Diana in ‘The Crown’ Season Four: An Analysis

TW: Eating disorders

The fourth season of the ‘The Crown’ on Netflix has caused quite a stir, with royal biographers and insiders criticising the depiction of the royal family. Both Lady Diana Spencer and Margaret Thatcher made their entrance in its most recent season, to rave reviews. In particular, the spotlight was placed on the well-known marriage of Charles and Diana. The series covers their relationship from their first meeting, up until the late 80s. Over ten episodes we watch Charles and Diana’s marriage falter, while the rest of the royal family, and Camilla, stand by and watch.

We first meet Diana, played by Emma Corrin, along with Charles in episode one. She is 16 and dressed as a ‘mad tree.’ She is preparing for her school’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ The choice of play is obviously deliberate, as is her costume, and writer Peter Morgan should be commended for the allusion. It evokes the idea of the magical fairytale, a theme that runs throughout the series in tandem with the Wales marriage. The play itself revolves around two sets of lovers, who through, the intervention of magic, switch couples. A lot of this action takes place in an enchanted forest, hence Diana’s costume. In the play, Hermia herself runs away from home as her father does not approve of her choice of groom, Lysander. She is instead supposed to be married to, and is loved, by Demetrius. In this immediate situation we could place Charles as Hermia, Lysander as Camilla and Demetrius as Diana. The obvious couple swapping foreshadows the adultery that occurred within the royal marriage, with Charles, Diana, Camilla and James Hewitt taking on the role of the four lovers, and the confusion that ensues within the play speaks to the general confusion felt by Charles and Diana and… well everyone else as to what is going on. The fact that the action takes place away from the city and in the forest also speaks to the dichotomy of public and private. The action between the four lovers in the play is not seen by anyone else other than those directly involved. The public were not fully aware about the specific difficulties in the Wales marriage until the 90s, following Andrew Morton’s book and interviews given by the couple. The fact that Charles does not see Diana’s face throughout the scene, as she wears a mask shows that, from the off, he cannot see her or understand her properly. Later on, in the episode, Diana randomly appears in front of Charles at a fair to offer her condolences following the death of Lord Mountbatten. After their brief conversation she floats away into the background as fairground music plays, giving her an almost fairy-like, ethereal quality.

The second episode revolves around the royal family’s trip to Balmoral, and their obsession with shooting a stag. When invited to Balmoral, Diana is told that this would be the ‘most important weekend’ of her life. At the end of the episode, the stag is caught and mounted on the wall. Following Diana’s debut, she is described as ‘perfection’ and ‘a triumph’ by members of the family, putting the pressure on Charles to marry her. By the end of the episode she is the prize, and the new addition to the family. Much like the stag. The stag is immortalised on the wall, as Diana is in history. There is the obvious fact that at this point, the stag is dead, having been shot down and caught by the royal family.

The third episode heavily focuses on the engagement of the couple and the wedding. The aptly titled ‘Fairytale’ is well established throughout the episode, beginning with the excitement of Diana’s friends. The perfect vision of princess happiness, tiaras and tea is quickly subverted when she joins the royal family for drinks. They stand in a circle, and Diana walks into the centre. She curtseys and calls the wrong people by the wrong titles in the wrong order. The camera places us in the circle, with the royal family. It circles around her, invoking the image of vultures swarming around their prey. Charles later leaves Diana to go on a royal tour, telling her to contact Camilla, who is the ‘best company.’ The use of the word ‘best’ literally places Camilla above Diana in Charles’ affections. As part of her Princess training later, in order to stop her hands from flapping, Diana’s grandmother ties rope around her arms. This metaphor shows how the royal family are constraining and trapping Diana in the palace and in their rigid, traditional ways. Throughout the season we see Diana trying to break free of these rules and conventions. Diana’s lunch with Camilla is also an interesting scene to dissect. Dressed head to toe in yellow, a colour that usually denotes happiness, Diana discovers that she knows nothing about her intended. Although she may not intend to do it, Camilla patronises and belittles the young Diana by knowing everything about Charles. This is probably more the fault of Charles, and the conventions of courtship, but it is at this point that Diana realises her and Charles are mismatched. The power dynamics in the conversation shift however, as after Diana finishes dessert, she leans back in her chair, and answers all of Camilla’s questions with confidence and aplomb. The occasional squint emphasises how much Camilla is irritating her. Diana also dishes out her own knowledge about Charles, and how he plans to renovate Highgrove. This is partly new information to Camilla, which puts Diana back into the spotlight. Diana also flatly asks Camilla why she asks all of these questions, which takes Camilla aback, prompting her eyes to drop to the floor. It descends into tragedy however, as Diana is seen throwing up her food following lunch. Diana becomes increasingly isolated in the palace and is seen failing to get through to Charles or the Queen on the phone. Directly after the lunch she asserts that the marriage will be a ‘disaster.’ Despite this, the episode ends with the family preparing for the wedding, with some fairly ominous music playing in the background, like an ill foreboding. We see Diana from behind, followed by her long train. She appears to be walking into a dimly lit room, quite literally signalling her entrance into a dark period of her life.

Diana at the close of episode three

Diana comes under scrutiny in episode four, as Charles berates her interests and Anne expresses jealousy over Diana’s growing popularity. Episode six focuses on the Wales’ tour of Australia. Diana causes controversy by insisting on taking William on the tour. Diana is used throughout the series to subtly critique the royal family, as in this instance, her devotion to her child is not directly mirrored by the queen, who saw no issue with leaving her children at home for five months, when her and Philip toured Australia in 1954. In a heated argument about taking William on the trip, Charles’ secretary notes that Diana’s wishes are irrelevant, as she ‘married the Prince of Wales,’ which is an ‘act of service.’ The use of the word ‘service’ essentially affirms that Diana now has no life outside the royal family, and that she has entered into a life of servitude to the monarchy. She does not have independence or freedom. Diana’s main concern is that William will have no ‘vestige of humanity in him’ and asserts that the ‘greatest’ act of service she can perform as Princess is being a hands-on mother to her son. Charles later complains about Diana to Camilla, as she faltered in the Australian heat, asking for water. He moans about her weakness and fragility, even though for any normal person it is perfectly permissible to feel dehydrated. Diana appears to be much more human and relatable throughout the entire season, and little moments like this emphasise this. In a heated row, Diana tells Charles that she knows about Camilla, asks to be ‘heard, understood, appreciated’ and questions where she fits in. In a poor attempt to resolve the situation, Charles tells Diana that he loves her. This lie feeds Diana exactly what she has been craving, which only heightens her tragedy further, as she is effectively being manipulated by her once handsome Prince. This brief period of happiness quickly descends into jealousy, as Charles cannot handle the attention that Diana gets. When leaving Australia, Diana steps into the plane, which inside is pitch black, implying her unhappiness.

In a desperate conversation with the queen, Diana explains that Charles ‘resents’ her and points out that the public understand that she has ‘suffered.’ Diana hugs the queen, calling her ‘mama’ like a lost child. She is rejected by the queen, leaving Diana as the archetypical fragile, abandoned child. The Queen Mother later labels Diana as ‘immature,’ and asserts that she will ‘bend’ to the ways of the royal family. When questioning if she does not, Margaret chips in saying that Diana will ‘break’ if she refuses. At this point in the series, she is breaking, if not already broken, as her bulimia demonstrates.

Episode nine sees Anne describe the Wales marriage beginning with the phrase ‘once upon a time.’ The obvious references to the fairytale scenario only emphasises the irony and tragedy of Diana’s situation. Diana’s adultery is a large plot point in the episode, and Anne even says that she has a ‘revolving door’ of men. Charles in this episode is not questioned about his infidelity, and Diana takes the flack. This again shows how the family are firmly against Diana and blame her for the failure of her marriage. Her bulimia is discussed by other members of the family, yet no one is seen reaching out in an attempt to help her. After vowing to save the marriage, Charles grows ever distant and so Diana resumes her affair with James Hewitt.

