Thursday, November 30, 2006

THE KING'S HEIR by Monya Clayton

(A writing assignment where a change of words would have changed history.)

Henry Tudor VIII paced the Turkey carpet outside the birthing room at Greenwich Palace. Inside the room his wife, attended anxiously by physicians, midwives and ladies in waiting, was in labour.

The King was understandably restless. The queen had already produced a healthy babe, a girl. He was fond of the child, but he did not wish on England the disaster of a female monarch.

He brooded as he paced the hall. Every courtier saw the thunder on his brow and none dared speak to him, not even his chief minister. They all knew he had paid attentions to other women, but equally all knew that he could not take another wife while this one lived. But he must have sons, living sons.

“Your Majesty!” The court physician left the birthing room, entered the hall, and bowed before the King.

Henry glared at him. Here it comes, he thought, God has cursed me again. A dead babe, a frail babe, or another healthy girl. He scowled horribly. “Well? Speak!” The physician’s face was merely tired.

The man smiled gravely. “Your majesty, it is a son. A healthy boy!”

The King stared, then bellowed his pleasure. He did not ask after Catherine of Aragon, whom he had once loved and who had finally done her duty by him. Now he need not bed her ever again, and any children born to his mistresses would remain bastards. “God be praised! A son! He shall be the ninth Henry!”

The courtiers broke into smiles, and his chief minister Wolsey at least wiped his brow with a relieved hand. Henry called for wine and sweetmeats, ordered church bells rung, celebration in London and all of England.

He gulped the wine when it was handed him in a gold goblet, toasted the heir, laughed uproariously in sheer triumph. Now he also had done his duty. England would not suffer the fate of being ruled by his daughter Mary.

MONYA CLAYTON © 16/10/06


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