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.

Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 1 of 3

This is a trilogy of posts looking at the history of engagement rings and what they really mean.

Getting married? Want to get married? Already married?

I was. I kind of did. Then I really did. Then I did and so I remain.

I got married without an engagement ring. Honestly, I never really thought that I would get married, I knew that I would have children, but marriage? It was a foreign concept to me. That said, I always knew that if I did one day get married, it would involve a HUGE dazzler on my finger. I never pictured myself in a big white dress and having a huge wedding, attended by people I barely knew, but of the ring, I was certain. And aside from my natural obsession and attraction to shiny things, I always just wanted a seriously big diamond ring. And like so many other people, I felt that a beautiful, sparkly rock on my finger would let other people know at a glance that;

1) I was loved and desired (and therefore worthy of their attention);

2) that I was worth A LOT as a person (because a bad or worthless person surely would not have such a beautiful ring? *insert eye roll here*);

3) that I was special enough for someone to spend a whack of cash (at least two MONTH of his salary, right?) on to gift me something so coveted and valuable; and

4) That I was finally pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, funny enough, just plain GOOD enough and someone amazing had sealed his promise to love me unconditionally forever by putting his money where his mouth was and I had the 1.5+Ct VVS1 or better, white gold/platinum, 3+ total carat weight knuckle duster to prove it.

Now, I don’t need you to tell me that this kind of thinking is some seriously twisted shit. I can read. I get it.

I have been married over a decade now, and there is no engagement ring in sight. We had a small, perfect ceremony (we eloped locally) and I would not have changed a thing (except perhaps to extend an invitation to our respective parents). Even so, it has always nagged at me that I do not have an engagement ring, that I lack that one, seemingly very important cultural symbol of love. What does it mean? Does it mean that I was not (am not) special enough or worth enough to deserve the very splashy and public declaration of love that only an expensive, flashy ring screams? It has bothered me so much so that over the years, I have started various savings funds to purchase my ‘dream ring’ for myself. But those funds always end up being needed for the family, so I use them happily and start again.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking – is my internal struggle over having an engagement ring about me, for my ego or well-being or it is for the benefit of others? Would it enhance my life or would it merely give me the false belief that other people will perceive me to be a ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ person? Would it make marriage easier, would it make any difference in the day-to-day realities of being married? Would it mean that my husband loved me more or better than he did before the ring?

And the answer is, I just do not know. But I do know that I want to learn and understand how the engagement ring became such ‘a thing’ and how it came to represent of love and the worth of a woman within our society. Because if I can understand those things, then maybe I can get honest about the origins of my motivation and determination to have one of my very own.

The next two blog posts in this mini-series will explore some of the history behind the engagement ring ritual and try to sort out fact from fiction and meander through through centuries-old relationship drama (spoiler alert: not a hell of a lot has changed in the past 600 years). And by the end of it all, I hope to have a better idea of what I am really searching for and if it can really be found at the top of a band of gold.

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.