Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rameses the Great

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Osirid statues of Ramses III at his temple in Karnak (in the first courtyard of the Great Temple of Amun) with what appears to be a Leprechaun in the foreground.

Rameses the Great was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. He is often talked of as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. Later generations of Egyptians referred to him as the Great Ancestor.

Son of Seti, he was born around 1303 BC and died in 1213 BC. His reign lasted from 1279 to 1213 BC. His great longevity was one of the factors that led to his renown, living until the age of ninety when the average age at death was 54 years for men and 58 for women. This lengthy life and reign enabled him to leave a much richer legacy to Egyptologists than many of the shorter reigning Pharaohs.

Double history Rameses the Great
Rameses the Great with a bottle kiln on his head reading Braille.

Much of his life and work is still being sifted and catalogued. Of particular interest is a series of 15 leather-bound papyrus codices found buried by a French archeo palaeontologist in a sealed jar on the banks of what he calls ‘De Nile’, strangely echoing the later Nag Hamedi find (except that was not found on the banks of De Nile by a  Cairo dwelling Frenchman.)

The writings in these codices comprise mostly religious treatises but two stand out by their extraordinary difference. The first appears to be what we would describe as a cookery book. It is a series of papyri in Hieroglyphics which are believed to be in Pharaoh’s own hand. However unlikely this may seem Pharaohs could and did write. It would not be seemly for a ruler to be an uneducated man and this Pharaoh was particularly accomplished in writing, drawing, mathematics, logic and what we would call science. He was also a dab hand at cooking! He loved his food as is evidenced in the second of the unusual papyri which is in two parts.

For the high ranking in Egypt at this time, the diet was varied and interesting; some meat, fish, water fowl, vegetables, fruit, beer and wine were part of their regular diet, as was the bread in one of its many forms. The Egyptians used condiments and spices familiar to us: salt, cumin (tpnn – tepenen), dill (jms.t – ameset), coriander (Saw – shaw), vinegar (HmD – hemedj) and lettuce seeds. Mustard was also grown in Egypt and cinnamon and rosemary were used widely.

These bounty days were not to last however and the first known labour strike in recorded history occurred during the twenty ninth year of Ramesses III’s reign, when the food rations for the Egypt’s  royal craftsmen and tom builders in the village of Set Maat her imenty Waset could not be provided. Something, possibly a volcanic eruption, prevented sunlight from reaching the ground and stunted tree growth for almost two  decades until 1140 BC. The result in Egypt was a substantial increase in grain prices under the later reigns of Ramesses VI–VII, whereas the prices for fowl and slaves remained constant.

The first part of the papyri is a list of all the meals, foods, condiments and chefs that he held in high esteem and includes some wonderful tips on economy and thrift in times of paucity of food.

The second part of this document lists all the foods he abhorred, the meals that had not worked out well and the chefs he had had to have punished for producing abysmal dishes. Throughout the document we can hear Rameses voice as clearly as if he were speaking to us today. He is outspoken, his words are angry and he uses Egyptian curses and swear words with amazing regularity.

Channel 4 TV here in the UK is currently filming a series about this document. The document and series is entitled ‘’Rameses’ Kitchen Nightmares’’…

Need I say more?

Source: There is no one universally accepted definition for the source de Nile.

Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff is missing Mrs JJ and wishing he knew how to make friends and influence people. The two small people who hang around the house are staying with their Aunty Margaret in Burgundy and even the dog does not exist, except in JJ’s imagination.

He has been writing this whilst listening to two pieces of music:

The Lark Ascending, by Vaughn Williams

The Lark Going Back Down Again by William Vaughns

lark

The feature photograph is of Rameses sparking up a primitive cigarette.

© Jeff ‘Jefferty’ Jeff 21.05.15

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The Medieval Origins of the Phrase “Cheeky Nando’s”

 

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The has been a recent upsurge of social media banter over the confusion of our American cousins surrounding the phrase “a cheeky Nando’s”. http://www.theladbible.com/articles/the-struggle-is-real-for-americans-to-understand-what-a-cheeky-nando-s-is

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Many assume that this is modern street slang which relates exclusively to the restaurant chain of that name. As used by younger British men, this is indeed the case. But like so many pieces of popular culture, the phrase actually has medieval origins and has changed its meaning over the centuries.