Episode ten centres largely around the couple, and is aptly titled ‘War.’ Diana notes that she is treated as if she is ‘mad’ by the family, and inspires greater fury in Charles when she is seen hugging a child with AIDS on her New York trip. This again only draws the line between the unemotional royals, and the raw, human Diana. After yet another row, Charles informs Diana that, if she is unhappy in the marriage, she should take it up with the ‘people who arranged it.’ It appears that Diana had no power from the very beginning, and that her entire life has been controlled and managed by other people. She was merely a puppet and it is now that she finally realises it. Charles tells her here that he only wants Camilla. At Christmas, Diana awkwardly stands on the periphery during the family celebrations. In one scene, Diana catches the Queen coming inside from a walk, while the lyric, ‘baby it’s cold outside,’ plays. This may be a reference to the Queen’s icy behaviour and attitude towards Diana. She later describes the family as a ‘cold, frozen tundra’ to Prince Philip. He tells her that all people in the family are outsiders bar the queen, and that Diana needs to realise that she is not the centre of the family. Diana threatens to divorce Charles here, completing her arc in the season, from innocent, timid girl, to strong, powerful and nearly independent woman. She is only nearly independent as Philip warns her that a divorce would not ‘end well’ for her. Diana is then seen walking down the stairs to take the Christmas family photo. She walks past some decorative antlers, perhaps emphasising the aggressive and harsh world she inhabits. She also wears black, a colour that directly contrasts with the joy of Christmas, and is more linked to death. She does not smile in the photo, nor at the close of the series. She is expressionless, as if she is devoid of personality, and what we see before us is merely a husk of the once joyful young Princess. Perhaps the title of this episode, ‘War,’ foreshadows the ‘War of the Wales’s’ that will no doubt dominate season five.

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What was the significance of policing inter-racial sexual liaisons in late eighteenth century India?

The significance of the policing of interracial sexual liaisons in the 1790s cannot be realised without understanding Britain’s previous activities in India. Since its conception in the seventeenth century, the East India Trading Company’s primary function was the building and maintaining of trade links with India as a whole.[1] This holistic focus began to narrow under the administration of Warren Hastings, who intended to better understand India by interrogating the country’s customs and languages. This resulted in a degree of cultural assimilation and hybridity, which although it was not fully accepted, was not explicitly discouraged. This led to an increase in interracial sexual liaisons.  Such liaisons did not totally discriminate against Indian women, which is demonstrated by the degree of power that they exercised within these relationships. Hastings’ administration marked the beginning of colonial rule in India. It was during the era of Hastings’ successor, Charles Cornwallis, that the focus of British colonial rule narrowed further and began the process of racialisation, as Cornwallis sought to distance the people of India from the British. ‘Racialisation’ refers to the process in which social practices are defined by race, the practices of which were previously racially unclassified.[2] Cornwallis’ 1793 policies and attitudes towards Eurasians, those of mixed race, indicated this and encouraged the perpetuation of racist stereotypes throughout India which caused Britons to view all Indians with increasing anxiety. The racialisation of the British colonial state had lasting effects following Cornwallis’ departure. Cornwallis’ reforms had encouraged the British to view Indians as the inferior race, as demonstrated from the absence of Indian women from birth records in India and the establishment of Haileybury college. Later, the British desire to abolish Sati showed the highly racialised nature of the colonial state, as the British believed that the people of India needed to be helped in order to save themselves. In this essay I will argue that the policing of interracial sexual liaisons in late eighteenth century India was significant as it marked the increasingly narrowing focus of British colonial rule on race, which led to the racialisation of British colonial India.

Hastings’ administration must be understood in order to appreciate the significance of the policing of interracial sexual liaisons later on in the eighteenth century. Hastings was appointed Governor-General of Bengal in 1773, and sought to adhere to India’s ‘ancient uses and Institutions.’[3] To accomplish this, William Jones established the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784, which prioritised the study of ancient Indian texts.[4] This demonstrates that, in Hastings’ quest to better understand India, he placed the peoples of India and their views first and wished to adapt British concepts of rule in order to suit them. In Hastings’ mind, this would increase British interest in the culture of India and make Indians feel less subjected to British rule, as the British would have made an effort to understand them.[5] In Hastings’ view, this would lead to a harmonious colonial state. This, to an extent, did occur, as the education and proximity of British officials with the people and culture of India resulted in a degree of cultural assimilation and hybridity.

Many British men adopted Indian customs. Dalrymple’s work illustrates this, and speaks of British men who established harems and adopted Mughal ways of governance, such as James Kirkpatrick.[6] This occurred so frequently that contemporaries remarked that the British in India represented a fictionalised, outdated replica of Britain, because they were not attuned to the ongoing developments occurring in their homeland.[7] Under Hastings, the British immersed themselves into Indian culture, turning away from aspects of their native British culture, which resulted in an increase of cultural assimilation and hybridity. The growing proximity between the people of Britain and India resulted in an increase in interracial sexual liaisons.

Captain Thomas Williamson advocated the idea of interracial sexual liaisons and concubinage under Hastings, as it was ‘more practical and economic’ than marriage to a European woman.[8] Williamson justified such liaisons further merely as the result of the ‘disparity in numbers’ between British men and women in India.[9] It is worth noting that, these Indian mistresses too adopted European customs, and even went so far as converting to Christianity, thus encouraging further cultural assimilation.[10] Williamson did not discourage such unions and instead appears to dismiss them as unimportant, as did Hastings’ administration by extension.

These early interracial liaisons are significant as the Indian women involved fashioned themselves into colonial subjects and became involved with colonial governance and finances.[11] Although this power should not be overstated, Indian women did take the opportunity to use their advantageous connections with European men, which allowed for a degree of social mobility.[12]

It was under Hastings that the focus of the British began to narrow increasingly on the language and culture of India and how this could be used for administrative purposes. Although Hastings did respect Indian culture and tradition, it should not be forgotten that the British learned about India in order to rule the country more efficiently and legitimise British colonial rule.[13] Correctly, historians, such as Kopf, identify Hastings’ administration as the beginning of the establishment of colonial rule in India.[14] Although in Hastings’ eyes the resulting cultural assimilation and hybridity of his administration could be seen as examples of tolerance and cosmopolitanism, as Gosh argues, the advent of cultural assimilation and interracial sexual liaisons also led to an increase in anxiety,[15] which was acknowledged and acted upon during Cornwallis’ tenure as Governor-General, beginning in 1786.[16]

It was during the administration of Cornwallis that the focus of the British narrowed further and focused specifically on race, marking the beginning of the increasing racialisation of the British colonial state. The Cornwallis Codes of 1793 barred Indians from taking posts in the British colonial administration.[17] This reform directly contradicted the work of Hastings, who based his administration on the ancient texts and word of India. Cornwallis’ measures ensured that only Britons could be appointed to positions of power in the administration, which Stokes described as ‘a defensive form of Anglicization.’[18] Cornwallis felt that he was defending the British by limiting their contact with the Indians, as he believed them all to be ‘corrupt.’[19] Cornwallis’ anxieties directed the developing ideas of the colonial state, and encouraged him to abolish interracial sexual liaisons through the deployment of legal reforms. Through said reforms Cornwallis clearly marked the distinction between British and Indians and discouraged cultural assimilation, as he saw interracial liaisons and cultural assimilation to be destabilising and threatening to the British colonial order. Both this action and belief represents a radical change in the direction of colonial policy and the beginnings of racialisation in British colonial India. Cornwallis found that such cultural assimilation and hybridity would result in the birth of Eurasians, whose presence he also found problematic.

Eurasians were viewed as a direct threat to the increasing racialisation of British colonial rule as their mixed heritage bridged the divide between the coloniser and the colonised.[20] As part of the Cornwallis codes, Eurasians were also barred from taking positions of power within the colonial administration.[21] Their existence, as part of the ‘colonial family’ threatened British ideals of domesticity and the conventional definition of family.[22] Carton explains that British anxieties were bolstered further by confusion over shifting Eurasian political affiliations, and their lack of a unified voice.[23]  This linked to broader, conflicting ideas of national identification, as Eurasians were not fully identifiable with the Britons or Indians, and therefore represented a dangerous, third party.[24] For the British, the existence of Eurasians and the difficulties that they posed clearly demonstrated the dangers of interracial sexual liaisons, and in Cornwallis’ eyes, called for the policing of them. This demonstrates the narrowing focus and increasing racialisation of British colonial rule, as Cornwallis primarily sought to reduce all forms of contact between the people of Britain and India. Such ideas encouraged the perpetuation of racist stereotypes within the empire.

