A Conversation in the Tavern

The bartender slammed the tankard down onto the dusty counter, causing the ale within to slosh up and over the rim of the tankard, forming a small puddle on the countertop. He hastened to mop it up as the door opened up and a gust of wind pushed a young man in to the room. He closed the door and sauntered over to the counter, taking a seat on a stool.

“Mister Lyre,” the bartender said in greeting.

“Whatever you have, sir,” Mister Lyre said genially, brushing down the front of his riding habit to smooth it out. “And something warm would be welcome too. Any meat, perchance?”

“A new duck, sir. Fresh roasted.”

“That’s fine.” He set a few coins on the tabletop. “Mister Jameson. How do you do?”

The man beside him took a thoughtful draft of ale before answering. “I’m well myself. And the wife is all right. But my heir has ceased this life this past month, Mister Lyre.”

“That’s dreadful. I’m sorry to hear it.”

Mister Jameson inclined his head over the counter. “Thank you, sir. I shall miss Thomas’ company more than his status, as Edmund is more than competent to take his place. I daresay-” he lowered his voice, ducking nearer to Mister Lyre, who also darted a quick glance about the near-empty tavern- “I daresay, Mister Lyre, that Edmund was always ought to be my heir. He was a stronger boy, and craftier. But I shall miss my Thomas for his head. It was screwed on right. Always thoughtful, my good lad was. And kinder than any man on this earth, but the king,” he amended quickly. “God save our good prince.” Mister Lyre nodded, and then the other man went on, his voice sturdy and adamant. “Disease is a horrid thing, to take such good minds from the company of those who need them.”

“Aye,” Mister Lyre agreed, as the bartender presented him with his own tankard. “Amen to that.”

“But how do you?” Mister Jameson pressed curiously after the men had sat in silence for a time, watching the kitchen lads in the back room preparing the duck. “You haven’t been around town for some while. Traveling, I presume?”

“Aye. To London.”

“London?”

“It was a fair ride,” Mister Lyre admitted with a wan smile. “Near was robbed in one inn. Would have been but I’d not drunk that night and I heard the door being opened.”

“Oh?” Mister Jameson set aside his tankard with a pointed look at the bartender.

The man hurried over, wiping his hands on a cloth, to replenish his drink.

“On me,” Mister Lyre said suddenly, thrusting a few more coins upon the table.

“Really. There’s no need, sir,” Mister Jameson began. “I’ve got money enough.”

“I’ll pay,” Mister Lyre answered. “Put it away, sir. You’ve had a great ordeal; I want to offer my condolences this way.”

“You are most gracious, Mister Lyre, and a true friend.” The duck arrived, hidden beneath colorful herbs, and sizzling in oil.

“Would you care for some?” Mister Lyre asked, but Mister Jameson declined good-naturedly.

“My good wife is making a fine sup this evening, and I shan’t want to have spoiled my appetite in town. But you were speaking most interestingly of London, sir, and I bid you go on. I’m in need of some entertainment.”

“Aye. I have a topic we could make conversation of, sir, if you’d be up for it. Has the news reached here yet?”

“I’m not a keen follower of the news, as you must well know.” Mister Jameson laughed slightly. “Here, sir, is where I get my news, and it’s been just this crowded for on near a month now. People are sating their thirsts elsewhere for the fees here aren’t cheap, and where the cheap fees are, so is the news. What is it of?”

“I hadn’t heard much of it either until I arrived to London. Visiting my family. They live there. But there’s been a right uproar in London. For the good prince-”

“King Henry?”

“Aye, King Henry. He’s done away with his concubine wife just as he did away with the Queen, only this time, it was by the blade.”

“By the blade? Good lord. He had her-” he lowered his voice substantially, for the bartender had begun to look on curiously from the far corner- “beheaded?”

“Yes, indeed. And there’ve been rumors that a French swordsman was sent for from Calais for the purpose of it.”

