v/o Let us enter the TARDIS and return to a page in history
GRAMS: Dr Who music
Let us go back to the very start of the fifteen hundreds – fifteen-oh-nine if you want to be precise.
Part The First (or, He Was Henry the Eighth, He Was)
The miserly king, Henry the Seventh, was dead and his young and handsome son, Henry the Eighth ascended to the throne (as you can see we were going through another succession of Henry kings – similar to the French with their long line of Louis kings – if it hadn’t have been for the French revolution they’d have been up to King Louis the Soixante-Neuf by now).
The money that his father had scrimped and saved allowed the young Henry the Eighth to dabble in the old English pastime of warring with the French… or the Scottish… or both simultaneously. France at this time was being ruled by the even younger and even more handsome than Henry the Eighth, Francois le Une (that’s Francis the First, in English – his elder brother Louis having succumbed to the royal disease of dying before getting a number).
One-upmanship was rife.
Henry the Eighth, a little miffed at not being the youngest, most handsomest, most youngest monarch in Europe decided to be a patron to the arts. Music and literature had recently arrived hot foot from the Florentine Renaissance of years before and Henry decided to write music..
Greensleeves, serious literature (that one that the pope liked and gave him Fidei Defensor – Defender of the faith – Catholicism!), inventing a new English Religion (Protestantism – that the Pope didn‘t like quite so much) and even invent sporting games, such as tennis (that’s real tennis, not the imaginary game that is played today. There was an English singles winner at Wimbledon for 38 years running (1509-47) as long as Henry reigned, in fact (now there is just English rain at Wimbledon), but Henry the Eighth didn’t do so well in the doubles, as he had many problems with his partners.
And so in January Fifteen-Hundred and Forty-Seven, Henry the Eighth died, a mere two months before his rival and arch enemy Francis the First of France (but Henry the Eighth did beat Francis The First six wives to two (nowadays known as a ‘kingly win‘ in tennis. Henry was followed to the throne of England by his son Edward the Sixth (Henry’s son Henry had died beforehand, as had his other sons, Henry, Henry, Henry and Henry). Edward the Sixth managed to live just long enough to allow his half-sister, half-monster, Mary the First (who gave her name to the drink “I’ll have a Bloody Mary“) succeed him. Mary the First’s reign is remembered for her inviting a few Protestants round for supper and then burning the steaks (and the Protestants upon them), marrying a Spaniard (there are some things worse, but I’m not sure what) and then losing back to the French, Calais (our last remaining English outpost in France, if you don‘t include the Channel Islands, and who does?). Mary the First died after having ‘Calais’ tattooed on her heart (not a wise move in those far off days of leeches and the letting of blood.
Then came Gloriana to the throne, Our first Queen called Elizabeth, our ‘Virgin’ queen (allegedly), and just at the right time for the Golden Age, too. War with France and Scotland was stopped immediately, and war with Spain was assumed for a change. Single-handedly, Queen Elizabeth the First destroyed the Spanish Armada and sent Philip the Second of Spain back to Cadiz with a singing beard.
Thus began a time of peace and happiness in the land. Frivolities such as the theatre became popular and from out of the soldiery came one of the greatest playwrights that the world will ever know.
Part the Second (or Where There’s A Will There’s A Play)
His story is somewhat sketchy, but here is my version of events.
Born in Warwickshire in 1564 of humble origins, William Shakespeare was a youth of many talents. He could read and write fluently by the age of five, loved to listen to the old songs (mainly Greensleeves, if truth be known) and recite old and curiously spelt poetry at the drop of a hat (albeit an Elizabethan hat). So William was destined to be a great… soldier. One day, during the threat of the Spanish Armada) whilst camped at Beachy Head, William was there on lookout duty, spear at the ready, when a conversation with a colleague was struck. Here is that imagined conversation in part.
Will: Doust thou thinkest that the Warre Shalt be done by Christmas, my colleague?
Coll: That’s wot they are saying back at the barracks.
Will: Oh woest me that I shalt not see my family (and my second best bed) again, if we do not defeat the hosts of Spain.
Coll: Yes, right!
Will: I shallst shake my spear at the evil foe, and be gone the Spaniard from our shores.
Coll: If you must.
Will: There ‘tis done.
Will: my colleague?
Coll: (warily) Yes?
Will: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s Day?
Coll: I’d rather you didn’t
Will: Well I am a writer, not a fighter!
And so, with William Shakespeare, single-handedly defeating the Spanish Armada, a career move was decided upon, and ten years later William Shakespeare became an overnight sensation.
William Shakespeare’s story continued beyond the Sixteenth Century, but that Will, will be spoken of at a later date.
Elizabeth the First reigned for 43 years (reigning almost as much as you’d get on a long weekend in Birmingham) and William Shakespeare, the Swan of Avon, was Bard (from all the public houses in Stratford, and then from all the wine bars in affluent (and oftentimes effluent) London.
When Queen Elizabeth the First died in the year sixteen-hundred and three, her father’s, elder sister’s, son‘s, son‘s son, James the Sixth, King of Scotland, became King James the First of England as well.
But that story lies ahead in the Sixteen-hundreds – otherwise known as “The Seventeenth Century“.