Royal Tea: A Monarchic Mash-Up Recalled


I didn’t always live as I do now. Once, not long ago, I was the Lord of an ancestral manor. Whitfield House, flanked by impressive acreage, stood three miles from the village of Woad in Mongrakeshire. Sheer Jacobean splendour, it was protected from undesirables by a wall twice the length of a man plus a head’s length for additional security. Gates, installed in Victorian times, with the family name wrought in iron, proudly announced the half mile path to its dark grey façade, mullion windows and front porch; its centrepiece being a giant iron door, recognised as one of the most impressive wedges in England.

My family liked to move with the times. The house had been part re-faced in the 19th century to up its baroque load; both the east and west wings were touched up to make them Gothic, and therefore oppressive. Gargoyles were added with faces modelled on the most inbred families of Woad. Improvements were scaled back during the 20th century when architecture became vulgar and a reactionary attitude to design was deemed modern.

For years I lived in this modest hovel as a bachelor, rattling around its 300 magnificent rooms alone. The servants, Dishcloth and Samuels, who’d been bred for their duties in an outhouse and continued to live in it, lest they devalue the main house by residential association, did sterling, unpaid work, maintaining the place in return for lodging and scraps. It was just the three of us until I met Jessica, the publican’s daughter with ample bosom, late of Woad’s Frog and Cockroach, and within ten years we were blessed with a son and a daughter, both of whom had profound psychological problems.

Visitors to the house would often ask what I enjoyed about living there and I’d reply, much to their surprise, that visitation from the dead edged the library as the most cherished aspect. Although some seemed content with that answer, others would insist on further explanation.

If I was tired of repeating it, Samuels might interject, but the fact was that, as is common with most old houses, the property with ridden with seepage from a leaking realm of liquid death. Ever so often pools of translucent ecto-gism would collect on the ground and transmogrify into figures from the past. Often these were unknowns and were treated like squatters, but occasionally you saw a face you recognised. For example, deceased porn star John Holmes came three times.

Soon we were leaving invitations at the sites of the largest leaks, hoping to shape the character of regular guests. To my amazement, and certainly to Jessica’s, who initially thought it was all in my mind and tried to have me committed to a giggle emporium, our dream visitors began to arrive. The kids, Shuzbut and Managra were terrified, soiling themselves and enduring terrible stress related illnesses. Naturally I felt for them, but had to explain that the opportunity to meet important historical figures had to trump their peace of mind. They probably understood.

Just three months before the inferno, borne of attempted insurance fraud, that would claim the lives of both servants and my troubled family, fusing sinew from their bubbling limbs to the blackened embers, we agreed to hold a dinner party in which we’d invite every single dead King and Queen of England, plus the historian David Starkey, royal biographer William Shakespeare and, because I’m a completist, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s son Richard was also invited but though no one said it openly, there’d be no disappointment if he couldn’t make it.

The idea had come about in the bedroom; Jessica had confessed that she harboured fantasies about ‘bad boys and girls’, sociopaths, murderers, the vainglorious, liars, lunatics, rapists and bastards. Initially I’d agreed to a treat, an invitation to notorious killers and deviants for dinner. I had in mind the likes of Leslie Grantham and Ted Bundy. In the event we chose the British Monarchs as they delivered the goods but, we agreed, with the probability of superior dinner etiquette.

We had places for everyone who’d ever worn a helmet, Crown, Imperial Crown, or other, but of those on the ma-hoosive Royal list only twelve showed. They were Offa, madman of Mercia, Alfred (the Great), “The charmer” Edward III, Henry II, the incandescent, “The child killer” Richard III, “Big” Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, James I, Charles I, “The drooler” George III, Victoria, a.k.a Easy V and George VI.

The dining hall, longer, it was said, than an argument with a dunce, had been given a fresh lick of Regency Red, and at my insistence, the portraits, each depicting cast members from various incarnations of the Star Trek franchise had been reframed and re-hung, to restore them to their original splendour.

At the head of the table, sat I, choking back Doctor Pepper from a goblet as large as a human head. Starkey, sat at my left hand, had turned up in an apple white suit and lime green bowtie – not the garb I’d have chosen.  Shakespeare, who’d been twenty minutes late, was slurping his soup, much to everyone’s embarrassment and Cromwell, who refused cutlery, and tutted at the room’s finery, glared at Charles I, whom Jessica had mischievously seated opposite.

‘You’ve something on your tunic’ he said to his former nemesis, once the first course had arrived, and when Charles looked down to inspect, his head slid off and landed in his soup bowl, causing Offa and Alfred to be flecked with tawny broth. A funereal silence was broken by bellows from Offa, who shook with laughter. He withdrew a misshapen coin from his pocket and flicked it over to Cromwell, who caught it with an acknowledging nod. ‘My face is on that bastard,’ said Offa. The table yawned. Apparently they’d heard it before.

‘Right,’ I said, thinking of starting with a joke, ‘who’d like to say grace?’ Cromwell opened his mouth to speak. ‘I’m kidding Oliver, this is the 21st century. I’m not even sure what the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism is; it seems to me like two flavours of bullshit.’

The Soup Course

The soup, oxtail, seemed to go down well with the assembled company, bar Henry II who spat it in his neighbour’s lap. Within minutes they were relaxing and chatting heartily. ‘May I j-j-j-j-just say,’ said George VI, ‘how delighted one is not to see any Jews at the table. I-I-I mean they’re fine, but I’m not sure I’d wish to dine with them.’

‘Better that than the Irish,’ chirped Cromwell.

‘A good Catholic people,’ said Mary.

‘In my experience, there’s little to distinguish them from Protestant kindling’ replied Cromwell.

‘A pope burns brighter’ said Henry II.

