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Deja Vu

January 17, 2013

Mystery Date

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2012: A Notre Dame football player is facing questions about an internet romance gone wrong. Manti Te’o, a linebacker on the team, announced the death of his girlfriend during the 2012-2013 college football season—the only problem? The girlfriend, whom Te’o knew only through the Internet, never existed in the first place. The New York Times reports:

The university investigation found that the motive for creating a fake persona to trick Te’o had simply been the sport of it. Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, said Te’o was targeted for the ruse because of his trusting nature.

Te'o, in his statement, said that over an extended period he had developed an emotional relationship with a woman he met online. He did not say whether they had met in person, but he said they had maintained a relationship online and on the phone, “and I grew to care deeply about her.” He said he hoped “people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.” Swarbrick said Te’o told him that he had never met Kekua in person.


1540: The unlucky-in-love Henry VIII turned to trusted advisor Thomas Cromwell to arrange his fourth marriage. Choosing the German Protestant princess Anne of Cleves, Cromwell commissioned a portrait by painter Hans Holbein, but the artist may have exaggerated the princess’ charms. Before the ceremony, Henry and his inner circle tried to catch a stolen moment with the bride-to-be, but he was displeased with her from the start, reportedly telling Cromwell after their wedding night “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.” The marriage, which was annulled four months later, was never consummated. An account by the Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys set the scene:

On New Year’s Eve the duke of Norfolk with other knights and the barons of the exchequer received her grace on the heath, two miles beyond Rochester, and so brought her to the abbey of Rochester where she stayed that night and all New Years Day. And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king’s grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognized, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed here a token which the king had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window…and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence…and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king’s majesty, and his grace saluted her again, and they talked together lovingly, and afterwards he took her by the hand and led her to another chamber where their graces amused themselves that night and on Friday until the afternoon.
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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