For some years I was, like many of us, under the impression that the phrase dated from the 1530s. Professor Aloysius “Corpus” Christie, in his 4-volume “Lads Nights Out in Tudor England” (London, Faber and Faber, 1958) quotes “Thommo” Cromwell as writing “The Kynge be styl undere ye habytte of sneakynge offe to Hever at hys nappe tyme with Mystresse Boleyn, that ye courtiers banter amonge themselves ‘Hys Grace be offe ageyne for an cheekye Nan-doze. Epycke! ‪#‎Bant‬ Boleyn'”.

However, recent research demonstrating conclusively that ‘Barnet’ is an anagram of ‘Banter’ pushes the phrase back further still, to 1471. A recently discovered codocil to “The Arrivall” relates how Edward IV having left “hys best mate Banthony Woodville” in charge of London, took his troops into action “agaynste ye Bantcastrian army where due to ye fogge and being totallye slaughterede after an nyghte in ye ale house, they were totallye slaughtered on ye fyelde of battaille. I didst near pysse mynself laughing! Nyce one! Ledge! ‪#‎warwickthebantmaker‬“.

Although this passage pushes documentary evidence of ‘lad’ culture back to 1471, it is unlikely to provide the origin of “cheeky nando’s” since the phrase fails to appear anywhere within it. The original Nando, of course, may have been Fernando I, ruler of Portugal from 1369-71. This was a time when the Iberian peninsula was in ferment, with the rival claimants Henry of Castile and Pedro the Cruel fighting a series of vicious wars in which the enlisted the help of English and French allies, banking on the animosity between the two powers attendant on the rivalry most famously expressed through the Hundred Years War.

It is my contention that matter would be settled by the discovery of a letter from John of Gaunt to his brother the Black Prince reading “Prinno, thou absolutte ledge! Whilst I embroil mynself in ye warre of Castile (and a few of ye Spanyshe chyckes as well, if thou knowst well my meaninge) it wouldst be welle epycke couldst thou rayse an army in Portugal ledde by Cheeky Nando, to take Henry in ye flanke. But notte in ye Dutche sense! ‪#‎lisbant‬ ‪#‎dukeofbantcaster‬!”

If anyone finds such a document, let me know.

References:
Christie, A: “Lads Nights Out in Tudor England” (London, Faber and Faber, 1958)
The “Nuts Magazine” pullout supplement on the Black Prince’s Navarette Campaign, 1367 (two pages stuck together after a lager spillage)
The Arrivall of King Edward IV

Jeff de Cuisine refuses to stoop to eating in chain restaurants, but after finishing this blog entry is off to a nice little bistro most people don’t know about for a quick supper followed by a classical concert. ‪#‎royalalbanthall‬ ‪#‎ludwigvanbanthoven‬

Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

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The Tower of London
Recently I had the honour and pleasure of attending the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It takes place every night at the Tower, and has done since the 14th century.
Detroit_Publishing_Co._-_A_Yeoman_of_the_Guard_(N.B._actually_a_Yeoman_Warder),_full_restoration
Yeoman of the Guard
At exactly 9.53pm the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor uniform meets the TOwer of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder ‘Watchman’ secure the main gates of the Tower. On their return down Water Lane, they are challenged by the sentry:
Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”
Chief Warder: “The keys.”
Sentry: “Whose keys?”
Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.” (identifying the keys as being those of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch)
Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All is well.”
The party then makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, proclaiming:
 

Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.”
Sentry: “Amen!”

The keys are then taken to Queen’s House for safekeeping, and the Last Post is sounded.

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

The reason I mention it is the chat I had afterwards, with one of the Yeoman Warders. We were talking about the ravens and I mentioned the legend attached to them, which says that the monarchy will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London.

The Yeoman Warder laughed and said ‘yes, everyone falls for that one’. Intrigued – and not a little miffed at him laughing at me – I asked him to explain himself.

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King Richard III

He told me a very interesting story that begins in the reign of Richard III.

We all know of the wise woman who saw Richard on his way to Battle at Bosworth, saying that his head would soon strike the bridge where his spur had just struck. Well, apparently there was a little bit extra to that story that the Tudor propagandists decided not to share with the little people.

The wise lady said something that confused Richard immensely – she shouted to Richard that “the monarchy will fall if the Howards ever leave the Tower of London.”