The perpetuation of racist stereotypes heightened the anxieties that Britons felt towards Indians, which can be examined when looking at the figure of the Indian prostitute. This image epitomised the attractive yet dangerous nature of India, as well as its degradation because of what the British called ‘temple prostitution.’[25] This referred to the devadasis, women who lived out their days in a temple in dedicated worship of a chosen God.[26] The British believed that such a position shamefully married eroticism and religious worship, which only heightened their fears of the Indian woman further.[27] The moral degradation of the Indian woman was vocalised by Lord Kitchener, who declared that all women in India had Syphilis in its most ‘fatal form.’[28] This strengthened the view that India was a diseased country that needed to be contained. This view was supported by British contemporaries, such as Mary Sherwood, who lamented that young British men in India were ‘sacrificing themselves to drinking, smoking, want of rest, and the witcheries of the unhappy daughters of heathens.’[29] Sherwood referred specifically to the Indian nautch girls.[30] The perpetuation of the racist stereotype of the ‘degraded Indian woman’ implied that Indian women were not suitable sexual partners for elite British men and should therefore be shunned. This marks a change in attitudes from Hastings’ administration, which allowed the development of interracial relations and even afforded Indian women a degree of power. The policing of interracial sexual liaisons is therefore significant, as it reflects Britain’s narrowing focus and increasing racialisation of British colonial India.

Despite Cornwallis’ departure, in 1793, his active racialisation of the British colonial state had lasting effects. The racist stereotypes perpetuated about Indian women and men cemented Cornwallis’ belief that the people of India needed to be helped to save themselves. This view was epitomised by the act of Sati, which saw a widowed woman throw herself on her husbands’ funeral pyre.[31] Seen by the British as a barbaric act, Sati legitimised the superiority of Britain’s domestic ideology and Christian values.[32] Britons declared that, as Indian men lacked these, they were devoid of authority and masculinity, and therefore could not govern their household properly, let alone their country.[33] As Indian men were unfit to protect their women from the horrors of their own tradition, the British decided that they must.[34] In response, the British legally abolished Sati in 1829.[35] This perpetuated the idea that the people of India were so morally degraded and incompetent that they needed to be saved from themselves by the British. This marks the point at which the British colonial state can be seen as highly racialised, as the British not only decided that the people of India were inferior, but that they had to involve themselves with, and alter the traditions of India.

The erasing of Indian women from birth records also supports the idea that the British colonial state had become highly racialised. Dalrymple’s research indicates that from 1805 to 1810, bibis appeared in only one in four wills; by 1830, this decreased to one in six, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, bibis were no longer present.[36] The anonymity of Indian women speaks to their position outside of the traditional British meaning of ‘family.’[37] This communicates the extreme lengths at which the British were willing to go to sever ties, and associations, between British men and Indian women, and in turn, the racialised colonial state that Cornwallis had aided.

The British also felt the need to discourage such relations even before British men took up post in India, beginning with their education in Britain. Haileybury college was established in 1806 to educate young Britons about Christian values, morality and self-restraint.[38] The temptations of India appeared to be so dangerous to the British that they assumed officials would need to be trained specifically in order to resist, and that this would require the establishment of an entire college. This demonstrates the profound impact of the stereotypes and anxieties that were embedded in British minds during Cornwallis’ administration. This shows the significance and results of, the policing of interracial sexual liaisons in India, as such extreme provisions, like the establishment of an entire college, were taken to ensure the separation of the people of Britain and India.

By examining the administrations of Hastings and Cornwallis, as well as the aftermath, I have demonstrated that the policing of interracial sexual liaisons in the 1790s was significant as it led to the racialisation of British colonial rule. I have discussed how Hastings was concerned with the culture of India and did not explicitly discourage cultural hybridity. Cornwallis’ conception of the British colonial state was examined to illustrate that social groups and practices of the Indians were negatively attributed to race. The British were styled as the superior through the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, a gulf which, as established in the 1790s through the policing of interracial sexual liaisons, only widened further throughout the nineteenth century.

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[1] T. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj¸ vol. III.4, New Cambridge History of India (Cambridge, 2007), p. 57.

[2] H. J. Gans, ‘Racialisation and racialisation research’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40 (2017), pp. 341-352, p. 342.

[3] B. D Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge 2006), p. 57.

[4] Ibid., p. 62.

[5] Ibid., p. 62.

[6] W. Dalrymple, ‘Assimilation and Transculturation in Eighteenth-Century India: A Response to Pankaj Mishra’, Common Knowledge, 11 (2005), pp. 445-485, p. 449.

[7] D. Ghosh, Sex and Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire (Cambridge, 2006), p. 47.

[8] Ibid., p. 35.

[9] Ibid., p. 35.

[10] Dalrymple, ‘Assimilation and Transculturation in Eighteenth-Century India,’ Common Knowledge, 11 (2005), pp. 445-485, p. 448.

[11] Ghosh, Sex and Family in Colonial India, p. 15.

[12] Ibid., p. 16.

[13] M. S. Dodson, Orientalism, Empire, and National Culture: India, 1770-1880 (New York, 2007), p. 5.

[14] D. Kopf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance: The Dynamics of Indian Modernization, 1773-1835 (Princeton, 1969), p. 13.

[15] Ghosh, Sex and Family in Colonial India, p. 33.

[16] Ibid., p. 14.

[17] J. Sramek, Gender, Morality, and Race in Company India, 1765-1858, (Basingstoke, 2011), p. 40.

[18] Ibid., p. 40.

[19] Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, p. 24.

[20] K. Ballhatchet, Race, Sex and Class under the Raj: Imperial Attitudes and Policies and Their Critics, 1793-1905 (London, 1980), p. 4.

[21] Sramek, Gender, Morality, and Race in Company India, 1765-1858, p. 40.

[22] Ghosh, Sex and Family in Colonial India,p. 3.

[23] A. Carton, Mixed-Race and Modernity in Colonial India: Changing Concepts of Hybridity across Empires (London, 2012), p. 38.

[24] Ibid., p. 32.

[25] Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, p. 102.

[26] Ibid., p. 102.

[27] Ibid., p. 102.

[28] Ibid., p. 102.

[29] S. Sen, ‘Colonial Aversions and Domestic Desires: Blood, Race, Sex and the Decline of Intimacy in Early British India’ South Asia, 24 (2001), pp. 25-45, p. 31.

[30] Ibid., p. 31.

[31] Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India, p. 82.

[32] Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, p. 96.

[33] Ibid., p. 94.

[34] Ibid., p. 94.

[35] Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India, p. 82.

[36] Dalrymple, ‘Assimilation and Transculturation in Eighteenth-Century India,’ Common Knowledge, 11 (2005), pp. 445-485, p. 447.

[37] Ghosh, Sex and Family in Colonial India, p. 18.

[38] Sramek, Gender, Morality, and Race in Company India, p. 48.

The Gothic in ‘A Christmas Carol’

Khambay's Words, Words, Words

Searching for the Gothic in Dickens’ Christmas classic!

‘A Christmas Carol’ is a classic Christmas story, as it encompasses all that should be at the heart of Christmas. Love, joy, family… and a prize turkey that can feed the five thousand. It also gives us the lesson that people can change and that sometimes they should, in a quick hit of one hundred and seventeen pages… depending on your edition.

This happiness however doesn’t come about on its own, and is only really facilitated by Scrooge’s conversion, which in turn is only facilitated by the appearance of the three Ghosts… four if you count Marley.

If we want to find the Gothic in the novel, we should start with Dickens’ finest creation. Scrooge! He kind of fits into the archetypal Gothic patriarch mould, a figure that is tyrannical, uncompromising and relentless. We get this from Manfred, in ‘The Castle of…

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Why is Princess Diana still remembered today?

Diana, Princess of Wales is a figure that seems to be ever-present. She comes back into the public imagination on the advent of any royal ceremony, be that the wedding of her former husband or both of her children. It is difficult to think of a royal that has had a similar impact, one that is continually, universally popular. Perhaps it is fitting that her own children, the next generation of royals, seem to be on the path of gaining similar levels of popularity from the public. But why is she so popular, and why was she dubbed the People’s Princess?

