Tuesday, 27 May 2008

"A Royal Spectacle"

Henry did not care for venison. It was the kind of meat which looked down its nose and sneered at him, which was unacceptable. He was the King of England, after all. He held a great chunk of it in one hand, meeting it eye to eye like a challenge. Hot, powdery grease stained his raw hand, and he squeezed the flesh, sneering back as its juices evacuated in dribbles down his arm. Beside him, his wife Catherine Parr sat serenely, controlling an urge to be disgusted by his behaviour. Henry could sense, from her rigid posture and tight-lipped smile that she was nauseated, and rightly so. The stench from his festering leg wound permeated that morning's dressing so strongly that even Henry was aware of it. But that stench was his, and he took misguided pleasure in the uncomfortable politeness of his courtiers. Catherine reached gently for the decanter of wine and poured him another glass. Henry threw down the meat, licked his fingers and drained the cup. Catherine smiled at him encouragingly, but there was something else behind it. A pity, perhaps, that belonged to a mother resolved to her dying influence over a favourite son. It was not love. He did not look for love.

Henry belched loudly and began to prod again at the venison. The court watched him, too scared to touch thier own food until the King took his first bite. Catherine leaned forwards to refill his glass but he waved her back angrily. He was incensed, and would not be pacified with drink.

Finally, he raised the slice of meat to his puffy, cracked lips and allowed the venison to infiltrate them. He drew back his lips to show displeasure and chewed slowly, while all around him, the courtiers hurried to do the same.

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