the attack. Of course, you can figure out where that was headed.)

Gonville Bromhead was a sharp steely soldier. (One of his fellow officers described him as, “a capital fellow at everything except soldiering.” He’s said not to be very bright and may have been assigned to Rorke’s Drift because of his supposed partial deafness {which might’ve been a misinterpretation of PTSD} was thought to limit his ability to command {with his superiors thinking he wouldn’t see any action}. He probably wasn’t a pansy aristocrat turned hardened soldier after his first battle like the Michael Caine portrayal but he was very well-liked.)

John Chard was the epitome of British manhood. (He was widely considered lazy and useless.)

Reverend Otto Witt instigated the Natal soldiers to desert their post by warning them of the Zulu approach. (The native Natal soldiers did desert their post {leaving at their own accord} but not at the Witts’ instigation. He didn’t warn them of the Zulu approach either but he was one of the lookouts who initially saw them arrive. However, the Natal Native Contingent deserters were fired at as they left and one of their NCOs was killed. Their captain would later be convicted at a court-martial for desertion and dismissed from the British Army.)

Soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent were issued European style uniforms. (They weren’t.)

Reverent Otto Witt was a pacifist old missionary with a daughter. (He was a much younger and married man with two kids. Also, he wasn’t a pacifist since he helped the British at Rorke’s Drift in any way he could as well as defended the interests of white colonists. However, he did leave before the battle but only because he wanted to protect his family.)

Zulu warriors saluted the British officers at the hill after the battle. (They did appear on the hill the following morning but just observed in silence for some time before leaving again since they were just as exhausted as the Brits, hungry, and low on ammunition. Oh, and there were British reinforcements coming so they didn’t have time to salute any British soldiers. Still, any remaining Zulu who were wounded and left behind were rounded up and executed. )

Private Hitch was shot through the thigh by a Zulu sniper. (He was shot through the shoulder in which the bullet shattered his shoulder blade. There’s even a photo of him with his arm in a sling and there are paintings of the 1879 battle depicted in Zulu in which he has his arm held still by a belt. He would later become a London cab driver.)

C Company was stationed at Rorke’s Drift. (It was B Company of the 24th Regiment of Foot.)

Corporal Schiess was a member of the Mounted Police. (He was a member of the Natal Native Contingent. Also, he was 22 years old.)

The 17th Lancers were stationed in South Africa during the Battle of Isandlwana. (They were only sent after the battle with the 1st Dragoons.)

Surgeon John Henry Reynolds was a “Surgeon-Major, Army Hospital Corps” during the battle of Rorke’s Drift. (He was promoted to this rank after the battle.)

The detachment of cavalry from “Durnford’s Horse” consisted of white settler farmers who rode up to the mission station to their deaths in the Battle of Isandlwana.(They actually survived the battle and consisted of black riders sent to Rorke’s Drift to warn the garrison there. They were present in the opening action with the Zulus but rode off due to lack of ammunition. Also, they weren’t lead by Captain Stephenson who was head of the infantry Natal Native Contingent.)

Corporal William Allen was a model soldier. (He had been recently demoted from sergeant following the battle of Rorke’s Drift. Oh, and he was 35 years old at the time.)

Gonville Bromhead was blond. (His 1872 picture makes him a dark haired Chester A. Arthur look-alike. However, he’s played by Michael Caine who has a significantly lighter hair color.)

The Mahdist War:

General Charles George Gordon was a fallen hero to British presence and a great military leader against the Mahdi in Khartoum. (Yes, he was a great general, but he was also an Evangelical Christian who had some whacked out views about cosmology but set up a boys camp as well as visited the sick and the old, was a robust 5’ 5” feet all, and never married. Other than that, most of what is said about his character is speculative. Also, though he and the Mahdi corresponded, they never met {though the Mahdi’s grandson really thought they should’ve so it was left in Khartoum}.)

General George Gordon and the Mahdi were killed around the same time. (Yes, Gordon was killed in battle. However the Mahdi died several months later probably attributed to typhus.)

The battle at Abu Klea was a British defeat. (It was a British victory.)

The Mahdi’s spectacular jihad was just out of plain religious fanaticism. (Not really. Actually it was related to the Egyptian penetration into the Sudan in the 1820s, the Suez Canal, modernization, and other factors associated with imperialism. It’s a long complicated history, but imperialism was more or less was what the Mahdi was rebelling against.)

The Mahdi presented Colonel Stewart’s hand to General Gordon. (This didn’t happen because they never personally met in real life. Also, though the Mahdi’s men did murder Colonel Stewart and Frank Power, but the Mahdi only received the former’s head as a trophy. Also, he only told Gordon to get out of Sudan so further bloodshed would be avoided by writing a polite letter to him. Of course, you couldn’t have a polite letter exchange in Khartoum.)

General Charles Gordon came out facing the Mahdists storming Khartoum calmly and with dignity before getting killed with a spear. After that, his head is brought back on a stick for the Mahdi who was displeased. (He actually came out shooting and ran out of ammo on the staircase {like in a Tarantino movie if you get my drift}. Also, he was killed by a gunshot to the chest, not a spear. And he was killed for being mistaken as a Turk out of all things. Oh, and the Mahdi specifically ordered that General Gordon shouldn’t be killed.)
The famous charge of the 21st Lancers during the Battle of Omdurman happened the day after the main battle. (Both main battle and charge occurred around the same day.)

British soldiers in the Omdurman campaign of 1898 wore scarlet jackets. (They wore khaki uniforms while the cavalry wore blue jackets.)

The Royal Suffolk Regiment served and Egypt and was a relief force to rescue General Gordon. (There was never a Royal Suffolk Regiment. Yet, there was a Suffolk Regiment but they took part in neither. Actually during this period, the First Battalion was posted in India and the Second Battalion was in various locations.)

The two-day relief force for General Gordon managed to recapture Khartoum in 1885. (They discovered that the city was already taken and the Mahdist forces were strong so they were forced to retreat, leaving Sudan to the Mahdi. The British would recapture Khartoum 13 years later in 1898.)


The Tsavo maneating lions killed for sport. (No predator does this except humans. Also, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson doesn’t mention this and he killed the two lions over a nonhuman bait. He even says their killing pattern was consistent with normal lion hunting patterns.Still, Patterson states that he had a leopard kill 30 of his sheep and goats in one night. Still, for the Tsavo lions to kill and eat people, they must have been in a desperate situation {one was said to have a severe dental disease which would’ve made him a poor hunter} since most big cats usually kill to survive.)

The lions at Tsavo, Kenya killed 135 people. (They more likely ate 35, but we’re not sure how many were killed and not eaten. Still, there were 135 African and Indian workers employed at the construction of the Ugandan railway.)

Both maneating lions at Tsavo had large manes. (The maneating lions at Tsavo were male but they didn’t have manes {they’re actually taxidermied and put on display and at the Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago}. Also, male Tsavo lions either have minimal manes or none at all and Tsavo lions generally are far more aggressive and unpredictable than lions you normally see. Not to mention, animal handlers hate the idea of shaving a lion’s mane. Still, I don’t understand why the makers of The Ghost and the Darkness didn’t consider using lionesses as Tsavo lion stand-ins. I mean they had a male dog play Lassie for God’s sake.)

Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson killed the lions with the aid of an American ex-Confederate soldier Charles Remington. (Charles Remington never existed and there was no professional hunter ever present at Tsavo or anyone like the Michael Douglas character {who was in there because they didn’t want it to look like a pure ego project on Val Kilmer’s part}. Nevertheless, Patterson had to kill the maneating lions all on his own but he was a lot more badass than his Val Kilmer portrayal.)

One of the Tsavo lions escaped a trap surrounded by three Indian railroad guards firing that failed to kill him. (This happened except it involved ten guys firing it {which included Mombasa police} and the one bullet that came close to the target broke the cage’s lock, letting the lion escape.)

The Tsavo Bridge was a truss. (It was a plate girder type.)

Karen Blixen caught syphilis from her philandering husband Bror. (Yes, Bror cheated on her but there’s some doubt he might’ve been the cause. Oh, and she hadn’t miraculously recovered when she took up with Denys Finch-Hatton as seen in Out of Africa.)

Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton shot himself dead in the Happy Valley region of Kenya via shotgun shortly after he acquitted for killing his wife’s lover in 1941 while Alice de Janze died of an overdose. (He died a year later in England of a morphine overdose which he had been taking for a back injury, it was ruled a suicide. Still, he was no longer accepted among the Happy Valley society and it’s very likely he killed his wife’s lover {though the case remains unsolved}. Alice de Janze shot herself that September {who’s also suspected}. Interestingly, Kenya’s Happy Valley consisted of a group of colonial ex-patriate British and Anglo-Irish aristocrats during inter-war period in the Wanjohi Valley, notorious for their decadent, hedonistic, eccentric, and scandalous lifestyles which seem straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. )

Karen Blixen thought it was baseless prejudice when she was asked whether she sided with the Germans during World War I. (Well, she may have thought this but she was an old friend of legendary German General Paul Von Lettow-Vorbeck {who’s not in Out of Africa unfortunately} as well as offered to send horses for his cavalry and carried his signed photo with her. So I don’t think Karen’s friend was being biased here when she asked her whether she was rooting for the Kaiser.)

Karen Blixen once fought attacking lions with a bull whip while on the Savannah. (Most of her biographers believe she just made this up.)

When Karen Blixen lost her land, she plead with the British governor on her knees at a garden party for the rights of the Kikuyu people to live on her farm. (British governor Sir Joseph Byrne probably did grant territory to the Kikuyu people as a favor to Karen but there’s no record that she begged him on her knees at a garden party.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 26 – The Golden Age of Piracy


Of course, it would be very appropriate for me to show a picture from Pirates of the Caribbean series which has brought this era to a new generation. Still, these movies aren’t meant to be historically accurate but even they aren’t very good, you still can look forward to Captain Jack Sparrow. Nevertheless, Orlando Bloom perhaps may have looked more like a real Golden Age pirate than Johnny Depp would since the latter was in his forties at the time.

Ahoy, mateys! We come to the post of perhaps one of the most popular cinematic eras of all time, the Golden Age of Piracy. You may be wondering why in the hell does the Golden Age of Piracy have anything to do with Colonialism or Imperialism. Well, quite a lot actually since these pirates were the organized crime syndicates and highwaymen of the high seas with a Golden Age lasting roughly between 1650-1720. Whenever there is trading going on in history through water transportation, you’re going to have pirates. And with European colonial expansion, you have an influx of trading goods coming and going through the trade routes of the Atlantic Ocean. At first many of these European pirates were hired as privateers to cause trouble for Spain or act as a stand-in for a navy, but once England and France had a professional navy as well as the War of the Spanish Succession, the privateer tradition had died. Yet, rather than give up their privateering life to go straight, many of them opted for piracy and led the risky life of an outlaw. Nevertheless, the Golden Age of Piracy has been a subject of frequent romanticization, especially in Hollywood adventure movies and many have become legends in their own right. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things that movies get wrong about pirates in this Golden Era of lawlessness and adventure.

Anne Bonny:

Anne Bonny disguised herself as a man during her career. (She disguised herself as a boy when she was a kid, but not when she was a pirate. Her gender was public knowledge. However, Mary Read certainly did {and so did other female pirates since cross-dressing as a guy was much easier for women to do in those days}.)

Anne Bonny’s mentor was Blackbeard. (They didn’t know each other.)

William Kidd:

Captain William Kidd was a pirate as well as savvy manipulative sociopath ultimately undone by the son of a man he had killed. (There’s only evidence that he was a privateer and that his fame springs from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial perhaps in a desperate attempt to clear his name. Also, compared to other pirates and privateers, his actual depredations on the high seas were less destructive and less lucrative than those of his contemporaries. Still, he may have been a notorious pirate or just an unjustly vilified and prosecuted privateer in an age typified by the rationalization and empire.)

William Kidd was ugly. (His portrait on Wikipedia suggests he was quite handsome. Still, he probably didn’t look anything like how Charles Laughton portrayed him.)


Henry Morgan and Blackbeard were contemporaries. (Morgan had died in 1688 when Blackbeard would’ve been at least a child if he was ever born at the time.)

Blackbeard was the pirate whom all pirates feared as well as an evil dick. (Yes, he was feared but he wasn’t evil or as violent as most pirates at the time. He tried to avoid violence whenever he could and went out of his way to take care of his men even though he did shoot and wound his first mate, it was said he did it to save the guy from dying in an upcoming battle. He commanded his ships with the permission of their crews and was seen as a more shrewd and calculating leader who relied on this fearsome image and PR more than violent force. Oh, and there are no accounts of him ever killing anyone who didn’t try to kill him first {not eve those he held captive}.)

Blackbeard was short. (He was a tall and imposing man and looked almost nothing like Ian McShane. Actually, Sacha Baron Cohen would better fit his description.)

Blackbeard lived to be 70. (He was caught and killed at 40. Also, we’re pretty sure he didn’t fake his own death because he was shot no fewer than five times and cut about twenty. Oh, and there are reports that his body was thrown in an inlet while his head was suspended by a bowsprit of his Lieutenant Maynard’s sloop so he could collect the reward {but he was screwed over in the process after all he’d been through to get him}.)

Blackbeard was a pirate when the British were using privateers. (The British had outlawed privateering before Blackbeard came along.)

Blackbeard’s flag depicted a flaming skull. (It featured a devil horned skeleton spearing a heart holding an hourglass.)

Golden Age Pirate Life:

Some pirates had dads who were in the same profession. (I suppose some did, yet pirates didn’t have long careers so I’m not sure if they knew people from different generations.)

There was no distinction of appearance between a pirate and a common sailor. (For God’s sake, Robert Louis Stevenson, there’s no way that anyone in the 17th century would hire a pirate crew and not even know it. I mean pirates like Long John Silver would never work for a regular captain even for buried treasure.)

Pirates wore clean clothes. (The only time their clothes were washed was in a rainstorm. They also didn’t bathe.)

Pirates were nice to African slaves who were members of their crew. (Sometimes, especially in Blackbeard’s case who had a black Quartermaster named Caesar but it depended on the ship. However, pirates sometimes resold Africans into slavery or turned them in for the reward. There are even occasions when they could be used as slaves doing menial work on board a ship. And if they were members of the crew, they may or may not be given the same shares as the rest. Yet, there were white pirates who saw them as either a commodity or less useful than “white” sailors {except marooners who’ve already proven themselves against the Spanish}. )

“Scallywag” referred to a fellow pirate. (This word wasn’t in use until after the American Civil War in which people in the Confederacy would refer to their pro-Unionist neighbors who collaborated during Reconstruction.)

Life aboard a pirate ship was unpredictably violent, chaotic, and teetering on the brink of mutiny. (Many naval ships with poorly paid sailors and autocratic captains under the thumbs of nobles or private investors were like this at the time. However, many pirate crews functioned more like organized crime families than anything.)

Pirates sailed in big heavily armed wooden warships such as three masted Galleons. (Most of the time they sailed in whatever they could steal or hold on to. The average pirate ship was a small, fast, maneuverable craft that could zip around shoals larger ships wouldn’t navigate. Most of the time, they’d use single masted sloops. The heaviest pirate ships were converted merchantmen like Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.)

