Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty

By Lacey Baldwin Smith | Go to book overview

III
The Emperor's New Clothes

Upon the King! let us our lives, our souls,
Our debts, our careful wives,
Our children, and our sins lay on the King!
We must bear all. O hard condition!
... What infinite heart's ease
Must Kings neglect that private men enjoy!
And what have Kings that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?

Henry V, IV, i

IT IS WELL TO REMEMBER--Mr. John Hales wrote to Sir Anthony Browne--that in approaching royalty Englishmen had "not to do with man but with a more excellent and divine estate," and such was the majesty which surrounded a prince that it was difficult to stand before a king without trembling. 1 It is not easy for the twentieth century to reconstruct the mentality of a generation which groveled before that immense bag of windy conceit that claimed to speak for God, and it is possible to maintain that the extravagant adoration of Henry's "divine prudence" was either prodigal flattery or meaningless jargon mouthed by everybody but believed by nobody. On the other hand, those who require a more rational and socially oriented explanation can point to the words of the Bishop of Winchester, who knew all about the instruments by which the "better part" of society sought to dominate the larger part. "If we," he said, "desire the name of king to be sacred, which all good men desire... we must take care lest any stigma be cast upon this name by others."2 Presumably a deliberate social conspiracy was operating; the worshipers closest to the altar of monarchy appreciated that their own authority rested on translating theological fiction into ceremonial reality. As with the emperor and his new clothes, no one cared to reveal the King's true na

-40-

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Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Author's Note vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • I - The Faces of Death 1
  • II - The "Old Man" 15
  • III - The Emperor's New Clothes 40
  • IV - Behind the Mask 66
  • V - The Conscience of a King 91
  • VI - The Moral Commonwealth 111
  • VII - In Search of a Moral 139
  • VIII - Honor Saved 163
  • IX - Youth Renewed 188
  • X - The King Must Die 221
  • XI - Preparing for the Worst 236
  • XII - The "Old Fox" 259
  • Notes 277
  • Bibliography of Printed Books Cited in the Notes 313
  • Index 325
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