Friday, April 10, 2009

Fair phantom: The Return of the King (Part 3)

The blogosphere is a very interesting place. The weaving shuttle seems to pass effortlessly from hand to hand or keyboard to keyboard, without leaving any seams or loose threads.

A wee while ago The Accidental Alchemist threaded an image onto his site that 'resonated' & so I wanted to leave a comment. As it is my pleasure to play with words & ideas, a comment that would normally read as 'eagle eyes' got changed to 'eyes of a griffin' - bringing in my fairly recent (& to be continued) leonine theme. However before publishing this comment I thought I'd better check that griffins didn't have any uncomplementary traits, thus it was that I read the wiki page on griffins & thus it was that the penultimate sentence on that page led to this post.

" "Griffin" (and variants in other languages) may also have been adopted as a surname by other families who used arms charged with a griffin or a griffin's head (just as the House of Plantagenet took its name from the badge of a sprig of broom or planta genista)."

As a teenager I'd been fascinated by the tale of Richard III, so the name Plantagenet was instantly familiar.

" The Plantagenets were a French family that assumed control of the English throne in 1133. Although the Plantagenets were not successful in gaining power in France, the English Plantagenet Kings ruled until 1485. The line comprised 14 monarchs, and fell into extinction at the hands of the Tudor Dynasty " from Wisegeek.

You are undountedly familiar with many names in this all boy lineup, either through history as in Richard the Lionheart or through literature. Francis Bacon-Shakespeare made many of these kings (in)famously famous, occasionally going to the extent of chopping them up into smaller bits (& getting away with it) - Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Henry VI parts 1, 2, and 3 and Richard III.

This combination of history with entertainment fits very well with the winding ramble that we are about to undertake.

So lets return to the wiki page from whence we began.

Heath Ledger died at 421 Broome Street. Previously all that came to mind with this address were witches brooms or the town of that name in Western Australia, neither were enough to get any bearings from. That all changed with the (re)discovery of a dynasty that took its name from a sprig of broom said to have been worn in the hat of Geoffrey V of Anjou, founding member of the Plantagenets.

Geoff's son Henry was the first in the family to be King of England - he sits in the history books under the title of Henry II. Following wiki's link to his home page, my eye was caught by a mis-read in the side panel - I thought I saw the words 'Henry the Lion King' & thus leaped before I looked to the webbed link - I found was mistaken, it was not 'Henry the Lion King' but 'Henry the Young King' (Richard the Lionheart was listed underneath & my eyes had got crossed).

As I wiki'ed Henry the Young King, I got an increasing sense of familiarity with a very recent knight & prince.

"...he is described as a charming youth of striking beauty, tall but well proportioned, broad-shouldered with a long and elegant neck, pale and freckled skin, bright and wide blue eyes, with a thick mop of the reddish-gold hair characteristic of his dynasty." Although wiki has the 'citation needed' tag on this snippet, I did find other (copyrighted) material that backs up these claims of 'handsome prince'.

Under the heading 'Tournament hero and celebrity' we find;

"...the Young King's contemporary reputation ..had much to do with his place in the enthusiastic tournament culture of his own day...The History [of William Marshall] depicts him as constantly moving from tournament to tournament across northern and central France"

"The baron and troubador, Bertran de Born, who knew him, said that he was '…the best king who ever took up a shield, the most daring and best of all tourneyers... never was seen a knight so skilled, so warlike, whose fame resounded so around the world... as far as the River Nile and the setting sun.' "

Now let's check out A Knights Tale via wiki

"The film follows the story of William Thatcher, a peasant turned knight, along with his companions in the world of Medieval jousting. William poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward the Black Prince of Wales."

Ok so interesting enough, we have a few similarities, but where's all this leading? Well lets just look a little longer in a mildly (or wildly) fanciful way.

Henry the Young King died young (he was never actually King, he was simply called thus to distinguish him as next in line to the throne). He was a mere 28 years old when he died.

"Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28"

"He contracted dysentery at the beginning of June. Weakening fast, he was taken to Martel, near Limoges. It was clear to his household that he was dying on 7 June when he was confessed and received the last rites. As a token of his penitence for his war against his father he prostrated himself naked on the floor before a crucifix..."

"The police said Mr. Ledger, 28, was found naked on the floor"

"There were large and emotional gatherings wherever his body rested"

"memorial tributes were communicated by family members... and thousands of Ledger's fans around the world."

"His former chaplain, Gervaise of Tilbury, said that 'his death was the end of everything knightly'."

