Feminism by the numbers


K-K-Catherine of Aragorn is a stubborn sort, a Catholic bastionista
Still, Henry VIII ain't an easy chap to please. Girls, stillborn births, cot deaths,
all nudges him sideways, see, pushing Cath mark I out of bed 'n' holy headlock. 

Harry's eye then spies something beginning with 'A', Anne Boleyn, sister 
of his bitofallright, poor ol' Mary. (Poor ol' Mary, gives her all, can't take a trick.) 
'Right', says Harry; Anne pays a coquette's lip service, and 
various pontiffs and potentates block annulment and divorce. 

'I'll take my racquet and balls and send off the old bat meself,' Harry declares,
pushing himself to the head of the queue, rogering the wee chasm
twixt church and state. Harry squires off Anne (that's Anne mark I)
before she, too, non-delivers the baby boy jackpot. Not for want of banditry.

'Who's next?' bellows Harry, manfully sweeping Jane Seymour off her feet
and Anne's head off her shoulders (delicate sword work, all the way from Calais). 
Sovereign bullock, primordial lord of lusty hubbies the world o'er,
Harry feels his oats, raises doughty anchor and sets sail for greater vistas.

The monarch's dalliances dwindle as Janey's spirit espies lands past Albion.
(Bye Jane ...)
Bit sad, though, Harry does all right: Jane cashes out with royal heir, Edward VI.

Still counting sacrificial sheep?
(Poor ol' Mary, lurchin' with a bellyful of lower class lovin'.)

Fourth girl takes a stand, Anne of Cleves (Anne mark II, now with added Protestantism).
Harry assesses Teutonic precision. A sniff, a pinch, a grunt, then he takes his leave.
'Not for me; try harder', he counsels his counsellors, fingering his blade.
Who'd wanna marry Harry? Better off as Herod's pig, or teacher's pet!

Europe's blue-blooded belles step back: Annulled Anne is now Harry's dutiful, loving sis.
One-eyed snake, spying assassin 'n' 'Vicar of Hell', Sir Francis Bryan, lobs up
K-K-Catherine Howard (Cath mark II) for Harry's smash. New balls, new lease of life.
But Cath'd rather be groom Culpepper's missus. Harry pairs 'em in headless harmony.

Wearied unto death, Harry stumbles 'pon K-K-Catherine Parr (Cath mark III), who learns
a woman survives theological debate with an arsehole by rapidly grovelling
for life, liberty and the terrifying yet gainful pursuit of headedness.
(Poor ol' Mary lives and loves; never royally wedded yet never regally deaded.)

What do Harry's sorrowful spouses learn us, in this supposedly enlightened time?
Cath mark I: Stick to your guns (if the emperor of Spain's your nephew) or
Anne mark I: Extend your plunge (you'll still be trumped, or trumped up and done over).
Jane: Give 'em boys (and look out for childbed fever) or
Anne mark II: Give 'em toys (and learn to play your cards right).
Cath mark II: Try for discretion (blow 'em if they can't take a joke) or
Cath (mark III): Make your confession ('I am but a woman').

Harry was a bastard. Ruthless, cranky, vaingloriously wanky.
He was spoiled for choice. A crying shame his women weren't.


Barry GittinsBarry Gittins is a Melbourne writer. Tomorrow, 8 March, is International Women's Day.

Topic tags: Barry Gittins, Henry VIII, Anne Boelyn, Tudors



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Existing comments

On this cloudy, windy Wednesday I'm smiling (grimly) Barry. The bit about surviving "theological debate with an arsehole by rapidly grovelling" also raises a somewhat grim chuckle! I have three daughters (+ one son) and in our house equality rules, ok. Thanks for one very witty and succinct piece of writing.

Pam | 07 March 2012  

Henry VIII wouldn’t have had a problem finding an heir if 16th century England had been a polygamous society. That Henry was a randy old bastard is more a product of mythmaking after the fact, than an objective assessment from history. We wouldn’t pay him any attention today if it weren’t that he had to have six wives. Something definitely gave way in 1536, terrifying. Politics gets in a mess when it tries to play with nature. The sorrows of Princess Diana, for example, are a latter day testimony to this desperate requirement to find an appropriate heir, or any heir. Where was Diana once that requirement had been achieved? (We ask in this year of Jubilee) Of course the great irony about Henry is that his male heir was a disaster, while his brilliant daughters epitomised the religious divisions within the kingdom itself: Mary the Catholic and Elizabeth the Protestant. Elizabeth’s court was carefully divided between Catholic and Protestant sympathisers, the Puritans tolerated just. But it is Elizabeth, not Henry who really created the Church of England. She had to, it was the only way to keep the peace. She prayed like a Catholic and ruled like a Protestant. She left no heirs.

Scadbury Park | 07 March 2012  

Harry was no more a 'bastard' than the bastards who ran the Spanish Inquisition.

Chris Beal. | 07 March 2012  

And from all this misogyny comes the Anglican Church, now with its women priests and bishops, that's bound to attract feminists like me so much more than the obvious alternative.

God really does have a weird sense of humour.

Penelope | 09 March 2012  

Rome is a hot bed for same.
Part of the questionaire on the selection of a bishop, so it's recorded, is "was he born in lawful wedlock".
If not, I wonder how they pass the test. Maybe the Papal Rescript to legitimize them, offencive to say the least, considering the creative act was a twosome not a threesome.

L Newington | 10 March 2012  

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