Friday, 16 March 2012

An I war a maydyn

An I war a maydyn
As many one ys,
For all the golde in England
I wold not do amysse.

When I was a wanton wench of
twelve yere of age,
Thes cowrtyers with ther amours
They kyndyld my corage.

When I was come to
The age of fifteen yere,
In all this lond, nowther fire nor bond,
Methought I had no pere.

An anonymous poem from c. 1500.  I love the wording, the images conjured up by the words.  To my mind, although written before her birth, it sometimes makes me think of the young, flighty Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife who is dismissed by so many historians as being nothing more than a foolish girl, or as being a tart.  I have always had a soft spot for this doomed and tragic daughter of Norfolk, for she was raised in a relatively lax and carefree environment in comparison to that of her peers.  There were no savage beatings doled out to this spirited lass and she appears to have had a more lively and spirited childhood than so many others.  One only needs to compare her to the equally doomed Lady Jane Grey, who was doubtless beaten and abused by her parents, yet retained her dignity, the courage of her convictions and her fierce intelligence to the end. 

Catherine was probably no older than 21 when she lost her head on the exectioner's block.  Though she was neither incredibly bright nor educated (nor so, it appears, was her predecessor Anne of Cleves), she must have had something of considerable attraction to draw the King's eye.  People often say that it was due to her youth and that this was the attraction.  It seems to me that it goes deeper than that, as the King could easily have chosen her as another mistress - as Catherine possessed none of the shrewdness of her cousin, Anne Boleyn.  So she must have had something to allow the King to jeopardise his newly formed alliance with Cleves.  Sadly no image survives with certainty of Catherine, so we can but imagine what charms she possessed to captivate the heart of a king.

No comments:

Post a Comment