Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 2 of 3

Part Two of the Engagement ring trilogy, examining the history of engagement rings and how diamonds got involved in this debacle.

Know her? Dude, I OWN her!

So, it turns out, this whole engagement ring business is pure fuckery. We have been had. Again. All the Jarrod’s, Zales, and Spence advertising is all hooey. But really, it should have come as little surprise that upon researching it, engagement rings originated as a public declaration of ownership. Of a woman. By a man. For fuck sakes.

During the 2nd century B.C., it is believed that the ancient Romans came up with the brilliant idea of giving a betrothal ring in lieu of giving the bride-to-be money or a valuable object (in effect, BUYING her, but with something worth LESS than cold hard cash). According to Pliny the Elder, the groom first gave the bride a gold ring to wear during the betrothal ceremony and at special events (because even back then, people cared what their neighbours thought of them, it would seem), then he would give her an iron ring to wear at home, which served to signify her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her. Well, that’s romantic a.f. Yes?

Enter, the diamond.

So, we trudge through history, wearing our iron bands, until 1477 when the uber-romantic and and completely politically manipulated Maximilian I, soon-to-become-the Holy Roman Emperor, presented the first documented diamond engagement ring to Mary, the daughter of his father’s chief political opponent, the reigning duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold. As the story goes, Duke The Bold, had but one daughter, who was called Mary of Burgundy, and Frederick III (Maximilian’s pop) was hell-bent to secure his son to her through marriage, in order to forestall military conflict.

Honestly. What woman could say no to an offer like that? Well, maybe a lot of women could. Like, I don’t know, just about every single woman? So, to sweeten the pot and Maximilian throws some diamonds in the shape of Mary’s first initial on that band of ownership he was hoping to win her hand with, and yeah, she (or her father) consented to the marriage. Ugh.

Although my purpose in this series is really to look at why I am (and many other people are) so obsessed with having, owning and wearing a sparkly diamond on my (her) left hand, the story of Max and Mary is fascinating, so I am going to continue this trip down memory lane bit longer, in the name of history. And in the name of it’s my blog and I can if I want to *spoiled brat moment exhausted now*.

Okay, so Max and Mary get married, and he gave her the diamond ring that would become the beginning of the end for potential grooms the world over, and then, wouldn’t you know it, they also lock into a pre-nuptual agreement (these fuckers were beyond forward-thinking, yes?) that stipulated that only the children of bride and groom had a right to inherit from each, not the surviving parent. Mary tried to bypass this asinine rule with a promise to transfer territories as a gift in case of her death, but her plans were confounded. After Mary’s death in a “riding accident” on 27 March 1482 (a mere four-a-half-years later), Maximilian turned his aim on securing the inheritance to one of his and Mary’s (dare I say, favourite) children, none other than Phillip the Handsome. I want to leave the story here, but I cannot.  Not before I note that Mary gave birth to three children during her brief marriage to Maximilian, the eldest two survived her. They were Philip the Handsome and Margaret. Yup, that’s it. Just Margaret. Not Margaret the Beautiful or Margaret the Brave, just plain Margaret. But Max and Mary loved their children equally. I mean, of course they did. When Mary died, Handsome inherited a world and two-year-old Margaret was shipped off to France, to marry the Dauphin, in an attempt to please Louis XI not to invade the territories owned by Mary of Burgundy. Because of course she was.

It is interesting to note that Mags outlived Handsome by almost 25 years. She went on to do amazing bad bitch work and helped pave the way for women rulers. She married twice and was widowed twice. Overcome by grief, she threw herself out of a window when her second husband died. One can assume she really loved that second husband quite a bit more than the first. But, as people often do, she survived throwing herself out the window and lived 26 more years, to the ripe age of 50 (Handsome and his devilish ways died at age 28). Magnificent Mags (as I’ve come to think of her), died after a splinter of glass became embedded in her foot which in turn made her foot gangrenous. While awaiting amputation surgery, she was overdosed on opium, which had been administered as a painkiller prior to surgery. Well. It certainly killed her pain, now didn’t it? Fucking narcotics. R.I.P. Magnificent Maggie.

Well, I am emotionally exhausted now, so with luck (and a wee bit of ADHD medication), I should be able to wrap this series up in the next post and maybe, just maybe, gain some insight and closure on my own quest for that elusive ice (which, incidentily is also slang for meth, so to be clear, I am not looking for meth, I just want a big diamond). Fucking narcotics always ruin everything.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.