Being hooked on trying to prove the historical viability of Arthur is as obsessive as playing with Wyatt Earp. They’re both the same person. Tombstone is America’s version of Camelot. Every culture and nation has a defining moment and person to define it. Ours happened down the block from you.
England is Arthur.
France is Roland.
Charlemagne is considered the Father of Europe.
Greece has the heroes of the Trojan War.
Rome is personified by Julius Caesar.
For good or ill, the defining character of the US is Wyatt Earp.
That’s why I study Wyatt. We are on the 2nd rung of the historian/historical ladder when it comes to defining how subsequent centuries will look at this moment in time. That’s why this history is so critical. A thousand years from now, people will know the basics of the story of Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. We may not recognize it, but the genesis of the story will be there. I would not be surprised to see it blended with Arthur.
I don’t care about which bullet went where – I’m interested in the sociology of the time. That’s what defines the moment. That’s how Frank Waters blew it. He never bothered with the sociology. Lake did. That’s where that Henry VIII video about his health was such a joke. There is nothing about the sociology of the era. You cannot remove a person from their time/space and understand them. Case in point was the discussion about the beer and wine Henry consumed, instead of water. Duh… Water was not safe to drink. People of his era ate very few veggies. The so-called historian of the video criticized Henry because his food consumption was primarily meat based. During the Tudor era, there weren’t that many veggies available – cabbages, onions, cauliflower, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, spinach and turnips. They were forgetting that tomatoes, potatoes, beans, pumpkins, corn, chocolate, many berries, avocado, papaya, squash, lima beans, sweet potatoes, peanuts, even vanilla were foods brought from the New World. They had yet to reach the kitchens of Henry VIII. Can you imagine a world without chocolate? That was his world. A scant seventy-five years after his death, the food produced in a colonial New England garden was like a walk through a modern farmer’s market. But, in England, only the very poor ate root vegetables.
Wyatt is easy because he is modern man. He went to movies, drove a car, listened to baseball on the radio, ate burgers, loved hot dogs, attended the Metropolitan Opera. He loved baseball. We can understand him because we remember our grandparents who were part of his era. My father was born in 1924. Wyatt died in 1929.
When you take Henry VIII out of the context of his era, historians turn him into something he wasn’t. He wanted an heir. That was his motivation in life – he wanted a son. Everything he did was predicated on the fact that he was the product of a father who literally grabbed a hollow crown and put it on his own head and proclaimed himself king after the War of the Roses, which was about who was going to be king – nothing more and nothing less. He did not want his death to leave England in a war, which very easily could have happened. The reason he did what he did was to secure the future of his weakling son, and make sure no one would over-throw him. His father had taken the young heir to the the throne, and his brother, and had them buried – alive – into the wall of the Tower of London. He feared this would happen to his son. What the fools in that special referred to him as a tyrant was not about that – but protecting his son and the future of his throne. He had to have a son. A woman could not possibly be a strong ruler.
The irony was his daughter because the most powerful ruler in Europe and is considered the greatest ruler in the history of England. The things she did to secure her throne were brutal. She was forever haunted by the fact that she executed her cousin, Mary (who was an idiot). Mary’s son, James became James I of England. Then came his son, Charles I.
THIS is what Henry VIII was all about – securing his dynasty. But – none of that was put into context. Nor was the fact that he and the King of France were competing to prove who was the most modern, well read, educated, ruler. They were patrons of the arts, literature, and music. They competed. His French counterpart was so into the arts that he offered a pension to an old, had-been artist to come live in France and paint portraits of people in his court. His name was Leonard da Vinci. Henry VIII composed the song Greensleeves. He was a talented musician and composer. He was a poet, philosopher, and a writer.
With the exception of the revision of Frank Waters in The Earp Brothers of Tombstone, today, it is difficult to take the life of Wyatt Earp out of context. We basically understand him. We understand his world. At least we will – for awhile. As future generations of American students are dumbed down, required to spent their cranial time on STEM studies which do not teach critical thinking, history, or even government, they will lose touch with him. Then again, that is the way of the world. It explains why the Diary of Samuel Pepys is so terribly important. He helps us understand the world leading up to the world of our Founding Fathers.
Context – always context!