Fergie

TRIX: Raising your voice during high tea, whoever heard of such a thing? It’s like Fergie all over again.

Trix is referring to Sarah, Duchess of York (born Sarah Ferguson in 1959), a British royal known as “Fergie” by the British press. She married Prince Andrew in 1986; after having two daughters, they separated in 1992, and divorced in 1996.

Fergie’s demeanour as a royal was always very casual, and she could be loud and exuberant socially, which people either found a breath of fresh air, or like Trix, rather vulgar. We can see from her comment that Trix has been in high society in London, although the fact that she calls the duchess by her “press name” betrays that she doesn’t really know her at all.

“Let them eat cake”

PARIS: God, this is so weird. I can’t stop smiling.
RORY: Good, then it’s a good time to talk about our over-taxed peasants.
PARIS: Oh, let them eat cake.

Paris is referring to Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, and the last queen of France before the French Revolution.

“Let them eat cake” is a phrase popularly ascribed to Marie Antoinette upon being told the peasants were starving and had no bread to eat. The phrase supposedly demonstrates either an indifference to their plight, or a complete lack of understanding of it. It doesn’t fit with what we know of Marie Antoinette, who was quite concerned with the poor, and donated generously to charitable causes.

She almost certainly did not say it. It comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782), where he mentions a “great princess” who once said it. Not only does he not name the princess, but that part of his autobiography covers the years when Marie Antoinette would have been a little girl in Austria. He may have invented the anecdote entirely.

Spanish Inquisition

PARIS: Those [cards in her jacket pocket] are notes for tonight.
RORY: Notes?
PARIS: Yeah. Just some reference points really – you know, subjects to bring up in case the conversation lags.
RORY: Well, can I suggest that you leave this one about the Spanish Inquisition out?

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, was established in 1478 by Ferdinand II and Isabella I.

Intended to establish Catholic orthodoxy through Spain and its territories, its main purpose was to identify heretics among those who converted to Catholicism from Judaism and Islam and to test their sincerity. As Jews and Muslims were forced to either convert to Christianity or leave the country, it was little wonder their conversions might not have always been genuine.

Around 3000 to 5000 people were executed under the Spanish Inquisition, and it wasn’t officially abolished until 1834, although its influence had declined steadily for centuries.

Henry VIII

RORY: Henry VIII started a new church when the old one wouldn’t allow divorce.
PARIS: He also cut off his wife’s head. Is he still your role model?

King Henry VIII, the father of Elizabeth I, and earlier mentioned. He initiated the English Reformation, which separated the Church of England from the pope’s authority. Rory isn’t quite right that he started a new church – the Church of England already existed, but was originally under Rome – but she is generally correct about the reason.

Henry VIII tried to have his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, annulled by the pope, and when that didn’t work he took control of the church himself to annul his own marriage. It wasn’t technically a divorce – their marriage was declared null and void in 1533, and from then on Catherine was regarded as the widow of Henry’s older brother Arthur, her first husband.

His second wife was Anne Boleyn (c1509-1536), who was the mother of Elizabeth I. They were married in 1532, and he had her executed by beheading in 1536. She was charged with treason, adultery, and incest, but the evidence against her was unconvincing. Her main “crime” was probably failing to produce a son, as apart from Elizabeth, her other pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

Elizabethan government

PARIS: I think that the basic structure of the Elizabethan government is relatively sound. The division of power between the monarchy, the privy council, and the parliament all seem to work.

Elizabethan government was that in England under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603). Her government was extremely structured and complex, and made up of:

The Monarch – Queen Elizabeth herself, who ruled by divine right. She is generally regarded as one of England’s best monarchs, which is probably why Paris thinks her government would be the best to emulate.

The Privy Council – the queen’s advisors. They gave advice to the queen, but she could rule against them if she preferred. They handled routine administration.

Parliament – was made up of the House of Lords (nobility and upper level clergy) and The House of Commons (ordinary people who were elected to their position). Unlike today, it had very little power, and was mostly there to handle the financial side of things, such as taxes.

Local government – very important in Elizabethan times. Counties, cities, and towns all had their own governments to deal with issues on a local level, while the nobility ran their own manors.

Courts – the justice system was made up of a number of courts, all dealing with different types of crimes, from the most serious offences to petty matters. The wealthy and the poor had different court systems to try them, and there were separate courts for financial and religious issues.

The Queen of England

EMILY (showing Lorelai a hat): Oh, isn’t this lovely?
LORELAI: Oh, yeah. As soon as we have her crowned Queen of England we’ll give it to her.

The throne of England actually came to an end in 1707; after this the kingdoms of England and Scotland merged into the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801 this merged with the Irish kingdom to become the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After most of Ireland left the union, its name was changed to the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, otherwise known as the United Kingdom. The last Queen of England was Queen Anne (1665-1714; became queen in 1702).

The Queen of the United Kingdom is Elizabeth II (born 1926), which was also the case in 2000. By tradition, the Queen (like other royals and the upper classes generally) always wears a hat in public during formal occasions. That’s probably why Lorelai connects hat-wearing with royalty. Her opinion is not shared by Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is a notorious wearer of hats.

Henry the Eighth

MAX (looking at Lorelai’s table at the bake sale): Very Henry the Eighth.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) was King of England from 1509 until his death. He is known for his lavish feasts with every delicacy imaginable, as a demonstration of his wealth and power. It may have been Sookie’s swan carved out of watermelon that made Max think of Henry VIII – a centrepiece of the banquets was food made to look like something completely different, such as a peacock made from marzipan.