What with the extra emphasis being placed on British history by exam boards and the recurring interest in the royal family resulting from Elizabeth II’s blue sapphire jubilee and the various princely births and marriages – to say nothing of the challenges facing her successor, whoever that proves to be – it seemed worth reminding ourselves of the famous rhyme listing all the monarchs since the Norman Conquest. In the process, we also decided to add a few notes about some of the kings and queens in the poem as well as giving a mention to some of those missing from the original…
Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee –
And so we must at once intrude
Matilda, handsome, proud and rude
Whom Harry said should be his heir,
Though half the barons did not care
To grovel in the Norman dirt
Before a monarch in a skirt.
Harry two – now here’s a thing:
Harry’s son (called ‘the Young King’)
Was crowned while dad was still alive
But died before his father: I’ve
No doubt that future kings did say
‘Let’s not tempt fate in quite this way.’
Where was I? – Dick (an absentee);
John (a tyrant); Harry three
(Whose only real claim to fame
Was the length of time he reigned).
Then one, two, three Ned, Richard two,
Whom some thought bonkers, through and through
(Shakespeare clearly felt this way –
If in doubt, go see his play):
That was the view of Bolingbroke
Who said, ‘It’s high time that I took
The crown – a change of century
Needs also a new dynasty
(Though still Plantagenet, it’s true.’)
So: Harry four, five, six – then who?
Then who? I’ll tell you: it was Ned
Who put the crown upon his head.
Note the verb: he won a war
And then proclaimed ‘I’m Edward four.’
Til Warwick said ‘I’m getting pissed
Off with this vile Yorkist:
A rose of quite a different hue
is needed – Harry six (part two)!’
The barons did not all agree
Some said ‘Hen does not seem to be
A monarch who can win this war
So let’s get Eddie back once more!’
Right – Edward four, five (though the lad
Was never crowned) then Dick the Bad –
Though not bad if you chance to be
A fan of Leicester C.F.C.
For since this king was re-interred
The team has won (perhaps you heard)
The ‘15-‘16 football crown
And aren’t (as some thought) going down.
So – Edward four, five, Dick the Bad
Harry, Harry, Ned the Lad
Then Jane, whose claim was fast disputed
(And was quickly executed).
Mary, Bess (we’d rather not
say aught of Mary Queen of Scots:
For notwithstanding all the years
Since then, it does at times appear
The evil, ghostly silhouette
Of Walsingham is with us yet.)
So – back to Bess; then James the Vain
(Who only, I think, gained this name
Because he liked books more than wars
And boys, in general, more than whores.)
Charlie, Charlie, James again
(Another pause I must explain:
The papists and the Jacobites
Do not accept the list is right
From this point on, and would prefer
The Stewart to the Hanover.
They thus have asked I add for you
The two pretenders, old and new:
So this, reluctantly, I do.)
And we must say a word as well
About a certain O. Cromwell
Who, though once tempted by the crown,
Eventually turned it down.
He therefore has no right to be
In any rhyme of royalty:
The more so (if you’re taking sides)
As Cromwell was a regicide.
(Richard Cromwell’s role’s so small
He’s not worth mentioning at all.)
Right – Bill and Mary, then came Anne
(Whom some thought was, in truth, a man)
Four Georges (mostly fat or mad)
Willie (drunk) and Vickie (sad);
Edward, George then Neddy Eight
Who was, I now need to relate,
Not crowned: so purists are averse
To see him in a royal verse:
This man who said he’d rather be
In wedlock with a divorcee
Who was, worse still, both slightly grey
And native to the USA.
And so to George, then Liz the Second
Next to Charlie, so it’s reckoned –
Though not by all; indeed some say
‘Charlie – king? Oh, Christ, no way!
The man’s the biggest bore alive
– let’s move right on to Willie five!’
Some see the opportunity
To terminate the monarchy;
While others plot, with faith and hate,
The advent of a caliphate.
Chas must despair he’ll see the day
When, frail and balding, old and grey,
He vows to safeguard all the views
Of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jews
Of every faith, of every kind
And talk to trees, and speak his mind
And, when so moved, proceed to lecture
Us on modern architecture.
In short, he must at times despair
He’ll ever be much more than heir;
He must despair he’ll ever see
(Given mum’s longevity)
His name on coins as Charlie Three.
Willie, Willie Harry, Ste (updated)