Good pirates never raided merchant ships or settlements. (This is the very definition of pirating. All pirates did this because that’s what they do.)

Pirates mostly raided ships through violent means. (Most pirates would try to cultivate an image of ruthlessness so they could just get merchant ships to surrender without a fight. But when they fought, God help you!)

Most female pirates were easy to detect and their gender was public knowledge. (Most of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell which pirates were women {except maybe those without facial hair but they could easily be teenage boys}. Still, it’s said many just dressed up as guys just to protect themselves than any other reason. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were probably the exceptions to this {but they were shagging their captain, bringing booty, and putting up a hell of a fight}. Some like Grace O’Malley even became captains. Yet, most pirates didn’t allow women on their ships since their presence was bad luck unless she was talented in bringing boatloads of booty.)

Pirates had democratic rule on their ship and treated everyone equally. (Some pirate ships were democratic havens sometimes they weren’t. And not every pirate crew treated everyone equally. Also, there’s little historical evidence of pirate democracy on the islands. Still, pirate governments probably functioned more like crime families.)

Pirate captains commanded with an iron fist. (Many times the captain was the ultimate power aboard a ship. If he didn’t like you, you were gone. Yet, the captain and his officers were more likely to listen to redress from their crew because he couldn’t rely on the support or threat of punishment from a higher authority. They usually commanded because of skill, daring, and the ability to win prize and booty. Some were elected by their crew members by a vote and only didn’t have the last say except in battle. Sometimes power was shared between the captain and quartermaster and some pirate crews were just a loose confederation of thieves. Still, it depended on the ship but a typical pirate captain usually commanded like a head of an organized crime syndicate than anything.)

Pirates kept parrots as pets. (They also kept dogs and cats aboard, too, since they were used to keep vermin down. Yet, they may have kept parrots as exotic pets or “booty” as well as taken other animals on board a ship while in town. They also took livestock on board, too. Of course, there are accounts of one pirate trying to steal a herd of cattle on his ship, but he learned to regret it that he was willing to surrender to the British authorities since the cows were all puking and spewing all over the place.)

Pirates only killed foreign soldiers and officers and never sank any ship unless it wasn’t from their country. (I don’t think pirates cared about who they killed or whose ships they sank. Of course, they didn’t attack English ships when England was using privateers but that soon went out of favor once they had made peace with Spain. I’m not sure if they would have any sense of patriotism from governments wanting to hang them. Unless they were privateers of course.)

The cutlass was a pirate weapon of choice. (It was the last weapon they wanted to reach for. Their preferred weapons were firearms {which weren’t effective by our standards}.)

Pirates usually raided and robbed warships. (They usually tried to avoid warships since they were designed for combat except Spanish Galleons. Besides, merchant ships were their primary targets.)

Pirates attacked other ships by sinking them and slaughtering their crew. (Actually, they’d go great lengths to avoid either if they could scare the ship into submission. They’d actually ask the enemy crew what they thought of their captain. If he was bad, he’d be beaten and maybe executed. If he was just, then the pirates would send the group to a lesser ship and send them on their way.)

Good pirates were a rough, roguish, and jovial bunch. (They were also ruthless cutthroats, murderers, raiders, and thieves. And they weren’t people you’d want to take home to your mother and not because they hardly bathed.)

Pirates wore gold earrings during the Golden Age of Piracy. (There’s no evidence because earrings on men weren’t fashionable at about the turn of the 18th century. Though pirates may have been an exception of that.)

Pirates’ treasure consisted of mostly precious items like gold. (Pirates treasure didn’t just consist of gold and precious items but also clothes, jewelry, sugar, spices, citrus fruit, fresh water, and maps as well as almost any trade goods stolen from merchant ships {they’d take practically anything}. And I’m not sure if they’d go bury it on some remote island in the Caribbean either. Not to mention, pirates rarely ran into merchant ships carrying precious metals or jewelry in large quantities.)

Pirates forced people to join their crew against their will. (Most of the time they only did this to carpenters, doctors, and other skilled workers for obvious reasons.)

Pirates left a lot of buried treasure on islands and drew maps to find it. (Pirates lived fast and hard lives who usually spend their money on women and booze as soon as it was in their hands as well as never had enough gold worth hiding. Besides, they usually faced an uncertain future so there was little incentive to stash their savings. Also, they split their treasure amongst themselves since they won it together. Thus, they didn’t leave a lot of buried treasure around since there was always a possibility that they could be hung from a dock not far in the future. And if they did, they certainly wouldn’t have drawn a map to find it since they’d rather use maps to trace known trade routes. They would only bury it where it was the easiest for them to get and the hardest for others to find. Captain William Kidd was the only pirate to actually do this perhaps successfully.)

Most Golden Age pirates were adult men of all ages. (Actually the Golden Age pirates were a very young crowd with some being children and adolescents {and yes, the Royal Navy press gangs did kidnap children since no kid wants to be a powder monkey}. Still, most of them were in their twenties and their careers were short-lived due to things like battles, infighting, disease, or the punishment on piracy at the time. Not many pirates lived past 30 and very few lived into middle age. Yet, most movie pirates are played by actors in their 30s or older.)

Golden Age pirates mostly did their raiding in the Caribbean. (A lot of Golden Age piracy is attributed to the Caribbean, but many raided ships in other waterways as well.)

Pirates were only in existence during the seventeenth and eighteenth century and were only European. (Piracy has been as old as the invention of the boat and there are still pirates today. Also, pirates came from all over the world.)

A popular pirate punishment was walking the plank. (Almost never happened since it’s easier to throw someone overboard. They did do marooning, flogging, casting overboard, torture, keel-hauling, and more.)

Most pirates were outlaws working for themselves. (Actually, there were also pirate mercenaries called privateers who worked for someone else like a government.)

Pirate curses are real and do come true. (Most of the time pirate curses are based on superstition and usually didn’t come true. Of course, many pirate superstitions could be something Robert Louis Stevenson just made up.)

The most famous pirates were the best ones. (The most famous pirates were usually captured, brought to trial, and/or killed immediately because someone had to be there for their exploits to be written down. As with the best pirates who avoided capture, we probably don’t know their names. Then again, you had guys like Henry Morgan who ended up governor of Jamaica and knighted and Henry Every who successfully retired with all his loot and suffered almost no repercussions from his crimes.)

Pirates were marooned onto lush deserted tropical islands. (No, they were marooned on islands with very little vegetation which could get swept up with the tide. They didn’t want a Robinson Crusoe situation on their hands.)

Pirates were hanged without trial after capture. (They were usually hanged after they were put on trial since piracy certainly was a capital crime though pirates were robbers and thieves at heart as well as desperate men with nothing to lose.)

Pirates spoke in pirate accents using phrases like “shiver my timbers,” “arr,” or “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” (No, they didn’t talk like the stereotypical pirates we see in the media. I’m sure Robert Louis Stevenson made that up. Also, there was no universal pirate accent since it makes no damn sense.)

All pirates had black flags with a skull and cross bones on them or a skull with crossed swords. (They also had red ones which were used in raids but meant that there was no quarter, no prisoners, kill or be killed. Black flags meant that the pirates were giving quarter like accepting terms of surrender and leave some of you alive. Also, black flag designs varied from ship to ship. Blackbeard’s had a devil horned skeleton holding an hourglass and stabbing a heart with a spear, lovely.)

Pirates had a hook hand as a prosthetic limb. (Yes, at least a couple pirates did have peg legs {though most pirates without a leg usually used crutches}, but it’s not very likely that pirates had hook hands because they wouldn’t be very practical. A pirate with a missing hand would more likely have a wooden arm if that.)

Pirates became captain by fighting the old one in a duel. (Sometimes they were elected by their crews. Duels among leaders could split a crew’s loyalties. Sometimes a default leader would emerge, be he the oldest, smartest, or most charismatic.)

Sailors became pirates to live a life of crime. (They actually ditched their jobs as sailors because being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs ever and conditions on lawful ships were terrible. And if you were in the Royal Navy, you were likely pressed into naval service {a.k.a kidnapped by gangs of hired thugs looking for drunks with all four limbs} after getting wasted at a coastal tavern than actually sign up for it {impressed sailors comprised half of the British navy at one point and were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all]} as well as had little or no chance of advancement. Impressed sailors were also shackled to the ships on port so they wouldn’t try to escape and were flailed for even the most minor offense in the navy handbook they probably didn’t get to read. Furthermore, 75% of impressed sailors in the Royal Navy were dead within two years. Oh, and sailors had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, and tropical diseases. Only a minority became pirates just for the enjoyment of being an outlaw. Most sailors became pirates to escape a life of certain death and constant humiliation as well as low pay and very little room for advancement.)

Golden Age pirates treated their lawful sailor prisoners like dirt. (Pirates sometimes recruited captured sailors for their crews and treated them better than their own officers or superiors. Also, Black Bart was a sailor captured by pirates and became their captain six weeks later. And his crew knew exactly where he came from and didn’t give a shit. Blackbeard’s crew is said to be 60% black so sometimes racial divisions didn’t matter.)

Pirates were the rock stars of the 18th century. (Well, it was a time when many outlaws were considered this so this could be true.)
“Good business” for pirates consisted of plotting global maritime domination and pursuing personal grudges. (They’d more likely be arranging profitable trade deals and raids merchant companies may depend on.)

Pirates towns were filled with loose women, shooting, and endless drinking. (There were pirate settlements but they were mostly havens to escape from the civil authorities. They may have joined together to form loose confederations, dispensed vigilante justice, similar to a frontier town but they didn’t have any organized government. It’s probably wiser to say that pirates were the gangsters of the high seas.)

Pirates saw themselves as cutthroats willing to kill a merchant seaman in the blink of an eye. (They saw themselves as independent businessmen. Also, they didn’t kill hapless merchant seaman since that would give them an incentive to resist {of course, those who resisted would either be handled roughly or killed}. Besides, they’d more likely give them a job offer.)

Pirates never swore. (Uh, they were notorious for profanity.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 25 – Colonial Empires


Pardon my American bias, but perhaps the Last of Mohicans is perhaps one of the best known movies set in the French and Indian War. Of course, this war has other names but as far as the British and the French were concerned, it was a war over disputed colonial territory in both India and North America. And it was fought on a global scale lasting for nine years which Great Britain won big time. Yet, this was perhaps one of the most important conflicts in history, especially at a colonial stand point. Also, who could forget Daniel Day-Lewis as Natty Bumppo?

From the 1600s to just after World War II, the world had entered in an age of colonialism and Imperialism which had ushered an age of commerce, international trade, and globalization. The Age of Colonial Empires has two phases. The first consists of the colonization of the Americas and the second colonization of Africa, which is another post. While Spain’s influence in Europe was in decline due to the Spanish Armada Incident, losing a series of wars, aristocratic dominance, as well as generations of Hapsburg inbreeding that produced a series of feeble kings leading its ruling dynasty to die out and be succeeded by Louis XIV’s grandson (this really happened), it still enjoyed a flourishing cultural period in the arts during the 16th and 17th century as well as had a large Latin American Empire that was going to last them until the Napoleonic Wars (well, most of it anyway). And for quite some time between Napoleon and the French and Indian War, Spain’s American Empire possessed most of the land consisting of today’s United States as well as stretched as far north as Minnesota (mainly because the French gave up in North America and handed Spain the Louisiana Territory, but Napoleon would get it back once he took over Spain). Then you have France who had a major colonial empire in North America that reached from Eastern Canada to the Mississippi Delta. Of course, France would later be caught in an imperialistic war with Britain over disputed territory and then abandon its claims to North America in a conflict known as the French and Indian War. Yet, they would soon end up colonizing much of West Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. Then you have the British Empire which ended up to dominate much of the world at its peak  and is very much present in movies relating to colonialism or imperialism. Nevertheless, movies about the colonial empires seem to have unfortunate implications at times as well as historical inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

Spanish Empire:

The Spanish Jesuits were involved in the struggle with the Guarani against the Spanish and Portuguese around the Guarani War following the treaty of Madrid during the 1750s. (Only the Guarani themselves fought against the oppression resulting in a three-year war against the Portuguese.)

Jesuit missionaries directly disobeyed Altamirano’s orders and stayed to fight with their converts. No Jesuit missionary in Paraguay directly disobeyed Altimirano’s orders nor did they stay to fight with their converts. In reality, they actually surrendered control of their missions in 1754 but the Guarani refused to relocate. However, since Hollywood likes Indian-friendly white protagonists, the Jesuits in The Mission stayed. After all, you wouldn’t want Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons abandon those poor little Indians would you?)

Luis Altamirano was a cardinal sent by the Pope who was also a Jesuit. (He was actually a Jesuit priest sent by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Ignazio Visconti to preserve the Jesuit Order in Europe in the face of attacks in Spain and Portugal, especially in the face of the transfer of territory to Portugal which consisted of seven Guarani missions that were settled by the Jesuits and Guaranis in the 17th century. Sadly, they were only suppressed a few years later anyway.)

The Spanish Navy used captured Englishmen to man their galleys as slaves. (Galleys were used by the Spanish Empire but they didn’t man them with English Protestants {even if Spain did have an Inquisition}. Nor did they enslave their enemies either.)

French Colonial Empire:

The French Foreign Legion consisted of entirely of foreigners, which was why they were such a good fighting force. (30% of the members were French who lied about their nationality. The real reason why they were so effective was their insane physical training, harsh discipline, and a strong sense of espirit de corp and brothers-in-arms.)

Anyone could join the French Foreign Legion. (In the early days since its creation yes, but not anymore, they do background checks, psychological tests, and physical examinations.)

The French Foreign Legion did most of the fighting in wars France was involved in since its creation. (France’s regular army and colonial troops did.)

The Perdicaris incident consisted of an American woman named Eden Pedicaris abducted by the Berber bandit named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli. (Actually Perdicaris was named Ion and a man with a reputation as a Greek-American playboy as well. His stepson was kidnapped as well. He also renounced his American citizenship in order to be a citizen of Greece. Hollywood probably changed this for a romantic subplot, but still…)

Raisuli was a virtuous Muslim freedom fighter. (Many historical accounts list he was a mixture of feudal bandit and political power player. One account records an incident when Raisuli’s brother-in-law planned to take a second wife; Raisuli stormed the wedding party and hacked the bride and her mother to death. In The Wind and the Lion, he’s played by Sean Connery who carries a romance with Candice Bergan’s character.)

Henri “Papillon” Charriere was a prisoner on Devil’s Island. (He’s documented to have been incarcerated at Saint Laurent, not Devil’s Island. He never served any time at the infamous French Guiana penal colony.)

The British Empire:

The British East India Company:

The East India Company did business in the Caribbean. (They didn’t, but they did business in China though.)

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was a king of Panchalankurichi during the war he raged on the British East India Company. His arsenal had a lot of guns. (He was a Polygar chieftan, not a king, but he did resist British rule during the 18th century. Also, his arsenal only had a few guns.)

The Raj:

The British were benevolent overlords to the Indians in India. (Actually, they were anything but even though they did let them go to their colleges and serve in their armed forces. Same with other imperial nations.)


