“Mon Dieu!” said Duke William, “I think I shall burst!
I have this great yen to be William the First.
So Harold, beware, – it could be your Doomsday
When I come to meet you in Pevensey Bay.
He knew Harold, rushing from Stamford, would long lack
The vigour and strength to defeat him at Senlac;
And thought he would give him the pasting of pastings
When both of them met at the Battle of Hastings.>
“Stand by for a scoop, sewing folk of Bayeux:
For I’ll be the Conqueror then, Sacre Bleu!
The date is the one thing I’ve got left to fix; –
I quite like the timbre of 1066.”
“I shot an arrow in the air;
It fell to earth I know not where;
I shot another, and I found
King William lying on the ground.
The Forest then was fairly new,
And access was allowed to few.
The penalties were most severe
For slaughtering the King’s own deer,
But far more culpable a thing
Was slaughtering the deers’ own King.
And so I took this Rufus bloke
And leant him on a handy oak.
That little arrow thus became
The source of all that Royal Oak fame.
Not a lot of people even
Know we ever had a Stephen.
He was not an empire-builder;
Mostly he just fought Matilda;
For she sought to share his throne; –
He just sought to rule alone.
Ask anyone what they know of Henry the First;
And they will probably answer: “Not a thing!”
Yet of all those Norman kings he wasn’t the worst;
He simply just got on with being the King
Henry the Second had, – can you imagine it? =
The family nomenclature of Plantagenet.
He thought he’d be King, and that no one would wreck it,
But reckoned without Master Thomas a Becket,
Who said: “Who’ll rid me of this meddlesome King?”
And straight away felt fortune’s outrageous sling.
For Henry thought he was asserting his rights
Employing the swords of a bevy of knights.
“That’s settled,” he said; “Now the victory’s mine!”
But Becket it was who was given the shrine.
Richard the First was brave and handsome;
But cost the country quite a ransom.
Caught when returning from crusading,
And found by a minstrel’s serenading.
This absentee king, called the lion-hearted,
Was better described as the “dear departed.”
Away for so long, it was all to the good
That the country was cared for by bold Robin Hood.
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my brother John
Went to bed with the King’s crown on;
They said “You be careful,” – he just said: “Tosh!
Everything’s bound to come out in the Wash.”
But he had, not the Wash, but the Barons to face
And they very quickly put him in his place.
They said “Sign here please, you poor little porpoise.
We need your permission for Habeas Corpus.”
One has to feel sorry for Henry III;
His reign, though a long one, might not have occurred.
His infamous father was bad old King John:
His famous son Edward I followed on;
And though for a long time he sat on the throne,
Earl Simon de Montfort is much better known.
But one fact could well win a prize in a quiz: –
The building of Westminster Abbey was his.
Edward the First was strong; far-sighted , –
Determined his realm be completely united.
“Llewellyn ap Griffid gets right up my nose,
But he’s king of the Welsh, so I’ll first deal with those:
I’ll drown them in castles, and then, if that fails,
I’ll give them my son as the first Prince of Wales.
Then off up to Scotland to hammer the Scot;
For they are another obstreperous lot.”
Llewellyn was easy, – he chopped off his head;
Then turned to the Scots who wi’ Wallace had bled,
But couldn’t quite finish off Robert the Bruce;
He was forced through old age to agree to a truce.
And then there’s Queen Eleanor, whom, at her loss,
He took through all stations to reach Charing Cross.
An early death beckoned
Young Edward the Second;
And most people thought him a
Bit naughty with Mortimer.
His end could be shown as inferior,-
Concerned with a heated posterior.
On succeeding, this Edward was quite young and raw,
But grew up and started the 100 years’ war.
A man full of energy, passion and fight,
But also a thoroughly chivalrous knight
Whose chivalrous act is his chief claim to fame:
He picked up a garter to hide a girl’s shame
A brave little chap was young Richard II;
On that all Wat Tyler’s men just hadn’t reckoned.
“It’s I who am King,” said young Richard, “Not Wat.
So you all go home, you revolting bad lot.”
His bravery worked then, but when he got older’
And faced Henry Bolingbroke, he could have been bolder.
He quarrelled with Henry, and Henry was banished;
But found on return Richard’s courage had vanished.
“The crown is now mine!” Henry Bolingbroke cried;
Sending Richard to prison, where somehow he died
Henry’s main contribution to the Arts
Was to come in two parts.
