(originally posted mid-December, 2018)
Ages ago, when I was in my teens and my parents were going out to dinner or something tied in with Dad’s work, Mom often rented a video (yes, I am dating myself here :P) for my two younger brothers and I to watch. One time, it must have just been me at home because Mom rented the movie, The Lion in Winter. I vaguely remember watching it but honestly not caring all that much about it at the time. (I think I was about 15?) LOL, no appreciation for the arts, according to Mom!
Fast forward a decade or so, and I’m in Laramie, Wyoming, graduating with an MA in Medieval History (we were a rare breed there — they no longer offer the degree!). You see, after getting my BA in History and being certified to teach high school in most states, I couldn’t find a job. Dad was out there at the University (he was dean/law professor), and so I followed. For a time I worked, but then I sort of fell back into school, deciding to get an MA since they had it available. I’ll be frank — I’ve always loved history. So after 2.5 years (because this were the infant days of the internet and we didn’t have anything but inter-library loan!), I wrote my thesis on Amesbury Abbey (England), defended it, and received my MA. That same summer, I landed my first teaching job in Montana.
After a few years teaching, I realized that location wasn’t quite right for me. Mom and Dad were coming back to the Midwest for a couple of years, so I followed. Long story short, I stayed after two years when they left. I got married. I had a son. The man I married was a history buff. Many of our discussions often ended with us tossing quotes or referencing historical figures and the like, and we always had discussions about almost any period of history that interested us. Trust me, there were a LOT of them! It was a lot of fun.
And then one year, we watched The Lion in Winter together. On Christmas Eve, no less. I can’t recall exactly which year that was, but it was about halfway through our marriage. And oh my, we had a new Christmas movie to watch together! It was funny, too, because he had interests in Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine just as I did, and invariably, every time we watched it we would both pull together a long list of questions regarding them, their sons, etc. to go hunt up answers afterwards!
[[There were also some similarities between Henry’s and Eleanor’s relationship and our own, which ironically still shows its head every once in a while. Still, we can laugh about it now, so I guess that’s an improvement.]]
One of the things I discovered when writing my MA Thesis was that Henry and Eleanor were tied to the history of the abbey I was doing my thesis on. When I defended my thesis, the professor of English on my panel suggested I write some medieval mysteries about it (trust me, the history just oozes potential!). This year, for NaNoWriMo, I finally got around to drafting out the first story in a series of them based on the abbey. (there’s still a long way to go, but it’s definitely moving forward now!) As if I wasn’t familiar enough with Henry, Eleanor and their family, it appears I will be getting much more so. Oh joy!
So here we are now, on December 18, 2018, and I realized I haven’t yet watched The Lion in Winter yet this holiday season. I need to remedy that this weekend, I think! I have two versions of it — the classic, Peter O’Toole/Kate Hepburn (1968) one (my favorite) as well as the Patrick Stewart/Glen Close (2003 TV movie) version that came out during my marriage and which we both agreed is nearly as good as the other. I’ll likely stick with the first one this year, it is the one I remember best, and honestly no one can really COMPARE to Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, right? [This will inevitably be followed by a re-reading of the book, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, by Alison Weir (a truly excellent history of her! Seriously, I’ve gone through three paperback versions of the book and one ebook version because I can’t ever find them when I want to read them!).]
Anyway, Happy Holidays to those who celebrate! Happy December to those who don’t. And if you want a fun (and loosely Christmassy) movie to watch or are just in a mood to observe the finer (if somewhat fictionalized) relationship machinations between Henry II and Eleanor, I highly recommend the movie!
Side note: It doesn’t take much more than a movie being set during the Christmas season for it to become a ‘Christmas movie’ in our house. Recently, kiddo and I decided that RED is a ‘Christmas movie’ and we’ll be watching that on Christmas Eve together. 😛
(Note: we ended up watching The Lion in Winter on Christmas Day when the Ex joined us (he brought the blu-ray edition) and kiddo and I watched the first half of RED the day after. One of these days I’ll reel him back in to finish watching the rest of it! lol)