I love it when today’s headlines give me fodder for a Medieval Monday blog post! Last week brought the best headline I’ve seen in a long time. So good, in fact that I’m going to talk about it again tomorrow too.
What delicious topic could I possibly be thinking of? Why, Prince Harry, of course. That randy royal, that cheeky bad-boy. There’s something about princes misbehaving that makes me forget all of my usual strictures about preferring gentlemen who behave themselves and act with decorum. But what really got me was a tiny footnote of comparison that was tossed into the salacious article I read about our Harry Windsor. It was the comparison that was made, that has been made several times, between our naughty red-headed prince and a certain other naughty red-headed Prince Harry….Prince Harry Tudor was never going to be king. He was born in 1491, the second son of a powerful but suspicious man who had ended generations of family warfare by marrying the enemy. In the game of “the heir and the spare”, this Prince Harry was definitely the spare. While his older brother was trained in all things kingly, young Prince Harry was set on track to join the Church. He was educated by the finest tutors, learned Latin and French fluently and enough Spanish and Italian to get by.
When this Prince Harry was ten years old his older brother married a dazzling Spanish princess named Catherine. Chronicles of the time record that the young “spare” was elated at the celebrations. He loved the pomp and the pageantry. He danced with the revelers and partied hard, even throwing off his outer tunic and continuing to party in just his shirt. Hmm…
This Prince Harry grew up surrounded by his female relatives and carefully selected noble playmates. He was tall, handsome, and athletic. He loved martial arts, jousting, and wrestling and excelled at all of them. In these days Europe was caught in the thrall of new technology, the printing press, which enabled books to be distributed and read far and wide. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was a runaway bestseller and anyone who was anyone bent over backwards to emulate the characters in the story. Prince Harry’s father had even named his oldest son Arthur in the hope that he could recreate the legend in reality someday when his son became king.
This Prince Harry was jovial and outgoing, loved to laugh, drink, learn, and enjoy himself. Sounds kind of familiar, no? This Harry also experienced tragedy when beloved family members died while he was still young. The most important of these deaths was that of his older brother Arthur.
If ever there was a moment that changed the course not just of one Harry’s life but of an entire kingdom, it was the death of Arthur Tudor. Because suddenly the stoic, bookish young man who was supposed to be king was dead. That left only one alternative, our naughty, mischievous, red-headed Prince Harry.
Life changed almost overnight for this Prince Harry. His father, shaken to his core at the loss of Arthur and haunted by the specter of the generations-long war he had only just managed to end, turned all of his attention to protecting his remaining son. He stepped up his education, holding him to his studies and making sure he learned everything he would need to know to rule. He kept him in the palace, restricting the time he spent with friends and in the athletic pursuits he loved so well. He even kept this Harry away from his brother’s wife, Catherine.
The teenage years of this Prince Harry were stifling. Whether it was a personality clash with his older father or just his own exuberant nature, being told not to do anything foolish or dangerous left its mark. And when the king died as this Prince Harry neared his 18th birthday it was only natural that the newly freed young king would break his boundaries.
When this Prince Harry was crowned Henry VIII on April 21, 1509 he inherited a kingdom that had been made stable by his father after decades of conflict. He inherited a complex diplomatic situation and a more than reasonable treasury. He also stepped into the role of king during an era when thought and technology were changing so fast that life as it was known would never be the same. In the next several decades he would rule England as the most absolute monarch the kingdom had ever or would ever see.
And as we all know, Henry VIII had his scandals with women. He went through six wives and I don’t even know how many mistresses. His affairs rocked Europe, causing him to break with Rome and some of his closest friends. His court was a playground of vices, but it also produced some of the greatest cultural flowerings of the age. This Harry was a party animal who refused to be restrained.
So here we are again, delighted by the escapades of a wild, red-headed prince. He’s the spare. His older brother is married to a Catherine, and if all goes as planned our Prince Harry will never be king. So what about these wild shenanigans in Las Vegas? Well, I don’t know if they hold a candle to the kinds of things the first Naughty Prince Harry got up to.