Is it even remotely possible that Heath Ledger might have lived some of the lives he acted out in his 28 years? Is it possible that he was more than he appeared to be?

Wiki again on A Knights Tale "Adhemar ... discovers William's humble origins. He alerts the authorities to his secret and William is arrested and sent to prison... When in the stocks, William's companions all rise to defend him, though they accidentally cause the crowd to raise up against them. However, Prince Edward emerges from the mob, and tells the crowd that his historians have discovered that William is descendant from an "ancient royal line." He then dubs him 'Sir William' ."

Apparently movies are fantasies (c.1325, "illusory appearance,"), but are they? Are they really just 'images & sounds' or do they create or allow another world to coexist within this one? Certainly they seem to have a life force of their own. They have become a part of our lives, just as dreams are a part of our lives. We don't merely watch them, we step inside, them heart & mind. I know I have been 'captivated' (c.1374, from L. captivus, from captus, pp. of capere "to take, hold, seize") by them in the past.

We return to A Knight's Tale. Prince Edward or The Black Prince as he's historically known was indeed a Plantagenet. So are Heath (& we) being told that he descended from an ancient royal line?

I thought I'd check out the name William for any little extra snippets & came across this;

"The name [William] was so popular, in fact, that history records an event in Normandy in 1171 where Henry the Young King held court for Christmas which included 110 knights named "William" - the Williams had gathered in a room and refused to allow any one to eat with them, unless they were named William."

Honestly I'd never even heard of Henry the Young King until very recently & then suddenly he (& knights called William) are Wiki's best friends.

Anyway lets move on.

Before Heath's name spilled & spelled from world-wide lips, he was cast (you know, like a spell is cast) into a series of 13 episodes (enchantments) called Roar. Heath was celluloidily reincarnated as the golden Celtic Prince, ConOR.

"When Conor's family is brutally murdered by a marauding clan led by King Gar (guest star Leo Taylor) and Queen Diane (Lisa Zane), an emissary of the evil Romans, Conor is forced to take up the mythic sword of his dead father and unite his people in the name of peace."

Because this series of articles revolves around the death of three people, no post can be written without some interweaving of tales. Thus it is in the pilot of Roar we have the presence of Keri Russell as Conor's girlfriend. Keri also played the lead role in the movie Waitress, thus linking her to both Heath Ledger & Adrienne Shelly. Much more is to come about her, but for now we note that she was there, 'in the beginning' so to speak. She is cast as the daughter of King Gar (Leo Taylor). She jumps in front of her Dad's sword to save Heath & in dying she reaches up with Lady Macbeth-style hands & bloods Heath;

"There exists in England to-day a curious hunting rite, which is well known to all followers of hounds, but which, perhaps because of its very strangeness and barbarity, is seldom if ever mentioned in the copious literature of hunting. When a person—nowadays usually a child—is present at a kill of a fox for the first time, the Master, taking some severed portion of the animal, smears some of the blood upon the face of the person, who is not allowed to wash it off until the evening. This procedure of 'Blooding' or 'Christening', as it is called, is regarded as an honour, and, to judge from various accounts I have collected, usually gives great pleasure to the parents of the children who are blooded."

Lets take a numerical turn around this blooded prince. From Ellis Taylor: "His full name, Heathcliffe Andrew Ledger totals 16 Born: 4th April 1979 Like his full name, a 16 numerologically, and probably the most mentioned number on this site relating to tragedies. It is the number of the Tarot Tower. Its total, by natural addition, is 7 (1+6) matches the total number of the apartment number in the Manhattan tower block 421. The address, '421 Broome Street' has a numerological value of 16."

I was quite pleased with the info I'd found regarding Henry the Young King & was quite prepared to leave it there, but I kept getting flashbacks to Bosworth Field, a place in England I'd visited many years ago.

Richard III died at the battle of Bosworth Field, on 22 August 1485. He reigned for 2 years & 2 months (note the numbers that pre-echo Heath's demise on 22 January). He was the last English king to die in battle & he was the last Plantagenet king. One of the as yet not-overdue library books I have out at the moment, The Life & Times of Richard III also says this; "the date of his death is said to mark the close of that otherwise indefinable episode known as the Middle Ages."

As far as monarchical reputations go, Richard III has probably had one of history's most tarnished & it came courtesy of the historic history-maker who went by the pseudonym of WILLIAM Shakespeare. Here's an image to paint you a picture.