He suffered from being confused with that bloke
You might think this Henry invented our trousers,
He always seemed eager to jump into breeches;
In truth he was one of our great rabble-rousers,
And shone at delivering patriot speeches.
And Agincourt showed that the Froggies as foemen
Were never a match for the British longbowmen.
This Henry, most probably prey to neuroses,
Was born at the start of the Wars of the Roses.
And so became subject to long bouts of piety,
Living a reign of continued variety.
A troublesome kingship indeed was his lot; –
Some days he was king, and some days he was not
Disputes without end meant a hard lot was his’n:-
Sometimes on the throne and sometimes stuck in prison.
But still his religious resolve was unbeaten:
He founded (with ball game) the College of Eton.
He sought to end the tedious Roses Wars:
“Let’s now forget,” this Yorkist said, “all those old scores.”
(Perhaps forgetting that his secret bride
Came from the family on the other side.)
“We’ve finished with all that, that’s my firm view.”
And then he finished with King Henry, too
Isn’t it absurd
How so many people seem to have heard
Of Richard III;
Mainly through books and Shakespeare’s play and such like,
Which it now seems he wasn’t much like.
The respect many of his contemporaries bore him
Was not how Henry VII saw him.
Was he just cruel, crafty, crippled and coarse,
And mainly short of a good horse?
Or are we subscribing to scathing strictures
Set out in Tudor propagandist pictures?
And are all those people who say:”O,yes, I’ve known about Richard III for ever so long”
This mini-monarch met life’s sad carbuncle:
On finding that he had a wicked uncle.
We live, the good book says, our one brief hour.
Most brief for those who perish in the Tower
At last those sorry Royal tales
Were solved by an intruder,
Who said: “Your answer comes from Wales:
My name is Henry Tudor!”
The King was in his counting house.
His features bright and sunny;
Just like a cat that’s caught a mouse;
He loved to count his money.
“England and I are in good health;
These coins are almost cuddly!
And I must thank, for all this wealth,
My partners Empson-Dudley.
This money is the Real Thing!
And I have never lost a
Brief moment’s sleep : each other king
Turns out a sheer impostor.
This Henry is one of our best known lives;
But mainly for marrying several wives,
His aim being (vainly) producing a son.
All his efforts (and wives),though, could only get one.
Yet other activities outside the bed
Proved more procreative; – he fathered instead
The great British Navy. Then switching his role,
He proved Martin Luther was quite up the pole.
The coins of the realm are still marked with FID:DEF: t
O mark his defence of the Church; – which he left.
He invented compulsory purchase of lands
Which he felt monks would rather be held in Royal hands.
This list of achievements undoubtedly means
He was not just a king with a bevy of queens
The Wives of Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon
Was really quite a paragon.
She wed Prince Arthur – hated it,
And never consummated it;
And when this elder brother died,
What happened? Well, the other tried!
She thought:” It’s still a Tudor King.”
But he turned out a ruder King.
And then she found she couldn’t dodge any
Attempts by him to get male progeny.
“Your failure’s like a taper, see,-
Which lights my hate of Papacy,”
He said. He lacked a better side,
And made her our first “set aside.”
So long she kept her maidenhead intact,
So long she kept her maiden head, in fact;
But soon she lost the one, – became a mother, –
And shortly after that she lost the other.
How could anyone ever be more
Different from Anne than Mistress Seymour?
For she was modest and quiet and pious;
And Henry declared:”God can’t deny us
A son at last. – Good Lord, pray heed me;
I need a Princeling to succeed me.”
His son brought little joy and laughter, –
Jane Seymour joined the Great Hereafter.
Anne of Cleves
“Tell me,” roared Henry,”who believes
This Holbein thing on Anne of Cleves?
He’s quite misled me, I declare;
She’s nothing but a Flanders mare!
So pack her off! Find me another!
I can’t bear making her a mother!”
“I’m getting old,” King Henry cried;
“Old men require a younger bride.
Young Katherine Howard I’ve espied; –
That’s someone I could lie beside!”
And so could she. How well she lied!
Her talents to amuse she’d tried
Before, – and spread them far and wide.
But, speaking fairly, who could chide
A young girl who could not abide
A King who must not be denied,
And found that difficult to hide?
Yes, she was young, but woe betide
A maid whose beauty is her pride;
To other men her love was tied;
This time she lost her head – and died.
