Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Mocking King Henry VIII

A recent discovery in the British Library gives an insight into at least part of public opinion - if such is an applicable term to the period concerned - around 1540 on the subject of King Henry VIII and his matrimonial misadventures. 

It is a satirical piece purporting to be from the Antichrist, seen as an Eastern potentate, offering his daughter as a potential bride together with a ludicrously improbable dowry. As the researcher who found it points out the style is informed by contemporary diplomatic forms, which suggests an origin in an elite world. In some ways it is also reminiscent of the earlier letters from ‘Prester John’ to medieval monarchs.

Over successive decades we have become ever more aware of the range of political writing, of commentary and indeed satire in the sixteenth century. This discovery is an interesting addition to that corpus. It may not have been widely distributed for obvious reasons, but its existence further indicates the range and variety of public and private discourse in the first half of the sixteenth century.

It will be interesting to see the whole text when it is published. In the meantime the discovery is summarised in Academic discovers lost letter to Henry VIII - from the Antichrist, in  

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