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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Under the blanket with three queens

I suppose that title looks a bit odd. I'll explain.

   I woke this morning with no energy at all. It happens sometimes. I can think, in a vague and haphazard sort of way, but not move without great effort. So here goes with the Hemingway stream of consciousness thoughts, only not so lofty as his.

   In short, I felt like Shakespeare's "shotten herring." [It comes from Henry IV Part 1, which we studied Senior year at high school, so that's how I know about the herring. That play really intrigued me, as I had no idea that kings and their mates could behave with so little decorum.]

   A shotten herring, by the way, isn't a herring that's been shot with a gun or anything; it's a herring that's 'shot' or pumped out all her eggs, after which she looks and acts as shagged I felt this morning, and she dies. I wasn't that far gone, but I was on a Shakespearean roll. The reference brought to mind Falstaff, and good King Harry's ripping into him; something about…fat-guts-Jack and "When didst thou last see thy knees?'

Sir John Falstaff
Oh all right then, I just checked, and it seems my bed-ridden brain did a conflation of separate bits. The lines are:
Here comes lean Jack, here comes bare-bone.
How now, my sweet creature of bombast!
How long is't ago, Jack, since thou sawest thine own knee?
To which Falstaff replies:
My own knee! when I was about thy years, Hal, I was not an eagle's talon in the waist; I could have crept into any alderman's thumb-ring: a plague of sighing and grief! it blows a man up like a bladder.

It's not a line to contemplate when you're about to get up and skip to the loo my darling, especially when your knees are fading dangerously out from sight.

   Anyway, the gluttonous old Falstaff led me to muse further on the Tudors and those who followed, and it occurred to me that ever since that time, England has been much better at producing queens of the realm than kings. Think about Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II.

   Now they were stayers. Between them, they've so far governed the empire, or what's left of it, for round 170 years, and still counting. That's more than one-third of the time of all rulers since Good Queen Bess, through the whole period when women's rights were not even on the agenda. None of them seems to have put a foot too far wrong, and have kept their heads [literally, in the case of the first Elizabeth – she would have lost hers had she not been a genuine Tudor] when things were at their bleakest.

   Take the current Queen. She dutifully produced an heir, bang on cue, though that hasn't turned out ideal, and a princess in second place to keep the papers occupied. That didn't turn out too well either, but I doubt the Queen's to blame. As Monty Python's grotty peasants in the Holy Grail insist, with gleeful and wanton anachronism, "it's the corruption inherent in the system".

   Royalty surely pays its way now. It's the greatest drawcard for tourism Britain has, and therefore pours millions of yankee dollars, yuan and yen into the country's coffers every day. 

   These days the Royals don't go around blowing it all, with armies and swords, fighting or eviscerating each other and torching houses; they just do it by mobile phone, which is a lot cheaper on the whole, and marginally less messy. They've turned out a better investment than they looked like being, thanks to a world of people with enough money and nothing more useful to do with it than to turn up on the Mall and stare through black steel bars at ugly buildings and real-life toy soldiers with incredibly tall, black, furry heads.

Oh, my only sainted aunt. For fifty years I've been reading Shakespeare, and only now has it clicked that there's a double entendre in the name "Falstaff".

   That's was it. I had to move. It was way past my knee-observing and morning pill-popping time. And yes, I could still see my knees, not that it's any of your business.


  1. I'd never picked that up about Falstaff either - and surely, of all the Queen's children, the daughter turned out least awfully, all things considered?

    1. True. Just one false start in the marriage stakes and now a grannie. Lots of philanthropic work. No scandals. She must be a great disappointment to the paparazzi.


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