Off With Her Head
I loved the television series “The Tudors” which recently ended its 4 season run on Showtime. I’ve always been a fan of historical dramas and historical biographies. The fact that this blended the two with a super handsome version of King Henry VIII allowed me to suspend my desire for precise historical accuracy and relish in the Tudor drama. The 38 episodes spanned 29 years during the reign of Henry VIII, and I was captivated by the stories of political intrigue, religious unrest and the personal desires of the monarch. And yes, I admit a certain morbid fascination with the depicted horrors of the Tower of London.
Henry tended to locate his court, comprised of well over 1,000 people, at Hampton Court Palace, and people were invited “to court” or banished “from court” based on their roles, their usefulness to the King, or their role. During the course of his many marriages and ever-shifting alliances, Henry would welcome or exclude even his own daughters to/from court. While matters of state were often left in the hands of various Archbishops and Lord Chancellors, obviously, Henry VIII was the ultimate authoritative ruler. He broke his country’s relationship with Rome , established himself as Supreme Head of the Church for his nation, oversaw an increase in governmental bureaucracy, and truly lived up to the role of royal sovereign.
Even though almost 500 years have passed since Henry VIII drew his last breath in 1547, we still read stories weekly and see that some of our 21st century organizations share similarities with the court of a Tudor monarch:
- If the King is pleased, you receive jewels, riches and fancy titles (Duke, Knight, Court Musician…)
- If the King is displeased, and you’re lucky, you are merely banished from court
- If the King wishes to circumvent a rule, law, or policy (or pesky religious edict), he has a retinue of lawyers and advisors who are ordered to “find a loophole”
- If the King needs to get away from the rigors of his responsibilities, he gathers his in-crowd of fellow noblemen and escapes for days of hunting, jousting and pursuing new mistresses
- If the King has reason to doubt your allegiance or wonders if you are a heretic, he may dispatch the Lord Mayor or the Master Secretary to “question” you and rely on their report, alone, to determine his course of action
But there is hope; for even out of poor and questionable intentions, there may arise good results. Henry VIII, as part of his desire to spite Rome, authorized the first “legal” printing of the Bible in English. Which changed the course of history.
Unfortunately, he also beheaded a couple of Queens along the way.