“From Calais? Was she imprisoned for a great while, then?”

“That’s the thing of it. My cousin in London believes perhaps the swordsman was sent for before her sentence was announced.”

“How horrid. So he always meant to have her done.”

“He must have.”

“But surely- why? Our Golden Prince has divided the kingdom over Anne Boleyn. And now to divide it further.”

“Men are saying that adultery has been given as the official reason.”

“But?”

“But the unofficial reason is that Lady Boleyn was pregnant a good few times and only had Elizabeth to show of it. After all his efforts to get rid of Queen Katherine- not even because he wanted a younger wife: he had his mistresses, by God!- but because he wanted a lawful son- not that b*stard Henry Fitzroy of Bessie Blount’s womb- but a Prince, all Anne Boleyn ever gave him was a daughter and an excommunication from the Pope and the Catholic church of Rome.”

“I have heard that Princess Elizabeth and the Lady Mary are both well educated and proper.”

“Aye. They are. My cousin has seen them both a few times. But the King must needs have an heir. A prince. Or he fears that the kingdom will be divided by the rule of a girl, or worse- it will be assimilated into France or Scotland or Spain- depending on whichever kingdom’s prince the Lady Mary or the Lady Elizabeth marries.”

“And if they were to not marry…”

“The Tudor reign would be finished. That is the last thing that Henry wants. After what his father had to do. And the sign. Richard’s crown placed on his head. The transfer of the throne. How could he let the Tudor dynasty fall?”

“Mister Lyre.” He paused. Mister Lyre used the time to take a bit of duck. “Before, you spoke of the Lady Elizabeth.”

“Aye. As her mother’s head left her body, so did Elizabeth’s place in the succession. She is a lady now just as Mary.”

“But then the King has no heir!”

“Yet, my good Mister Jameson. He felt obliged to remarry just after he lost his wife. To a Lady Jane Seymour. We have a new Queen, my good man!” He cried with a false sense of joy. The bartender hastened over.

“A new Queen, Mister Lyre? Different from Queen Anne?”

“Much different, sir. I’d like some bread. Run around back and fetch some to me.”

“Certainly, Mister Lyre.”

As soon as he had gone, Mister Lyre continued. “And now here begins the true conversation. How do you suppose this one shall die before her time?”

“Good lord, sir!”

“Hush.”

“That’s exactly it. Why are you speaking such treason?”

“It’s a fair thought. And I’m curious. Surely you can see that it’s such a joke. The man will remarry until he has fifty sons! And all of them lawful!”

“Well he oughtn’t have an unlawful son!”

“Oh, surely, no! Shall we go together to kill Fitzroy, then?”

“Any more,” Mister Jameson amended. “He shouldn’t have any more. Of course Fitzroy should be left to be. It wasn’t his choice to be born a b*stard.”

“And he’s of much higher rank, as well, and could have you hanged and quartered for even joking of his death.”

“That too. So it was all about the succession, then?”

“Her death? Partly. But the King wearies of having a single woman for any long length.”

“But with Katherine-”

“Don’t pretend, sir. He only made it so long without a mistress because he wanted heirs and he wanted to be an honest and loyal King. Didn’t we hear of a joust? I think there was one where the King himself rode as Sir Loyal Heart, for his Queen. But once he saw that no horde of boys was forthcoming, and age was, it no longer mattered to him. Then there was Bessie, and Mary Boleyn, long before Anne. But she was the one, wasn’t she? She denied him, and while she denied him, the world was hers. But it’s the same thing, sir. Once he doesn’t get the product from his purchase, he throws away the batter.”

“Dear God, have mercy on our Queen.”

“On both Queens. If she was loyal to our King, then surely God received her with open arms. But this next one…”

“Queen Anne was a reformer.”

“Only because it was necessary for the marriage.”

“But how can God accept a reformer? She and Cromwell together. Destroyers of the monasteries and of the true faith of Rome.”

