In the early summer of 1541 Great Harry rode north with a company
that at first appeared to the Yorkshire people as an invading army.
But he was only come to celebrate and spread largesse. He had beheaded, hanged, or burnt
all the rebels seven years before. Now he dined on game of every
type that ran or flew before him. And he forgave his hosts and guests
for their past or imagined transgressions at each feast on his progress.
An old man of fifty, as round as the
fattest pig, as great a trunk on him as the grandest bull that wandered
their commons, he had come to awe both York and the Scot King, whom
he had invited to meet him there. The world was his apple, and he
ripped great juicy bites from it on his progress north. Such a head
of such a table easily forgot the short, plump, and pretty new queen
he'd taken. She had skin like the cream he drowned his berries in, and a manner
as alluring as wine. She said she didn't really notice the great
gaping ulcer on his thigh, while she perched on him, although its
color was as vivid as raspberries. And he had no need to notice
a gentleman of his bedchamber, one Culpepper, a pleasant young man,
supple as a trout, wit as pungent as scallions, always there near
the queen. Nor did he notice the subtle widow of Rocheford, trusty
as familiar ale, guarding the queens' privy chambers. That silent
dumpling of a woman didn't seem to miss her late, beheaded
husband, who had been sentenced for adultery with his sister, the
late Queen Anne, that witch whom Harry had long believed he never
should have married.
So Harry bestowed and consumed, hunted
and danced, like a great, trembling headcheese. And as he savored
his late years he looked fondly upon his choice morsel of a nineteen-year-old
wife, Catherine, his second tasting of honey from the Howard hive.
He mused on the possibility of another son to adorn his table before
he died. But he had much business to attend to. There were his great
affairs of theology. He must keep the two factions of bishops at
peace. And there were matters of the borders and the marriages of
children to discuss with the Scot King, or perhaps threaten another
war. It did not befall him to observe, as one lady of the company
did, that his pink and white confection of a queen looked on Mister
Culpepper much too longingly from her window. Did she moisten those
ripe pouting lips as if about to suck the juice from a bitten pear?
For, as the frightened and tortured later said, she was not in her
bedchamber on many nights, but up the stairs until the small hours
in this castle and that along their way. Yes, much too late did
his Grace discover that the mice had made a wreck of his larder
of love. And the Scot King never did arrive.