Friday, 15 April 2011

The Rap of Charles I

Good evening all! My name is Charles Stuart
or Charles I, yes, that'll do it.
Believe it or not I was once your monarch
with the crown of England on my noble head honoured!

Yet the history books
(or so it looks)
show me like some sort of fool
stupid, stubborn as a mule,
The English King who lost the plot,
though technically I was born a Scot.
But my native accent I have lost
along with my head! but let's not be fossed
with the particulars of that Janaury morn
that deathly silence, that groan folorn
for only seconds did it take
and tho' good history I know it make
there were by then 48 candles on my cake
so let us rather concentrate
on the earlier hours on my life's clock
rather than the axe and then block.

I was never born to be a king
yae my brother Henry, that was his thing.
Athletic, bright, tall and broad
as good with the pen as he was with the sword.
But I, poor Charlie, the younger brother
was born quite frail, tho' I'd soon recover
through routine exercise and riding
(lest I get my father's chiding)
and by age eighteen I cut quite a figure
though I sometimes wished I was a little bigger
with my sword and my armour
I'd be quite the young charmer
and every little painting
would send the ladies fainting
but as you see I'm short, of course
so instead they paint me on a horse.

Years passed and my dearest brother
died and then too my dear father,
so down to London I was sent
to take the reins of government.
But governing soon proved a pain
tax revolts, wars with France and Spain
and the fermenting agent for all these problems
was none other than the House of Commons!
Something that I ought to mention
the word 'Parliament' is from the French 'an
if we have it roughly translated
means 'talking shop' - and their talk ne'er abated!
Now if it had all been harmless banter
which never provoked a more hostile encounter
then that'd be fine, they could sit forever
without throwing assaults upon my endeavours,
for a King neds money to fight his wars
but the members of Parliament, those tepid whores
would raise no tax till conditions they set
on grievances were duly met.
With the details of these I will not bore you
but for my own part I do implore you
not to consider my judgement lacking
when I chose to send the whole lot packing.
For through I realise things are now different
in my days parliaments were meant to be deferent
the bowl of justice and the dish of democracy
had no place in my set of political crockery.
Indeed to me it seemed little more than mockery
so I made the government of England my property.

Now my critics both in past and present
have used an adage most unpleasant
to describe this period of my reign:
'Eleven Years Tyranny' - are they insane?
Did I slay all the first borns and boil their ears?
Did I trample my enemies and implale'm with spears?
Obviously not, no one says so, it's be asburd
yet these are the images conjoured up by this word
and as the name tyrant is misleading and cruel
we now prefer to use to term 'Personal Rule'.
One thing my critics do have right
is that it was eleven years, that I won't fight
and a blissful eleven years it was too:
peace, laughter, prosperity to name but a few,
pies and dances, revelry and games
while the rest of Europe was set in flames.

But in 1640 it came to an end
for a Scottish army was now on the mend
I had a northern frontier to defend
and there was noone from whom I could lend
but Parliament... yes, Parliament. I recalled 'em
but my obstinate refusals over grievances appaled'em.

So that didn't  last very long
I was right and they were wrong -
it was rarely ever the other way
but unfortunately I had bills to pay
so in Novekber that year once more I recalled'em
and I gave some concessions, and that consolled'em
but on some things I simply could not budge
and I gave not succint answers - I prefered to fudge.
I was immune of course, as their king
from the sharpest pangs of their viceral stings,
they couldn't touch me, as God's annointed
so instead they attacked those men I'd appointed
to Council and Archbishop and other positions
sending me death warrants and terms and conditions
but by July '42 it was getting so rough
that I'd decided that I'd had enough.
So I raised my standard at Nottingham
and so the Civil War began.

At first we had some great success
the better soldiers we had to excess:
the ramshackle parliamentarians were dire
while Royalist morale could not have been higher.
But soon came Cromwell's New Model Army
singing hymns into battle, it was really quite smarmy
my men were not used to these fresh-faced foes -
they were better organized, I suppose -
but my Cavaliers fought gallanty
though at the battle of Na-se-by
they cut our ranks incisively
we lost very decisively.

But still I was King!
And there's the thing,
for tho' radicalized members of the army would moan
they couldn't budge me off of my throne
for the Presbyterians in Parliament couldn't face
a settlement without the King in place.
So I toyed with their affection
and did not expect any defection
but Parliament too had their limits and bounds
and chased me much like a pack of hounds
so I solicited help from some Scottish friends
that I might imrpove things for my own ends.
But they too betrayed me! and after a fight
I was captured, imprisoned on the Isle of Wight.
By now I was not trusted, not a friend in the land
I'd long since forfeited the upper hand.
It seems, you see, that for my obstinacy
the people had had quite enough of me.
And so Colonel Pride was able to purge the House
of my sympathisers, that nasty louse,
to see to it that I, their sovereign
would no longer their plans be a-botherin'.

In short, they  wished to put me on trial
on charges of treason, this raised a wry smile
for treason means 'against the crown'
and aren't I the only King in town?
I didn't recognize their right to try me
the very idea was improper and slimy
but much to my anger and much to my shock
they proceeded to bring me to the dock.

The language was lofty, their humility sparse,
it was at once both tragedy and frace!
At times the whole process came close to collapse
as the arguments raged and the hours elapsed.
But eventually the judge, with fine eridution
spoke 'The Prisoner shall be taken to a Place of Execution'.

Some words of protest I managed to mutter
(throughout the whole trial I spoke without my old stutter)
not that it mattered how I now used my voice
the verdict was final, I had no other choice.
All I could do was act with decorum
as I was tropped away from the Westminster forum.

And so to the morning of my beheading
to the executors block I'd soon be heading,
so cold that morning, frosty too
so instead of one shirt I worte two
for if I were cold I might be fain shiver
and a tragic exit I'd be unable to deliver
for my shaking might be mistaken for fear -
I'd look a coward, the crowd would all jeer.
For in truth I wan't scared at all,
my mouth wasn't dry, my voice didn't fall,
for what more could a vain monarch desire
to be remembered as dying for Something Higher?
The gallant King Charles
with his long flowing curls
was all the smarter
for dying a martyr.
For Providence was on my side
and even as my head did slide
upon the block
my courage didn't rock
for as the axeman's axe came down
I flew to an Incorruptable Crown
where there may be no disturbance
or Parliamentary perturbance.

And when my head was severed moments later
'twas picked up - "behold, the head of a traitor!"
Well, this wasn't quite so nice to hear
as the blood rolled away from my dripping ear.

But I'm happy to say, if a decade too late,
that Cromwell's head met a similar fate
propped on the pole of a Westminster gate
with no-one  around to comiserate.
And tho' my reign seems many years past
it's important to observe that I wasn't the last,
sometimes I wonder whther the British public
have any great appetite for a republic.
For what's a republic except a crown
where you bring your leaders up and down
on the basis of votes, or the basis of money
it does seem to me rather funny
because monarchy too needed cash and support
and some sort of constitutional rapport -
no monarch is ever safe for life
is that not clear from my very own strife?
It just so happens that now we select
not by the bullet but the ballot - we elect
but I shuldn't berate you - what suits you best
democracy too has passed the test.
But I suppose your psyches will always make space
for CHARLES THE FIRST and his infinite grace.

Royal Fish

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