Richard died a young king, he was just 32 years old. He was betrayed, dragged from his horse & slain. His last words are reported to be "treason, treason, treason." Richard's death brought the War of the Roses to an end & heralded a new dynasty - the Tudors.

Out of interest lets follow the signs from Bosworth Field.

After he was killed "Richard's naked body was then paraded through the streets." We know that Heath was found naked, so this description does bear a rather striking resemblance to the now famous image below (apologies for using this picture I just wanted to emphasise the similarity in this one tale from two cities).

Both real & screen kings have other striking similarities. Another image will reduce the amount of words needed.

These two kings share the same treatment on the silver screen, re-membered as characters deformed in mind & body.

From a Heath Ledger info site "His most favorite Shakespearean play is "The Life & Death of King Richard III."

Before, during & after the first anniversary of Heath's death this year, a grand production took place in Australia. It was called The War of the Roses & condensed Will Shakespeare's 'Plantagenet Period' - "Over eight hours, The War Of The Roses spans eight of Shakespeare’s history plays, from the elegance and melancholy of Richard II through to the barbarity and catastrophe of Richard III." I'd put Heath & Richard together in the Google blender & that's how I found this.

Check out these other rather interesting quotes from that performance;

"Shakespeare himself knew this in conceiving his Richard III – the character is deliciously, theatrically evil. And this is the cue picked up by Pamela Rabe - magnificent in the part - where even her character’s own deformity is cause for an inverted self-mockery, almost narcissistic self-deprecation. Revenge is FUN! Rabe’s Richard III is, in this manner, the ancestral sponsor to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Rabe gets to dazzle in one of the overtly virtuosic roles Shakespeare ever created. Richard III is a character that shines: in the sense that true evil emits the starkest light. Like Ledger’s Joker (one of the most distressing characterizations ever realized on screen), Rabe’s Richard of Gloucester is beyond morality. He is out there simply to create more pain. I wouldn’t put Rabe’s performance in the same league as Ledger’s Joker (she would not be still alive)... ".
Cate Blanchett of Tudor Elizabeth fame also starred in this production - here's a snippet from a rather glowing report " gold rains thick on the stage. It is just little rectangles of tinsel, but so much of it that the actors become wreathed in goldenness, stuck to their hair, shoulders, sometimes to their eyes and mouths, and to their hands and wrists like gloves.

Cate Blanchett, seated at the front of the stage all in cream, a crown on her pale hair, her luminous face through this golden downpour, is a mesmerising King Richard II." In case you're confused girls portrayed guys in this production.

A few more observant quotes;

"The advent of the Joker, one of the greatest pop-culture villains since Richard III. "
"And we get Ledger's now-iconic stand on a deserted street, hunched like Richard III, roaring "Come on, I want you to do it. Hit me!" "

Last year Gavin from Atlantean Times expressed his belief that Laurence Olivier was Heath's father. Following this trail (wiki again) proved interesting -
"Richard III is a 1955 British film adaption of William Shakespeare's historical play ... It was directed and produced by Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role.."

Skipping sideways for a moment, lets see how a random example seems to highlight the intricate weaving of story & history. I found this actress somewhere along the way & was amazed at how she wove her way through the Fair Phantom theme.

"[Claire] Bloom also appeared in Laurence Olivier's film version of Richard III,...the following year, she received great acclaim for her portrayal of Ophelia in Hamlet (we'll come to that in another post),...and playing Cathy in Wuthering Heights with Keith Michell as Heathcliff ...On continuing television series, she has appeared on the New York-based Law & Order: Criminal Intent (the show that did a take-off of Adrienne Shelly's murder) ....The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) is a Cinerama film directed by Henry Levin (we're coming to that) - [she played] Dorothea Grimm (Aferrismoon, I thought you would appreciate that little word-play) ... her romantic relationships with Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier."

An interesting floral thread can be woven in here with the Lady Bloom. We started this trail following a sprig of blooming Broom. Meanwhile "Heath is a ground-hugging plant often considered to be a small shrub. It is identified by it's needle-like foliage and small, bell-shaped flowers ranging from white to pink to purple to deep red."

It's botanical name is Erica. If we check out the name Erica, we find it means 'Eternal ruler' or 'Ruler Of All'. With a title like that it's just too hard to resist a little playtime - grabbing hold of the Eternal Ruler Yahweh & removing his 'I' (oh is that what happened to Horus!) but keeping his surname we get 'AM,' add Heath or ERICA & we get AM+ERICA ('am the Ruler of All?) - a kingly title if ever there was one.

