Friday Fun 37: Swotting up on the English Reformation with Sellar and Yeatman
A day late, but hey. It’ll be worth it. But whatever you do, don’t use this for your GCSE history revision. [If you have done your revision, you’ll see why]. Having read this, how will you ever be able to confuse the Reformation and the Restoration again? What’s more, whoever thought we’d need Hilary Mantel to bring this era to life?
Anyway, thought I would dedicate one or two Friday Funs to the sublime brilliance that its 1066 and All That. So let’s dive in straightaway, with Henry 6th and his 8 wives. Or was that the other way round?
Bluff King Hal
HENRY VIII was a strong King with a very strong sense of humour and VIII wives, memorable amongst whom were Katherine the Arrogant, Anne of Cloves, Lady Jane Austin, and Anne Hathaway. His beard was, however, red.
In his youth Henry was fond of playing tennis and after his accession is believed never to have lost a set. He also invented a game called ‘Bluff King Hal’ which he invited his ministers to play with him. The players were blindfolded and knelt down with their heads on a block of wood; they then guessed whom the King would marry next.
Cardinal Wolsey, the memorable homespun states man and inventor of the Wolsack, played this game with Henry and won. But his successor, Cromwell (not to be confused with Cromwell), after winning on points, was disqualified by the King (who always acted as umpire), and lost.
In the opinion of Shakespeare (the memorable playwriter and Top Poet) his unexpected defeat was due to his failure to fling away ambition.
Henry wanted the Pope to give him a divorce from his first wife, Katherine. He wanted this because
- she was Arrogant.
- he had married her a very long time ago.
- when she had a baby it turned out to be Broody Mary, and Henry wanted a boy.
- he thought it would be a Good Thing.
The Pope, however, refused, and seceded with all his followers from the Church of England. This was called the Restoration.
Henry’s Plan Fails
Curiously enough Henry had all the time had an idea about a new wife for himself called Anne, who, he thought, looked as if she would be sure to have a son. So when the Divorce was all over (or nearly) he married her; but he was wrong about Anne, because she had a girl too, in a way (see Elizabeth).
After this Henry was afraid his reign would not be long enough for any more divorces, so he gave them up and executed his wives instead.* He also got less interested in his wives and gave himself up to Diplomacy, spending a great deal of his time playing tennis, etc., with the young King of France in a field called the Field of the Crock of Gold.
*NOTE – All except Anne of Cloves, whom he had on approval from Belgium and sent back on discovering that she was really not a queen at all but a ‘fat mare with glanders’.