Today the first-year A-level class concluded the reign of Henry VII in the AQA The Tudors module. Moving on to a new reign and monarch is in many ways a positive thing: new content and new debates to engage in. However, in other ways we say farewell to someone who has become an old friend. Henry VII has been the focal point for this group since September, and during this period we have assessed Henry in his rise to the throne, his relations with foreign monarchs, his ability to put down threats, his economic and social “policies”, as well as the growth of his family. And now he is gone (for the time being, anyhow, until we return to revision of this content).
This short play – if we are generous enough to call it a “play” – gives some closure to the death of Henry VII and the hints of what is to come with the new reign of his son Henry VIII. The History group read this through together, each picking a character and doing their best to inhabit the role. Some went full-hog, whilst others appeared to be confused and disorderly. However, I enjoyed the process. It offered a good way to transition to the new monarch and section of the module.
THE DEATH OF HENRY VII
- Henry VII
- Groom of the Stool
- Catherine of Aragon
- Henry VIII
- Earl of Surrey
- Sir Thomas More
- Earl of Devon
- Thomas Wolsey
It is the bedroom of HENRY VII. It is late at night. He awakes in bed.
HENRY VII: Cor blimey! I’ve got terrible pain in my stomach. Wifey, wifey?
HENRY tries looking on the other side of the bed. It is empty.
HENRY VII: Oh yes, my Liz died a few years back. I know who to call, my good old son, Arthur! Arthur, come to Daddy!
HENRY realises that Arthur is unlikely to come into the room.
HENRY VII: Ah yes, my poor beautiful son also perished a few years ago now. Balls! They’ve all left me. And all I have left is that other boy of mine.
He clutches his stomach.
HENRY VII: Ah, bugger it. I might as well die now. I’ve had good innings. 24 years as English king. Bosworth, Stoke Field, all my beautiful victories. Even that sweet little trade deal with Burgundy, the Intercursus Magnus. But ah, if only I could have one more time swimming in my big hall of gold coins.
HENRY VII dies.
In walks his GROOM OF THE STOOL.
GROOM OF THE STOOL: Oh my goodness! The King is dead! I shall never wipe his bottom clean ever again.
HENRY VIII is sat watching a jousting tournament. He is eating a chicken.
CATHERINE OF ARAGON: My dearest Henry, you had better watch all that you eat. You seem to be putting on a bit of fat around the belly. We can’t have you becoming a pudgy-bear-kins.
HENRY VIII: Nonsense! There’s plenty of room to fit in more food.
In rushes the GROOM OF THE STOOL.
GROOM OF THE STOOL: Your highness, I have some important news.
HENRY VIII: Well, what is it?
GROOM OF THE STOOL: Your father, the king, has died. You, my liege, are the new king.
HENRY VIII stands up and does a little victory dance.
HENRY VIII: The throne is mine! Father can’t stop me from hunting and jousting anymore. Quick, hand me a sword! Let’s go nuts!!
HENRY VIII is in the throne room. He is surrounded by advisors.
EARL OF SURREY: Your highness, now that are the king, you have an opportunity to be your own man. To do things differently to your father and find the love of the nation. And of the nobles. By which I mean, you could give me my dukedom of Norfolk back!
THOMAS MORE: My king, you father had a reign that was like winter. But you are the new spring, and you have opportunity to show yourself as a just, kind, ruler.
HENRY VIII: Yes, yes. How do we do this then?
EARL OF DEVON: There are two tyrannical advisors to your father, Empson and Dudley. They have exacted cruel taxes from the nobility for years, and they need to be punished.
HENRY VIII: Off with their heads!
EARL OF SURREY: Excellent.
EMPSON and DUDLEY are being led to the gallows.
EMPSON: Oh, my dearest Dudley. How has it come to this?
DUDLEY: Well, we acted like a pair of utter bastards and pissed off all the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. And now, without Henry VII to protect us, we’re done for.
EMPSON: Ah, yes. I remember now.
HANGMAN: It is time, gentlemen.
They both die.
HENRY VIII is back in the throne room, listening to his advisors.
EARL OF SURREY: We need to discuss Scotland!
EARL OF DEVON: We need to discuss finance!
THOMAS MORE: We need to discuss the law courts.
HENRY VIII: Silence! I will have no more of this dull talk of paperwork. You lot deal with it. I’m outta here! I got a hot date with Catherine of Aragon, and then I’m off hunting.
HENRY VIII points to WOLSEY
HENRY VIII: You there!
WOLSEY: Me, your highness?
HENRY VIII: You look a presentable chap. You sort all this mess out, will you? There’s a good boy.
WOLSEY (looking smug): Of course, your majesty.
HENRY VIII: And while you’re at it, plan a war with France. I’ve got a hankering for some French territory, and I want to establish myself as a great warrior king like Henry V.
WOLSEY: I will fulfil all your wishes.
HENRY VIII leaves.
The other advisors look at WOLSEY accusingly and filled with suspicion.
WOLSEY (evil laughter): Now that the king is out of the picture, it is time for me to shake things up around here.