I discovered a rather funny medieval figure known as Charles the Simple, who was a notoriously useless French king from the 9th to 10th century. His subjects overthrew him and locked him in a jail because he was such a bad general. “The Simple” is not a wise name for a king to earn. Three centuries later, Simon de Montfort said that Henry III should be locked up like Charles the Simple due to Henry’s own poor military record. Thinking about locking up your king is one thing, but saying it to his face like Simon did is flirting with treason.
When I first started my third fantasy volume, I originally considered the main character’s reign to be relatively peaceful with the exception of one major war and a few cutthroat politics. However, thinking back to everything I have learned about medieval monarchs, life was NEVER that easy. We often think of the medieval kings and queens of Europe to be either great leaders or tyrants. My father, for instance, has a strong animosity towards the English kings of old for how they treated our Scottish and Irish ancestors. The reality is that they were both the heroes and the villains, great leaders and tyrants, all at the same time. They were flawed individuals who made human mistakes every day of their respective reigns. Every one of their decisions had consequences that either launched a long-lasting dynasty or cut their reign short. I am thinking of applying this deeply flawed nature to the main character. They will be the most human character in my fantasy series so far.
When Henry VIII came to the throne, he was just a seventeen year old kid. Before he became the obese tyrant we know, Henry VIII was handsome, sexy, athletic, intelligent, charming, generous, and charismatic. In the early years of his reign, Henry’s court was filled with young noblemen who were around his age, giving his court the energy and vigor of a frat house. He often engaged in sports such as jousting, hunting, and tennis. Also, while most kings appointed nobles to high ranking positions, Henry VIII appointed commoners to high ranking positions. He did not care if his ministers were nobles or commoners. As long as they ran his kingdom and made him rich, he was happy as a clam. Before divorcing Katherine of Aragon, the first half of Henry’s marriage to her was very happy. Before he became a tyrant, many thought of Henry VIII as the brightest and most charismatic prince and king England ever knew. Thomas More once wrote that “this king is loved” and he compared the passing of Henry VII and the ascension of Henry VIII to the transition of winter to spring. If Henry VII was the winter, then Henry VIII was the spring. However, Henry VIII had one fatal flaw in his character: he could not rule himself. A king who cannot rule himself must not rule a kingdom. Still, I am curious and interested in Henry VIII’s early reign as a young king. I will be basing aspects of one my main fantasy characters’ reigns on the early reign of Henry VIII. This way, we could see what kind of king Henry VIII could have been if he could rule himself.