Diana married Charles when she was a 19-year-old kindergarten teacher, and was seen as the young, pure woman who managed to snag bachelor Prince Charles. Friends noted her keen sense of fun, and quick wit. One particularly funny story recounts her riding her bike around Buckingham Palace the night before her wedding. Their wedding came at a time of national upheaval, following the rise of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Riots were breaking out in Brixton also, and so the impending royal wedding was an easy way to unite the country in revelry and festivity. Diana’s advancement to become the Princess of Wales immediately styled her as the young woman entering into the dream fairy-tale. At the wedding, held on the 29th of July 1981, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself declared that the vision before him was the ‘stuff of which fairy-tales are made.’ The wedding was watched by 750 million.

Their romance had been slightly strange up until this point. Charles had first met Diana while dating her sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. Richard Kay, a friend of Diana and journalist, noted that Diana and Charles’ romance was incredibly formal, and that she had to call him Sir. Essentially, they never got to fully know each other, at least not enough to realise that they were massively incompatible. In retrospect, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond argues that, as Charles could not marry long term girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, he went for the next best option.

Diana was stalked by the media very early on, and was dubbed by Kevin Mackenzie, former editor of the Sun, as ‘The Princess of Sales.’ He noted that she changed the way in which the royals were reported, and that Diana herself pushed the royals forward into the 80s.

However, problems in the relationship of Charles and Diana started early on. Following their engagement, Charles flew to Australia on tour. Diana was caught crying on camera, not because she feared missing him, but because she had caught him on the phone with Camilla shortly before his departure. Diana recounted on several occasions, that she suffered from bulimia, and was violently sick the night before the wedding. Reportedly, on this night, Charles told Diana that he did not love her. Her waist shrunk prompting several refits of her dress, emphasising the delicate state of her mental health. She described this as a ‘symptom’ of what was happening in her relationship, which only worsened when she became Princess of Wales. Diana’s former Personal Protection Officer, Ken Wharfe recently said that Camilla was always on the scene. Kevin Mackenzie, claimed that Diana’s young age and naivete made the situation ‘even more deceitful by Charles.’

Their 1983 tour of Australia bought further trouble, as Charles became increasingly jealous of Diana’s popularity. This sparked a growing resentment between the couple. Former photographer Ken Lennox saw that, when Diana was weeping on tour, Charles did not give her a second glance. After Prince Harry’s birth in 1984, Diana told author Andrew Morton that ‘the shutters came down.’ Baroness Rosie Boycott, a former newspaper editor, believes that Charles emotionally abused her. Former butler Paul Burrell asserts that, as Diana had provided ‘the heir and a spare,’ it left Charles free to go back to Camilla. Morton asserts that Diana was ‘being lied to by everyone,’ and that everyone knew and supported Charles’ clandestine relationship with Camilla. The couple began to lead separate private lives.

At this point, we see Diana as a young woman trapped and essentially tricked into a loveless, deceitful marriage. Her descent from the fairy-tale princess into the prisoner is incredibly tragic and is in part why she is remembered. The sheer sympathy that the public felt for Diana is quite overwhelming, and still stands today. It is even more remarkable what Diana did with her elevated position.

Diana is remembered for her empathy and charity work. In 1987, Diana opened a ward in Middlesex hospital, specially built to treat AIDS/HIV patients. At the time, there was a great fear of the disease. People did not know how it was transmitted. Diana shook hands with nurses and patients, without wearing gloves. This event displayed Diana’s endless empathy towards those in need, and she singlehandedly debunked the theory that HIV can be transmitted through touch. This was, and is incredibly powerful, and caused Diana’s popularity to soar. It is difficult to match another royal act to this, that had such an impact on AID’s sufferers, the public as well as scientific studies about the disease.

Diana in 1987

Following, Morton’s 1991 book, which Diana secretly helped with, the Squidgygate and Camillagate tapes and revelations that both parties had been adulterous… the couples’ separation was announced in 1992, although they had no plans to divorce. This meant that Diana would still one day be queen. On the 20th June 1994, Charles tried to hit back at Diana’s popularity by giving an interview with ITV. He stated that he was only unfaithful to Diana after their marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down.’ Here, her confirmed his adulterous affair. Both Charles and Camilla were vilified in the media. Cue Diana’s 1995 Panorama interview.

Diana was approached by Martin Bashir, who stated that he had ‘proof’ that her friends were spying on her. At the time Diana was paranoid about the secret service, and was concerned she was being watched. The interview was certainly dubiously obtained, but it is more remembered for its shocking content. In the space of half an hour, Diana lifted the lid on her marriage, which confirmed details present in Morton’s book. She also criticised members of the royal family, including Charles and the Queen Mother. Paul Burrell termed the interview as ‘unprecedented,’ and all recordings and tapes were under constant guard. Diana told the palace about the interview moments before the BBC announced it. The whole affair was shrouded in secrecy. Diana was swayed, partly because of the bank statements Bashir presented her with, but also because she feared that an impending divorce meant an impending gagging order.

Seen as ‘earth shattering,’ ‘explosive television’ and one of the most important interviews given in the 20th century, the interview was watched by 23 million people. Diana’s description of her bulimia, in graphic detail, helped people better understand a previously misunderstood illness. She stated that she was blamed for the failure of her marriage, as she was frequently referred to as ‘unstable.’ Baroness Boycott saw this as a message to all people in the world, telling them that it was ok to be vulnerable. In Boycott’s eyes, Diana unbuttoned a fairly ‘buttoned up society,’ with her frankness. She validated the feelings and fears of everybody. She famously stated that there were ‘three of us in this marriage,’ and also confirmed her own infidelity with James Hewitt, stating ‘yes I adored him, yes I was in love with him.’ Mackenzie and his team were shocked, as all stories that they had run on the royals, which had previously been denied, were confirmed by Diana in the space of half an hour.

As a result, the Queen asked the couple to divorce, and the Queen’s Christmas broadcast was also shown on ITV. The interview itself greatly affected the relationship between the monarchy and the BBC. Diana, in the interview, wished for a monarchy that had a more ‘in depth understanding’ of its people, and wished this for William and Harry. Following her death in 1997, Charles took up some of Diana’s AIDS work, and it is Morton’s belief that Diana paved the way for Meghan Markle’s entrance into the royal family.

So, why is Diana still remembered today? With her 1995 interview, Baroness Boycott felt that Diana ‘blew the lid off the world,’ and in a way, she did this during her lifetime. Her beginnings as a young naïve woman made the public fall in love with her, a feeling that only strengthened upon seeing her compassion and empathy towards AIDS sufferers. Her honesty in her 1995 interview was shocking, as viewers saw their future queen admit her vulnerability, validate the vulnerability of others and share her own hopes for the future of the British monarchy.[1]

Thanks for reading!


[1] Information taken from:

The Diana Interview, Revenge of a Princess (television programme) (London: ITV Television, November 24 2020).

To what extent did women exercise political power within the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Dynasties?

Within the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires, it is a common belief that women were subject to ‘widespread oppression and subordination.’[1] However, this view can be deemed reductive It is within the dynastic setting that women were able to exercise a degree of political power even if they did not always have full autonomy. By examining the harem, their relationship with the sultan, marriage, rare examples of queenship, patronage and education, it can be ascertained that women within the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal dynasties wielded political power to a moderate extent. Their degree of political power was only moderate as it rarely allowed them to affect political policy directly, and even when they had the chance to do so, their political power was limited by their gender and established role at court, which was usually tied to the family.

The royal harem was an area in which women could exercise political power within the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal dynasties. During the Ottoman empire, the sultan’s mother was at the ‘apex’ of the harem and had considerable influence within it.[2] As she was close to the ruler of the Ottoman empire, she could still indirectly influence the goings on within the empire. This was aided by her strong influence within the harem, and her high status as the mother of the sultan.[3] Women would partake in ‘harem intrigue,’ the goal of which was to elevate the position of their husbands.[4] This involved making connections with men of high status, to increase the status of their own family. This demonstrates that women did exercise a moderate degree of political power within the Ottoman empire, albeit behind closed doors. Fanny Blunt supports this, and observes that many viziers gained influence within the Ottoman court due to the influence of their wives within the harem.[5]

Similarly, within the Safavid empire the harem was seen as an ‘internal power structure,’ in which women could exert political power.[6]

It appears that with the advent of the Mughal empire, the harem began to directly exert political power. Akbar left his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, in charge of the empire when he had to deal with unrest in the north, placing political power directly into the heart of the harem.[7]  However, when looking at the harem across all three dynasties it is clear that women were only able to exercise a moderate degree of political power. The fact that their influence mainly occurred behind closed doors emphasises the fact that, despite this influence, they did not have the means to enter into mainstream political decisions.