“Which was advocated for by the King himself, and surely God will accept him as his own Prince.”

“The King is a different matter.”

“Nonsense. Could Jesus have pillaged and murdered in the name of God, and been received warmly as his son even still? Even as God’s son, he was expected to obey the laws of heaven.”

“Certainly.”


“Then surely the King is expected to obey the laws of heaven.”

“Of course.”

“But our prince will surely be accepted into heaven.”

“Of course. It is treason to surmise that he wouldn’t, Mister Lyre.”

“Then the King is doing no wrong by his reformation, for, as you agree, he must obey the laws of heaven to be admitted there to see his creator, and he will be admitted to heaven. Therefore, he must be obeying the laws. And by default, Queen Anne, and Secretary Cromwell as well, for following his orders.”

“They gave the orders. I am sure of it.”

“The King is the highest power. He takes orders from no one but his lord.”

The bartender returned with a warm loaf. “Who is the new Queen, sirs? And what happened to Queen Anne?”

“She was beheaded,” Mister Jameson said bluntly.

“Our new Queen is Jane Seymour, sister to two rising stars at court, Edward and Thomas.”

“Because of her, I suppose.”

“Without a doubt.”

“What do you know of her, sir?”

“Not much.” Mister Lyre took a long draft of ale and had another slow bite of duck. He chewed thoughtfully, peering around at the dim-lit room while he gathered his thoughts. “I suppose she’s good enough. A true Catholic, a docile woman, unlike our dearest Queen Anne, bless her soul. It’s not her we must fear, gentlemen. It’s her arrogant, upstart brothers- and the king himself.”

“What has Henry to do with her.”

“Everything. There is one thing that she can do to retain her place, and that is to give him his bloody son. There’s nothing else to be done. There was once a time when queens were noble and anointed, not to be touched by the common man. There was a time when they were safer than kings. But our good King Henry has finished with that. Queen Jane’s fortunes, love, children, family, and her head all belong to the king to do whatever he likes. Sirs, there is no safety in this realm any longer. I believe we are all of us on the way to h*ll.”

Mister Lyre finished the duck and shoved it away. The bartender made to refill his tankard, but he stopped him with a pat on his arm. “No more, sir. I’m off to home to drown my sorrows in private. Good day, Mister Jameson.”

“Good day, Mister Lyre.” A gust of wind enveloped the door region as the young man strode out into the empty streets. The candles on the walls flickered suddenly in a chaotic dance.

The bartender watched Mister Jameson as the man sat quietly on his stool. “Shall you be wanting anything more?”

“Get me another ale. I don’t want to think right now.” The bartender slammed down a new tankard and a bit sloshed over the edge. Mister Jameson drank.





Join the Discussion

This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Thomas M. said...
Apr. 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm
This is extremely well done, very well informed entertaining, you really capture the mood of the period.
 
aidan44 replied...
Apr. 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm
Thank you very much. I really appreciate the comment because it's the first story I've finished about the time period and I hoped to be informative but not too boring.
 
Thomas M. replied...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm
Not boring at all, the whole piece is well written and the pace of it is that of a several hundred page novel.
 
Thomas M. replied...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm
Have you read many books or researched the Tudor period at all? Oh, and I wasnt sure about the line saying the kingdom has been divided over Anne Boleyn, and then saying it has being divided further? Because you then go on that adultery was given as the official reason of execution, clearly still on the point of Anne Boleyn, not on that of the kingdom being divided further.
 
aidan44 replied...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm
Rereading that, I can see where the confusion would be. What I meant was that part of the country had been for Anne Boleyn and part against, but when Henry suddenly decided to kill her -seemingly without much reason- a lot of Anne's enemies seemed to be on her side at the end. Henry had already completely changed England for this woman, and now he decided just to get rid of her. The part about the adultery was in answer to the question why? that's asked right before the division part. I hop... (more »)
 
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