Port Royal was a bustling metropolis as well as a clean and proper little English town during the 18th century. (It was destroyed in an earthquake around 1692 and subsequently rebuilt but not like it’s seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.)
Port Royal was built atop a hundred-foot basaltic cliffs. (It was built on a low spit of sand south of Kingston Harbor where the elevation is no more than 10 feet above sea level.)

The Royal Navy stationed 100 gun ships of the Line in the Caribbean in the early 1700s. (The English bases of that area couldn’t support ships that size at the time. Besides, the ships would’ve been much too big and deep drafted to be of much use in the Caribbean waters anyway. Not to mention, the Royal Navy only had six such ships at the time which were most likely situated at the British shores. Of course, Pirates of the Caribbean and other pirate movies have to depict large wooden war ships.)


The reason for the mutiny on the Bounty was Captain Bligh’s brutal treatment to his men as well as subject them to especially cruel and harsh punishments. (Actually Captain Bligh was one of the least violent than most captains in the whole Royal Navy at the time and only flogged 11% of his men {Captain James Cook flogged 26% of his men while Captain George Vancouver flogged 53%}. What his crew really had a problem with was the banality of his command {or maybe having a terrible personality, perhaps being too nice of a guy and let discipline go to hell} which doesn’t make for an entertaining movie. Also, another reason was the fact that some of the Bounty crew had taken Tahitian wives including first mate Fletcher Christian as well as their long vacation on the island which caused them to be overly sensitive to discipline but this is made apparent in the films.)

Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian had a homosexual relationship. (Bligh was married with six children and there has never been much doubt about Christian being straight.)

Fletcher Christian decided to burn down the Bounty at Pitcarin Island. (The decision to destroy it was a consensus of the mutineers because there was no to conceal it and they didn’t want passing ships to identify their island. However, it was Christian’s idea and not done without his knowledge.)

Fletcher Christian died on Pitcarin Island’s beach as the Bounty burned. (There are no beaches on Pitcarin and Christian died much later at the hands of the six Tahitian men {he previously kidnapped and enslaved along with twelve Tahitian women} during subsequent conflicts on the island.)

Captain Bligh was a much older man during the Bounty voyage. (He was in his thirties and would endure a couple more mutinies in his lifetime. He died as vice-admiral and served as governor of New South Wales. He died in 1817. Still, his voyage back to East Timor after the mutiny kind of demonstrates he probably wasn’t such a bad guy since he was accompanied by 18 of his men.)

The mutiny on the Bounty was a violent affair which happened during the early evening. (It happened in the early hours in the morning while Bligh and everyone else were asleep. Also, it was totally unexpected and bloodless.)

Almost all the tried Bounty mutineers but one were executed. (Only six out of the ten mutineers were sentenced to death and only three of them were hanged. Two received king’s mercy and a third got off on a legality. Four of the mutineers who were captured at Tahiti drowned on the way. Christian and seven of the mutineers kidnapped eighteen Tahitians and went to Pitcarin.)

Fletcher Christian was a decent man. (His credentials are rather questionable and his actions could be traced as the root cause of the problems on Pitcarin and all that entails.)

Admiral Hood presided at William Bligh’s court-martial. (He did preside over the court-martial of the alleged mutineers who returned to England.)

Australia was referred to its present name in the 1790s. (It would be referred as Australia only more than a decade later. At that time people called it “New Holland.” It didn’t become Australia officially until 1824.)

The Bounty mutiny was triggered by Bligh’s decision to make a second attempt around Cape Horn and hence circumnavigate the globe. (He was ordered to take his cargo of breadfruit to Jamaica via the Endeavor Strait, the Sunda Strait, and the Cape of Good Hope as well as embark additional plants en route. Another attempt to sail around Cape Horn would’ve endangered the tropical plant cargo due to the near Antarctic temperatures they would’ve encountered.)

The British Army confrontation of the 1854 gold miners’ rebellion at the Eureka Stockade in Victoria, Australia killed hundreds of people. (The official death count reads 27 names consisting of 22 miners and 5 soldiers. Yet, there have been wounded miners who escaped and died of their injuries later but their deaths are never attributed to the stockade involvement.)


The English brought “civilization” to the countries they occupied when they had an empire.

Foreigners from Africa, Asia, or the Oceania usually spoke in Pidgin English or Engrish. (Most of them spoke in their native tongues. If they knew English, they certainly didn’t speak like that.)

The Union Jack flag has been used by the British since the ascension of King James I. (It wasn’t used until 1801, yet you see it in almost every film featuring Great Britain before that.)

The British were the most benign imperial overlords. (Well, they were the most successful imperial overlords and weren’t as bad like King Leopold II’s Belgian Congo {well, any colonial empire can be seen benign in comparison}. However, this didn’t stop some areas of the world wanting independence from them.)

British soldiers wore white helmets with their regimental crest during active duty. (They wore plain cork helmets and basic uniforms. They didn’t wear the parade dress uniforms like you see on Zulu during the armed battle. That would be like wearing a tuxedo at a construction site.)

British grenadiers wore bearskin miter caps during the early 18th century. (These weren’t issued until 1768.)

The French and Indian War:

The 60th Regiment (the Royal Americans) were massacred during the French and Indian War because of their use of British military tactics. (They were raised in America and were trained to fight wars under conditions suited for such environment and used their training to their advantage.)

Major Robert Rogers’ Rangers portaged their whaleboats over a ridge during the Saint Francis raid. (They actually did this two years prior from Lake George to Wood Creek so they could avoid the French outposts along Fort Ticonderoga.)

Colonel Edward Munro was killed during the journey to Fort Edward and had his heart cut out and munched on by an Indian ally of the French. (Actually the guy was Lieutenant Colonel George Monro and he actually survived the massacre at Fort William Henry which left only 184 dead or captive {but he died three months later of a stroke}. Sorry, James Fenimore Cooper.)

Lieutenant Colonel George Monro was a widower with two grown daughters at the time of the Fort William Henry massacre. (There’s no record he ever married. However, Cora Munro was based on a real person named Jane McRae who actually did have a fiancée who fought for the British. Yet, this was in the American Revolution and she was killed. Oh, and in the book The Last of the Mohicans, she’s black {which means her and Alice didn’t have the same mom}.)

The Mohegans and Mahicans have been extinct Indian tribes since the French and Indian War. (Both are still around today and are federally recognized to boot.)

French-allied Indians attacked the British led garrison from Fort William Henry in revenge against Monro destroying a native village. (There’s no evidence of them attacking Fort William Henry for anything other than booty and prisoners, which they felt they had been denied by the French and were enraged that the British forces were allowed to depart after suffering a few casualties. Besides, the massacre only lasted only three hours with 184 dead or taken prisoner {though they did exaggerate back then with as many as 1500}.)

Mohawk Joseph Brandt was a chief during the French and Indian War. (He was 15 years old in 1757 and wouldn’t become one until towards the end. Also, he’d be a relatively unknown at the time working for Sir William Johnson.)

The Marquis de Montcalm condoned the Indian ambush massacre near Fort William Henry. (The Indians attacked the retreating British retinue against this guy’s orders and he was disgusted by their actions. Also, when he ensured that the British Forces at Fort William Henry be guaranteed safe passage, he meant it. Unfortunately, the Indians wanted some possessions and prisoners, which didn’t settle with him. Nevertheless, the Massacre at Fort William Henry was caused more by a conflict between European military etiquette and the customs of the French Indian allies. Montcalm was never going to make anyone happy no matter what he did.)

The Marquis de Montcalm was a terrible man. (Well, as far as The Last of the Mohicans is concerned because he was a French aristocrat, general, diplomat, and scholar as well as won a lot of battles against the British. Still, he wasn’t a bad guy since he did give generous terms of surrender to the British even if that pissed off his Indian allies.)

The British Forces were nicer to their Indian allies than the French. (They were just as notoriously bad to their Indian allies and were using them as pawns just like the French were {the British weren’t that nice to American militia units either as shown by Braddock’s defeat}. However, in The Last of the Mohicans it seems that Indians and settlers seem to coexist peacefully, but American history has shown us otherwise at times.)

The massacre at Fort William Henry began with an Indian ambush and slaughter at some distance from the fort. (It was more of a one-sided brawl beginning when the British left their entrenchments. The French-allied Indians {many who’ve been drinking} fell upon the provincial wounded {killing 17 of them}, seized British-allied Indians, black slaves, and female camp followers. They also killed and robbed paroled soldiers. Nevertheless, it was more of an attack on the militia at the rear column who weren’t protected by a small French guard. It lasted for a short time that most provincials panicked and ran.)

Around the time of the French and Indian War, the Huron Indians lived in a native village led by a great chief who could decide all. (They were Catholics who lived in mission towns adjacent to the French. They were also assimilated and pacifist and were nearly wiped out by the British as a result. Also, there’s no way in hell that they’d be allied with the French and not know anything about the fur trade which was probably the main reason any side had Indian allies in the first place.)

New York frontiersmen and Mohawk Indians were present during the siege of Fort William Henry. (The Mohawks had refused to scout for the British during 1756 and 1757. Yet, the British did have scouts consisting of Stockbridge Indians {including Mohicans} and New Hampshire frontiersmen who were certainly at the fort. Also, the fort was largely garrisoned by British regulars and American militia.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 24 – Early Colonization


Of course, Disney’s 1995 Pocahontas is probably the only movie from the early colonization era most people have seen. However, for those who were kids when this movie came out, a lot of what this movie says about the founding of Jamestown is bullshit. For instance, John Smith looked much more like his voice talent Mel Gibson in real life than as a blond stud. He also had a talent for bullshit so some of the accuracy in his writings is sketchy. Also, Pocahontas was only a pre-teen in 1607 and never had any romantic encounter with John Smith at all. Talk about all that ruining your childhood.

Sure I may go back and forth from European history with the rest of the world. Yet, in many ways, history relating to Colonialism and Imperialism runs very much from the 1400s until after the Second World War, which means we’re covering a very large length of time. It is also a time of early globalization but not as we know it since many peoples are subjugated by European powers who may soon use white supremacy to justify it. Also, this era marks the beginning of slavery in the western world with the slave trade which was just unspeakably horrible with terrible implications we’re dealing with today. Many Hollywood movies usually take place at this time since there’s a lot of famous literature from this period in history sometimes told as adventures {like Kipling’s from British India}, pirates, exotic locations, and great white heroes. In fact, many filmmakers like doing movies set during this era because not only can they do an action packed adventure set in exotic locations, but also have a white male protagonist the audience can relate to (well, white audiences in the US or UK at least). Nevertheless, expect the White Man’s Burden to come up a lot in these movies whether intentionally or not, especially in literary adaptations in which the source material can be rather racist.

We begin this era with the Age of Exploration, in which traders tried to find a quicker route to Asia in order to bypass the Muslim middlemen. Though Columbus didn’t really discovered America, he opened the Americas up for business with the Columbian Exchange and the world would never be the same again. The Age of Colonization and international trade had begun. At first it was Spain and Portugal amassing colonial and trading empires but later powers like France, Britain, and the Netherlands would join in and be fabulously wealthy from it. Of course, you have the Spanish Conquistadors colonizing much of Latin America through guns, germs, and steel (as well as native allies who were fed up with their overlords). Areas of the Spanish Empire would include some islands in the Caribbean, most of Central America, much of South America except Brazil, the Guianas, and Suriname, the American Southwest, and Florida. The French would soon amass a colonial empire reaching from Canada all the way down to the Mississippi founding cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Montreal, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Quebec City, Mobile, and Biloxi. Then you have the British who settled in Roanoke in the 1580s (which failed) and Jamestown around 1607 which would be the first permanent settlement of the Americas. Nevertheless, movies sometimes get a lot of facts wrong during the early colonization, which I should list accordingly.


Christopher Columbus sailed to the West Indies to prove that the world was round. (Actually he wanted to prove that sailing west would lead to a shorter route to the East Indies since most people in his day didn’t believe that there would be two mass continents on the way. He was wrong. Also, most Europeans haven’t believed in a flat earth since antiquity anyway {maybe even before Jesus}. The notion that Europeans believed the world was flat around the time of Columbus was just some bullshit made up by Washington Irving, which is rather insulting if you think about it.)

Columbus was the first European to make landfall in the Americas. (The Vikings were about five hundred years earlier, but they didn’t stay long. However, what is significant about Columbus’ landfall in the Americas is that it marks the start of a permanent European presence that changed the world. Thus, even though Columbus wasn’t the first European in the Americas, his voyages made more of an impact on history than the Vikings did.)

Columbus met his friend Diego Arana while on a trading voyage from Lisbon. (He didn’t meet the guy until several years later.)
One of Columbus’ men was eaten by sharks on his first voyage to the New World. (Nobody died during that voyage, at least at sea anyway. The thirty-nine men he left behind were killed by the time he returned to Hispanola.)

Columbus realized he didn’t land in India. (He never realized he actually landed in the Bahamas instead.)

Christopher was nearly executed during a near mutiny on his voyage. (He wasn’t, but he almost had his crew mutiny twice.)
Alonso Pinzon was a supportive sidekick to Columbus. (He was a case-hardened mariner whose support made Columbus’ voyage possible.)

Columbus was a forward-thinking idealist with his good intentions subverted by greedy and evil Spaniards. (He was a failure as a colonial founder and administrator that all his official responsibilities and duties were stripped by 1500 when the crown took charge and sent Columbus and his brothers home in chains. He also blamed everyone but himself for his spectacular fall from grace. Oh, and he systematically enslaved the Taino Indians, introduced Old World diseases to the New World {like smallpox}, and contracted syphilis to bring back to Europe {but unknowingly and on accident}.)

The Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria all made it back to Spain. (The Santa Maria wrecked so only the Nina and Pinta made it back.)
Columbus took three voyages in which he fell out of favor on his second. (He took four voyages with the second tarnishing his reputation and the third leading to his downfall.)

Columbus’ achievements were forgotten until his son Hernando’s biography of him recounted them. (He was named and praised by all 16th century chroniclers.)


Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1523. (He sailed to Florida in 1513 and died in 1521.)


The Spanish were among some of the cruelest conquerors in history who exploited the Indians for gold via slave labor, destroyed their culture, and forced them to convert to Christianity. (Yes, they did all of that and yes, they were cruel but they were better overlords than, well, the English. At least the Spanish married native women and lived in a society that accepted their mixed race children. Not to mention, they also tried to make Christianity more accessible to the Indians and there were priests who argued that they be treated better {and many Indians converted willingly}. And though the Spanish had wiped out about 95% of the Indian population in the Americas, they mostly did it by accident usually through the spread of their germs and probably never set foot in most of the areas where Indians died by their diseases. The English gave Indians smallpox blankets and ostracized people for marrying Indians, with the exception of John Rolfe, of course.)

The Spanish conquistadors brought the collapse of Mayan civilization. (Actually Mayan civilization had been nonexistent for centuries before the Spanish set foot and they mostly brought the collapse onto themselves perhaps through environmental destruction. Also, the people the Spanish conquistadors met were Aztecs, not Maya.)