Through analysis of the women’s’ relationship with the ruling sultan, it can be learned that women wielded a moderate degree of political power. Lisa Balabanlilar recounts that within the Ottoman court, females were removed from power and that the purpose of women within the court centred around the family.[8] After giving birth, women were supposed to educate and protect their sons, which would have given them the opportunity to forge a strong relationship with their child, and perhaps influence them at a young age in political matters.[9] Despite this influence, it is still clear that their relationship to the sultan was one that depended on their ability to produce children, which took precedent over their political agency.

The Mughal ruling dynasties emphasised the importance of the female role within the family and household. Elderly women would intervene in familial and political crisis’ which is demonstrated in Jahangir’s use of female diplomats.[10] Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, relied heavily on his daughter Jahanara to run the household,[11] and even left her in control of finances.[12] Audrey Truschke, noted that royal women were involved in succession struggles.[13] This is true of Jahanara, who failed to quell the war of succession between her two brothers, Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh, despite her attempts via letters.[14] The fact that she was not a competitor for the throne herself demonstrates that she only had a moderate degree of political power. This emphasises that a women’s primary role within court was one that was allied with the family and the household.

Within the Safavid dynasties, marriage was used to consolidate power.[15] This would have allowed women to further the political course of the empire through an advantageous marriage. By intermarrying with military and civil dignitaries of Turkic and Iranian origin, more local states were incorporated into the Safavid empire.[16] Women were therefore instrumental, and were frequently married more than once.[17] It would be through their mother that the children of Safavid princesses would inherit, giving the latter a degree of political power as through marriage they could secure their place within the Safavid court through their son’s inheritance.[18] An example of this is Shah Abbas I’s incorporation of Mazandaran into the Safavid state, due to familial connections from his mother’s side at the end of the 16th century.[19] This provided women with a moderate degree of political power. Although they were not able to directly wield it, they were still able to secure their place, and the place of their children, through an advantageous marriage.

There are rare examples of queenship across all three empires. Within the Ottoman dynasties, female sultans were privileged not with political power but with freedom.[20] Within the Safavid empire, Khayr al-Nisa Begum governed the Safavid state from February 1578 to July 1579.[21] She was the wife of Shah Mohammed Khodabanda, and it is recorded that ‘no affair was conducted without her advice.’[22] She had a considerable influence within the Safavid court, and held administrative roles, made military decisions and approved royal decrees.[23] However her constant quarrelling with the Qizilbash amirs prompted the comment that the Shah should ‘rule by himself and not delegate his power to a woman.’[24] This power struggle climaxed in July 1579, when Khayr al-Nisa Begum and her mother were strangled in the royal harem by the Qizilbash.[25] Judging by the Qizilbash’s response, it appears that it was the gender of the Shah’s wife that should have halted her ability to wield political power. This gives the impression that in society, female rulers were not accepted. Despite her high political influence, her power could not be maintained and was thwarted by other men within the Safavid empire. This leads to the conclusion that across the dynasties, women only wielded a moderate degree of political power.

Women wielded power through their patronage, and although this cannot be considered as a direct political influence, it would have enhanced the legitimacy of their ruling families. Within the Ottoman empire, status would be conveyed by the number, location and the designs of buildings that were commissioned by patrons.[26] Princess Mihrimah had two mosque complexes built in Üsküdar and Edirnekapi, the inscriptions of which proclaimed her privileged status.[27] She was also the first princess to commission a monumental mosque complex in Istanbul, in memory of her deceased brother.[28] Building mosques styled the ruling dynasty as Islamic, increasing its legitimacy to rule. Within the Safavid empire, princess Gawhar-Shad Begum was recognised as the largest patron of charities and the arts.[29] She also was a recognisable figure on the political scene in the first half of the 15th century, demonstrating that her political power was tied to her patronage. Many Mughal women acted as the patrons of shrines, such as Nur Jahan, who was married to Jahanghir.[30] She built several ships and independent palaces, using her political influence to impact the culture of the Mughal empire.[31] She was seen as an ‘exceptionally powerful woman,’ and considered to be a co-regent to her husband.[32] Patronage can be seen as an example of indirect political influence, as through her status in the Mughal Court Nur Jahan was able to affect the culture and appearance of the Mughal empire. This cements the idea that women possessed political power to a moderate extent, as although they could use this power to influence patronage there were still limits as to how they could influence political policy directly.

Mehmet II established a Palace School in order to educate young women of the Ottoman empire.[33] They were taught feminine arts, such as sewing and embroidering.[34] This tells us that women were educated in the domestic sphere and were not intended to exercise political power within the Ottoman empire.

In contrast, during the Safavid empire, young women were subject to the same curriculum as young boys, and were encouraged to study the Qu’ran and principles of the Shari’a.[35] Both sexes were taught about rules of civility and social behaviour.[36] Judging by this curriculum it could be argued that children within the Safavid ruling families were subject to greater gender equality than in the Ottoman empire.

The Mughal’s ensured that royal women were educated in many subjects including Maths and astrology, with some learning the Qur’an.[37] Emperor Akbar styled himself as the moral centre and exemplar in the empire, and it is conceivable to think that both men and women were answerable to his high standards.[38] If one were to take this as true, both men and women were supposed to follow the example and rules of Akbar, creating an empire which encouraged equal education. Despite this equality, it appears that this did not impact the female ability to wield political power in their adult life, as women only wielded political power to a moderate extent, as outlined above.

This leads one to the conclusion that women of the ruling dynasties of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires only wielded political power to a moderate extent, as their attempts at exercising power were not enough to secure their direct political influence at the royal courts. Their main function within court was rooted in the production of children and the family, which, although this would give them a degree of power, it still would not allow them to direct political policy themselves.

Thanks for reading!


[1] N. R. Keddie, B. Baron, Women in Middle Eastern History: Shifting Boundaries in Sex and Gender (Yale, 2008), p. 13.

[2] F. Davis, The Ottoman Lady: A Social History, 1718-1918 (Contributions in Women’s Studies) (Conneticut, 1986), p. 1.

[3] Ibid., p. 9.

[4] Ibid., p. 171.

[5] Ibid., p. 171.

[6] M. Szuppe, ‘Status, Knowledge and Politics in Sixteenth-Century Safavid Iran’, in Guity Nashat and Lois Beck (eds.) Women in Iran from the Rise of Islam to 1800 (Urbana 2003), pp. 140-169, p. 142.

[7] L. Balabanlilar, ‘The Begims of the Mystic Feast: Turco-Mongol Tradition in the Mughal Harem’, Journal of Asian Studies 69, 1 (2010), pp. 123-147, p. 135.

[8] Ibid., p. 137.

[9] Ibid., p. 137.

[10] Ibid., p. 140.

[11] Ibid., p. 140.

[12] Ibid., p. 141.

[13] A. Truschke, Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King (Stanford, 2017), p. 25.

[14] J. Mikkelson, “The Way of Tradition and the Path of Innovation: Aurangzeb and Dara Shukuh’s Struggle for the Mughal Throne,” in Hani Khafipour (ed.), The Three Empires of the Near East (New York, 2019), pp. 240-263, p. 243.

[15] Szuppe, ‘Status, Knowledge and Politics in Sixteenth-Century Safavid Iran’, p. 144.

[16] Ibid., p. 144.

[17] Ibid., p. 144.

[18] Ibid., p. 148.

[19] Ibid., p. 148.

[20] Davis, The Ottoman Lady, p. 14.

[21] Szuppe, ‘Status, Knowledge and Politics in Sixteenth-Century Safavid Iran’, p. 158.

[22] Ibid., p. 159.

[23] Ibid., p. 159.

[24] Ibid., p. 160.

[25] Ibid., p. 160.

[26] C. Isom-Verhaaren, ‘Mihrimah Sultan: A Princess Constructs Ottoman Dynastic Identity’, in Christine Isom Verhaaren and Kent Schull (eds.) Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries (Bloomington, 2016) pp. 150-165, p. 157.

[27] Ibid., p. 157.

[28] Ibid., p. 157

[29] Szuppe, ‘Status, Knowledge and Politics in Sixteenth-Century Safavid Iran’, p. 142.

