There comes a time in every homicidal egotistical Monarch‘s life when he decides on uxoricide. That’s killing your wife by the way, and before you think I’m clever I admit that I had to look it up on the internet. I had thought wife murder was matricide, and l so wanted it to be because l had a great one liner about killing mattresses. Oh, well!

Anyway, killing a wife may not be big and it may not be clever, but there you are. Normally wife killing is illegal, and it’s certainly not to be recommended as it may get you a life sentence (which in England means about 8 years). Also, uxoricide can make an awful mess of an oatmeal coloured carpet. If you’re going to do it then best aim for dark flooring and upholstery. But with olde worlde King’s it was different. Not only didn’t they care about heavy staining; they got away with the deed without the threat of imprisonment. ln fact, by 1547 uxoricide, or at least the contemplation of it, was almost compulsory.

Henry Vlll decided on uxoricide on no less than six occasions, and not just the two occasions that are usually referred to. With Catherine of Aragon he never followed through the decision due to being a bit worried about Charles V getting grumpy. It’s one thing killing your wife, but quite another thing getting into a war with Spain over it. In these kind of situations being a Spanish Princess definitely helps preserve life, at least for a while. Better to lock Catherine up, keep her away from her daughter, and harass her to death. Not as clean as a sword across the neck, but equally effective in the long run.

With Anne Boleyn Henry felt fairly safe in carrying through the uxoricide decision because Anne didn’t have a King for a nephew who may have come to her rescue with an Armada. Whatever anyone may think about Thomas Boleyn it cannot be denied that he didn’t have an Armada at his disposal, and that fact alone would have made a serious dent in his aspirations to save his children. By the way, is there any such thing as brother-in-lawicide? Maybe Thomas had an extra long ladder which could have been useful, but if he did then he didn’t use it because his daughter succumbed to the sword and his son to the axe. ln English pubs we are sometimes offered either chicken or scampi in a basket as traditional pub grub. Henry preferred heads in a basket, especially if they belonged to his wives.

All very sad but then we move swiftly on to Jane Seymour (why not; Henry did?). Jane died before the decision had been fully made to exterminate her. At the time of her death Henry had only just started toying with the idea, so hadn’t had a chance to give it a great deal of thought, much to the relief of a beleaguered Thomas Cromwell who was still a bit knackered over the Anne Boleyn affair. He had been considering what he would charge Jane with if push came to shove, and the only thing he had managed to come up with was being plain in a public place.

Anne of Cleves sensibly agreed to a quickie divorce, which negated the need to involve the executioner, although less than three years later Henry was amply compensated with a bumper pack of executions, so that was OK.


Henry really got into his stride again with Catherine Howard who came a bit of a cropper when he decided having sex before they were married and meeting a bloke after dark were enough to earn her a hefty dose of uxoricide in the shape of an axe. He could have sent the girl to a nunnery, but the uxoricide bug was just too addictive to ignore any more. It was like that nasty little Hepatitis Bee, only worse. It had been nearly six years since Henry had last succumbed to the urge, and six years is a long time for a uxoricidal maniac.

Then, finally, there was Catherine Parr. Henry thought long and hard about uxoricide with Katy P, but by then he was old and crumbly and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. So Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves survived Henry, and I’ve heard that the vicious rumour that they danced round his grave chanting, ‘take that you bugger‘, is completely untrue.

Of course there were a number of casualties in Henry’s uxoridical sprees.One may presume to call them ‘gun fodder’ though they may take offence at that. Henry killed many of his closest friends during his reign, as well as two of his wives. I wonder if he ever had any regrets or if it was just all another day at the office?

Julie Andrews sang:

I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad

A better version for Henry may be:

I kill off a few of my favourite friends,
And then I don’t feel so bad

Homicidal maniac or not, Henry died peacefully in his bed in the sure knowledge that he was right and always had been. Nice for him. Not so nice for any of his wives. Perhaps his daughter Elizabeth, that famous unmarried Monarch, should have the final word:

If my fathers an example
Of the joys of married life.
Then I think that I’ll stay single.
And avoid a world of strife.

He tried on six occasions,
But in each he made a mess.
So it’s really not surprising
That I’m prone to nervous stress.

I’m told he loved my mother;
Or at least that’s what he said,
But he celebrated marital bliss
By chopping off her head.

So I think that I’ll stay single,
And although that’s rather sad;
It’s completely understandable
When your father’s barking mad.


Edward “Eddie” Boverington is a freelance moustachioculturalist and professional cobbler, a student of history, and in his spare time composes medieval inspired poems and lute ballads in the 16th century style. He grew up in Clapham in the 1950s, where he still lives above his family’s shoe repair shop. Some of his moustache designs have won awards in prestigious international competitions, such as Le Concourse de Bacchantes et Moustaches de Francais. He can also polish, recondition and resole even the finest boots overnite for only £25.



6 Responses

  1. Underdogge

    As usual a witty post by EB. The funny poem – well song – that one hears most often (in the UK at least) is the one about Anne Boleyn’s ghost walking the Bloody Tower “with ‘er ‘ead tucked underneath ‘er arm” but one has heard it so often that the (possible) interpretation of Elizabeth I’s thoughts in rhyme is refreshing.

    • Olga Hughes

      Okay I definitely haven’t heard a song about Anne walking with her head tucked under her arm – although I have heard a few ghost stories.

  2. Jasmine

    I remember hearing that song when I was very small and it kick-started my interest in Anne Boleyn. Around the same time, the local branch of my parents’ bank had a chart of British kings and queens up on the wall. For a very long time, I was convinced that Queen Anne Boleyn wore 17th century costume and had curly black hair. It was quite a shock to discover there was another Queen Anne!

  3. Underdogge

    A link to some background info on “WIth ‘Er Head Tucked Underneath ‘Er Arm” on Wikipedia

    and a link to the lyrics

    There are also sung versions of it on YouTube including one of the recording by Stanley Holloway which I think was the original (has a still picture of Mr Holloway though – not a film of him singling). To non British people Mr Holloway might be best known for playing Eliza Doolittle’s Dad in the 1960s film of “My Fair Lady”.

    Jasmine, I don’t think confusing Queen Anne as in James II’s daughter and Anne Boleyn was a bad mistake for a child to make. At one time I thought there was a Spanish classic novel called “Donkey Hotay” (I may have mentioned this on another thread – well Sancho Panza did ride a donkey I think). Anne (James II’s daughter) and Elizabeth I have something in common that they were two of the few queens (of the UK) who ruled in their own right and not getting their titles via their husbands. I always felt sorry for Queen Anne (James’ daughter) in that she had so many children and they all either died as infants or there was the one who died when he was about 11.


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