‘Edward,’ interrupted Victoria, and I looked up, only to find that disappointingly, she was ogling Edward III, ‘you have a wonderfully masculine jaw line.’

‘Yes, yes, so he does,’ I said, ‘can we talk about something else?’

‘If my father were here he’d want to talk about war,’ lamented George III. ‘He loved war.’

‘I-I-h-h-hate war,’ said George VI. ‘Hitler was a bad call, I suppose, but had he won it wouldn’t have made much difference to the household that mattered, though one can’t say it openly.’

‘Wait,’ I said. ‘George, you remember your Father?’

‘W-w-why, y-‘

‘Not you, Bertie, George III.’

‘Are Butterflies made of butter?’ replied George III.

At this moment I caught Richard III staring at my two young children. I suddenly felt uncomfortable.

The Venison Course

Managra hadn’t said a word since I’d sent her to bed the previous evening with the knowledge she’d be dining with a group of dead rulers, come morning. Now, noting Richard’s narrow stare, and with piping hot Venison flopped onto fresh plates, she finally opened her trap.

‘Dad,’ she said. ‘Why do we need a Queen?’

I didn’t have time to start a reply.

‘We need strong rulers, girl’ said Richard. ‘Little children, that is to say young pretenders, need not worry about the great responsibility of Kingship.’

‘Your brat is ignorant indeed,’ said Alfred. I didn’t recognise this as a slur until later, Brat was Managra’s middle name. ‘I created this country, I did away with paper crowns and straw kingdoms.’

‘It’s Great Britain because I called it so,’ James shouted. ‘Kings give the country its character, my dear – its flag, its principles, its grandiloquent buildings!’

‘It’s also not a bad way to get a man stuck to your rump’ said Victoria, winking at Managra.

‘But why,’ pressed the boorish child, ‘do we need one now?’

‘Young Lady,’ said an animated David Starkey, ‘allow me to answer that question by ignoring it. Britain, as we know her, would simply be a series of self-governing, barbaric tribes, with their own language, were it not for miracles like invasion, occupation and despotism, and it gets better. Thanks to Monarchy, particularly William the Conqueror, whom I regret couldn’t seem to make it, and his degenerate son William Rufus,’ – he looked at Shuzbut, ‘we have chivalry – that’s why your sister need never pull out her own chair, and, more importantly, the class system. Were it not for that, how would I know that I’m too important to spend too much time talking to the likes of you?’

‘I think we should put an end to it all,’ said Shuzbut.

‘Fuckin’ ‘ell’ replied Shakespeare, ‘is ‘e always talking like thaaat, Ed? You wanna sort ‘im awwwt mate.’

I can’t tell you what a shock it was to hear Shakespeare speak for the first time.

The Chocolate Sceptre Course 

The Venison was sitting like sediment in my guts by the time Dishcloth delivered fifteen feet of chocolate sceptre to the table. It was magnificent and Jessica had to slap a lot of hands, as almost everyone instinctively went to pick it up.

‘Forgive the kids,’ she said in that way of hers, ‘they’re a bit opinionated. They’ll be docile when they grow up, don’t worry. More accepting of things.’

A murmur of approval.

‘I like the monarchy,’ she went on, ‘it’s good for tourism, isn’t it? I mean, they don’t come here for that but they like to know it’s here. We don’t want a president,’ she continued, using the Royal we, ‘that’s what I’m saying, and that’s not some stupid bit of imperial snobbery either, you know, resentment from George’s day, I just think it’s better if we have someone above politics, y’know, even if there’s nothing above it really, except maybe death.’

She smiled at George III who had unsheathed his member and was now wrapping it in his napkin, preparing to light the end with a candle in what might have been a bid to smoke it.

‘An elected president is an absurdity,’ said Cromwell, ‘better they chose themselves and govern with absolute authority.’

‘I don’t think we should write off old prejudices,’ said Starkey.

I felt something touch my balls. It was the unmistakable soft touch of Victoria’s hand.

‘That’s enough!’ I said, bolting upright. I felt my good mood bleed out.

‘I mean, look at you all. You represent Britain do you? By modern standards you’re paedophiles, yes I’m talking about Henry VI, who I wish had come, child killers, genocidal mad women, butchers, despots and tyrants.’

I caught Cromwell looking awkwardly at the others.

‘My wife,’ I continued, ‘a very confused woman as you can see, says we wouldn’t want a President Thatcher, or a President Blair. But what’s the worst thing a commoner’s ever done to the country, huh? Y’know, Oliver excluded. Free of all this hereditary, primogeniture nonsense, they’ve never had to murder their own families, or kill enclaves of the population to stay afloat. I mean, now they exercise all your prerogatives with the people’s consent, why have you around at all?’

‘The Monarch is above politics,’ repeated Jessica. Henry VIII, mouth full of chocolate, looked furious.

‘That’s ridiculous,’ I said, ‘that’s like saying something vaguely analogous with what you just said. We give the Monarch its power – it’s only because we now do all the donkey work, because it’s obvious that if there’s universal suffrage, then the people must be represented and that those representatives must govern, not a King or Queen, that they don’t have to do anything. But if their role is that limited, do we really need living symbols bestriding our palaces? I mean, isn’t it obvious that the problem with Monarchs, apart from their total lack of democratic legitimacy, has always been that they’re people? Terrible, flawed, unrepresentative people, who aren’t qualified to hold the office they’ve been gifted? Why do we put up with it for God’s sake, actually fuck God, just why do we put up with it? Well, why? Isn’t it about time we GREW UP?’

Later, I was told that only a few seconds had passed, but it felt like the better part of twelve centuries.

‘Okay, who’s for coffee?’ said Jessica. Mercifully there were no takers; I never buy coffee.

Lord, I miss that house.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Ggggreat read really funny u should write again. Luv charictars u chose. Ha ha


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