Now, Richard, as we know, took no notice of this warning and John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk was one of the men who fell fighting for Richard at Bosworth – and Richard lost his crown.

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Henry VII

After the battle, the same wise woman sought out Henry VII and managed to shout the same warning – minus the comment about heads and bridges – to the king, before she was bundled away and unceremoniously thrown on a dung heap.

At first Henry dismissed the wise woman’s words as “fantasy and delusion”, but the events of 1487 (the Battle of Stoke Field) and the arrival of Perkin Warbeck made him think again. Being spiteful and nasty, Henry VII believed that the wise woman had meant a Howard had to be imprisoned in the Tower – and he started looking around for a suitable candidate.

Of course, his only problem was that Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk, was annoyingly loyal and he could find no reason to send him to the Tower. He did manage to make him Lord High Treasurer, which meant he had offices in the Tower, and hoped that would be enough. Of course, shortly after this Henry’s son and heir, Arthur, died followed by his beloved wife, Elizabeth of York.

Henry started panicking.

However, not wanting to send the Howards into hiding, he bought 6 ravens, clipped their wings and had the rumour spread that if they ever left the Tower, the monarchy would fall.

He then warned his new heir, the magnificent Henry – soon to be the VIII of that name – that he should do everything in his power to keep a Howard in the Tower as often as he possibly could.

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Henry Howard Earl of Surrey

As we all know, Henry took his father’s words to heart. He tried to find a permanent solution, by lopping off the head of his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn (whose mother was a Howard), and burying her in the Church of St Peter ad Vincular in the Tower, hoping that was an end to it.

But then there was the Pilgrimage of Grace…..

So he tried again with wife no.5, Catherine Howard, and this seemed to work. But then Henry got ill and even more paranoid, and started worrying about his son and the succession. In order to ensure the smooth accession of Edward VI, Henry made certain by imprisoning Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk AND Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey – then died content.

Unfortunately Edward VI’s regents released Norfolk – and Edward’s reign was cut short. Edward did manage to pass on the secret to his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.

But she didn’t believe him – Howard was, after all, a Catholic. And as a result, Mary’s reign was short.

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Thomas Howard, Elizabeth I’s prisoner

Elizabeth, on the other hand, took the legend to heart and regularly threw a Howard in the Tower. Everyone thought that it was ‘just because she felt like it’, but she was just being extra cautious.

At this stage of the story the Beefeater started laughing uncontrollably. “Of course,” he said “they went to all that murderous trouble for nothing”.

Perplexed, I asked “what do you mean”

“The legend had nothing to do with the Norfolk Howards – in fact it was not so specific as to even mean a surname. During the Gunpowder Plot we discovered, that so long as someone in the Tower had Howard somewhere in their name, all was good.”

So, now, it’s just part of the recruitment process for Yeoman Warders, they have to be ex-military – and have ‘Howard’ somewhere in their name.

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Raven Howard and a friend

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious – one of the Tower Ravens is also named ‘Howard’ – just to be sure.

 

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Jeff R Sun got locked in the Tower of London after a quick trip to the loo follow the Ceremony of the Keys. Can someone please let me out?
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All pictures taken from Wikipedia
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Sources: Ceremony of the Keys taken from Wikipedia; http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/theravens; Horrible Histories; 1066 and All That; Yeoman Warder Howard Carter of the Tower of London.

Anne’s Not So Sacred Last Confession

Much and more was made of the Holy Sacrament in the 16th century. If someone swore on the Sacrament, you could be certain that they were telling the “God’s honest” truth. Henry Percy swore that he was not married to Anne Boleyn, but to be sure he was made to take Communion, which he could not do if his soul was burdened with a lie. Katherine of Aragon swore upon the sacrament that she was a virgin when she married Henry VIII. This was enough to convince the Pope and a lot of other people that it was true.

Monstrance

Another of Henry’s wives had occasion to swear upon the Sacrament. Anne Boleyn’s famous confession, given freely in the presence of Archbishop Cranmer and William Kingston is often given as absolute evidence of her innocence. Surely one so close to death would not jeapordize their soul by lying before or after communion!