[30] Ibid., p. 142.

[31] Ibid., p. 143.

[32] Ibid., p. 143.

[33] Davis, The Ottoman Lady, p. 47.

[34] Ibid., p. 47.

[35] Szuppe, ‘Status, Knowledge and Politics in Sixteenth-Century Safavid Iran’, p. 149.

[36] Ibid., p. 149.

[37] Balabanlilar, ‘The Begims of the Mystic Feast: Turco-Mongol Tradition in the Mughal Harem’, p. 142

[38] R. O’Hanlon, ‘Kingdom, household and body: history, gender and imperial service under Akbar’, Modern Asian Studies, 41 5 (2007), pp. 889-923, p. 898.

Saint or Dragon? Johnny Byron’s presentation in ‘Jerusalem’

The protagonist in Butterworth’s 2009 play ‘Jerusalem’ comes in the form of Johnny Byron, a character that has been classed as ‘one of the most compelling, complex and iconic characters in modern British theatre’ by critic Paul Mason. He was portrayed by Mark Rylance. It is no doubt that the audience find the character comical, but it takes a deeper reading of the text to decipher whether Johnny is the hero or the villain of the play. To ascertain an answer, one must look at Johnny’s characteristics, individual moments in the play and his interaction with Phaedra, in comparison to Troy.

Initially, the audience could quite easily jump to the conclusion that Johnny is the dragon, as he may be holding Phaedra against her will. While Pea asks the others about the disappearance of ‘Phaedra Cox,’ Johnny, in the royal court production, is off stage chopping logs. Only a sharp sound can be heard as ‘Johnny splits a log,’ albeit more suspiciously as the scene continues. Although the audience may not have realised yet, Phaedra has already been seen in a ‘fairy’ costume, emphasising her innocence and vulnerability. If one compares this to Johnny’s control over the wood he is chopping, and by extension nature, then he would be perfectly capable of controlling and dominating her. We are then informed that Phaedra is the ‘May Queen,’ which in the context of the play is a highly sexualised pubescent, crowned at the modern ‘Flintock Fair.’ Phaedra is increasingly depicted as a vulnerable young girl, who could easily be controlled or taken advantage of, and currently, Johnny appears suspicious enough to be that person controlling her, making him seem like the dragon who has abducted the fair maiden. Davey’s poor humour about the situation, resulting in the ‘werewolf’ story can also be used to make links with Johnny, as we already understand that the ‘wood’ is his, and that he likes a ‘shag.’ The idea is referenced again at the beginning of act two, with the use of the Barry Dransfield song. Johnny is liberal, and does not fully abide by the laws, as he is a ‘drug dealer.’ At such an early stage in act one; it is plausible to think that, when discussing Phaedra, Johnny is the dragon who is abusing her.

As with most passages in literature, it can also be read differently. This reading presents Johnny as a saintly figure, who is shielding and protecting a vulnerable young girl from her abusive ‘stepfather,’ Troy. Majority of abusers are well known to their victims, and Phaedra does know Troy better than Johnny. Statistics suggest that most abuse cases occur between family members within the home, which could explain why Phaedra has run away from home, multiple times, as Pea explains. When speaking to Troy, Johnny belittles him and taunts him over Phaedra, who he deems a ‘treasure,’ and proceeds to note her ‘big eyes.’ Previously Phaedra had been presented as an innocent, vulnerable girl, but here she is discussed as a sexual plaything in the presence of Troy. Similarly, young girls in manga comics emphasise this idea, as they are designed to be sexually attractive to the reader, and Johnny makes it clear that Phaedra is sexually attractive to Troy, making him the dragon, and Johnny the protective Saint George. Perhaps this sexualising of Phaedra makes her seem like a femme fatale in their eyes, as it is she who draws both men together, subsequently hinting to some kind of conflict, as a reference to the story in which Saint George slays the dragon. In the passage Johnny is not explicitly made out to be a saint, but it is Troy that is implied to be the dragon, thus automatically making Johnny the saint protecting Phaedra. One can link this, as well as the werewolf references, to the tale of Red Riding Hood. This would make Troy the wolf who drools and fauns over the huge, tempting eyes of Red. Phaedra does show willingness to be with Johnny, making him seem even more of a saint. When she finally emerges at the end of act two, in the royal court production, Phaedra calls out for Johnny, as if for protection. Phaedra appears to be safe with Johnny, and stays there by choice to get away from Troy. She also has the ability to ‘command’ Johnny, as seen with the ‘fish in the bag,’ which makes her seem even more comfortable with Johnny, and more at ease than she is with Troy, making him seem like the dragon, and Johnny the saint.

 Johnny can also be seen to have saintly qualities and characteristics. It is clear that his ‘onlookers’ idolise him, and wish to be him, most notably Ginger. Ginger is constantly desperate to gain the approval of Johnny, as can be seen when he pushes Johnny to ‘say’ that he is a ‘DJ.’ Ginger also tries to tell stories in the vivid fluid fashion that Johnny does, but continually fails, much to the disappointment of the audience. Most of the time Ginger is put down by Johnny, as well as the audience, which alternatively could present Johnny as a dragon, who has named the loyal and unassuming Ginger as one of his victims.

Whether this be true or not, it is clear that those at the caravan believe that after the events of ‘1981,’ Johnny does indeed deserve a ‘statute,’ and to be immortalised in stone. They even compare him to King Arthur, a figure of folklore who is believed to return in England’s hour of need. By saying this, the group believe that Johnny deserves to enter into English heritage, culture and folklore, and become immortalised like a saint. Johnny can also be seen as saintly as he cares for children. Although it is his fault that children are seen ‘wandering around at night pissed,’ he still cares for them, and ensures they are safe by allowing them to sleep in his ‘caravan.’ Much like Saint George who protected the people from the dragon, Johnny can be seen to protect teenagers from themselves, as arguably, they are safer at the caravan than they would be if they are wandering about, and this could result in them getting hurt.

As well as saintly qualities, Johnny is also represented as a dragon, or more generally as an animalistic monster, which could have, and perhaps already has, ‘envenomed’ Flintock. Beginning with his ‘feral bellow from the heart of the earth,’ it is made clear that Johnny is an animalistic creature, and is fully at home within the forest. This idea is then elaborated on, as Davey calls him an ‘ogre.’ This particular monster is incomparable to that of a dragon, but a vampire is not. As the play progresses, the apparent ‘danger’ Johnny presents to the to the others does also, as he mentions that ‘all Byron boys are born with teeth.’ This presents Johnny as a mythical, vampiric figure, who is harmful to those around him, like a dragon would be. Byron boys must also be tended to like a ‘wound,’ as there is the danger that he could infect others, and the land, much like the dragon that ‘envenomed all the country.’ Johnny also has the ability to draw people in, and ensnare them, as can be seen when he seduces Dawn. All these qualities do present Johnny as a monster, like a dragon as he has animalistic qualities that are comparable to such a creature.

The ending of the play is also useful when considering the presentation of Johnny, beginning with his branding by Troy. Troy is the dragon, and Johnny is the saint in this instance, for obvious reasons. It is Troy who orders his men to wield the ‘blowtorch,’ which is symbolic of a fire-breathing dragon. In the royal court production of the play, Johnny also makes the sign of the crucifix, portraying him as a saintly figure, which is suffering to protect others. He visibly gives himself up to Troy and his henchmen, further likening him to a saint-like figure, or even Jesus, who surrendered himself in the garden of Gethsemane in order to save mankind. This idea is further explored in his last conversation with Ginger.

Ginger is Johnny’s most loyal supporter throughout the play, and always seems to jump to his aid. Although Ginger did run away upon seeing Troy, one must ask themselves what use he would have been against him, as in the royal court production, Troy appeared significantly stronger than the ‘lanky’ Ginger. However, he does return, and vows to protect Johnny from the council, which has less chance of success than the previous situation with Troy. Johnny denies that he and Ginger are ‘friends’ and decides to send him away, in a forceful and aggressive manner. This could make Johnny seem like a dragon, purely because he is acting in a hostile manner, much like a dragon does. This reading, that Johnny is here being a dragon, is more metaphorical than literal, as it is based on his personality, and his volatile behaviour in this context. Alternatively, Johnny can be seen to protect Ginger, and shield him from harm and hurt in sending him away. This could be Johnny thanking Ginger, albeit in a horrid fashion, for his years of service and loyalty. This would make Johnny a saint, as he is protecting the weak, as he knows that Ginger will not survive this confrontation. Johnny also knows that the only way to get rid of Ginger is to be vile to him, as Ginger is used to being made fun of. Johnny now abandons Ginger in a more severe fashion, to ensure that Ginger hates him enough to leave him behind for the council to find. Johnny sacrifices his friendship with Ginger, for Ginger’s own sake, and perhaps himself, as Johnny will not survive such a confrontation, making him appear as a saint-like martyr.

