[Warning: some NSFW and general Leann-just-watched-Goodfellas-and-is-really-into-cursing-lately language. Would not suggest letting your 12 year old cousin, or actually anyone, browse this article to conduct historical research.]
When Emily was on staff at The Woostonian, she brought to me this idea of writing a column called “Dead Dudes Dating Service” in which I would try to convince modern women to date famous men in history. So while in the middle of praising King Ludwig II of Bavaria (Pros: patron and devotee of Wagner, very cultured, built a bunch of fairy-tale castles; Cons: that’s a lot of Wagner, labeled the Mad King Ludwig, forced out of power for being too “eccentric”), I realized that maybe it wasn’t the ladies of the twenty-first century who needed persuading.
I mean, modern ladies already have an Alive Dudes Dating Service: Facebook stalking. But what about the women who never knew the political, social, economic, cultural, and sexual freedoms that we now experience? (Cuts to Planned Parenthood and Rush Limbaugh’s mouth notwithstanding.) Times were tough for single ladies way back when. Text-messaging didn’t exist (there was no drunk telegramming, that’s for sure), social networking meant going to church, happy hour was between the times you left your house for church and returned home from church, speed dating was sitting in a different pew each week at church, and blind dates involved helping the blind and handicapped with your church charity group.
Needless to say, ladies back then didn’t enjoy as many options as we do in 2012. Can you imagine Joan of Arc making the equivalent of a freshman year mistake by hooking up with some French Crusadey dudebro with a popped jerkin and a Dave Matthew’s Band shield over a game of wine pong? Don’t think so.
So what if I matched up famous bachelors and famous single ladies from history who could use a little lovin’ and romancing and fine dining? Okay, I completely acknowledge that this is only a marginal step above fanfiction, and especially the “historical fiction” that is only readable on a Kindle because, really, to read some of those books in public would garner strange looks from your fellow public transport commuters. As someone who graduated with that very esteemed, diverse, and hirable degree in History, I ought to feel a little shame in writing what is essentially “what if” histories, otherwise known by serious history students and professionals as whatthefuckeries. But WHATEVA, I do what I want! And if I want Coco Chanel and Adam Smith to get together (although they might end up being the most pretentious couple in history), I’ll make a case for it!
So without further ado, I present to you Time Traveling Love Stories, tales of star-crossed lovers who somehow bent the rules of time and space.
Yeah, I’m ambitiously starting with THE single lady: Queen Elizabeth I of England. The original If-You-Like-It-Then-You-Shoulda-Put-A-Ring-On-It-But-Haha-Just-Kidding-I’m-Just-Playing-Diplomatic-International-Relations-Mind-Games-With-You Single Lady.
A Brief History
The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the king’s “super treasony” (according to her subjects and court enemies in 1536) second wife who was tried and beheaded for being “super horny” (this verbatim description can be found in the public records in the British Museum, look it up), Elizabeth was born a princess but then declared illegitimate. Nonetheless, her childhood was pretty chill; she spent most of her days training to be a monarch by learning a bunch of languages and how to rule moderately and not set fire to everyone just for being Protestant (looking at you, Mary). When she ascended the throne at 25, everyone wanted to marry the young redhead with the childbearing hips and an entire country’s resources and influence. But she toyed and flirted with all of her suitors, including Philip II of Spain, for her own political gain. Elizabeth made foreign dignitaries and her all-male counsel alike believe that she would align herself with a husband, but would inevitably opt out because there was no way she was giving up that sweet gig of World’s Most Powerful Person. As for the rest on her life, history, and will-they-won’t-they-but-yeah-they-probably-did relationship with Robert Dudley, see the movie Elizabeth which stars Cate Blanchett as the fierce-as-fuck queen.
Meriwether Lewis is the captain of the adventure club who you always wanted to date. I mean, look at him. He looks like Edward Norton’s character from Moonrise Kingdom, ten years later. He looks like a nature loving and “herbal refreshment” partaking director of a Parks and Recreation department (I may have watched that one P&R episode recently). While most 17th century men in his social position and political career would have gained some double chin pudgy weight from working at a bureaucratic desk job (for instance, Elizabeth’s dad unfortunately looked nothing like this), Lewis was out in the woods hiking and shit.
A Brief History
Meriwether Lewis is an American soldier and explorer who is famous for two things: (1) co-leading the Lewis and Clark Expedition with William Clark and (2) having an awesome bromance with William Clark. He enlisted in the militia in Virginia, where he was born, to help fight the Whiskey Rebellion, which was when some farmers protested paying taxes that they considered unfair (side note: the tax reform plans were formulated by none other than Alexander Hamilton, the hottest of the founding fathers) and so the farmers marched and fought against the federal militia. It was eventually suppressed because of reasons. So that’s the Whiskey Rebellion. Anyway, Lewis joined the Army after his service in the militia and was appointed an aide to President Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, he assigned Lewis and Clark to lead the first transcontinental expedition that would establish trade with Native Americans and claim the Pacific Northwest territory. So thanks to Lewis and Clark, we all have fond memories of playing Oregon Trail during library and computer lab periods in elementary school!
Chemistry Meter: 7/10
I believe that Elizabeth would take the words of Estelle into counsel before going on a date with Lewis and find that yes, they would get along swimmingly. Think about it. Elizabeth was an intelligent and accomplished ruler, but she was also confined to the social and religious rules of her position. She owned vast properties and forests, but she wasn’t allowed to roam freely within them once she assumed the role of The Virgin Queen. Enter Lewis, the All American Explorer whose deeds demonstrate the national identity and spirit of independence and self-determination. Elizabeth needs a guy who doesn’t care that she’s the queen (Lewis is friends with the American president, after all, so monarchy? what monarchy?). Lewis needs to share his love of nature and exploration with someone. Our girl Elizabeth needs a vacation. Bachelor Lewis needs the love of a good woman. It’s opposites attract, y’all!
Success Rate: 3/10
I see this romance as a wild and brief adventure for Elizabeth rather than a lasting relationship. She’s the sovereign ruler of one of the most influential nations in Western civilization, dudes. Good Queen Bess just can’t be tamed. Eventually, Elizabeth will feel the urge to take down another Spanish Armada and head back to the palace, leaving Lewis behind somewhere along the Missouri River. Poor Meriwether. But hey, at least Clark has his back.
So thus concludes the first time traveling love affair! For my next update, I will attempt to hook up the neurotic physicist Isaac Newton with a Manic Pixie Girl from history. Any suggestions?