In 1560, the large El Dorado expedition was under Gonzalo Pizarro set off from Peruvian Sierras. The only document surviving from this lost expedition is the diary of monk Gaspar de Carvajal. (Gonzalo Pizarro {half-brother of Francisco, by the way} died twelve years before the Ursua El Dorado expedition. As a matter of fact, he was executed as a famous traitor to the king of Spain. Pizarro’s El Dorado expedition took place in 1541 and came down from Ecuador led by Francisco de Orellana, which Carvajal did accompany him as well as chronicle it but the main body was forced to turn back due to hardships like disease and hunger. Yet, a small detachment {including Carvajal} did press on and managed to follow the Amazon River all the way down to the Atlantic as well as landed on the coast of Venezuela in 1542. Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal wasn’t on the El Dorado expedition but rather living safely at his Lima monastery because he didn’t want to go on another expedition to the Amazon ever again since he had lost an eye from an Indian attack. However, he’s in Herzog’s Aguirre Wrath of God to serve as the voice of reason and narrator.)

Lope de Aguirre went mad and was marooned in the Amazon. (He brought his men down to the Atlantic following the same route that Carvajal had taken nearly twenty years before, reaching the mouth of the Amazon on July 4, 1561 and sailed from there to the Venezuelan island of Margarita where he instituted another reign of terror that matched his ferocity in his behavior in the Amazon. At the end of August, Margarita was devastated, while Aguirre had left for the Venezuelan mainland. He met his death at the hands of royalist forces in Barquisimento on October 27, 1561 since he had killed expedition leader Pedro de Ursua, Don Fernando, and at least forty members as well as launched a reign of terror in the Amazon and incited a rebellion against Philip II and schemed to overthrow Spanish rule in Peru. His body was quartered and thrown into the street and a solemn proclamation was issued requiring any house belonging to Aguirre be leveled and strewn with salt so “no trace or memory….should remain.” Many of Aguirre’s men were offered pardons.)

Lope de Aguirre was a common criminal and a pathological killer who went insane. (He was a middle-aged mercenary soldier who came to the New World in search of riches like many conquistadors and went there at a young age. However, while he did kill a lot of people and instigate reigns of terror as well as may have been crazy, he was also an astute politician and leader of men. He also found on the Amazon theater on what he believed equal to the scale of his vast ambitions, a place he could be in his own words “Prince of Freedom” and “Wrath of God.” He also was a guy who incited a rebellion against Philip II as well as gave a speech calling his men to relinquish their Spanish nationality. He even wrote a letter to the king shortly before his death.)

The Spanish Church sided with the strong during the 16th century. (Spanish missionaries in the New World were among the first people to denounce the conquistadors’ treatment of Indians {dating as early as 1511}, most famously Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas. Many Spanish clergymen were also among some of the most renowned intellectuals of their day bringing old ideas about justice and responsibilities of kingship as well as a new culture of Renaissance driven thinkers like Erasmus and Saint Sir Thomas More.)

Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal died in a native ambush on the Amazon River. (He died of old age in his monastery in Lima in 1584.)

Dominican Friar Gaspar de Carvajal was a cowardly priest as well as corrupt religious fanatic who always sided with the strongest. (He was actually a born survivor who lost an eye during an Indian attack and had dedicated his life to the conversion of Indians {in other words, a missionary badass}. He had a benevolent attitude toward the Indians which was consistent with his fellow Dominican brother Bartolome de Las Casas.)

Spanish conquistadores believed in the lost city of El Dorado. (Actually this may have been based on a myth by the Chibcha Indians of South America. However, sometimes the Spanish authorities used this story to set up expeditions in search of this city of gold in hopes of getting troublemakers out of Peru, never to return.)

The El Dorado expedition of 1560 was lost. (Actually there’s more documentation of the last ten months of Lope de Aguirre’s life than his first fifty years because of this since it’s well documented. Also, people in South America very well knew what happened on this expedition.)

Francisco Orellana was buried in Nazca tomb in a Nazca fashion. (The Nazca culture was already extinct by 800 A.D. before the Spanish Conquistadors ever got to Peru in 1532. However, Orellana is said to have vanished while looking for a lost Nazca city. However, he’s unlikely to have met any Nazca.)


Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life and carried on a romance with him. (Yes, she might have saved his life but no, she didn’t have a romantic relationship with him unlike what Disney says. Also, she was about ten or eleven at the time and she really wasn’t called Pocahontas but Matoaka. By the way, when she saw him again, she slapped him in the face.)

Coastal Virginia was filled with mountains and thick pine trees. (Coastal Virginia is actually flat and swampy. Virginia’s mountains are hundreds of miles away from it.)

Governor John Radcliffe was a villainous man. (He was actually more foolishly trusting than anything. Interestingly, he was flayed alive by Powhatan Indians but of course, you wouldn’t see that in a Disney movie in 1609. Oh, and he wasn’t the first governor of Jamestown and wasn’t in charge during the voyage.)

John Smith was a clean shaven handsome blond guy. (He was actually a short, portly, brown-haired, and bearded man as well as pushing thirty.)

John Smith was a decent guy when it came to the Indians. (John Smith was much more of jerk in real life and actually kidnapped an Indian leader so the guy’s tribe would provide him with plentiful resources. Also, he had a tendency to exaggerate {or just plain make up} things in his accounts. He was also a mercenary and fantasist who could be ambitious, abrasive, self-promoting, and feisty. Still, he was competent even though he was unpopular among the colonists {well, the first wave who saw themselves as his social superiors}.)

The Indians and white Jamestown settlers all managed to make friends. (American history pertaining to Native Americans tells a very different story, very different.)

John Smith went scouting around after landfall in Virginia. (He was arrested and clapped in irons during the voyage {for concealing a mutiny} and wasn’t released until a month after landing at Jamestown. He did most of his exploring and trading after that.)

John Rolfe and Pocahontas had a serenely happy marriage and was easily accepted among the English. (She was probably not as happy or as accepted as depicted in The New World. One letter from an acquaintance said that Rolfe dragged her around as a “sore against her will.” Yet, the marriage did help stabilize native and settler relations. Oh, and Rolfe wasn’t above using his wife’s image to sell tobacco.)

John Smith was nearly executed on top of a bluff at dawn in front of angry colonists who had come to rescue him. (He was going to be executed in Powhatan’s longhouse in front of his warriors and counselors. The colonists didn’t know where he was. Of course, this is coming from the real John Smith.)

Chief Powhatan was actually a good father to Pocahontas who was his only daughter. (Pocahontas was his favorite daughter but she was also one of his seventy children. Also, he didn’t try to save her when she was kidnapped by the English, which led to her berating him and choosing to stay with the British as well as convert to Christianity. Of course, Powhatan had his reasons for not attacking the British camp. His people were also political savvy and very fierce in battle. Oh, and he may have ruled over as many as 34 tribes.)

Kocoum was an Indian who was betrothed to Pocahontas. (Mattaponi tradition holds that Kocoum was Pocahontas’ first husband who was killed after her capture in 1613 or may have not been murdered at all. Yet, there’s another theory that this guy could possibly be an Indian nickname of John Rolfe himself.)

Pocahontas was an Indian princess. (She was a chief’s daughter but she was presented at King James I’s court as one. Thus, she was viewed as a princess in her lifetime, just not her own people.)

Edward Wingfield was shot and killed by settlers at Jamestown. (He died in 1630 in his eighties and wrote several books about Jamestown.)

Pocahontas was accompanied by her uncle Opechancanough while traveling in England who was to mark a notch on a stick every time he encountered an Englishman. (While the notches story is accurate, she was actually accompanied by her half-brother-in-law Tomocomo who was also sent to search for John Smith. He returned to Virginia with Samuel Argall and John Rolfe in 1617 but he didn’t have nice things to say about the English and was disgraced. Oh, and Opechancanough actually staged a massacre at the Virginia colony years later which killed 350 people in one hour.)

John Smith had tattoos. (The European practice of tattooing was dead for centuries and wouldn’t be readopted until a century later {unless if they were French Canadian soldiers}. However, it’s possible that John Smith might’ve had native tattoos though.)

King James I ordered John Smith to leave Jamestown. (He left for England in 1609 due to a gunpowder accident which resulted in severe burns, yet he recovered.)

Pocahontas was kidnapped by English settlers while John Smith was still in Jamestown. (Pocahontas was kidnapped in 1613. John left for England in 1609.)

Captain Christopher Newport had two fully functioning arms at Jamestown. (He had part of his arm severed before he landed at Jamestown.)

The first Jamestown colonists sailed on the Susan Constant. (They sailed on the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.)

New France:

Jesuit priests proselytized Indians and were accompanied by lay domestics on their missions back in 1634. (At this time, French Jesuit priests were sent in pairs partly to avoid sexual temptation. They only had lay domestics later in which they had to sign a civil contract and take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience to accompany the Jesuit priests on missions. And no, they didn’t embark on long journeys so close to winter freeze-ups.)

French 17th century Jesuit priests baptized with saliva. (Saliva has never been a valid matter for baptism and no 17th century Jesuit {let alone any priest} would never have baptized anyone with their own spit.)

Algonquin Indians killed priests during disease outbreaks within their walls. (They never did this even though they knew that missionary priests may have spread the diseases that killed many of them.)

French colonists took Indian wives out of love. (They took Indian wives in order to help bring peace to the tribes and the French. Taking Indian wives also helped French Canadian fur traders do business with their indigenous in-laws, which benefited both parties.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 23 – Life in Renaissance Europe


Perhaps no movie captures the Renaissance more than The Agony and the Ecstasy starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. Though it is true that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it’s said that Heston thought the artist was 100% heterosexual, which is actually not true. In fact, he actually wrote love poems to certain young men and his female figures have been known to be based on his studies of male anatomy.

The Renaissance covers a lot of ground in movies. And of course, whether we like it or not, the Renaissance changed Europe forever with works of art, science, religion, philosophy, and so much more. Italy produced artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello or was call them The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (again with the turtle nonsense, well, I can’t help it). Italy also had a lot of other notables, too, like Titian, Botticelli, Cellini, Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante, and others. Of course, Renaissance Italy was rife with corrupt popes and wars with all sorts of backstabbing and intrigue. Yet, they did manage to create great art. Then you have Renaissance Spain home of the Spanish Inquisition that became a new country and world power by founding one of the first big colonial Empires (more on this later)  as well as served as a bastion for the Catholic Counter-Reformation (Ignatius Loyola and Theresa of Avila were from there) yet they also produced the notable Miguel Cervantes who wrote Don Quixote, one of the first western novels as well as a satire of chivalry. Then you have the artist El Greco who did many religious paintings in Toledo and would later inspire other artists like Picasso, the Impressionists, and others. Renaissance Germany would also be a place of chaos due to religious wars and reformations, some more radical than others. Yet, Germany also had its share of painters as well as Johnannes Gutenberg whose moveable type invention would change communication for ever. Then you have Russia, which started to take its familiar form under the legendary Ivan the Terrible. Nevertheless, movies centered around life in Renaissance Europe do take some artistic liberties which I will list accordingly.


Michelangelo was straight. (Sorry, Charlton Heston, Michelangelo was gay {or perhaps bisexual} and so was Leonardo. Still, I wonder they cast Heston in this role because of this since he was convinced the man who painted the Sistine Chapel was 100% heterosexual and the fact he’s been playing roles that carry homoerotic subtext throughout his career.)

Galieo got in trouble with the Catholic Church for supporting Copernicus’ theory of heliocentricity and put him under house arrest as a result. (No, it was for depicting his friend, Pope Urban VIII as an idiotic peasant in a satire he wrote {who had been defending him} as well as alienating the Jesuits and two Vatican astronomers. As TTI assesses the Galileo affair, “To keep it short, the Church of Galileo’s day issued a non-infallible disciplinary ruling concerning a scientist who was advocating a new and still-unproved theory and demanding that the Church change its understanding of Scripture to fit his. At the end of the day, the entire fiasco boils down to an overgrown squabble involving a cranky old man and a bunch of annoyed bigwigs who decided to cut him down to size.” Oh, and he was given a manservant under house arrest at his villa and published another scientific book without incident.)

Galileo was first condemned by the Catholic Church. (He was actually very popular with the Church until he started being an asshole to the Pope. Rather the first people to condemn him were secular scholars.)

Leonardo Da Vinci was part of a secret society that knew the secret of Jesus. (My guess this is something Dan Brown just made up for a story.)

Italy was a peaceful place during the Renaissance. (The Italian city-states were constantly at each other’s throats for a significant time period. These Italian wars were also a reason why Machiavelli wrote The Prince.)

Giordano Bruno was unjustly burned at the stake for his embrace of Copernican astronomy and his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds. (It was actually for his theological heresies as TTI lists: “that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skillful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the anima mundi, that the Devil will be saved, etc.” He had multiple chances to repent but was defiant to the very end. Oh, and he claimed he was the real messenger of God and denounced the Church as charlatans {this would’ve been a capital offense}. So though he may have been unjustly burned at the stake by our standards, those in the 16th would’ve seen his execution perfectly justified, which would make him more of a martyr for religious freedom than for science.)

Marco Venier was in love with Veronica Franco. (They may have been intimate but their love story might’ve been greatly exaggerated.)
Artemisia Gentileschi painted nude men and had an obsession with male genitals. (She painted female nudes and a very violent painting on Judith slaying Holofernes with blood spurting out of the guy’s head.)

The relationship between Artemisia and her mentor Tassi was consensual and loving. (He wasn’t her long term mentor and any sexual relationship they did had consisted of rape or other sexual abuse. Also, they despised each other.)

Agostino Tassi was a handsome and devoted lover to Artemisia. (He was a philanderer and serial rapist {jailed for sexual crimes} who only appeared briefly in Artemisia’s life. He’s said to have had sex with his sister-in-law as well as killed his wife. Oh, and during his rape trial, he defended his innocence as well as called Artemsia, her mother, and sisters whores. And yet, he’s portrayed as a good guy in Artemisia’s 1997 biopic.)

Artemisia ardently defended Tassi during his rape trial. (She condemned him and vigorously described how he raped her. Seriously, why is Artemisia and Tassi’s relationship portrayed as a love story when it was really anything but?)

Caravaggio was gay. (Well, his name was Michelangelo, but we can’t be sure.)

Benvenuto Cellini was a ladies’ man who had a relationship with a Florentine Duchess. (Well, he did fool around with some of his models {one of them gave him an illegitimate daughter}, but there’s probably a good chance he wasn’t dallying with a duchess. He also married his servant and had five children. However, he didn’t always limit himself to women because he was charged with sodomy 4 times {and three of them were against men}.)

Raphael was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Julius II had him commissioned for another project at the time yet he was definitely influenced by Michelangelo’s work. Oh, and he convinced the Pope to put Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel.)


Hugh O’Donnell’s ascension in Donegal helped prophesized independence from England under Elizabethan rule, which allows him to convince the Irish lords to band together with other clans and bargain for their freedom for a position of strength. (Well, Hugh O’Donnell was a real person but he was unable to get the local Irish lords to join him or able to gain any independence from England whatsoever and wouldn’t become independent until the 1920s. Oh, and O’Donnell ended up fleeing and dying in Spain.)