Johnny’s ever changing representation in the play makes for dramatic and interesting viewing, particularly when considering whether Johnny is the saint or the dragon. At the beginning of the play, it is insinuated that he is the dragon, but this is due to the fact that the audience do not know the character of Johnny well enough, or the character of Troy. As Troy is implied to be the abuser, Johnny instead appears as the saint, as it is he who is shielding and protecting Phaedra, and later Ginger, from harm and suffering.[1]

Thanks for reading!


[1] Quotes from:

Jez Butterworth, Jerusalem, (London: Nick Hern Books, 2009).

Why is Guy Fawkes day celebrated?

Everybody knows of Guy Fawkes because of his involvement in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Guy Fawkes was caught while guarding a cache of explosives under the House of Lords, with the intention of blowing up the Protestant king James I and replacing him with a Catholic head of state. Fawkes had become involved in the plot the previous year, and was introduced to a small band of Catholics, led by Robert Catesby. The plan that they formed involved Guy Fawkes lighting the fuse and then escaping across the Thames, while a rebellion was to be started in the Midlands, with the intent of capturing James’ Protestant daughter Princess Elizabeth. The crisis was luckily averted when the plan was leaked in an anonymous letter addressed to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, advising him to not go into Parliament on that specific day, the 5th of November. The letter stated that Parliament ‘shall receive a terrible blow… and yet they shall not see who hurts them.’

Upon his arrest, Guy Fawkes was tortured for the names of his twelve co-conspirators, and it is speculated that he was racked. After withholding information for several days, he gave the names of the men who he had worked with. Fawkes was executed on the 31st of January 1606 along with Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood and Robert Keyes. However, Fawkes managed to avoid the pain of being hanged, drawn and quartered, as he fell from the scaffold before and broke his neck.

The infamous letter

The thwarting of the plot was a major triumph and success for the kingdom. In commemoration, James I decreed that people should celebrate the failure of the plot with bonfires, provided that they were not too large or too dangerous. Several months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act decreed that the 5th of November should be celebrated as a thanksgiving for the plot’s failure. This was suggested by Edward Montagu, who believed that James’ divine protection and deliverance deserved some recognition. The day has not survived fully since its inception, and its celebration has been tarnished and associated with begging and violence. Sometimes effigies of the Pope would be burnt by the Puritans instead of Fawkes. However, with the advent of the 20th century, Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes day, has become a social occasion complete with bonfires and firework displays.

Fawkes himself as become synonymous with the plot, so much so that effigies are regularly burnt of him during Bonfire Night. This also led to the development of the Guy Fawkes mask, a stylised depiction of him that still survives and runs through popular culture today. The mask gained higher popularity and recognition with its use in the 2005 film ‘V for Vendetta.’ From then on the, the Guy Fawkes mask became a popular symbol of resistance against governmental tyranny.

A Guy Fawkes mask

Apparently, Guy Fawkes also haunts the Guy Fawkes Inn at York. There have not been many sightings of him, but there have been some reports. This location was the site of Guy Fawkes’ birth. Perhaps he achieved the fame that he wanted after all.

Thanks for reading!

Close Analysis: The Chequers Ring

This ring is one of the last surviving pieces of Elizabeth I’s jewellery collection, and dates back to the mid 1570s. It has a mother-of-pearl hoop, which is rare and expensive. The ring is also encrusted with cut rubies. White diamonds on the bezel form ‘E’ for Elizabeth, and ‘R’ for Regina can also be seen made with blue enamel, which is a type of porcelain. The presence of pearls may be a reference to Elizabeth’s virginity. The locket opens to reveal a side profile portrait of Elizabeth, and another woman. Some believe it is her mother, Anne Boleyn who was executed in 1536, partly because the figure sports a French hood, which dates back to the mid 1530s. Anne herself was known for wearing French fashion. During Elizabeth’s reign, more portraits were commissioned of Anne, so it is conceivable to think that the figure could be her. Others, because of the figures reddish hair believe it to be Catherine Parr, whom Elizabeth was very close to. Catherine Parr, after Henry’s death, later married Thomas Seymour, which is interesting as, the symbol of a phoenix is present at the back of the bezel. This would strengthen the idea that the ring was a gift from a Seymour, but again, this is subject to debate. A third theory is that the portrait is in fact one of Elizabeth in her youth.

If this were to be the case, the ring could reference three of the most powerful families at the time, the Boleyn’s, the Seymour’s and the Tudors themselves. It would be nice to think that the portrait is of Anne, although it is believed that Elizabeth seldom mentioned her. Some historians theorise that the ring is proof of Elizabeth’s affection for her mother, and perhaps acts a reminder to her to not make the same mistakes that she did. It is one of those objects that could be interpreted in many different ways, but it what it does signify is the power of the females that it ties to. All three women associated with the ring are immensely important to British history, and the images, jewellery and presentation of them in the shape of a ring, traditionally associated with femininity, demonstrate the strength of their power, and by extension, female power.

The ring also represents the end of the Tudor dynasty, as Elizabeth herself chose to remain unmarried and childless. There is a popular legend that Elizabeth’s relative Robert Carey plucked the ring from her finger when she died at Richmond Palace. Robert Carey’s father was Henry Carey, the son of Mary Boleyn. Carey took it straight to James I, as proof Elizabeth’s death and James’ ascension to the throne of England. James and his Queen Anne of Denmark dispersed and subsequently lost Elizabeth’s jewellery collection. The next trace of the ring comes in the form of Alexander Home, who received the ring from James I. It descended through the Home’s family and was then acquired by Arthur Lee, the Viscount Lee of Fareham. Lee then presented his country house for the use of the Prime Minister, and with it, its extensive collection of historical artefacts. The iconic ring remains there.[1]

Thanks for reading!


[1] Information taken from:

And my own knowledge.

‘Goblin Market’ Close Reading: The Fallen Woman, Female Sexuality and the Bible

Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ primarily serves as a warning to women about indulging in their sexual desires. Laura’s interaction and excessive gorging of the Goblin fruit allude to her indulgence in her sexual desires, and Rossetti uses the tale to warn women of the dangers of such activities. The passage being studied, lines 115-162, takes place after Laura’s first encounter with the Goblin Men and recounts her buying of the fruit.

Fruit is symbolic of sexuality, and Laura’s obsession with it supports the idea that she is indulging in her sexual desires with the Goblin Men. Marina Warner argues that the consumption of the fruit symbolises sex, and this metaphor further solidifies the idea that, by consuming the fruit, Laura is indulging in her sexual desires.[1] The uneven rhyme scheme alludes to a chant, a string of words shouted by one group in unison.[2] This presents a disturbing image, as the young Laura is outnumbered by the Goblins who encourage her to indulge in the fruit, and therefore her sexual desires.

Laura does not just eat the fruit but gorges herself to excess. The repetition of ‘suck’d’ demonstrates the magnitude of her sexual appetite, and desire to consume the fruit in its entirety. Laura is unable to stop herself from eating the fruit, even when her lips grow ‘sore,’ implying that her desire to indulge in the fruit outweighs any physical pain that occurs from the strain of consuming it. This provides an insight into her lack of care for her physical self and her reputation. Laura’s gluttony disorientates her, and she concludes that she ‘knew not was it night or day,’ emphasising the intensity of her feasting, which has affected her senses. Her cognitive ability is also compromised, which is reflected in the lack of grammatical coherency in the above quotation. Rossetti warns women of the direct effects of indulging in their sexual desires excessively, through Laura’s experiences.