“Here I go marrying Catherine Parr!
Here I go marrying Catherine Parr
On a cold and frosty morning.
She’ll be the best that I’ve had so far,
Had so far,
Had so far;
She’ll be the best that I’ve had so far,
On a cold and frosty morning.
She’ll take good care of me – there’s a thing!
There’s a thing!
There’s a thing!
She’ll take good care of me – there’s a thing! –
On a cold and frosty morning.
She’ll take care, and she’ll mother a King;
Mother a King;
Mother a King;
That’s ironic, – she’ll mother a King
On a final frosty morning.”
Edward the Sixth was pale and sickly;
His reign was over very quickly.
Lady Jane Grey
The almost Queen, Lady Jane Grey
Was heard in the Tower to say:
“Oh dear, this is muddly!
I just thought that Dudley
Meant I should be Queen of the May.”
She had no luck; she had no lucky day.
The mother that she had was sent away;
And when she had a stepmother instead
That stepmother soon didn’t have a head.
As Queen she hadn’t an established Church.
Her husband largely left her in the lurch.
Her joy at pregnancy quite drove her wild,
And then she found she didn’t have a child.
For Protestants she didn’t give a jot;
Her brother King was one. – She burnt a lot.
She didn’t have a sister she could own;
She might become a rival for the throne.
She had no vict’ries when she went to war,
And found she hadn’t Calais any more.
She didn’t have a life past forty three.
Her life was pretty Bloody. So was she
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
“Odds Bodkins!” said Cecil in those very early
Beginnings before she had made him Lord Burleigh;
Our Virgin Queen’s vergin’ on courting again.
I don’t know however I’ll get through this reign.
At one time she used to be rather too cuddly
With that dashing courtier Robert, Earl Dudley.
Then the Dukes of Anjou and Alencon from France:
Did she mean it or did she just lead them a dance?
And Philip the Second, she soon cooled his ardour –
It stopped quite abruptly – she sunk his armada……..
“Oh, no,” sighed Lord Burleigh, “She’ll not have a king, –
She much prefers keeping her men on a string.
At least she’s preserved us from many a mess;
And now they all know you don’t mess with Queen Bess
James Stuart said: “I’m in a bit of a fix;
Am I James the First, or just James no.6?
My mother was Scotland’s Queen, – I was her son;
But Auntie Bess says that I’m her No.1.
King of England and Scotland; just what shall I be?
The King of Britannia! Now, that’ll suit me.”
But Master Guy Fawkes, with his Gunpowder blast
Said: “I think you’ll be James the First and the Last.”
His plot, thanks to one of those leaks, became known;
So he hanged; – James the First and the Sixth kept his throne
Van Dyck was quite a painter, and he did a famous thing
When he made a famous portrait of King Charles, the Stuart King;
For he painted Charles’s picture from three different points of view;
And Cromwell said “Three faces! And I thought he’d only two.”
Charles said:”It’s by Divine Right that I sit upon this throne;
And I don’t need any Parliaments, – I’ll do the job alone.”
But his cavalier manner irked his people more and more,
So they told him quite politely:”We shall have a Civil War.”
And he came to understand Divine Right doesn’t mean a thing
If the people you are ruling do not want you for a King.
To the sad relentless fact he was inexorably led:
It’s no good to have three faces if you haven’t got a head
Now you cannot have a Kingdom if you haven’t got a King; =
But you can call it Commonwealth, that’s quite a different thing.
But who’s to rule a Commonwealth – a thing we’ve never known ?
You have a Lord Protector, for he doesn’t need a throne.
And Cromwell said: “I’ll do it! And I shan’t require a crown.
It won’t be too amusing, but I shall not let you down.
You’ll have to be good Puritans– no jollity or fun.”
But they went and sent for Charles again when Cromwell’s life was done/
Charles the Second said: “Remember – he cut off my father’s head!”
So they did the same to Cromwell; only after he was dead
So everyone said: “Who will govern our nation?
Then gave Charles the Second a Grand Restoratioon.
He said: “I’ve spent years with the King of France yonder;
But now it is only my hands that will wander.
So now let’s be merry ; – live lives of enjoyment.”
And took in Nell Gwynn for more fruity employment. .