16th century books

In a back alley bookstore in the city of Cairo, an amazing discovery has been made. Tucked away, in a dusty old copy of Tyndale’s “Obedience Of A Christian Man” was a letter. Careful study has revealed that this letter was in fact  written by Anne Boleyn in 1535 to someone unidentified at this time. Though much of the letter is illegible, a few lines stand out, and may change everything we thought we knew about the innocence of Anne Boleyn.

eucharist

“Tis but a pice of bread”, the letter says, and further on, “does not speak of confessors, nor Purgatory”. We can only assume from this that Anne Boleyn, known for her reformist views, may have been even more separated from the Roman Catholic Church than previously thought! Was Anne indeed a Lollard? Did she deny the sanctity of the Host, and disavow the spiritual need for the sacrament of confession and penance? This letter would indeed indicate that this is so.

If Anne did not believe in the holiness of the Sacrament, it casts new light upon her last confession, and her innocence as well. Known for her rash words and her constant beleaguring of her husband, Henry VIII, Anne may have made this show of confession just to make him look bad.  Knowing that poor Archbishop Cranmer and William Kingston would repeat her words, Anne found one more way to make Henry look like a villain, instead of the perfectly pious and good natured fellow that he really was.Her plan worked well. Henry had to go out and execute another wife for the same reasons, just to make himself look better.

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Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

“Lollards and The People Who Love Them” by Ima Baker

“The Tudors”- Showtime

Cairo Dwellers Books and Emporium

“How To Make Your Man Look Bad” by Carmen Scold

 

I must admit, to find evidence pertaining to Anne Boleyn here, on the banks of the Nile, was surprising. I had come to Cairo to investigate some strange reports of irregular horse trade. While my mission proved to be a failure, I did find that the horses in Cairo are quite spirited, intelligent, and some of the best looking creatures I have been fortunate enough to come across. I am off now to another exotic location, on a mission so secret that I don’t even know what it is yet.

Meet Amber Lynn, a Tudor Queen’s Body Double.

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Anne Boleyn is always a controversial topic. Questions about her love life have long been debated studied by scholars in their ivory towers but along with her reputed “lovers,” she took many of her secrets to the grave. However, it appears that she may have taken a startlingly pragmatic approach to keeping her royal suitor satisfied during the years of abstinence, from 1527 to 1532. Apparently Anne Boleyn employed a body double. She was of “myddle height… well formyd and fayre” and her name was Amber Lynn.

Amber Lynn’s real name is not known. That which she used in her professional life was clearly chosen to mirror the name of Henry’s love, when Amber first appeared in a brothel in Cokke Lane, an alleyway leading from Cheapside down to the Thames. She was the most famous prostitute in London from around 1528 and there are suggestions that she visited court on several occasions, and that Henry’s courtiers wore disguises when they sailed down river to Cokke Lane. Did Anne turn a blind eye when Henry indulged? A poem found scrawled on the back of some of her household receipts implies she did far more. She may even have paid Amber’s expenses. The verse reads:

Sche dwellys in Cheapside in the nighte

Well formyd and fayre, of myddle height

And even yf you loathe thys dittye

You’ll find Mistress Amber Lynn is prettye.

A winsome smile, two dazzling eyes

Her pretty foote ys a surprise.

Most royally entertained and seen

She takes the place of Kyngis’ Quene.

After some satire levelled at various bishops of the era, the verse continues. There is also the interesting use of the description “crowe,” suggesting that Amber was dark haired, but echoing some of the more guttural and anamorphic insults directed at the future queen.

To Whitehall makes this crowe her waye

And tarries there with Kynges to playe

While Quenes look on with fires cooled

To see their lovers hotly schooled.

And in the end they pay and frown.

A costly way to win a crown.

The author of these verses has yet to be identified. It was clearly the work of some court insider, clearly a literate individual, although it is not great literature: perhaps a gentleman of the court who was privately critical of the King. If Anne was willing to allow Henry to have his fun with a woman who resembled her so closely, it would imply quite a different reading of her character. She would seem more cynical, more ambitious and focussed on gaining the crown at all costs. Perhaps she was simply being pragmatic, employing a woman who would not pose a threat to her, just as some have suggested she later encouraged her cousin Madge Shelton to submit to Henry’s advances. Maybe it was a question of better the devil you know. It also takes something of the romance out of her story. Alternatively, this inept ditty might all be lies, one more example of the force of contemporary feeling against Anne. Perhaps someone in the household of Princess Mary scribbled it down for their amusement, or it was an attempt to discredit Anne in popular eyes. In any case, it failed.

