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MARTHA SEZ: ‘Consider their absurdly exaggerated sense of entitlement’

Our next big holiday, Groundhog Day, is a very silly day, most likely the result of winter-induced brain fog, or seasonal affective disorder. In Canadian French, Groundhog Day is Jour de la Marmotte; in Pennsylvania German it is Grundsaudaag.

The clearly delusional premise of Groundhog Day is that the groundhog emerges from his burrow on the second day of February and either sees his shadow, which signals six more weeks of winter, or doesn’t, which means spring is on its way.

We all know, of course, that no matter what befalls our little furry friend, winter is going to go on and on, much longer than six more weeks. Never mind.

Better not to think about it. We can pursue winter sports or occupy our minds with important projects and indoor hobbies, like family genealogy, instead.

My cousin Melinda has become intrigued with ancestry. I would prefer it if she concentrated on the side of the family we share, rather than on her father’s side, but since she is doing all the work I can’t complain.

Other people focus on the bloodlines of the rich and famous. My sister sent me a documentary in which British historian Michael Jones explained how an Australian named Michael Abney-Hastings, not Queen Elizabeth II, was the rightful heir to the English throne.

Back in the 15th Century, Medieval gossip had it that King Edward IV was conceived illegitimately, the son of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and her paramour, an archer named Blaybourne.

Ever since baby Edward was born, people have whispered that he was conceived while his mother was at court in Rouen while her husband, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, was away at war in Paris. The duke accepted Edward as his own son, however, and many people, to the present day, believe that talk of illegitimacy is just scandal mongering. The baby’s birth, they say, could have been a week or so early or a week or so late. It happens.

Historian Jones thinks otherwise and has traced the rightful heir right down through the Plantagenet line to Abney-Hastings.

The documentary, “Britain’s Real Monarch,” caused a considerable stir when it first aired in the united Kingdom. On camera, Abney-Hastings said he was happy in Jerilderie, an Outback town about the size of Keene, New York, where his work entailed operating a forklift, among other duties.

At Abney-Hastings’ local pub, the regulars began calling him Kingy, occasionally foregoing their favorite drinking songs–probably tunes like “Tie Me Kangaroo Down,” “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” and “On the Bedpost Overnight”— to break into a rousing chorus of “God Save the King.”

When he died in 2012, Michael passed along his claim to the throne, whether spurious or rightful, to his son Simon, who apparently cares as little about it as his dad did.

Historical novelist Philippa Gregory wrote about Cecily, Duchess of York, in her popular bodice-ripper “The White Queen.” Here is an excerpt: “‘More shame to you then…we all heard of an archer named Blaybourne, who was supposed to be your amour. But I said, and even Queen Margaret d’Anjou said, that a great lady like you would not so demean herself as to lie with a common archer and slip his bastard into a nobleman’s cradle.’ “

Some British historians insist that Cecily and Blaybourne could not have managed to get together and conceive a child while at court, with so many watchful eyes on them. To this I say, they couldn’t? Of course they could!

Let me just throw in that Cecily was betrothed to Richard when she was 9 years old and married to him when she was 14.

I have observed that, in such cases, where there’s a will there’s a way, and if those historians presume otherwise, then they haven’t been around. What do they think, that royals and their courtiers were an abstemious or virtuous bunch? Far from it. Look at their portraits and observe the clothes they wore and the way they carried themselves. Read about what they ate and drank, their pastimes. Consider their absurdly exaggerated sense of entitlement. The phrase Divine Right of Kings comes to mind. They were the rock stars, the movie stars of their day. Maybe Blaybourne was hot.

All of which is not to say that there was anything between Cecily and Blaybourne.

Then again, it makes a better story if there was. Just ask Philippa Gregory.

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)