Ivan IV thought almost gave up the throne after his wife died since he thought her death was God’s punishment on him, yet stayed on the will of the people. (Well, Ivan the Terrible was a religious man, but he actually blamed his wife’s death on the boyars, claiming they maliciously poisoned her {though this is disputed}. Nevertheless, despite his lack of real evidence, Ivan IV had a number of boyars tortured and executed. Of course, he had a strong dislike for the boyars since childhood anyway so he might’ve been using his wife’s death as an excuse. As for the abdication and leaving Moscow, he only did that a few years later alleging it was over aristocratic and clerical treason and embezzlement. He only returned because the boyars feared an uprising from the Muscovite citizenry, and Ivan only agreed on the condition he was granted absolute power. So the autocratic Czardom began.)


Eric of Sweden was king 1585. (His half-brother John III was at the time. Also, he had abandoned his proposal to marry Elizabeth I in 1560 when his father died. He was deposed in 1568 and had died in captivity in 1577.)


Philip II was a power hungry and religious zealot man who just wanted to dominate England so he sent the Spanish Armada. (Sure he was power hungry and yes, he did want to rule England as well as cash in on New World riches. However, he sent the Spanish Armada because English privateers were raiding Spanish ships and colonies as well as that Elizabeth encouraged a rebellion in the Netherlands.)

Philip II was a hunched and shadowy figure with a dark beard and an incompetent king as well as a religious fanatic. He was also a cruel tyrant. (Yes, he was a religious man and a rigidly conscientious one feeling he had a duty to retain his Hapsburg patrimony and re-establish the Roman Catholic faith in Europe, but he wasn’t cruel by 16th century standards. However, he was tall, blonde, and handsome as well as highly intelligent having several successes with his foreign policies. Many of his descendants are a different story.)

The Spanish Infanta was a child around the time of the Spanish Armada. (She was 21.)

Queen Isabella was in love with a Spanish Conquistador and had her life threatened by the Grand Inquisitor. (None of these happened. Also, she was the one who founded the Spanish Inquisition in the first place. Not to mention, she was dead before the Spanish Conquistadors even existed.)

Out of King Ferdinand and Isabella, it was Isabella who wore the pants. (Well, Ferdinand of Aragon was one of Machiavelli’s models for The Prince and did rule jointly with his wife, but yeah, the Spanish Inquisition was her idea.)

El Greco was imprisoned and facing execution before the Spanish Inquisition. (He lived spent the rest of his life in Toledo where he had a family {as well as lived to be a grandfather} and worked for various religious institutions. Also, he was living near an area the Spanish Inquisition had the most influence. So if he was ever tried by the Spanish Inquisition, he probably wasn’t facing a death sentence. Furthermore, he even painted a Grand Inquisitor’s portrait.)

Miguel Cervantes was imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition. (Cervantes actually did begin writing Don Quixote while in prison but wasn’t because he wrote a play that the Spanish establishment didn’t like. The real reason why he was imprisoned was due to irregularities in his accounts which happened twice.)

The University of Salamanca was filled with the medieval mentality that gripped Spain during the fifteenth century. (Like the Portuguese, the Spanish had the best geographical knowledge of the day at its disposal so they could’ve had justifiable doubt on Columbus’ theories. Also, is was a big intellectual center of Catholic Spain where they debated about the standing of Indians, economics, and law.)

Renaissance Life:

Renaissance maidens never had to worry about mud stains on the train of their beautiful gowns. (Despite the fact that people peed and threw their bodily waste out of the windows.)

Most people executed for witchcraft were wise women who were ahead of their time. (For one, most people who were executed for witchcraft were people who their neighbors didn’t like and claimed them for practicing witchcraft. Also, since the late Middle Ages was the time of plague outbreaks, most landlords needed any workforce they could get, wise women were the only eligible midwives and local medics around. And when anyone died of from treatable conditions like childbirth complications, these women often took the blame but they probably wouldn’t be burned for it since to do so would obviously be the stupidest thing possible. Not to mention, anyone trying to denounce a “witch” at that time was considered a troublemaker and flogged.)

People washed their faces with water. (They rarely bathed at this time since they thought it was bad for you. Also, they thought water was unhealthy.)

Double bittted axes were used to chop down trees. (They were invented in the US during the 1870s. Before that, people were hanged with a cart, horse, stool, ladder, or something similar which was moved out from under them.)

Sidesaddles had 2 pommels. (They only had one which held only the right leg in place.)

The Renaissance only lasted for 100 years. (It actually overlaps with the Middle Ages and may have perhaps lasted for 300 years starting in Italy in the 1300s with Dante, Giotto, and others.)

The Renaissance was a period of Enlightenment. (In a way, yes, but it wasn’t one of the most enlightened time in Europe with the Protestant Reformation, people being tortured, and notions like freedom of religion and speech being almost unheard of {or used as a pragmatic policy}. Also, the notion of religious toleration was much more exercised in Asian entities and to a much greater extent for hundreds of years than in Europe at this point {since religious pluralism was the norm in many of these vast Asian empires}.)

People drank water. (No one drank the stuff during this time. It was considered unhealthy. Most would drink ale instead {including children.})

The early 16th century was an age of superstition mixed with paganism and fostering an unquestioning obedience of people. (Not necessarily since this the Renaissance was in full stride by this time.)

Solid chocolate was available at this time. (It wasn’t until two centuries later. Though chocolate was introduced in Europe by the Spanish during the 16th century, most people would either be drinking or eating the beans at this time.)

Men used to drape their cloaks on mud puddles for ladies to walk on, which either never got dirty or washed regularly. (I doubt men did this in Renaissance Europe, even if the women behind them were queens. This is probably a myth.)

Formal duels of honor were the preferred means of settling fights. (Only among the upper classes who were the only ones with any time to concern themselves with codes of honor, formal challenges to their character, reputation, or social status. Scuffles, street-fights, reencounters, affrays, ambushes, brawls, dunking violence, and assassinations were far more common. Men went around armed because they lived in a violent world where self-defense was necessary against the daily possibility of personal assault.)

Only gentlemen owned rapiers. (It originated with common citizen and soldiers with frequent street-fighting, brawling, urban gang wars, and dueling. The earliest references for rapier use pertain to urban homicides, criminal assaults, and common fighting guilds. If The Wire took place during the Renaissance, you can pretty much guess that almost every character would be armed with one of these.)

It wasn’t unusual for a noblewoman to want to aspire to be an actress. (For someone of noble birth from up until very recent times, an acting career would be unthinkable. Actors were looked down upon during much of history and the Age of Shakespeare was no exception. If a nobleman was ever involved in a theatrical production during the 1500s, he was either a patron or a playwright. Thus, it would’ve been more accurate in Shakespeare in Love if Gwyneth Paltrow’s character was either a peasant girl with acting ambitions {since most roles were played by men} or a noblewoman who wanted to be a playwright.)


History of the World According to the Movies: Part 22 – Renaissance France and Scotland


A scene from the 1971 film on Mary, Queen of Scots where she marries her half-cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in a Catholic ceremony. Sure this may look like a fairy tale wedding to some people but those who know anything about the story of Mary, Queen of Scots knows that it all goes downhill from there. Seriously, Darnley was a real jerk as Timothy Dalton played him.

Of course, if there’s a movie about Tudor England, chances are that you will have either France or Scotland as their enemies (or Spain but that’s for another post). Nevertheless, these countries go well together with the Renaissance era since they both had Catholic monarchs as well as a large number of Protestants in them. It also helps that Mary, Queen of Scots grew up in France and was married to the French king (I’m not kidding on this for her first husband was Francis II). France during the 1500s was ruled by the Valois family as well as the place where the Catholic and Protestant clashes came to a head with religious wars and the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Yet, you also had a guy like Henri of Navarre who was willing to convert to Catholicism and marry a French princess so the country could be at peace. Of course, once he ascended the French throne, he issued the Edict of Nantes which brought religious toleration to the Catholic country. Then you have Scotland, home of Mary, Queen of Scots who was one of the most unlucky monarchs of history with a poor choice of men as well as a Catholic queen in a country with a Protestant majority population. Not to mention, she’d end up abdicate for her son and would later be beheaded by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in England. Nevertheless, movies about Renaissance Scotland and France do contain their share of errors which I shall list accordingly.


Catherine de’ Medici:

Catherine de’ Medici instigated the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. (Sure she was anything but a saint and she saw little wrong with the travesty, but she’s probably innocent of starting the whole thing. Also, she was planning to ally herself with the Navarre family who were Protestants. The massacre was probably more likely a spur of the moment thing started by the Guise family because of the marriage between Medici’s daughter and Henri of Navarre. And the Guises were more extremist Catholics than the French royal family. Still, Henri Duke of Guise would later apologize for the whole affair and put the Huguenots under his personal protection.)
Catherine de’ Medici poisoned Queen Jeanne III of Navarre. (Jeanne died of natural causes but people suspected poison.)

Henri III:

Veronica Franco slept with French King Henri III and convinced him of a Franco-Venetian alliance. (Yes, she did sleep with him while he visited Venice, but she didn’t convince him to ally with the city-state. She wrote poems for him as well as dedicated poetic works to the French king though.)

Henri, Duke of Anjou (later King Henri III) had a clothing obsession and dressed in drag in front of the English court of Queen Elizabeth I. (Yes, he did like clothes and occasionally dressed in drag. Yet, he never actually went to England or met Queen Elizabeth I. His brother Francois did and was one of Elizabeth’s few suitors to court her in person earned the nickname of “Frog.”)
King Henri III was a flaming cross dresser. (Yes, he was a cross dresser but he was anything but gay since the number of female mistresses he had was unaccountable. Thus, he was more of a cross dressing skirt chaser extraordinaire.)

Henri III had an incestuous relationship with his aunt Scottish Queen mother Mary of Guise. (They never had a sexual relationship. Also, they never met or were blood related. She was just his brother’s mother-in-law. Oh, and Mary of Guise was a member of an extremely Catholic family in France who were rivals to the Valois royals.)


Charles IX died of arsenic poisoning and was mistakenly assassinated by his family. (He died of tuberculosis, not poison. Also, his family wasn’t trying to assassinate Henri of Navarre for he was too valuable for them to kill.)

Catherine de’ Medici’s children committed incest together while Henri III had feelings for his mother. (This is highly unlikely.)
Marguerite of Valois was a beautiful ivory skin brunette as well as poisonous. (From contemporary portraits I’ve seen of her, she seems to have lighter hair as well as bears a strong resemblance to Catherine de Medici {who wasn’t the most attractive woman}. However, she probably got by on her fashion sense and personality since she had a string of lovers. Also, she was used more as an unwilling pawn than anything.)

Diane de Poitiers plead the king for mercy on behalf of her husband Count Louis de Breze who’s been charged with treason while the adult prince Henri wrestled with his groom. (It was her father who was charged with treason which was in 1523 when Prince Henri was 4 years old.)

Stuart Scotland:

Mary of Guise:

Queen mother Mary of Guise rode in front of her troops on the battlefield with both legs over the horse. (Even a reigning queen wouldn’t ride in front of her troops {and she actually refused to do so} as well as rode side-saddle. Oh, and she sent a fleet against the English and rebelling Scottish Protestant landlords with a fleet.)

Queen mother Mary of Guise was killed by Francis Walsingham. (She died in June 1560 of dropsy realizing she had it the previous April.)

Mary, Queen of Scots:

Mary, Queen of Scots made decisions based on her emotions. (There were perfectly logical theories why she’d marry Darnley and Bothwell, neither of these guys were good men.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was petite. (She was said to be 6 feet tall.)

Mary, Queen of Scots approved the murder of her husband Lord Darnley. (We don’t know whether she approved or not but still, having him alive wasn’t going to make her life better and it’s not like the guy didn’t deserved it because he was kind of a bastard. I mean the guy killed one of her friends in front of her while she was pregnant. He was also said to have died under mysterious circumstances. Also, the authenticity of the Casket Letters has been hotly debated.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was abused by her jailer. (Her jailer, Amyas Paulet treated her rather well.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had a Scottish accent. (She had been living in France since she was a child and was once married to the French king. She would’ve had a French accent.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had a West Highland White terrier. (It appeared in Scotland in the 19th century.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed for no reason. (She was involved in the Babington Plot which was a conspiracy to put herself on the English throne {though she wasn’t originally a part of it though getting her in might have been a job by Francis Walsingham}.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was blonde. (She was a redhead.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed by a single swift axe stroke. (It took two ax strokes to lop her head off with the executioner using the axe as a saw. Some said it took three.)

Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution was held indoors. (It took place in the great hall at Fotheringay castle, which isn’t near the Scottish mountains but in flat English countryside.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had James VI of Scotland (or James I of England) at the Earl of Bothwell’s estate. (He was born in Edinburgh castle.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was pretty right up to her execution. (She wore a wig at the time and had suffered from wearing lead based makeup. Oh, and she died at 44 and had been in custody at various places.)

It was only the English Protestants who wanted Mary, Queen of Scots dead. (The Continental Catholic powers might’ve been involved as well. After all, who would support the overthrow of a Protestant monarchy for a woman shacking up with her husband’s killer? She was worse than worthless to them alive.)

Mary, Queen of Scots escaped with the Earl of Bothwell after the Rizzio murder. (She didn’t. She actually escaped with Darnley, believe it or not.)

Mary, Queen of Scots married her last two husbands for love. (Darnley maybe, but Bothwell, no way.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was romantically involved with her secretary David Rizzio. (They weren’t involved but Darnley did suspect it. Still, there’s no question that Darnley was the father of James I of England.)

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley:

Lord Darnley had a homosexual affair with David Rizzio. (He was actually jealous of Rizzio for his association with his wife, which was the reason he killed him.)

Lord Darnley was sent to Scotland to woo Mary, Queen of Scots. (It was to help his dad, Lennox with financial stuff.)

Lord Darnley was a member of one England’s oldest Catholic families at the time. (His dad was an exiled Scottish lord while his mother was a Tudor and a Douglas. Also, he was Mary’s half-cousin who did have rights to the Stuart crown.)

Lord Darnley was in love with Mary, Queen of Scots. (He probably didn’t love her.)

Lord Darnley had syphilis in the days following his death. (We’re not sure what he had or whether it was syphilis, smallpox, fever, or poisoning. Yet, it didn’t kill him.)

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell:

The Earl of Bothwell and Mary, Queen of Scots had a loving relationship. (I don’t think Mary felt any love for this man.)

The Earl of Bothwell was at Mary and Darnley’s wedding. (He was in exile at the time.)

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell was in love with Mary, Queen of Scots and thought about her best interests. (Bothwell wasn’t exactly what you’d call a nice guy. Sure most historians believe that he killed Lord Darnley but that’s not the worst thing he did {actually he kind of did Mary a favor}. He squandered his fiancée out of her possessions and later abandoned her {which will later cause him to spend the last ten years of his life in prison}. He was said to have gotten divorced from his first wife for fooling around with a servant {or because he had his eye on Mary or the crown}. Then there’s how he managed to get hitched to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, Queen of Scots says that the two were in love and she freely consented. But actual historical accounts say that they were just friends before the two married and that Bothwell was more or less after her for power. Also, Bothwell might have even kidnapped and raped her in order to secure her marriage to her and the crown. Not to mention, they were married in a Protestant rite, which wouldn’t be what Mary had in mind. Still, Mary’s marriage to Bothwell was one of the reasons why she was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son James VI {who’d eventually become James I of England} and was later imprisoned by her own people before Elizabeth I got her.)