Amber Lynn disappears from history in 1532. She may have married, as there are a John and Amber Breakwynde listed as taking on the tenancy of an Inn in Southwark that August. Perhaps the loss of her body double encouraged Anne to finally take the plunge and submit to the King. Perhaps this just lifts the lid on the Tudor underworld; perhaps it just lifts the lid of a box of frogs.

Sources

Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Hodge, John Records of the Deep: Life under Water

Munn, Llewellyn How to Live on £5 a week

Watson, Dr Eating People May Not be so Wrong After All.

Jeff R Vescent is sparkling away in the sunshine, drinking yam juice and knitting a stocking.

The Tragedy of Good King Richard or The King’s Mother’s Malice, by An Unknown Writer

Over the years, I have found several scraps of what seems to me to be some kind of play, perhaps written in the Tudor period (certainly not before!) which sheds a startling light on the personality of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. These scraps have turned up in the oddest places – some scrawled on pieces of parchment carefully cut to form the covers of other less interesting documents; some lining bird cages and sock drawers; several roughly scored through so the other side could be used to write (usually utterly boring) letters; and one (rather thrillingly!) used as a menu in a hip café, where I ate chocolate icecream out of a tiny plastic toilet and was served an adequate martini in a flower vase. Perhaps, one day, if I have the time, I shall piece these scraps together and see if there isn’t some kind of narrative flow to be discovered. In the meantime, because I suspect this play (thought utterly free of any literary merit whatsoever) might yet prove to be of interest to historians, I shall be sharing some of the more intact extracts with my dear dear readers.

Lady Margaret and Lord Stanley. (Or perhaps it's two other characters entirely from a completely different play. It's not always easy to be sure about such things.)
Lady Margaret and Lord Stanley. (Or perhaps it’s two other characters entirely from a completely different play. It’s not always easy to be sure about such things.)

… be you not so wise nor so merry, Herbert!

Herbert: Ah, you speak the truth though you are too great a fool to know it.

Lorenzo: And so I take my leave of you. [exeunt with flourish]

Herbert: ‘Tis a hasty fool who speaks of love
And understands not its glory.
A barrel of beer, a hunk of bread,
My dear wife waiting in my bed.
A poor man may dream, may he not?
E’en though an empty tankard’s all he’s got.
But I intrude too much upon this stage
So return you to the story.
Hush! Who comes? Who aventures to this scene?
(I swear by Holy God I’ll have my lager yet!
E’en though ‘tis put off for a time by Lady Margaret.)
[Hides behind curtain]

[Enter Lady Margaret and Lord Stanley.]

Margaret: I saw, I swear I did, afore that crown was on his head
Our King – the devil take him! – my eyes did see nak-ed.

Stanley: As did mine.

Margaret. That image we can use,
I shall find a way.

Stanley: You’ll think of him bare chested
When we at bed sport play?
[aside] And that’s a promise long withheld
A vow of chastity, a lonely husband,
The coverlets not perfumed by her scent
The contents of my breeches sorely swelled.

Margaret: Nay, husband! Forsooth, you are a dolt!
When my precious boy takes the crown,
Once the princes breath their last,
Once Richard’s dead, his wife and son,
Once your promise I hold fast.
I shall persuade you yet, my lord

Stanley: With a hot kiss and a sweeter word?
[aside] Methinks the time draws nigh
When, at last, I make her sigh.

Margaret: We shall tell them, once he is dead
To strip him bare and see him themselves naked.

Stanley. Spread the joy!
That kingly chest will be your undoing, wife!

Margaret: I see it in my mind’s dark eye
Some ink-stained wordsmith,
Bent over smoking candle.
Fetch me parchment and ink so I can write this down…

Stanley: Megsie, love… sweetheart… Think a time.
Draw a long deep breath and have a cup of wine.
Your words confound my ears, as e’er they do,
But now they confound my very brainbox, too.

Margaret: His back…

Stanley: Yes.

Margaret: Well, it’s all twisted, isn’t it?

Stanley: Yes.

Margaret: It means he’s evil!

Stanley: Does it?

Margaret: Of course it does! ‘Tis easy understood,
No-one gets a twisted back by being good!

Stanley: Is that why he stole his nephew’s crown?
And why into the Tower he thinks to creep
In darkest night when no-one is around
And plots to smother him while he does sleep?

