Too much Monkey Business?


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.


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.


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!


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