Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tudor bastards!

The Holbein exhibition inspired several debates about the Tudors.

J regarded Henry VIII as a mediocre king, but C and I argued his impact on English infrastructure and culture was immense – and obviously pretty malign mostly. The Idi Amin of renaissance Europe.

The Monasteries of the time would have been largely responsible for education, agriculture, and medical services – all of which would have ceased upon Dissolution, with all the money grabbed going to pay for Henry’s luxurious lifestyle and the military instead. His selfish, expedient and hypocritical conversion of the state religion to Protestantism would cause centuries of problems for the country.

But strangely enough it goes even further – according to the Observer, Henry’s Preservation of Grain Act (1532) made it compulsory for every man, woman and child across the kingdom to kill as many creatures as possible that appeared on an official list of ‘vermin’. Quotas for each village were enforced and fines levied against those who did not perform.

Many of the ‘vermin’ were classed as such because of medieval superstition. Hedgehogs were driven to near-extinction because it was believed they sucked milk from the teats of recumbent cows at night. The bounty on hedgehogs was 4p, a huge sum in those days. Hundreds of thousands of the little things were murdered. Also persecuted were woodpeckers and kingfishers.

Interestingly, the wildlife persecution was so successful (the laws remained in place for about 200 years) that many of the animal populations have still not recovered and are threatened with extinction today. So the malign Tudor influence lives on.

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