The Earl of Bothwell was executed by dragging. (He died in a Danish prison.)

James Stewart, Earl of Moray:

The Earl of Moray plotted against Mary, Queen of Scots and wished to use his half-sister as a figurehead. (Despite their religious differences, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Earl of Moray seemed to get along rather well. He only turned against Mary in opposition to her marriage to Lord Darnley but he was pardoned after returning to Scotland from seeking shelter in England.)


Scottish lords wore kilts in Mary, Queen of Scots’ court. (Scottish lords didn’t wear kilts in 16th century Scotland.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 21 – The Elizabethan Age


From the historic travesty Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age where dramatic license runs wild and real history comes to die. I mean you’d be better learning real history from a Renaissance Fair than in this historic disasterpiece. Yet, like Braveheart, this got Oscar nominations nevertheless. Also, there’s no way in hell Elizabeth looked like that in her fifties.

Of course, my last post didn’t cover the whole Tudor age since Hollywood makes a lot of movies in this era since the Tudors produced both Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. However, between their, Henry VIII’s other children Edward VI and Mary I also ruled England for those eleven years which were eventful but short. Nevertheless, Elizabeth I ascended the throne 1558 and would rule for over forty years which would signal the English Renaissance in its full flower. England soon became interested in settling colonies in the Americas with Roanoke (which failed), Shakespeare wrote his plays, the Church of England as we know it began to take shape, Mary, Queen of Scots lost her head, and the English defeated the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth I was an astute monarch who helped bring England onto the world stage and led a true golden age. However, she never married and died childless which meant that her throne went to the King of Scotland at the time named James VI (I’ll get to this somehow). Nevertheless, this post will be long since one Indian director made a couple of films called Elizabeth and Elizabeth: the Golden Age that offend me both as a Catholic, a film lover, and history buff, which I should list accordingly. Apparently these were very popular in Great Britain but do make me worried since I believe filmmakers should have at least some concern with facts like people’s life dates for instance. Shekhar Kapur apparently seems to take as much of a dramatic license as Mel Gibson. Still, here are some of the movie inaccuracies from the Elizabethan Age.

Edward and Mary:

Edward VI:

Edward VI was sickly child all his life. (He was said to be good in health until a teenage bout with measles which weakened his immune system.)

The Duke of Northumberland pressured a dying Edward VI to have his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey succeed him. (Lady Jane’s succession was Edward’s own idea dating before his final illness so he could stop the Catholic Mary from getting the throne. Yet, the marriage between Lady Jane and Guilford Dudley was the Duke of Northumberland’s idea.)

Edward VI died of tuberculosis. (He died of a chest infection but we’re not sure whether it was TB or not.)

Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley:

Guilford Dudley was a virgin with a passion for social justice and he and Lady Jane actually loved each other. (In reality, he was a total asshole who had a temper tantrum when Jane refused to make him king after her coronation. They hated each other and Jane never wanted to marry Guilford in the first place. She was so repelled by him that their marriage was never consummated and she refused to see him on the night before his execution. I’m sorry, but that Lady Jane movie starring Cary Elwes and Helena Bonham Carter is just a load a crap because Guilford and Jane’s relationship was anything but a romantic love story. Rather, it was a match made in hell {and definitely their parents’ idea}. )

Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley lived as man and wife in their own house. (Though they did get married, they never lived as a married couple the short time they were together. Jane would be crowned a month after their wedding {and would refuse Guilford to be crowned king}. Nine days later, they’d both be in prison in separate towers, never to contact each other again. Of course, their marriage would’ve been a disaster anyway.)

The Wyatt Rebellion was a plot to put Jane Grey back on the throne. (It was a plot to put Elizabeth on the throne.)
Guilford Dudley was youngest of three sons. (He was the youngest of five sons who’ve all survived to adulthood.)

Jane Grey was a precocious and talented scholar with zeal for social reform. (Yes, she was a very intelligent young lady. However, monarchs were never interested in social reform during the 1500s. In fact, those interested in social reform were commoners, who were executed trying to instill it by themselves.)

Mary I:

Mary Tudor was fat. (She was said to be rail thin at least until cancer bloated her. Her and Elizabeth weren’t considered very attractive, especially toward the ends of their reigns.)

Mary I was a cruel tyrant who was worthy of her “Bloody Mary” nickname. (She executed less people than anyone else in her dynasty. She was mostly hated for marrying Philip II. Also, she was capable of inspiring great loyalty, especially to her friends and servants.)

Mary I died from a phantom pregnancy. (She died from cancer three years after experiencing a false pregnancy {which might have been a tumor that caused recurring abdominal swelling}.)

Princess Elizabeth:

Robert Dudley was with Elizabeth when she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. (He was already in prison by this time with his four brothers since his brother Guilford was married to Lady Jane Grey. Yet, all the Dudley brothers save Guilford {who’d be executed} would all be released by 1555.)

Elizabeth was under house arrest at Hatfield for four years. (It was at Woodstock, but I doubt if there was brown acid there.)

Elizabeth was addressed as “Princess Elizabeth” during the reign of her half-sister. (She had been declared a bastard and stripped of that title.)


Bishop Stephen Gardiner was a Catholic fanatic who had people in his diocese executed and supported Mary I’s marriage to Philip II. (He was considered a moderate who didn’t have anyone executed and actually opposed Mary I marrying Philip II.)

The Duke of Norfolk was a Catholic conspiracy plotter who urged Mary I to kill Elizabeth before she succeeded the throne. (The Duke of Norfolk was vague about his religion and never considered himself other than Anglican and only got involved in the conspiracies against Elizabeth much later.)

John Fekenham was an old man when he tried to convert Jane Grey to Catholicism. (He was only in his thirties.)

Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned with an unnamed woman. (They weren’t executed with anyone else.)

Elizabethan Age:

Elizabeth I:

Elizabeth I received a marriage proposal from Henry Duke of Anjou. (He never met and never proposed to her. Also, he was married to someone else.)

Elizabeth I was a major slut. (If she was, she had a clever way of hiding even though many reputable historians continue to assert that she was a virgin for various reasons or that she wasn’t sexually active during her reign. First, she knew if it could be proven that she wasn’t a virgin, she would lose all her power. Second, she wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to have sex since she was constantly surrounded by maids, courtiers, and other servants as well as had several bed maids so she never slept alone. Besides, she had no way of being certain which of these people were spies for one of her many enemies and could destroy her with a report of any sexual indiscretion. Not to mention, many historians said she was too politically savvy to be caught with her pants down, unlike like some politicians today. Thus, there’s pretty much a plausible historical case that Queen Bess wasn’t getting any.)

Elizabeth I met Mary, Queen of Scots. (They never met in person. Still, Mary, Queen of Scots would later have a grandson who’d suffer the same fate for different reasons.)

Elizabeth I cut her hair to show she was a virgin. (She didn’t and wore a wig to hide her thinning and graying hair as well as wore make up to conceal her smallpox scars, which she did later in her reign.)

Elizabeth I reprimanded a council member for divorcing twice. (Obtaining a divorce was almost impossible at the time {and Henry VIII knew that very well}.)

Elizabeth I consulted with Dr. John Dee on matters around the time of the Spanish Armada. (He was abroad at the time and would return after the Spanish Armada.)

Men in Elizabeth I’s court wore long cloaks and carried swords in the Queen’s presence. (Weapons were forbidden in court {except by the Royal Guard} and Elizabeth I had banned long cloaks in case an assassin was hiding a weapon under it.)

Elizabeth I never married over her love for Robert Dudley. (Sure it’s very likely Robert Dudley was the love of her life. However, there are several explanations for this and she probably had other reasons not to marry Dudley other than him having a wife or two. Also, the cult of the Virgin Queen wasn’t used to full effect until over 20 years after she became queen with her last serious marriage proposal.)

Elizabeth I was a calculating and vicious queen. (She was actually quite intelligent and charming.)

Elizabeth I was the same age as Henri III. (She was 18 years older than him.)

Elizabeth I set up Lord Darnley with Mary, Queen of Scots. (She forbade the match since Mary and Darnley were half-cousins.)

Elizabeth I wore a suit of armor. (She never did.)

Elizabeth I’s funeral procession was led on the frozen Thames. (She died in the spring of 1603.)

The Pope excommunicated Elizabeth I early in her reign which made her a fair target for Catholic assassins. (He excommunicated her in 1570 which severed official Roman Catholic ties to England {not an act by British bishops who really had no say anyway}.)

Elizabeth I was almost assassinated during the river pageant early in her reign. (This happened in 1578 but it was a salute gone wrong and no one was killed.)

Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester:

Sir Robert Dudley was a traitor, a conspirator, and a Catholic convert who was banished for being involved in a Catholic plot. (Dudley was a devoted Puritan and remained faithful to his Queen throughout his life. Oh, and he was banished because of a scandal over the mysterious death of his second wife.)

Elizabeth I didn’t know that the Earl of Leicester was married. (She attended his wedding. Also, he married his first wife while Elizabeth’s dad was still king and they both knew each other since they were kids.)

Sir Robert Dudley was not present in the Tilbury camp during the Spanish Armada Crisis. (He was a Lieutenant General during the whole affair and would die shortly after. Oh, and Elizabeth I actually took his death hard.)

Robert Dudley had an affair with Lettice Knollys. (She was married to Walter Devereux and had many children with him including Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex another favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Oh, and she married Robert Dudley in 1578.)

Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley:

Sir William Cecil was old enough to be Elizabeth I’s dad. (He was only 13 years older than her.)

Sir William Cecil was made Lord Burghley when Elizabeth I retired him. (She ennobled him as a reward for his services 13 years into her reign and he remained her most loyal adviser until his death.)

Lord Burghley was alive around the time of the Earl of Essex’s execution in 1601. (He died in 1598.)

Sir Francis Walsingham:

Sir Francis Walsingham was a ruthless and scheming middle aged man who killed a young boy, was a proponent of torture and sexually ambiguous. (He was only a few years older than her and wasn’t much of a schemer as he’s depicted in the Cate Blanchett movie nor did he ever kill a young boy {or anyone}. Oh, and he wasn’t a key figure in English politics until after he was recalled from France since he spent his early years in court as a servant to Sir William Cecil. On a personal note, he was very religious, happily married, and had a daughter who married Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Devereux. Still, he was a proponent of torture.)

Elizabeth I visited Sir Francis Walsingham when he was dying. (She let him die in poverty and simply didn’t visit him.)

Francis Walsingham had trapped and executed the Duke of Norfolk. (Walsingham was in France when Norfolk was executed.)

Francis Walsingham locked up six bishops to guarantee passage of the Act of uniformity to secure the Queen’s act, which won by five votes. (No such action ever took place {actually Sir William Cecil got them to agree through more complex means}. According to Movie Mistakes Cecil, “effectively became the first government whip, using many techniques, the most important being a procedural device that limited debate to that which was justified by Scripture alone. The Catholic MP’s walked out in protest. The two ringleaders of the protest were taken to the Tower of London.” Also, Elizabethan bishops didn’t wear black mitres either.)

The Babington Plot:

Alvaro de la Quadra was assassinated in retaliation for the Babington Plot. (He died in 1564, 22 years before the Babington plot ever took place.)

The Babington Plot ended with Anthony Babington aiming a pistol at Elizabeth I in St. Paul’s Cathedral. (It was thwarted in the planning stages and was one of the main reasons Mary, Queen of Scots was executed.)

The Spanish Armada:

The English lost ships during their clash with the Spanish Armada. (No single ship was lost.)

The Spanish Armada battle took place off the coast of England. (It was off the coast of France.)

The English defeat of the Spanish Armada was due to the English navy efforts. (The Spanish Armada campaign was disastrously mismanaged {by the Spanish} yet they could’ve won easily as the English ran out of ammo. Yet, they were shipwrecked by powerful storms off the West coast of Ireland.)

William Shakespeare:

Shakespeare’s inspiration Viola was a woman who aspired to be an actress in one of his plays. (The romance of Shakespeare in Love never happened. Also, he may have been bisexual since his sonnets focus on a young boy and a Dark Lady.)

Macbeth was performed before Hamlet. (Hamlet was performed before Macbeth.)

Shakespeare didn’t author his plays but was given them by Edward de Vere. (There’s some debate over this but it’s plausible. Also, a PBS special argued this quite convincingly. My guess is these guys probably collaborated.)

Richard III was played on the eve of the Essex Rebellion. (It was Richard II.)

Sir Walter Raleigh:

Sir Walter Raleigh was the hero of the English Campaign against the Spanish Armada. (Sir Francis Drake was since it was his moment of triumph. Raleigh was kept in Ireland at that time on special business.)

Elizabeth I knighted Sir Walter Raleigh to keep him in England and against his will. (It was a reward for his services. Also, he was knighted on a ship and not against his will.)

Sir Walter Raleigh was a pirate who was imprisoned around the time of the Spanish Armada. (Drake was the pirate. Also, Raleigh only was imprisoned by Elizabeth I several years after the Spanish Armada.)

Sir Walter Raleigh had an easily understandable accent. (His strong West Country accent made it difficult for some courtiers to understand him and made him an object of ridicule. For instance, Elizabeth I called him “Water” because of it. Also, Drake had the same accent.)

Sir Walter Raleigh had an affair with Bess Throckmorton around the time of the Spanish Armada. (This happened three years after the English defeated the fleet. Oh, and she was secretly married to him as well as had his child. Not to mention, Elizabeth I didn’t know about Raleigh’s secret marriage and family until several months after his child Damerei was born. The infant died during Raleigh’s imprisonment in the Tower of London.)

Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Europe. (The Spanish Conquistadors did in 1570 while Raleigh was at Oxford, which were cultivated in Peru for thousands of years. Francisco Pizzaro would’ve been a better candidate.)

Sir Walter Raleigh discovered “Virginia” which he named after Elizabeth I. (Sure he sent a mission to establish a settlement in Roanoke Island around 1584 {which failed and is off the coast of today’s North Carolina} but he never set foot in the New World. Also “Virginia” was derived by the name of the Roanoke chief “Wingina” which was modified by Queen Elizabeth I to “Virginia.”)

Sir Walter Raleigh returned home from Virginia. (The first successful English colony in Virginia was founded as Jamestown in 1607, four years after Elizabeth I died. Seriously?)

Sir Walter Raleigh was cool, sardonic, and proud. (He was 19 years younger than Elizabeth I as well as a major suck up constantly seeking more financial rewards from the queen to finance his lavish wardrobe. Also, he had a pair of gem encrusted shoes worth £6000 at the time {and would make Imelda Marcos look like a cheapskate}. Also, he’d probably not cover mud puddles with his cloak for her since he may not have wanted to get shit all over it.)

Elizabeth I put Sir Walter Raleigh in jail for marrying one of her ladies in waiting. (Yes, but Throckmorton was forbidden to enter a relationship without the queen’s approval. Raleigh and Throckmorton were in a relationship and had a baby together before the queen knew anything about it.)

Sir Walter Raleigh and his wife spent the rest of their lives in the New World. (They remained in England for the rest of their lives. Also, even after Walter’s execution in 1618, it’s said Bess had his disembodied head embalmed and kept it in her house until she died. Sometimes it’s said she even showed it off to dinner guests.)


