Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee (updated) – the full version again

With the emphasis being placed on British history by exam boards and the continuing interest in the royal family’s various jubilees, births, marriages and wrangles, it seemed worth updating the rhyme listing the monarchs since 1066. In the process, we 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. In September 2022 it was also necessary to perform a little bit of updating…

We had previously removed all but the first couple of verses of this poem as, to put in bluntly, we wanted to encourage you to buy the book (see the foot of the post) in which the other verses (and 25 stories) could be found.

However, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022, we decided to provide the whole thing again. I confess that it hardly counts as much of a tribute to her as her seventy years are mentioned only in passing but with what I now like to call a dignified brevity. Perhaps that’s the way she’d have wanted it.

Now that Charles III is about to take his place in the roll call, what better reason to keep it going here in full for a bit. After that, you’ll have to buy the book (see the foot of the post)…

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee –
Already, ambiguity:
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, Dick again,
Whom believed was less than sane:
(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 part-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 won, as 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:
Campbell; Cummings; faces change
But dark intentions stay the same.)

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 fact 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 straight on to Willie five!”
Some see the opportunity
To terminate the monarchy;
While others plot, with faith and hate,
The advent of a caliphate.

Would Chas ever see the day
When, frail and balding, old and grey,
He vowed 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 have long despaired
He’d ever be much more than heir;
Despaired that he would ever see
(Given mum’s longevity)
His name on coins as Charlie Three.

• This poem is now available in a paperback book (as are 25 stories) – Unaccustomed as I Am (RRP £9.95).

For more information, please click here.

Copies are available at the Hungerford Bookshop, the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, the Mad Hatter Bookshop in Wantage and through an increasing number of other retailers.

You can order it from any bookshop: they will need to know that the ISBN is 978-1-8382580-0-9 and that it can be ordered from Gardners or Central Books.

Brian Quinn
• For further articles, please click here
• For songs, please click here

Willie, Willie Harry, Ste (updated)


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