We catalogue quite a few books of supposedly memorable rhymes, intended to make it easy to learn the names and dates of British sovereigns, so I didn’t initially take much notice when I picked up yet another one [Kings and Queens of England by Basil Procter, 1909.7.2126]. However, glancing through it, I couldn’t help but be amused by some of the phrases and rhymes: this one is rather more entertaining than many of its genre
So here is a quick romp through British history from the Romans who “ruthlessly besieged our land” until “they all went trundling home again” and the Saxons (“I can’t remember half their names”) to Edward the Confessor “Who really should be sharply blamed / For letting William’s Norman horde / Come conquering over from abroad.”
After 1066 (“No matter if your memory’s rotten / This date should never be forgotten”) we move on to the Plantagenets and Henry II who gets ten flattering lines, followed by the comment “Bright was his reign; one thing may fleck it / That sad affair of Thomas Beckett.” Then we have Richard I, the Crusades being dismissed as “Completely futile, though sublime” and John who “Ate heavily of fruit and died” via Henry II who “when at Lewes he met De Montforte / The wretched king was forced to run for’t” to Edward I, in whose reign “The Scotch were very nearly quelled.” Unfortunately next, “Edward Two, the Scotties teasing / Went home much quicker than was pleasing / Finding Edward so besotted / The English had their king garrotted.”
Skip a century or so: “But as I’m feeling rather blurred / I’ll hurry on to Richard Third / Who basely in the tower did smother / His nephew, Edward V, and brother.” Later on, Henry VIII is dismissed in four lines; the second couplet being: “He with the Pope refused to palter / And six times over climbed the altar.” Climbed?
Of Cromwell, the author merely comments “He had a wart upon his forehead / Which many folk considered horrid” and Charles II “was a wanton lad / And soon was going to the bad.” William and Mary get a good press, Anne is “dull” and the Hanovers “in long succession / Create a very drab impression.” After George III (“He lost America and went mad”) and George IV (“if speak I must / ‘Tis with unutterable disgust”) the author has to be a bit more careful, as he reaches living memory and the grandfather of the current king.
William IV is skipped over in two harmless lines, Victoria gets eight lines of eulogy and of the reigning couple, Edward VII and Alexandra, it is claimed “No greater monarchs have we seen” which, personally, I think is stretching the point a bit.
Having been amused by this work, I can’t help wondering how Procter would have treated later sovereigns; Edward VIII for example. Perhaps something along the lines of: In order to his great love sate / Poor Eddie had to abdicate. Well, it’s no worse than any of the above!
Any other suggestions, anyone?