Margaret: No! If any is to those sweet princes smother
‘Twill be the next come monarch’s sainted mother.
My son shall be King! I swear this to be true.
And I shall be his Mother! As for you
A great reward awaits you husband mine.

Stanley: I’ll go turn down the blankets, get one of the cleaner pages to warm the bed up for us…

Margaret: Though fortune weighs him down and he doth live in penury,
I shall secure the crown of England for my Henury.

Stanley: [aside] What madness is this? What folly strikes her?
If I didn’t know her better I’d say it was not like her!

Margaret: I shall be the King’s Mother, husband. I verily shall. For I have seen King Richard naked!

_______________________________

JEF Dingle-Bell (Mrs) is up to her elbows in flour and poached quince. It will be a small gathering, nothing terribly fancy, just a few old friends and her Aunt Evangelina. Mr Bell might be persuaded to do his impression of Clement Atlee (which is jolly good!) and the Rev Fairbrother promised to bring his bassoon. The Hon Diana Clackton will be most delighted, she tells us, to show us the new dance she learned from Isadora Duncan when they last communed, though we do hope this time she wears something a little less… gauzy. Major Humphrey-Nettlesting (Darling Roddy!) will be bringing some rather jolly chaps from the Black Watch – always the most tremendous fun! Do pop by if you’ve nothing on that day.

Too much Monkey Business?

urn

It began with a visit to C——–r a couple of years ago. I was sitting with a cousin in his local pub and bored with his ramblings about the various merits of overpaid footballers I switched my attention to a conversation at a nearby table. I was stunned to recognise the main speaker – a prominent and respected historian who was telling a tale so fantastical I continued to eavesdrop and the account which follows derives from the overheard discourse ( which will doubtless be presented in more depth by the aforementioned historian at a later date) a and the little research I have managed on my own.

It would seem that following the abortive Simnel rebellion of 1487 that Henry VII had made a throwaway comment along the lines of, “The Irish would crown apes next.” This was overheard by one of the king’s fools, Small Tom, a man of diminutive stature who had previously served Edward IV.  Tom decided to put this theory to the test, doubtlessly thinking it would amuse his current employer and taking one of the apes from the Tower bestiary set about proclaiming the beast as a true son of York in his home county.

Unfortunately for Tom his home county was Kent and the men of Kent had often taken delight in rising in rebellion at the slightest opportunity. Indeed, it was not long before enough malcontents had rallied to the banner of the velvet clad simian that the wretched Tom became alarmed and tried to explain that it had all been a merry jest. His protestations were in vain for the Kentish rabble would have none of it and despite the Fool’s declaration that ” a kynge would not throwe shitten ” they resolved to march on London.

As they made their way with “mych synginge and making Merrie” Tom fled before them to the city and threw himself upon the mercy of the king but Henry, still unsettled from the events of the previous year, was not a forgiving mood. Small Tom and his unfortunate hirsute companion were bundled into the Tower and never seen again.

monkey

Nothing is known of their fate and nearly all accounts of this embarrassing interlude have been struck from the records. However, it is interesting to note that the chest recovered from beneath a stairwell was reputed to contain human and animal remains below adult height and also scraps of velvet. Were Little Tom and his unwitting simian accomplice buried alive and do their poor remains now reside in an urn in Westminster? Perhaps, when the inevitable book is written we shall finally know the truth.

Sources:

Conversation overheard in a pub.
Fragments of documents found which I now seem to have misplaced.
King Kong ( 1933 ).
Rupert Bear Annual. 1959.

Jeff Robodene is back!

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (Part 2)

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Elizabeth in her wedding dress?

Behind the bike sheds: Well, after over 5 minutes of tedious waiting – and getting some very strange looks from the resident cyclists  – I was about to give up my quest when Bishop Stillington FINALLY appeared.

He seemed nervous, scared even. He kept looking behind him as he walked towards me. Did he think he was being followed? Was he being followed? I blinked, looked around and thought about it. No, he was definitely weird and not a little paranoid, but there was no one following him.

He walked straight up to me, slammed something into my hand – and left. Just like that. He was gone, swallowed up by the crowds of cyclists.

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
A 16th century love letter?

I looked at my hand nervously (the paranoia was obviously contagious). What had I got myself into?