Kat Astley was the same age as Elizabeth I. (She was 30 years older than her and served as her governess as well as the closest thing she had to a mom at the time.)

Robert Cecil was a supercilious counselor at Elizabeth I’s court. (He was her chief counselor whom she’d refer to as “my dwarf” since he was small and had a curved spine.)

Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the Earl of Arundel, and the Duke of Sussex were executed for plotting against Elizabeth I. (Gardiner died before Elizabeth took the throne, the Earl of Arundel was sentenced to the Tower of London and died in prison, and the Duke of Sussex was a loyal supporter of hers who was never implicated in any plots or executed.)

Sir Thomas Elyot was drowned by Ballard for being a reverse mole. (He died on his Cambridgeshire estates in 1546.)

The Duke of Norfolk was a cold, power-hungry, and calculating mastermind Catholic in his thirties trying to overthrow Queen Elizabeth. (Yes, he was involved in plots to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I which consisted of marrying Mary, Queen of Scots {without the Queen’s permission} and the Babington Plot {these happened within 14 years apart from each other}. However, he was just a naïve and gullible co-conspirator. Oh, and he was 22 year old Protestant {as we know} when Elizabeth succeeded the throne but was 36 at his execution. Interestingly, he was also Elizabeth’s first cousin through her mother’s side. As one blogger noted, “Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, came from a long line of men with a tendency for pissing off the monarch and getting imprisoned or executed, and decided not to break with tradition.”)

John Ballard was a co-conspirator in the Ridolfi plot with the Duke of Norfolk. (He wasn’t but he was considered an initiator in the Babington Plot and was executed for his involvement in it in 1586. Oh, and he was a Jesuit.)

Lettice Knollys died by a poison dress meant for Elizabeth I. (She outlived Elizabeth by 31 years.)

Christopher Marlowe was alive in 1598. (He died in 1593.)

Ben Jonson’s dad was a glass maker. (He was clergyman while his stepdad was a bricklayer.)

Francis Drake brought potatoes to the Old World. (The Spanish brought them from Peru.)

Men in the Elizabethan era used rapiers as a weapon of choice. (They despised it, and preferred good old long swords.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 20 – Tudor England


I can never think of a better movie featuring Tudor England than A Man for All Seasons which is about the the story of Saint Sir Thomas More who refused to go along with his friend Henry VIII and lost his head for it. Of course, you may think that Robert Shaw’s Henry VIII is too buff but he would’ve actually looked very much like this at the time. He only got fat later in life. Still, let’s just say More wasn’t as saintly as he’s portrayed in here by Paul Scofield.

When Henry Tudor killed Richard III during the Battle of Bosworth Field, he ascended the English throne and started a new dynasty that was to last a little over a century as well as ended the Wars of the Roses. Sort of. Henry Tudor became Henry VII, married Elizabeth of York which not only was a perfectly arranged marriage producing four children but was also a good policy move securing his place on the throne, had successfully handled two pretenders to the throne, and made England in better shape than before. Unfortunately, Hollywood thinks doing a movie about his life would be very boring subject since everyone best knows him for being the father of one of more famous despots in history, Henry VIII. Now we all know that this guy was that he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church after Pope Clement VII refused to give him an annulment from his wife who failed to give him a son. Of course, many don’t know that Pope Clement was in no place to give him one anyway since Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon, whose nephew Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was holding the pontiff hostage. Henry’s also best known for marrying six times (with their fates being divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) as well as beheading two of them (one of them being Queen Elizabeth’s mother whose beheading was a setup). Also, he’s dissolved monasteries to pay for his foreign wars and self-enrichment as well as executing a whole bunch of people including many of his friends who wouldn’t go along with him on some things (I’m talking to you Thomas More). Oh, and he’s known for being fat. Still, Henry VIII is a very interesting historical subject for filmmakers and there are plenty of movies taking place in his reign. However, there are things about movies set in Tudor England that contain inaccuracies, which I shall list.

Tudor England:

Everyone spelled their name and everything else the same way all the time. (There were no standard spelling system at this time.)

The Tudor Rose was an actual rose. (It was a heraldic emblem of the unification of the houses of Lancaster and York.)

English Protestants were good guys while Spanish and British Catholics were absolutely bad. (Neither side was no better than anyone else.)

Henry VIII:

Henry VIII was a fat and villainous king. (He was once a relatively kind and generous ruler as well as fairly buff and handsome until right before the end of his marriage with Anne Boleyn. Of course, his Tudor diet, leg ulcers, and jousting accident took a toll on him both physically and mentally. In fact, his jousting accident might’ve been the start of his decline into the fat bearded despot we know since Anne Boleyn miscarried and was executed after that incident on trumped charges.)

Henry VIII was an intellectual cypher, possessed with low cunning. (He was something of an intellectual with a real appreciation for high culture.)

Henry VIII’s Church of England was Protestant. (He’d execute you if you’d say that because he absolutely loathed Protestantism. Also, his church was just a separation of England from Rome and dissolved monasteries just to get cash to finance a war in France as well as land and goods.)

Henry VIII sought an annulment from the Pope just so he could divorce his wife. (He wanted to disinherit his daughter, Mary and assure that there was no way she would ever become Queen. It didn’t work.)

Saint Sir Thomas More:

Saint Sir Thomas More was witty and used clean language. (Yes, he was witty but his writings on Martin Luther have him call the guy a “pimp” or an “arse” and claimed his mouth was “a shit-pool of all shit.” He also said Luther celebrated Mass in a lavatory, and listed four type of ordure he was filled with consisting of {merda, stercus, lutum and coenum [all Latin for shit and dirt]}. In some ways, he sometimes talked as if he was a character in a 16th century version of The Wire. Still, too bad, they couldn’t include that in A Man for All Seasons since it was made in the 1960s{it would’ve been so much more entertaining}.)

Saint Sir Thomas More was a good Catholic of purity and principle who refused to recognize Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and refused to break with the Catholic Church and paid it with his life. (Yes, he refused to recognize Henry’s church, divorce, and remarriage, and that’s what got him killed. Actually, as a good Catholic in his day, well, that’s difficult to determine. Loyal and faithful, yes, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who’d let his daughter marry a Protestant, for he vigorous opponent of Protestantism. Though he remained Catholic, he also believed that a council of bishops should be superior to the pope in authority or do without a pope altogether and was buddies with Thomas Cromwell and Erasmus of Rotterdam.)

Saint Sir Thomas More owned a yellow Labrador retriever. (The ones with the features we see today weren’t even bred yet.)

King Henry VIII needed Saint Sir Thomas More’s endorsement. (He just wanted it for the prestige since he liked people agreeing with him on these things. Cramner and Cromwell had already assured he had ample ground for annulling his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.)

Saint Sir Thomas More railed against Cardinal Wolsey. (He wasn’t anything but a docile servant to him on both public and private matters since he counted on the guy for advancement. He never did anything to offend Wolsey until after the cardinal failed to gain acceptance of the king’s annulment {in which More responded with a cruel and vindictive tirade of him during his maiden speech as Lord Chancellor in front of Parliament} and thus, fell from grace.)

Saint Sir Thomas More only had a daughter and was married once. (He had four kids as well as a stepdaughter and was married twice {and Dame Alice wasn’t the mother of his kids and her daughter wasn’t his}. Also, he had various foster kids, too. However, he did believe in giving his daughters a full formal education.)

The Duke of Norfolk conspired against Saint Sir Thomas More because he wanted his job. (Maybe, but he was also Anne Boleyn’s uncle at the time as well.)

Richard Rich committed vicious perjury against Saint Sir Thomas More. (It’s highly unlikely he did this maliciously since he was guy willing to bend by every wind. Also, what he said against More was much less malicious.)

William Roper:

William Roper was Protestant when he married Margaret More. (His flirtation with Lutheranism happened after he and Margaret were married. Also, Thomas More would’ve been absolutely furious if any of his kids married a guy he knew was a Protestant.)

William Roper was a model son-in-law for Thomas More, despite his religious views. (Sure he wrote a glowing biography of the man, but he also fell out with Dame Alice after More’s execution and repeatedly sued her for his lands as a quarrelsome and litigious man.)

Catherine of Aragon:

Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary were able to see each other while Anne Boleyn was queen. (They were forbidden from seeing each other, thanks to Henry VIII.)

Catherine of Aragon didn’t have a sexual relationship with Prince Arthur. (Well, she claimed this, but there’s debate about this. Yet, her previous marriage to Henry VIII’s brother was one of the reasons why Henry VIII wanted to divorce her since he believed marrying his brother’s widow was the reason he wasn’t getting an heir.)

Catherine of Aragon was Spanish who had dark eyes and hair. (Yes, but she didn’t have the Mediterranean features associated with most Spanish people. Rather she was a redhead with blue eyes and alabaster skin and so were the old Spanish families. Thus, she probably looked more like Conan O’Brien than Irene Papas.)

Henry VIII was devoted to Catherine of Aragon before the Boleyn sisters. (Henry had at least one out of wedlock son to one of Catherine’s maid before Mary or Anne showed up. Also, he was known to be unfaithful to his mistresses as well as his wives.)

Mary Boleyn:

Henry VIII had a child with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary before they got together. (Mary Boleyn probably was Henry VIII’s mistress but it’s highly unlikely that she had a child by him for Henry VIII didn’t acknowledge either of her two children. She was also married to another guy so Henry VIII may not have even known whether either of her kids were his or not. Her husband was more likely the father anyway.)

Mary Boleyn was blushing virgin who loved Henry VIII and only wanted a quiet life in the country while her sister Anne was evil and ambitious. (Actually, Mary Boleyn had a reputation as “The Great Prostitute,” and was married by the time of her alleged affair with Henry VIII. She was even allegedly a mistress to the King of France for three years. Also, she was recalled from the French court because her behavior there was scandalous to them that she was sent home in disgrace. Oh, and there’s no indication that Mary was unwilling to sleep with Henry VIII either. Anne Boleyn, on the other hand, only slept with one guy in her entire life. Still, she supported charities, sheltered Protestants, promoting artistic endeavors, and showed an unusually keen interest in Elizabeth’s upbringing. She also secured a respectable pension for her sister and sent her nephew to a Cistercian monastery for his education.)

Mary Boleyn lived happily ever after and married Sir William Stafford for love. (She died barely nine years into her marriage with him with her younger children being seven and eight. Oh, and she was banished by the English court to Rochford Hall for marrying Stafford since a common soldier was below her social station as well as got disowned by her family for good. Of course, exile was probably a blessing for her despite that she was never allowed to travel to London or France {though she wanted to return there}. )

Henry VIII trusted Mary Boleyn over her sister. (When Mary’s husband died, Henry VIII gave guardianship of her two-year-old son to Anne because he was worried about her “easy virtue.”)

Mary Boleyn was heartbroken when Henry VIII dumped her for her sister. (She and Henry VIII had been on the outs for years so she wasn’t too upset he was seeing her sister.)

Mary Boleyn pleaded for her siblings’ lives. (By this point, Mary absolutely had no influence on the king even though she tried to seek his favor for her second husband through highly placed people of court. She didn’t visit her siblings in prison nor wrote or communicated with them in any way since she had been kicked out of court for marrying a common soldier.)

Mary Boleyn was banished from her family for being a threat to Henry VIII’s affection. (Her family disowned her because she married a guy below her station.)

Anne Boleyn:

Anne Boleyn was obsessed with wanting Elizabeth to become queen. (She was more worried about her daughter being exiled or killed or perhaps being executed herself.)

Anne Boleyn initially rejected Henry VIII before she gave in. (Anne Boleyn would’ve done no such thing nor would any of Henry VIII’s other wives since it was a great way to improve their families’ status and gain considerable influence. Also, she wouldn’t refuse him with accusations nor criticize the king in front of his face since that could get any noble thrown out of court as well as in a lot of trouble {look at all the buddies Henry VIII beheaded like Saint Sir Thomas More}. Of course, for such behavior, Henry VIII probably would’ve punished her by having her marry some lord in Ireland as well as forcing her to move away from all the sophistication and attention she craved. Not to mention, at least two of Henry VIII’s six wives were in love with other men and still accepted his marriage proposal. A royal marriage was a goal for many noble women in the sixteenth century.)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn married in a public ceremony. (They married in secret because according to some people and the Catholic Church, he was still technically married to Catherine of Aragon.)

Henry VIII raped Anne Boleyn in which Elizabeth I was conceived. (Their pre-marital sexual encounter was most likely consensual though Anne was pregnant at the time of their wedding. Henry VIII may not have been a nice guy, but he’d never force himself on anyone sexually like that.)

Anne Boleyn wasn’t a virgin when she met Henry VIII. (If she wasn’t, she’d have kept that fact to herself. However, if she wasn’t, she certainly didn’t sleep with as many guys as her sister did {since she was the one who had a reputation for sluttiness}.)

Anne Boleyn forced Henry VIII to leave Catherine of Aragon. (She refused to sleep with him until he was free to marry again {though the no-sex rule may have been Henry’s decision since he was trying to make nice with the pope and didn’t want any girlfriends popping out bastards} but the idea of an annulment had been on his mind for quite some time since he was already obsessed with having a male heir.)

Anne Boleyn chose death so Elizabeth could become queen. (Elizabeth was removed from succession right after her mother’s execution. Few people in 1536 could’ve imagined she ended up queen.)

Anne Boleyn secretly married Henry Percy and was exiled to France when her parents found out. (She was secretly engaged to him since her father opposed the match yet it’s very unlikely that their relationship was ever consummated. Their relationship was broken up by Cardinal Wolsey, not Henry VIII. As for being in France, she and her sister were sent there for an education.)

Anne Boleyn didn’t love Henry VIII. (She probably did to some extent, though sometimes he didn’t seem like a loveable guy. Still, she pretty much remained faithful to him as his queen who did her best to please him despite getting screwed in the process. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.)

Anne Boleyn was cold, vindictive, vain, ruthlessly ambitious, and given to physical violence. (Ambitious, arrogant, and short-tempered, yes, but she was highly intelligent, politically astute, bilingual, artistically gifted, loyal to her family, and generous to her friends as well as known for her charm and elegance.)

Anne Boleyn was older than her sister Mary. (Anne was younger.)

Henry VIII lost interest in Anne Boleyn at the time of their wedding. (No, he had a long seven year courtship with her, a short affair, and a three year marriage. They didn’t have sex until shortly before their wedding. He lost interest in her after her second miscarriage thinking it was Catherine of Aragon all over again. Also, shortly before her second miscarriage, he had been involved in a jousting incident that might’ve sent him on a physical and mental decline so he wasn’t in the best of health either.)

Anne Boleyn was accused of incest with her brother. (She was also accused with adultery with several men including her brother and with high treason in plotting with one of her lovers to kill the king. All were trumped up of course, for Henry VIII needed an excuse to get rid of her so he could wed Jane Seymour.)

Anne Boleyn was in 18 years old when she met Henry VIII in 1527. (She was at least in her early twenties, maybe as old as 26.)

