“…..He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwynn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head’ – and they chop it off….”
– Excerpt from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
Richard Burton as HankVIII and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn in ‘Anne of a thousand days'(This is a publicity still, not a movie scene)
The guy Huck Finn was referring to was Henry VIII, King of England from 1509, when he was just 18, till his death in 1547. Though Huck’s was an amusing remark, it came pretty close to being very accurate. Henry VIII sure was a piece of work.
The closest guy I know of today could be Vladimir Putin if I can imagine him being a patron of the arts. But more about that later, maybe in a follow-up piece. Hang on. No, you don’t have anything better to do. If you can scroll down this page using just your pinkie, you can read and twiddle your thumbs at the same time.
Imagine you are born in sixteenth century England, a dark and treacherous place, reverberating with squelching sounds as folk step on horseshit on the roads. If you are a commoner and taking a morning walk, you learn to stay away from the sidewalk and walk in the middle of the road even though a passing horse might kick you in the nuts.
You avoid the sidewalks because folk clear out their ablutions just by opening a window and chucking the contents of their bedpans out and you wouldn’t want that in your face, would you? They haven’t yet gotten on to the concept of bathrooms and toilets and sewer systems.
Now your Dad just happens to be the King. Those days Kings would give anything to have a male heir to carry on the dynasty. Your Dad has two sons, you and your elder bro.
You are a magnificent specimen, tall, well built, with flaming red hair and you enjoy jousting, a sport where two knights bear down at each other on their steeds, with long lances in hand and try to unseat each other with the tips of their lances. But you have nothing to worry. You are King Jr. The other guy won’t touch you, unless he has his locker room in Tower of London and likes to help the executioners’ union with some overtime pay. Of course nothing stops you from letting the knight have it with your lance. What’s he going ta do? Sue you? You are the law.
Jousting. Relax, this is a 21st century demo. Spectators didn’t wear jeans those days (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia)
Your bro is a frail, scrawny kid who is always falling ill. Not surprising. With all those charcoal and wood burning stoves right in the middle of the hearth and London’s typically dank and muggy climate, folk are always just a step away from contracting tuberculosis, which right now is still a terminal illness. Why, even a bout of flu can get you killed these days. Add to that an unhealthy diet of almost exclusively red meat, probably putrefied in the heat, and you have to have a pretty solid constitution to get to the double digits.
And so it is with Arthur, your big bro. Your Dad had got him hitched with the daughter of the Spanish King Ferdinand when he was just two. That is quite normal, this advance booking, since royals want to marry only other royals and there aren’t many going around. Besides, marriages these days have little to do with love. A lot of gold, territory and favors change hands as dowry.
A cute plump and unassuming 16yr old, Catherine of Aragon, unfortunately never gets laid. By Arthur, that is. Arthur dies before the marriage has been consummated. They call it ‘sweating sickness’, whatever that is.
You’re a horny stud. You’ve been escorting Cathy around, holding her soft pudgy hands through her bereavement. You’re just ten but your crotch-hugging long hose breeches are bulging fit to burst. You can’t wait to have your left hand inside her bodice while your right wants to blaze a trail into her padded skirt. That’s you with Cathy below:-
Hank and Cathy
The moment your Dad gives up the ghost, in 1509, you become King, being next in line. You’re 18 now and young dames and duchesses are lining up for you to marry but you decide to marry old Cathy. You’re pushover for sweet young widows. You f—k. All the time, in the antechamber, in the chapel, before a joust, after a joust. You want a male heir, remember? And besides, you’re just a plain horny guy. You carry on affairs galore, with women who are commoners. You have a commoner-girl fetish.
In this way the years go by but Cathy fails to give you a male heir. She does give birth to the famous future Queen Mary I, but that doesn’t matter to you. You want a guy, period. When Cathy starts gaining too much weight, one of her maids-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, catches your eye.
Maids-in-waiting are nubile young girls from noble families who are ostensibly employed on an honorary basis by the queen to keep her company and help her get dressed and all. However, their actual job profile and key performance criteria are to get laid by the King whenever he wishes. In this, Anne Boleyn excels and you’re soon infatuated. She has there massive baobabs you love getting lost in, don’t you now, you horny bastard.
You want her but can’t, because the goddamn Roman Catholic Church won’t allow you to divorce Cath. Anne is a nymph, adroit at getting to your erotic zones. She is dark complexioned, perky, impish, impertinent and has a flash of a temper. She drives you nuts and leaves you with one perpetually sore richard.
The Roman Catholic Church has not morphed into the ‘Facebook for pedophiles’ yet. That will happen in later centuries. Right now it has enormous power and greed and it is represented in every European country by its archbishop who runs things like a parallel government, collecting taxes directly from the citizens while the monarch sucks his thumbs and picks up the crumbs and bows allegiance to the Pope.
Hank weds Annie-big-boobs
You are hot headed and you have been chafing against this papal leash for some time. You see an opportunity here. When the Pope refuses to allow the divorce so you can marry Anne, you show him your bejeweled middle finger and establish your own church, the Church of England. What the Almighty would think about all this, creating a new church and all, just for the sake of a p—y, does not cross your mind.
You go ahead and have all those bishops who still insist on allegiance to the Pope, beheaded. Oh yeah, an executioner’s is the only recession-proof job around these parts. All that the rookie needs to know is how to swing a fifty pound axe and get the sucker square on the neck.
You then confiscate all church property and wealth (which is enormous and parallels the King’s). Anne, a power hungry harlot, is thrilled. You wed her but, alas, Anne has an air but not an heir and we know what you do with broads who don’t give you an heir. Besides, with her sharp intelligence and political acumen, she is a threat to your throne. Anne does give birth to England’s most successful monarch of all time, but she is a broad, Queen Elizabeth-1. Not good enough. You are fixated with having a son.
You fabricate a story about Annie sleepin’ around and even screwing her own bro and plotting against you and you sentence her to death. You had originally wanted her to be burnt at the stake but then, thinking of all the times she gave you awesome head, you decide to have her beheaded.
For the execution, you get an expert swordsman from France. (You have an executioner but you don’t trust the bastard). The swordsman is an authentic French knight, hung like a bull, his biceps (and his stretch pants) bulging. You schedule the execution for the next Friday. You have plans with another MIW that weekend. MIW Maid-In-Shtup…err..Waiting.
Anne is thrown inside the Tower of London. This is a forbidding structure made from huge blocks of stone. There is a dark dank dampness and the air of death in there, torches flickering along the walls, stone steps leading down to infinity. Umm…that was in Ben Hur, sorry, I get mixed up these days. Anyways, Anne calls for the executioner and tries one last time. She tells him, “C’mon big boy, you an’ I could be in Hawaii. How ‘bout it’? Let’s split, you and I, hunky-doo, huh? Ooooh.”
Doesn’t work. The swordsman is gay. Sorry, Annie, Monsieur Swordsman has a date with Hank’s executioner as soon as he has your head on a platter.
I have to go now. Will definitely let you know what happens after Anne’s beheading. As soon as I can fill up my mug with another Stella Artois. Story telling makes me thirsty.
Even when its your own story I’m tellin’ ya.