The paper looked old, frail. It was brown at the edges, and curled up a bit?

But then I remembered one of my old art lessons. Wasn’t it possible to make paper look old and frail, by wiping a teabag over it? It was a pretty good effect, I recall. So how could I know? The handwriting looked old – all squirly and fancy, not like kids learn to write these days. There were no obvious signs of forgery in the text: no OMGs, LOLs or xoxo’s. But I still couldn’t be certain.

I called in at the nearest Costa Coffee, grabbed a cappuccino and settled down to read the text:

“My dearest, darling Elizabeth,

It was lovely to see you the other day, and spend those wonderful few hours together.

My heart yearns for you still.

I often hark back to our wedding day, thinking of you in that wonderfully coloured dress. I am reminded of it every time I see a rainbow overhead. How adorable you looked – and you had eyes only for me.

I love you so much, you are queen of my heart and my world (and the country, of course). How are we ever going to be together forever, have we only stolen moments in dark corners to look forward to?

I know all has changed. You said that I must forget about us, that I must move on, but do you mean it? How can you? How can I? No woman is as wonderful and majestic as you – I am yours to command, always.

Sweet Elizabeth, you are my wife, you swore we would be together forever. Elizabeth, is the crown worth our parting?

Come home

Your ever-loving husband

Bob

Bob? Bob? Who on earth was BOB?

It was a nice, sweet, sad letter, but undated. Was it real?

I resolved to find out and took a trip to my old alma mater. Leicester Uni has recently had some success in dating 500-year-old ‘things’, so I thought I’d see if they would check out the letter for me.

Unfortunately, all the really clever professors were busy or out to lunch, but one of the lab rats took a look at it. He had a sniff and a nibble and declared it could be carbon dated to the 1550/60s, give or take a hundred years – or so. That was good enough for me. The letter must be genuine, as it was written at the right time.

I now turned my attention to the writer. Who could this ‘Bob’ be? I turned to Wikipedia – such a fabulous, accurate and complete research tool. It has been my saviour many times, during arguments on Facebook. No one can argue with Wikipedia and win.

220px-Robert_Devereux,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

To the candidates:

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was a favourite of Elizabeth’s later in her life. But did she marry him? It is possible. Given the example of her father – and she like to think she was a king of England, like him, it is entirely possible. Her father liked to chop the heads of his spouses when he tired of them. And Elizabeth did chop Devereux’s head off when she tired of him. Maybe it was cheaper than a divorce, certainly it was quicker.

Next there’s Robert Cecil, son of Elizabeth’s greatest adviser William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Raised from childhood to serve the queen loyally. But to marry her? If he did, he got over the grief of her death very quickly – he was arranging for James VI of Scotland to take the throne before the poor woman was cold in her grave – actually, I don’t think she was even dead. So, no, not him. Surely?

bob
Bob

The penultimate candidate is Bob, page to the Lord Edmund Blackadder. A lively, adventurous, thigh-slapping chap, as I remember. He must have been great fun to be with – and Queenie did like Bob, as I recall. But….and it’s a pretty big but…. didn’t he turn out to be a girl? And run off with Lord Flashheart?

220px-Robert_Dudley_Leicester
Bob Dudley, Earl of Leicester

The most likely candidate, of course, is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was Elizabeth’s own age and a close confidant until his death. But he was married – for some of the time anyway. He married Amy Robsart in 1550. According to Wikipedia, this was a love-match. But something went wrong. Amy took a nasty fall down some conveniently well-placed stairs and managed to break her neck. There were constant rumours about the two of them – stories abounded that they wanted to marry. But Elizabeth called him Robin, not Bob, didn’t she?

Of course, that may have been in public, to throw people off the scent, maybe. There’s nothing to say Elizabeth didn’t call him ‘Bob’ in private.

Is there?

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Jeff R Sun, alumni of the University of Leicester, fan of lab rats and growing quite fond of cyclists, too

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Photos taken from Wikipedia, except Bob which is thanks to Google Images

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Sources: Wikipedia; Tony Robinson’s Kings and Queens, by Tony Robinson; Wikipedia; Cows in Action 1, the Ter-moo-nators, by Steve Cole; A Rough Guide to Egypt, by Dan Richardson; Blackadder II episode 1 ‘Bells’ (1st broadcast on BBC One 9th January 1986)