Now I have a feeling I've been going on for a long time, so I think I'd better get round to rounding things up (for now).

Way back in a previous post when I looked at jokers & jesters, I used this quote 'the jester is the symbolic twin of the king' & suggested that in Batman, the Joker is his 'twin'. Looking at Heath's royal screen lineage, I find that I keep thinking that he, in HIS portrayal of the Joker, was actually the Dark Knight of that movie.

This quote seemed to say more than it perhaps meant - " 'The Dark Knight' has officially been knighted into the very exclusive billion club. The Batman film has become the fourth film to take in more than a billion dollars in worldwide box office."

Looking etymologically at the word fame we find "c.1290, "celebrity, renown," from O.Fr. fame, from L. fama "talk, rumor, report, reputation," from PIE base *bha- "to speak, tell, say" - I was wondering today if fame simply means that a great deal of people know & speak the 'spell' that is that person's name. In this world our names are one of our most valuable possessions. The name Heath Ledger is now surely bigger than the man ever was.

One of Heaths most acclaimed roles was in Brokeback Mountain. Shakespeare painted Richard III as a deformed character. He was portrayed as a hunchback & given the name Richard Crookback. Heath's character in Brokeback Mountain is Ennis del Mar -re-form that name & you get Lamed sinner.

How about another name.

Heath's daughter is Mathilda Rose - but of course, you say he was Australian, how patriotic to name his daughter in keeping with his heritage... but there was another Matilda

"Empress Matilda, also known as Matilda of England or Maude (c. 7 February 1102 – 10 September 1167) was the daughter and heir of King Henry I of England. Matilda and her younger brother, William Adelin, were the only legitimate children of King Henry. Her brother died young, leaving Matilda as the last heir from the paternal line of her grandfather William the Conqueror."

"As a child, Matilda was betrothed to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. From her marriage to Henry, she acquired the title Empress. The couple had no known children. When widowed, she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou " - you do remember Geoff don't you? He was the lad who wore a sprig of Broom in his cap. Matilda was the mother of the Plantaganet line - her son Henry II was the first Plantagenet & he was father to Henry the Young King & to Richard the Lionheart.

Matilda's second name 'Rose,' while being very pretty, is also the symbol of England.

"The Tudor rose is a combination of the white rose of York & the red rose of Lancaster and takes its name and origins from the Tudor dynasty." This symbol could perhaps be said to signify the death of Richard III as his death gave the Tudors 'life'.

I've seen this comment a few times "Is it just me or does Matilda Rose look exactly like her daddy, Heath Ledger?"

What I have wondered as I researched this article is whether Heath Ledger was indeed of royal blood line. Is it possible that he lived previous lives as Kings. There was a time when royalty was everything, I don't think that's changed, but I'm wondering if royalty has changed shape & shapeshifted into superstars. In every way they are portrayed as gods, giant beings living giant lives, while we the peasants look on in awe.

These gods are not above sacrificing for their own ends. As much as I loathe politics I find myself wondering if there is a kind of repeat pattern happening of back then (in England) & now in the 'Land of Erica' - where a new dynasty (a)rose as a Dark (K)night fell.

"and while the King was looking down,
the jester stole his thorny crown."

One final name to add to the loom (for now)

Anne Neville was the wife of Richard III.

Richard & Anne had one son who died in 1484. She died in 1485, just 5 months before The Battle of Bosworth Field. It was she who the above mentioned Claire Bloom, portrayed in Laurence Olivier's version of Richard III.

This series began with the death of Adrienne Shelly. She died 15 months before Heath Ledger. Her real name was Adrienne Levine - if we re-spell her name a little, we can make this

In French the word 'rien' (as in adRIENne) means 'nothing', so I figure that gives us the ok to remove it. Rearrange 'rien' & you get Erin - the name of the character they copy-cat murdered in Law & Order. Re-arrange Levine & you get Nevil(l)e. Richard III's mother's surname was also Neville.

So just what is in a name? And what 'Rose' was Mr Shakespeare talking about? be continued

By the way this portrait is of Richard III

Additional: Another name synch popped into the shower with me this morning. Pamela Rabe is the name of the woman who portrayed Richard III in the Australian production 'The War of the Roses' that took place during the first anniversary of Heath Ledger's death this year. Richard III's Mother was Cecily Neville, she was known as 'The Rose of Raby' (Raby Castle being her childhood home).