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The Mirror and the Light

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Henry VIII

The blazer of glory. A blast from the past. A nod to Fashion on Fashion by Dad, Fashion gone wrong, Design out of control, Costume with attitude enough to put the world off kilter. You Know What I Mean!

This episode’s Blazer gives the name to Hilary Mantel’s 3rd and final volume in the Henry VIIIth trilogy.

Henry VIIIth by Hans Holbein Jnr – His bejewelled manhood bore a ribbon on top

Well, it’s really the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but who knows Thomas Cromwell, great grandfather of Oliver Cromwell the republican who beheaded King Charles. Thomas was the inventor of the modern prime-minister role. Persian Princes had had prime ministers for centuries, but Europe was just evolving imperial ambitions. Venice was a power, Amsterdam was not. Movable type had been invented, the nature of transmission of knowledge was changing. The Church cried Fake News, and Henry, competently manipulated by Cromwell, approved an English Bible, stopped paying Rome, took over the assets of the Church and courted the Protestant Germans.

English was heard in the Courts and in Parliament for the first time. The rule of the Norsemen was coming to an end, and a grubby, self-centred bunch of pirates and robber barons started to think about taking on the world. Fantastic study of the ruthless secretary manipulating the narcissist ruler. Great Stuff.

The book is The Mirror & The Light. The blazer of glory is the Royal Crimson cloak edged with ermine and. Worn over a silver blouse and doublet, adorned with diamond crusted bling. Most importantly it is painted. If you check out the FashionByDad facebook or Instagram page you will immediately recognise the image created for Henry by Hans Holbein the younger.

When the king sees the mural Hans has painted, he says nothing. It is not for him to thank a mere artist. But he glitters: not merely augmented, but enhanced.

The queen stands by him, and his hand steals out, and rests on her belly, as if testing what he finds there: as he has many times in the last few days, while she holds her breath and wonders why. If she shrinks a little now, and averts her eyes, it is from the man on the wall: from his fist planted on his hip, from his hand on the pommel of his dagger, from his belligerent gaze; from his straddled legs, unbandaged calves bulging with muscle; from his bejewelled manhood, with a bow tied on top.

‘By the saints, you were right,’ Hans whispers, ‘when you said I should turn him to face us.’ He seems awed by his own creation. ‘Jesus Maria. He looks as if he would spring out of the frame and trample you.’

‘I wish France could see this,’ Henry tells the company. Or the Emperor. Or the King of Scots.’

“There can be copies. Majesty’ Hans says, modestly. Mirrors of his lively image; ever larger, more active with every telling.

‘Come Jane.’ The king plucks his eyes away. ‘We are done here. Time to be off to the country.’

Time passes. Jane dies giving birth, to Edward who will briefly be king. France and Spain join forces and threaten England. A new wife, the fourth, Anna the German, a political marriage, to head off the Catholics. Henry cannot get it up. The court is in turmoil.

‘So, Cremuel,’ Henry says. ‘I hope you will not run away to Charles, but stay.’

Henry’s eyes are on his portrait of himself. Massive, on the wall of the chamber. His own eyes, Cromwell’s, consult the image of his master. ‘What would I want with the Emperor, were he Emperor of all the world? Your Majesty is the only prince. The mirror and the light of other kings.’

Henry repeats the phrase, as if cherishing it; the mirror and the light.

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