His heart was on fire, although what was a pity,
It wasn’t as fierce as the fire in the City.;
And though bastard numbers were greatly inflated,
The plague meant the people were quite decimated
James, James, the Catholic man
Hid his baby in a warming pan.
And though James thought it would all be alright,
It wasn’t till after he’d taken flight
Pretend as he might, in the final run,
The true Old Pretender was James’s son.
KING WILLIAM III and MARY
Said Louis XIV :“I find a bit scary
The prospect of fighting King Williamandmary.
I’ll fight with the Spanish, the Prussians and such,
And if on dry land I can cope with the Dutch;
But if it brings England in, then woe is me!
Although I shall never be left all at sea.”
For England said “Mary succeeds to the throne.”
But William of Orange said: “Not on her own!
For that’s how I work; it is part of my scheme.
We’re husband and wife, and we work as a team.
You’ll have your new Queen, but I’ll tell you one thing:
I am not just a consort, – I want to be King!”
And though all the English said: “No, that’s absurd!”
They nevertheless got King William III;
Who went on to win all of his overseas fights
But had to give in to the new Bill of Rights
Ever since History first began
What do we know about good Queen Anne?
Is it the undeniable fact
Of the England and Scotland Union Act?
Or how that chap Marlborough won the day
From Blenheim right up to Malplaquet?
Quite a lot happened, but we know instead
The incontrovertible fact – She’s dead.
They ran out of Stuarts, so then brought a man over –
Some said:”I am somewhat surprised, I must own;
I didm’t expect the Elector of Hanover; –
Who thought we’d end up with a Hun on the throne?”
But others said: “Frankly, I don’t give a jot; –
He probably won’t be much worse than a Scot!”
But then George the Second, succeeding the First,
Said: “Why are you always expecting the wurst?
You’ll find that our new Hanoverian band’ll
Sound very much better conducted by Handel.
Forget about Jacobites! Damn South Sea Bubbles!
‘Messiah’ will make us forget all our troubles
What demon of unkind misfortune could forge
The sort of hard fate that befell this King George?
He first lost America (though one might say
That that could be viewed quite the opposite way)
Then struck by ill health he was destined to find
Porphyria brought on the loss of his mind.
His first son, however, he wasn’t to lose;
Though hardly the son any father would choose.
“A glorious reign?” said His Majesty: “Phew!
I’m glad I’ve that nice little palace at Kew!”
The fourth George became that unusual thing:
A Prince of Wales who became Regent then King.
Though not a great King (if you don’t count his waist)
And with sexual mores you couldn’t call chaste,
He was strangely a King of some culture and taste.
That’s life! – Those who earn our most serious strictures
May build some fine buildings and buy some great pictures
“We thank you most kindly, dear Mr. Disraeli,
Most grateful,” Victoria said, almost gaily;
“The Empress of India, you are quite right’ll
Make quite a resounding, imperial title.
You’ve looked after me, and I shall not forsake you:
The new Earl of Beaconsfield’s what I shall make you. –
Don’t tell Mr. Gladstone, or I shall get pages
On how little vanities make up sin’s wages;
Though how can a man consign others to Hades
Who spends his time chatting up dubious ladies!”
King Edward VII
At first just one more of those Princes of Wales
Completely frustrated by parent’s longevity;
Edward did tend to go right off the rails.
But balanced it all with a reign of some brevity;
And when he was finally Edwardus Rex
He showed to his fiends regal conviviality;
Especially those of the opposite sex,
With perhaps rather too much entente cordiality.
King George V
King George the Fifth’s chief claim to fame
Was changing the old family name.
“Saxe-Coburg’s foreign sound I blame,
But we shall all be still the same.
My stamps remain my favourite game; –
So bugger Bognor I exclaim!
And thus I leave of my mortal frame.”
King Edward VIII
Prince Edward, too, was one more Prince of Wales
Who failed to reach his proper destination.
“I’ve Wallis now,” he said, “if all else fails,
I’ll marry her or go for abdication.”
King George VI
The grand old Duke of York
Said “G – goodness, here’s a thing!
I was sitting beneath a chestnut tree,
And now I’m about to be King!
I could easily give it all up;
I never did want this Crown;
But now I’ve accepted this bitter cup
I won’t let the Old Firm down.”
No more of Kings and Queens, – I do not mean
To merit or attract the Royal glower;
For if I weren’t nice to our dear Queen
It’s possible I’d end up in the Tower.
Ron Silk 2003