It is significant that Laura gorges herself to excess, as this highlights the dangers of female sexuality. Laura’s obsession with the fruit is directly linked to her large sexual appetite, which would have been discouraged by Victorian society, as such appetites would have threatened Victorian social ideals. Victorian women were prized for their virginity and purity, and the loss of it would ruin their reputation. They were not supposed to enjoy sex, as men did, and would only endure it in order to produce children and fulfil their societal role. Laura’s large sexual appetite would have subverted that of the male population, threatening the stability of Victorian society. Laura’s excessive gorging of the fruit implies the magnitude of her sexual desires, which highlights the dangers, and disruptive nature, of female sexuality within Victorian society.

Lizzie’s warning implies that Laura should have known not be tempted. Lizzie notes that ‘twilight’ is a dangerous time for ‘maidens.’ ‘Twilight’ is the time of day between lightness and darkness. The specificity of this time suggests that Laura willingly sought the Goblins, as such a specific time of day is easy to avoid, and should be, considering it is dangerous. The changeable state of nature also reflects the changeable state of Laura’s purity, which she has now lost, as she has indulged in her sexual desires. It also speaks to her transition from girlhood to womanhood, a change that is facilitated by the loss of her virginity. ‘Maiden’ refers to a virginal woman, implying that, before she left, Laura was a virgin and that her sister still believed her to be so. The previous events validate the truth in Lizzie’s warning to Laura, even though ironically, the former is unaware of her sister’s transformation. ‘Loiter’ implies Laura’s complicity in the situation, as she appears uncaring that she was ‘in the haunts of goblin men.’ Laura willingly ventured into the ‘glen’ at a dangerous time of day, with the intention to find, and buy fruit from the Goblin Men, making her fully culpable. This serves as proof that Laura herself yielded her virginity to the Goblins and indulged in her sexual desires by her own volition, despite the well-established warnings that Lizzie repeats concerning the dangers of twilight and the Goblins.

The story of Jeanie illuminates this further, as it details the later consequences of dealing with the Goblin Men. Following her first encounter, Jeanie ‘pined and pined’ for the Goblins, despite their abandonment of her, much to her distress. The consequences of her encounter are explained through the lack of ‘grass’ on her grave. This implies that she is tainted, due to her encounter with the Goblin Men. Her tainted nature cannot facilitate the growth of new life and nature upon her grave. This serves as Jeanie’s punishment, as she ‘grew grey.’ Such a colour implies Jeanie’s barrenness, and inability to become a wife or mother, which were the traditional roles for women in Victorian society. Jeanie’s story explains the consequences of dealing with the Goblin Men. Similarly, to Laura, Jeanie did ‘loiter’ while seeking the Goblin Men. Jeanie and Laura’s stories appear to run parallel to one another, and Lizzie’s recounting of Jeanie’s story serves as a warning to Laura and other women about consorting with the Goblin Men. Jeanie’s story also foreshadows the fate of Laura, if Lizzie did not intervene.

Laura’s indulgence in her sexual desires result in her becoming a fallen woman. Her form of payment, the ‘golden lock’ is symbolic of her fall, as she offers up a part of her own physical body to the Goblins as payment in exchange for the fruit. This references prostitution and strengthens the idea that she gives up her virginity to the Goblins, as she is parting with a piece of her physical self. The image plays out as a transaction, for which she trades her body for the Goblin fruit. The fact that her hair is gold emphasises its economic value, as well as her beauty. The Madonna-Whore complex could come into play here, as the contrast between her purity and sexual degradation. Her temptation to eat the fruit and her indulgence in it is similar to that of Eve in Genesis, as she too ate the forbidden fruit and fell from the grace of God. This enhances the status of the poem as a whole, to a quasi-religious text, and one that is supposed to be educational. By rendering up part of herself and indulging in the fruit, Laura, like Eve, becomes a fallen woman. This leads Serena Trowbridge to argue that the poem is a ‘parable of sexual sin.’[3] Her use of the word ‘parable’ again likens the poem to a Biblical story, emphasising the idea that Rossetti intended for the poem to be semi religious, and a warning to women against the pursuit of their innate sexual desires.


[1] Mary Arseneau, Anthony H Harrison, Lorraine Kooistra, The Culture of Christina Rossetti: Female Poetics and Victorian Contexts (Ohio, Ohio University Press, 1999) p. 117.

[2] Ibid., p. 118.

[3] Serena Trowbridge, Christina Rossetti’s Gothic (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) p. 122.

Was World War One a key turning point in the changing geography of Civil Rights issues in the USA?

Throughout the civil rights movements several events caused black people to migrate around America, and civil rights issues moved with them.

This change began after the end of the Civil War in 1865, following the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This allowed black people to move freely across the USA. They began to move throughout the 1900s, and this movement continued to move the issues of civil rights throughout America.

The migration of black people during, and before, World War One can be deemed an important turning point in the changing geography of civil rights issues in the USA.  The increase of black Americans in the North led to competition for jobs, highlighting civil rights issues as white people and black people found themselves in close proximity to one another, breeding racial tension. Originally, black people moved to the North from the South to escape the lack of jobs. Although black people also sought to escape de jure segregation in the South, they faced de facto segregation in the North. In the South, the cotton industry had declined due to the presence of the Bull Weevil in Texas in 1914. It originated from Mexico, first appearing there in 1982. From 1920 to 1932, the price of cotton dropped from 42 to 5 cents due to lack of demand. Many sharecroppers were impacted and moved north, highlighting civil rights issues in the North, as black people were willing to work for less money than white people, creating racial tension.

World War One can still be deemed an important turning point in the changing geography of civil rights issues. The tensions caused by this particular migration during World War One can be seen in several examples of riots. The KKK were revived in 1915. In July 1917, a major race riot occurred in Illinois, which preceded the Red Summer. 48 black people were killed during this time and 300 buildings were destroyed. This highlights how civil rights issues were recognised during the migration of World War One, as competition for jobs led to increased racial tension and the outbreak of a riot. 

Black people began moving to the town of Harlem in New York City in 1905, and this proved to be the most significant turning point for the changing geography of civil rights issues. As black people were concentrated into one specific town, and aided each other by setting up workers unions for black people, this community explored issues of civil rights to a greater extent. This however, led to an increase in racial tension. This migration led to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which caused a growth and exploration in black culture. From 1920 to 1930, 87,000 black Americans moved to Harlem. Claude McKay declared it to be the ‘black capital of the world.’

People such as Marcus Garvey fought for black rights, establishing the United Negro Improvement Association in 1914, and he moved to Harlem from Jamaica to promote it. He established the idea that black was beautiful, and advocated the idea of self-help. A. Philip Randolph too demonstrates the significance of the move to, and concentration, of black people in Harlem. In order to combat black unemployment, Randolph set up the National Brotherhood of Workers of America. Due to de facto segregation, black people were barred from joining workers unions. By setting up his own union, Randolph ensured that black people had the opportunity to gain work, thus highlighting civil rights issues in the North.

Racial tension increased in Harlem, leading to a riot in 1943, in which 700 people were injured. The dispute was triggered due to poor resources that black people were afforded. Black schools were of poor quality and in terms of housing, 1979 out of 2191 houses had no windows.

Black people also demonstrated political power in Harlem, as their presence allowed for a black candidate to enter politics within the North, highlighting the changing geography of civil rights issues. Oscar De Priest was elected as a Representative of Illinois in 1929.

Another significant turning point in the changing geography of civil rights issues could be the slow drift back to the South beginning in the 1950s. In 1970, 53% of black people lived in the South. Black people began to flee the North due to high crime and a lack of jobs. Areas such as Florida and Texas, located in the ‘Sun Belt,’ offered jobs and employment which proved attractive to black Americans. The North east became known as the Rust Belt, an area of the USA associated with declining industry, after the oil crisis of 1973. Car manufacturing in Detroit also decreased, with the number of firms and employers halving from 1947 to 1977. Initially, black people fled the South due to racism and violence, which was now fast occurring in the North. This changing geography of black people highlights the changing movement of civil rights issues. The move back to the South implies that the civil rights movement was effective to an extent in the South.

In conclusion, the most significant turning point in the changing geography of civil rights issues was the move to Harlem in 1905, which laid the foundations for the Harlem Renaissance, and establishment of a distinct, black culture. As black people formed a united, concentrated group, they were able to find work and even enter into politics.[1]

Thanks for reading!


[1] All information taken from:

D. Murphy, Civil Rights and Race Relations in the USA, 1850-2009 (London, Pearson Education, 2016).

And my own knowledge.