Henry VIII visited Anne Boleyn after her arrest and offered to a deal which would’ve given her freedom. (He didn’t and her marriage was annulled anyway with Elizabeth being declared a bastard like Mary. Not to mention, she was disallowed the right to question witnesses against her. Also, she had last seen Henry a joust a day before her arrest but the king never interfered with the proceedings at Anne’s trial. Still, Henry VIII offered no alternatives for Anne since she would’ve saved her own neck when given the chance.)

Anne Boleyn pressured Henry VIII to have Saint Sir Thomas More executed. (There’s no evidence from that period that suggests this.)
The debate between Catholicism vs. Protestantism killed Anne Boleyn. (It was actually two miscarriages and being arrested and executed under trumped charges that did her in.)

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII were publicly disappointed when Elizabeth was born. (Well, they were disappointed but they didn’t show it in public. Of course, he rationalized that if Anne could give birth to a healthy girl, then she’d have a healthy boy. Well, Anne ended up having two miscarriages.)

Sir William Carey:

Sir William Carey was a merchant. (He was a notable courtier as well as one of king’s favorite Gentlemen of the Bedchamber {I’m not kidding on this, seriously} who she married around her affair with Henry VIII. Oh, and he attended the wedding and arranged the whole marriage himself.)

Sir William Carey originally wanted to marry Anne Boleyn but settled for Mary. (Anne was never considered as a marriage candidate for him. Also, it was Henry VIII who helped arrange the match between Mary and William in the first place.)

Anne of Cleves:

Anne of Cleves was ugly. (Most of Henry VIII’s contemporaries thought she was rather pleasant looking. Also, one courtier said she was Henry’s prettiest queen. Of course, she didn’t suit Henry’s preferences at the time.)

Anne of Cleves made herself unattractive in front of Henry VIII so she could be free to marry her sweetheart as well as won her freedom at a card game on her wedding night. (She was actually rather attractive and one of Henry’s prettiest queens. Yet, she was probably repulsed by the obese Henry from the start and there’s no evidence whether she had a boyfriend. Oh, and she didn’t win her freedom through a card game but consented to the divorce, giving her respectable settlement in return.)

Jane Seymour:

Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to Prince Edward. (Childbirth was the main cause of her death but she would survive Edward’s birth for a couple of weeks and she there for his christening.)

Henry VIII was devastated by Jane Seymour’s death. (Well, he did consider her the love of his life after she gave him what he had to wait 27 years for. However, contemporary reports say he was mildly upset that Jane’s death had disrupted his hunting plans.)


Cardinal Wolsey died as Lord Chancellor. (He died a year after he was stripped of this office.)

Anne and Mary Boleyn spoke in English accents. (They were raised in French and would’ve spoken in French accents.)

George Boleyn was gay as well as in love with Francis Weston but had designs on his sister Anne. (There’s no evidence of him having any kind of sexual orientation, yet he certainly didn’t commit incest with his sister.)

Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn were devoid of their affection for their daughters and willing to use them as sexual pawns. (Well, it depended on the situation.)

Katherine Howard fell in love with Thomas Culpeper after she married Henry VIII. (She was in love with Culpeper before marrying the king. She also had an affair with Francis Dereham before she ever met Henry.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 19 – The Catholic Counter-Reformation


Here is Queen Isabella of Spain played by Rachel Weisz in The Fountain. I chose this picture since Queen Isabella of Spain is one of the few figures in the Catholic Counter-Reformation to be depicted in a positive light since she’s mostly seen being a patron of Christopher Columbus (and that most movies on the Inquisition are usually played for horror). However, unlike most depictions of her including this, she’s also known for starting the Spanish Inquisition we all know as the one of the fiercest villainous organizations depicted on film. Also, there’s no way in hell the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada would’ve ever wanted to assassinate her for since he knew what the penalty would be (while a Grand Inquisitor making an attempt on her life would actually seem more like karma). Also, she was not in love with a Conquistador (and was faithful to her husband King Ferdinand as well as the fact the Conquistadors weren’t around until after she was dead) and certainly didn’t look like that around middle age and seems to retain her figure all too well after ten pregnancies.

Of course, there’s also the Catholic Counter-Reformation which sought to correct certain abuses of the Catholic Church as well as bring the faith back to the people. Of course, the Counter-Reformation was a time of the Inquisitions where many of the leading clerics would round up heretics for torture and trial. The most famous was the Spanish Inquisition which tended to turn out of nowhere from time to time at a random mention uttering “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” then proceeded to torture people with dish racks, fluffy cushions, and comfy chairs (actually this isn’t the one from Monty Python, sorry). Actually the real Spanish Inquisition was a quasi – state and religious organization started by Ferdinand and Isabella that was set to unite Spain under the “new” Catholicism once and for all, which more or less pertained to expelling or persecuting the Jews and Muslims in the area, especially those who converted. Oh, and there were plenty of other Inquisitions to root out heresy as well. You also have the Jesuits under Saint Ignatius Loyola who found a new order of priests devoted to education, spiritual exercises, and total obedience to the Pope. Of course, while this movement exists today, it didn’t always get good press. Then there’s the Catholic mysticism of Saint Theresa of Avila and her order captured most famously in a statue by Bernini. And last but not least, let’s not forget the Council of Trent which helped shaped Catholicism within much of its history before Vatican II. Of course, some reforms would be unmet, but this managed to put some areas of Europe back in the Catholic Church’s hands as well as helped make the Church a more efficient and accountable religious institution. Still, Hollywood rarely touches upon this and sees the Catholic Church during the Reformation as a static and backward institution which doesn’t say the whole truth (I mean you get movies about Martin Luther but you barely have any on Ignatius Loyola or Theresa of Avila). And depictions of the Inquisitions are much worse than they were in real life by 16th century standards (this doesn’t dismiss them as bad guys but they weren’t nearly the monsters you see in the movies). So here are some cinematic inaccuracies relating to the Catholic Reformation.

Catholic Reaction:

Catholic leaders refused to debate or engage Martin Luther. (Some Catholic theologians actually did and in public like Johann Eck.)

Catejan was a cardinal during the conclave that elected Pope Leo X in 1513. (He was made a cardinal four years later.)

Girolamo Aleander was a cardinal during the Diet of Worms. (He wouldn’t become cardinal until 15 years later.)

Catholic Europe was rife with witch burning hysteria. (The real witch-burning hysteria was in Protestant northern Europe where more witches were killed. The Inquisition did their share to prevent such hysteria in Catholic areas.)

Catholic clergymen and leaders were misogynistic. (Maybe, but many Protestant sects were no better since they wanted all women to stay in the kitchen more or less. Oh, and they did raided convents as well as forced nuns to convert and marry in some situations. At least Catholic women had some choice to become nuns if they wanted to. The 16th century wasn’t a good time for women, let’s just leave it at that.)

Catholic priests were all trained assassins in the 16th century. (Yeah, I can believe it. Not really.)


Pope Julius II wore golden armor. (He was a warrior pope who did wear armor, but it wouldn’t have been made out of gold {which is too soft for the battlefield}.)

Pope Julius II was clean shaven. (He had a beard. He also had an illegitimate daughter and was rumored to be gay, strangely.)

Pope Leo X was around in 1525. (He died well before then.)

Pope Julius II was present in Rome when Martin Luther was there. (He wasn’t.)

Pope Leo X put a bounty on Martin Luther’s head. (He actually sent orders that Luther’s safe passage was to be respected.)

The Catholic Church refused to grant King Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon out of moral principles. (The real reason had nothing to do with moral principle as we learn from Lucrezia Borgia’s married life for but then again, her dad was the pope. Also, Henry VIII was in good graces with the Church prior to that time and was given the title “Defender of the Faith,” from Leo X long before he was petitioning for a divorce and knew the pope owed him a favor. However, the reason why the Pope Clement VII didn’t grant Henry VIII a divorce had nothing to do with the fact that he was married but who he was married to and in a loving relationship of over 20 years in fact. Not to mention, annulments were fairly common back then and if Henry VIII was married to anyone else, he probably would’ve obtained it easily. Yet, Clement VII was being held prisoner by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Catherine of Aragon’s nephew. Also, Henry VIII wasn’t asking for a divorce from the Pope but an annulment so he wouldn’t have his daughter Mary inherit the throne after he died. He didn’t just want to be single again, he wanted Catherine declared a whore and his daughter Mary a bastard. It’s pretty obvious why Charles V didn’t want that done to his aunt. It didn’t really work. Besides, other heirless kings have divorced their wives before. And Pope Clement VII didn’t really refused, but delayed making any decision hoping that either Henry or Charles would die in the process or just wanted Henry to take care of the matter himself, but not in the way he wanted it.)

The Borgias:

Pope Alexander VI had five kids. (He’s said to have more than that. Yet, some say that he may not have fathered any kids at all. Still, he’s said to have a descendant named Francis who became a Jesuit and a saint. Also, he’s an ancestor of Brooke Shields.)

Cesare Borgia killed Lucrezia’s second husband Alfonso of Aragon. (He was primarily accused of his brother-in-law’s murder but he had a lot of other enemies, too, so we’re not sure. Also, though the Borgias had a notorious reputation for ruthlessness and murder, they were no more murderous than any other prominent Italian family at the time. They just got a bad rep for being social climbers and Spanish. Oh, and Niccolo Machiavelli’s shout-out to Cesare in The Prince certainly doesn’t help either.)

Lucrezia Borgia had sex with her male relatives. (This most likely never happened and the child born in the Borgia household in 1498 wasn’t Lucrezia’s son.)


The Jesuits were assassins. (They were a priestly order set up by Saint Ignatius Loyola, which helped reinvigorate Catholicism through education and spiritual exercises. Nevertheless, the first Jesuits were ex-soldiers, by the way and called themselves “Soldiers of Christ.”)

The Inqusitions:

The Inquisition was one of the big muscles of oppression during the Counter-Reformation. (Actually the Inquisition began before that and even though it ended in the 1800s, it was off and on. It began in the 1300s, peaked in the 1500s with the Reformation and Spanish Inquisition, and died down way after that. Also, the real muscle for the Counter-Reformation were the Jesuits who helped reclaim areas of Catholicism with education and zeal. Also, the Protestants had their ways of oppressing others, too whether they be Catholic, Jewish, or different kind of Protestant.)

The Inquisition consisted of a bunch of witch-hunters who accused people of witchcraft. (Actually the Spanish Inquisition was more interested in condemning heretics {or whatever else the Spanish Crown wanted for sometimes the Spanish Inquisition targeted certain individuals for solely political reasons}. Even at the height of witch craziness, the official Catholic Church position on witchcraft accusations was superstitious nonsense and actually tried to suppress witch-hunts and often investigated the cases of the accused so they can acquit them and calm down the public panic. And the Church had forbidden the belief in witchcraft since the 7th century even though it became more open to it late in the Middle Ages. Not to mention, the Spanish Inquisition was more likely to go after the accusers than the accused unless they were also suspected of heresy. Also, the Spanish Inquisition only executed 12 people for witchcraft {and the inquisitors involved in those were punished}. Also, some of the first people to speak out against accusations of witchcraft and torture were priests based on their experiences and did so by pointing out the obvious. However, there were witch burnings in Protestant areas during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and witchcraft was considered a crime according to secular law.)

Veronica Franco was accused of witchcraft and was tried by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. It was only by the intervention of the Marco Venier and Venetian senate that she was dismissed of all charges. (Sure, yet even though the Inquisition tried her, they were on her side and would eventually dismiss her of all charges anyway, no matter what the people of Venice did because this was how the Inquisition normally handled witchcraft charges. Thus, she was never in any danger from them. They only arrested and tried her in order to calm down the public hysteria and prove that the notion of witchcraft was just superstitious nonsense.)

The Catholic Church largely supported the Spanish Inquisition, which tortured, persecuted, and slaughtered tens of thousands. (The Spanish Inquisition was mostly operated by the Spanish government and while the Catholic Church hierarchy supported it to a certain extent, but it was the least religiously motivated inquisition though despite its reputation. If it was ever used as a political tool of repression, it was mainly for the Spanish Crown, not the Church. And this Inquisition often focused its surveillance on cities due to limited resources and wasn’t deployed much overseas. They were also highly regulated and didn’t always use torture to extract confessions and served primarily to educate ordinary people about the faith and how to uphold it, sort of what the Jesuits did. The Spanish Inquisition only executed about 1500-5,000 of the people it tried in its entire existence {mostly because the convict usually fled and burned in effigy}, which was less than how many people were killed executed in Europe for witchcraft at the same time estimated at 60,000. Also, the Spanish Inquisition spent most of their time correcting peasant superstitions, lapses of morality and sexual misconduct, and confronting religious ignorance. Heresy only occupied 3% of their cases, which by Hollywood standards is boring. They also introduced the presumption of innocence, provided legal counsel for the accused, considered confession without factual corroboration unfit grounds for sentence, and were forbidden to accept accusations from ex-convicts or people who could benefit from the sentence. None of that was observed by most secular courts of the period as well as were methodical for gathering and basing their cases on evidence. They also didn’t burn books either despite having a banned books list, the books were widely available. As for torture, it was considered an exceptional method up to the 18th century, just as fines and imprisonment are used today but it wasn’t to a high degree since the Inquisition was forbidden to draw blood during torture. Of course, they didn’t believe in habeas corpus either and the accused could be in prison for two years without knowing his or her accusers were. Actually the notoriety of the Spanish Inquisition was more or less formulated by anti-Catholic propaganda and that Spain was at war with Protestant nations like England and the Netherlands where there was more freedom of speech for its time and the printing press was much more available.)

The Spanish Inquisition and the Papal Inquisition were one and the same. (They were completely separate organizations and happened at completely different times.)

The Catholic Church executed heretics during the Counter Reformation and Inquisition under auto da fe (act of faith). (The Church never executed anyone even for heresy since priests were and still are forbidden to shed blood. When they did convict someone, the Church handed him or her to the secular authorities who executed them. Also auto da fe was not the execution itself but the public penance of convicted heretics that occurred before the sentence was to be carried out and many were spared at the last moment if they confessed and repented.)

The Spanish Inquisition was a religious organization that handled only religious cases. (The Spanish also used it as a tool for political repression ran by the state and all cases were reported to the El Escorial first, not the pope. Actually it was mainly used as a tool for political repression and one of the least religiously motivated inquisitions to date. In fact, the very existence of the Spanish Inquisition sort of violated the separation of church and state but then again, there wasn’t much separation in Spain to begin with.)

The Spanish Inquisition was Spain’s muscle to suppress heretical ideas and enforce the old Catholicism on the population. (Actually the Spanish Inquisition was not interested in enforcing the “old” Catholicism as it was promoting the “new” Catholicism, making the country resistant to the Counter-Reformation. And it was also used to Christianize Granada or expel those who didn’t want to convert.)

Veronica Franco was tried once by the Inquisition. (She was tried twice for witchcraft and in both she confessed to performing sorcerous rituals to entertain her clients and insisted she didn’t believe them. The Inquisition just said her actions were inappropriate and not do them anymore in each case. Her witchcraft case against the Inquisition was no less ordinary than anyone else’s in Catholic Europe. Oh, and she was denounced by her son’s tutor over revenge since she suspected him of theft of various precious items in her house, not because she bewitched legions of men.)