Our anonymous Tudor spoof writer is back again and I think this is perfect for a Friday – enjoy!
Henry stood resplendant in full body armour. He looked every inch the King he had been in his youth, plus some extra inches for good measure (about thirty, mainly around the waist).
His horse eyed him nervously as the winch was put in place, thinking, ‘you’ve got to be joking, mate,’ as ten squires winched their monarch onto the poor beleaguered creature. The horse was clearly heard to grunt as Henry was lowered down on it.
As Henry’s horse made its first tentative steps into the tiltyard the crowd raucously cheered their King. This was the first time he had ventured out in the joust since he had that nasty fall in January ‘36’ when some swine had stuck a burr under his saddle. He blamed Anne Boleyn and that know-it-all brother of hers.
Henry had forgotten how hot it was in a full suit of armour as his face turned purple and steam gently hissed from the sides of his visor. ‘Oh what we do for the ladies’ he thought as he gazed lovingly at his new wife who he was trying hard to impress. Catherine Howard gave him a wave and then went back to munching on her lollipop. Catherine really hadn’t got the hang of being queen. She had known she had to throw a handkerchief at her favourite, but no one had told her it was supposed to be a clean one. Henry had held it at arms length by his fingertips, and to give him his due he had tried to smile.
The King’s daughters were also in the royal box watching the spectacle. Mary was watching her step-mother in disbelief while sticking pins in an effigy of her father who she was convinced was going through yet another mid-life crisis. Elizabeth gave her father an encouraging smile and Henry’s heart swelled with love for her, even though with her pale face and red hair she looked suspiciously like a safety match (or at least would do once they had been invented).
Henry’s opponent for the afternoon was Thomas Culpepper who, prior to mounting his horse, had been bounding around like a delinquent gazelle on speed. He now sat on a fine beast which couldn’t wait to be off. Henry’s horse stared at it with open hostility thinking, ‘if we swapped places you wouldn’t be so frisky would you?’ Henry sighed and threw aside his pre-joust side of beef, roast chicken and apple core (well, Kings have to stay healthy). He was handed his jousting pole, but the extra weight made his horse’s legs buckle. Everybody winced, except Catherine who giggled. Only the horse had the foresight to think this was a bad idea.
Henry and Culpepper faced each other in combat and started out towards one another. However, it only took three strides before Thomas realised he needed to reign his horse back in as Henry started to plod towards him. Now, it usually takes about ten to fifteen seconds for jousters to meet up in the middle of the tiltyard to the dramatic clash of poles……………………..ten minutes later Henry and Thomas met up, by which stage Thomas’ horse was nearly beside itself with frustration.
As far as an exciting spectacle was concerned it was right up there with synchronised flower arranging. Some members of the crowd had dozed off, women had started knitting and the executioner had nearly finished carving out a new block. A woodpecker could be heard at a distance and a cuckoo was gently mocking from a nearby tree. Catherine had completely given up and started playing with her dolls who she had named Henry and Catherine. Just like most twenty-first century marriages Catherine and Henry were divorced. Unlike most twenty-first century marriages Catherine had not kept the house.
By the time Henry reached the middle of the tiltyard he was knackered and could only just about hold his pole up (a fact that Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves would have found ironic although perhaps not entirely anatomically correct). As for Henry’s horse it was wheezing alarmingly and looked fit for the knacker’s yard.
Thomas was at a loss what to do. Henry was like a sitting duck, if ducks grew to the size of walruses. Anxiously Thomas gave Henry a gentle prod with his pole, which was akin to an elephant being slapped with a feather. Henry nearly fell off, but regained his seat with difficulty. He prodded his pole at Thomas and completely missed him. Be that as it may Thomas gave a dramatic cry and launched himself theoretically from his horse. It was in fact the best performance of the day. As soon as he has done so his bored horse made a run for it and hurtled from the tiltyard while Thomas looked after it sorrowfully, wondering if he’d ever see it again, and Henry’s horse watched it go, thinking, ‘you wouldn’t be able to do that with this great dollop on your back!’
Thomas turned to look up at his triumphant monarch, who to his surprise was sinking down gracefully to meet him as his horse’s legs eventually gave way. For a couple of minutes the two men and the horse stared at one another before three squires came over and got Henry to his feet so that he could enjoy the adulation of his wife. Unfortunately for him it was way past Catherine’s afternoon nap time and she was grizzling with her thumb in her mouth.
The Lady Rochford took Catherine by the hand to take her to bed, but not before giving Culpepper an exaggerated wink. She really was the strangest women, thought Henry, Surely it wasn’t normal to cradle your husbands severed head for three hours while singing ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’?
He watched Catherine as she was led away, hoping she wouldn’t wet herself as she was prone to do at the most inappropriate moments. He turned to Thomas with a resigned sigh, ‘Go and help put the Queen to bed Thomas, there’s a good boy.’
With a delighted grin Thomas went to do as he was told.
For some strange reason Henry thought he had just made a really big mistake, although for the life of him he couldn’t think what it was.