For anyone who has got that Friday feeling a day early (like I have!) then here is a Tudor spoof to bring a smile to your face. It’s by Tamar Heller and is based on an Anne Boleyn novel, starring the French executioner. Enjoy!
Scene: The sort of meeting room, slightly dusty and scattered with folding chairs, that one finds in the basements of churches and community centers. Tonight it hosts the monthly gathering of the support group for Historical Figures Unfairly Accused of Smutty Sex. (They thought of using an acronym, but the “accused of smutty sex” part would absolutely NOT work, at least not for their purposes.)
Present (in authentic historical garb) are the Slandered Six, AKA Anne Boleyn and her five co-victims — but wait, William Brereton is not present. Marie Antoinette is, however, poufy skirts fanning either side of her flimsy chair. Convening the meeting is a smiling George Boleyn.
George: Welcome, everyone! It’s great to see you all again. (He notices.) Where’s Bill?
Weston: Conflict — the group for Historical Figures Accused of Being Shifty Catholics Hell-Bent on Murdering Noble Protestants meets tonight, too. Said he had to go — he’s still sore about that bit on “The Tudors” where they make him a Jesuit assassin years before the order was even founded.
George (understanding): Not to mention the part where he’s arrested while praying stark naked . . . Let’s move on then, shall we? First, a warm welcome to our newest member, Queen Marie Antoinette of France (she smiles self-consciously), so often shown in revolutionary propaganda having acrobatic, and traitorously Austrian, sex with members of both genders, stray dogs, anything that moves, etc. (Mark Smeaton tuts in sympathy. Marie favors him with a gracious smile. George presses on.) I’m sure she has centuries of suppressed angst to share with us.
(He turns to Marie Antoinette as if to invite her to “share.” Before she can do so, however, everyone is distracted by the entrance of a dapper man in Renaissance attire, jauntily carrying a long and very sharp sword. He slides gracefully into the empty seat next to Anne Boleyn, who blanches and moves her squeaky metal chair back a few inches.)
Swordsman (to Anne, with strong French accent): ‘Allo, chérie!
(She stares at him mesmerized. George takes it upon himself to intervene.)
George: Excuse me, sir, but do you mind my asking who the bloody hell are you? Because you seem to be, as they say these days, freaking my sister out.
Anne (clearing her throat with difficulty): He’s the headsman of Calais, that’s who! My headsman. (Turns to him, choosing her words with care.) You know, I don’t mean to seem ungrateful: I appreciate your, um, skill. And, given the circumstances, you were rather courteous. (Frowns, remembering something.) I’m not sure, though, how I feel about that little trick you played at the last minute, getting me to look the other way . . .
Headsman (as we shall now call him): Mais, chérie, it was for your own good — you didn’t want me to ‘urt you, did you?
Anne (icily): Think about what you just said for a minute.
Headsman (working it out): Oh. Zut, you know what I mean. I need ze neck to be at ze right angle, and you keep looking back . . . (Spreads his hands, sighing theatrically.) What ees a gallant Frenchman to do?
George: Honestly, Anne, I wouldn’t complain. The fellow who did me botched the job rather badly.
Anne (still huffy): Very well, but what are you doing here? You haven’t been accused of having smutty sex with anyone, have– (Gasps and goes even whiter than before.) Oh, no—not that Gregory woman again! She wouldn’t!!
Norris (not catching on): Wouldn’t what?
Anne (incensed): Make me have sex with my own bloody executioner!
(The others look suitably revolted.)
George (with a low whistle): Gee, sis, according to her you’re quite the sexpot, but even she might have trouble working out how you’d do it on the scaffold. Not that she wouldn’t try anyway.
Headsman: Non, non, I am not ‘ere because of ze Gregory woman. (Looks mildly hurt.) I just want to say ‘allo, chérie—now we are such chums. (Says the last word proudly.)
Anne (still suspicious): Chums?!
Headsman: Mais oui! In one recent novel, I am your very dear friend and an action ‘ero to boot! (Affects a dashing air.)
George (starting to enjoy this): You don’t say. (Anne glares at him.)
Headsman: But I am! I introduce myself before ze fatal day—eet’s a leetle serveece I always provide ze “clients,” as I call zem. After we ‘ave several ‘eart-to-‘eart chats, chérie, I vow to do what you weesh after I cut off ze ‘ead: cut off ze ‘and as well and bury eet at a crossroads in ze Loire Valley.
Anne (once she gets her breath back): The hand?
Headsman: Yes, ze one with ze six fingers! (Waggles some of his own in illustration.)
George (apprehensively): Uh oh . . . (The rest of Anne’s co-victims brace themselves for what they know is coming. Marie Antoinette, meanwhile, steals a puzzled peek at Anne’s hands.)
Anne (looking as if she’s about to have a stroke, then spitting out volleys of words in a staccato whisper): That. Hand bit. Lie. Catholic propaganda. Nicholas Sander . . . (Recovers sufficiently to hold up both hands, hissing in an amplifying crescendo) See? No sixth nail, no tip of a vestigial sixth digit! Nothing!!
Headsman (airily): ‘oo said anything about tips? Zis ees an ‘ole extra finger!
(Anne shrieks something unprintable.)
Headsman (not paying attention): Then, after I kill you—with great regret of course, ma chère—I am pursued by ‘ordes of murderous, conniving Catholics . . .
Weston (behind hand to others): Looks like Brereton might have company tonight. (They nod sagely.)
Anne (fervently): Someone please tell me this is a bad dream. (Narrows her eyes at the executioner.) But you like it, don’t you? Your turn to get attention, I mean . . .
Headsman (with an apologetic Gallic shrug): Well, eet beats just being ze guy in ze mask in ze movie scaffold scenes. Though eef I do say so, I am sexy on “Ze Tudors.” (Smiles reminiscently. Anne shudders and scrapes her chair backwards another inch.)