• Daniel Ethan Finneran

On Prince Andrew and Henry VIII

December 2019

Retentive of our British history—a deep but nourishing well into which we Americans must on occasion plunge—we mustn’t be startled to learn that a royal member of that republican land has committed, if all the accusations with which he’s been confronted are to be believed, a most heinous transgression: the predation of an underage girl.

The mere reflection upon what Prince Andrew is alleged to have done is, I think, an inducement to a violent physical reaction—a sickening response over which the body, so long as it be of a decent and civilized bent, can offer little control. Such a twisting and wrenching of the gut, such a stimulus to an emetic upheaval was the response by which, after watching in horror the Prince’s interview with the refined and eloquent Emily Maitlis of the BBC, I was fully overcome. What came of the interview was, irrespective of the strength of your stomach or the callousness of your will, nauseating in the extreme. It was, in a word, disgusting, and it ought to be a source of that family’s abiding shame. That being said, that which was revealed was also enlightening—a sobering upshot for which we might be quietly grateful.

That of which the ignoble prince is accused, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a crime for which there ought to be no absolution—even if his elderly aunt, the honorable Queen Elizabeth II, is and shall be until her abdication or her death the official matron of the state’s Anglican church. Since the age of Luther’s Theses and her island’s subsequent schism with the Pope, she, as the nation’s chief monarch, has been the sole figure by whose every edict the church has been run. She holds, if you will, the apostolic keys, the inheritance of that vicar, Peter by which the peculiar, quasi-Catholic faith of her country turns. She’s responsible for the bishoprics, the rituals, the sacristies, and, yes, even the failing religiosity of her increasingly secular state. That said, not even she, though in service to that island as intermediary between man and God, can peer upon her naughty nephew with a blameless glance. From his sin, there is to be no exculpation—neither up above in heaven nor here on earth. Likewise, from his aunt, there ought to be no nepotism; familial relations can’t, and as we all hope, won’t be an impediment in the British police’s effort to prosecute this reprobate of a man.

The profligate Prince, it’s long been known, was an intimate friend and a constant confidante of the recently-deceased hedge fund manager, Richard Epstein. The former, royal by blood and, quite like the rest of those wearisome Windsors, inutile in function, is known to have enjoyed an enduring friendship with the latter—to whom an unnatural death recently, inexplicably, and, for the sake of his multitudinous victims for whom there will be no justice, frustratingly came.

Prince Andrew seems to have profited immensely and, until just a few months ago, rather clandestinely from his relationship with the enigmatic Epstein. From tête-a-têtes to formal galas, from sojourns to Manhattan and trips to the very non-virginal island of Little Saint James, the two often met and passed together their time. Yet it wasn’t only their time that was being passed between the two; had it been so innocuous an exchange, there’d be nothing of which to speak. Epstein, it turns out, was almost certainly providing the lascivious Prince with underage girls of whom, without any fear of repercussion, he could take carnal advantage. Insatiable for the taste of nubile meat and aloof to the possibility of punitive measures, Prince Andrew’s appetite was satisfied by the work of Epstein—himself a gourmand in the consumption and a chef in the production of underage girls.

In the wake of Epstein’s fatal act of self-violence, the men with whom he once associated have been exposed to the penetration of the news media’s eye. Admittedly, less unblinking has been its gaze when turned upon the likes of former President Bill Clinton—a man of so upright and chaste a temperament (to which his impeachment and history will prove as confirmation) that no sexual impropriety could be suspected of him. By and large, the media has chosen quietly to overlook the fact that Clinton, after having departed his high office ten years before, flew in the presence of Epstein on multiple occasions. Scorning commercial travel, he opted instead to fly on the sex-trafficker’s private jet. He did so over two dozen times, but the details of their shared voyages are cloudy, to say the least; the corruption of the travel logs by which their mileage was supposed to be confirmed makes nearly impossible the task of trying to learn the people, probably the young females, by whom these two sexual deviants were joined, surrounded, and pleasured.

The other men (alas, more so than Clinton) into whom the news media has decided it worthwhile to take a look include the businessman Les Wexner, the actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker, the entrepreneur Elon Musk, and none other than the current president of the United States, Donald Trump. The last, as expected, is the one about whom the media, inveterately disdainful of his every move, has been the most curious. Reflective of our curiosity and perhaps emboldened by its own agenda, he’s the person to whom the media has devoted most of its time, with less than fruitful results. The relationship between Trump and Epstein seems to have been innocent of any sexual indiscretions—a revelation, considering the profligacy of Trump’s sexual past, by which we’re frankly surprised. Indeed, as is the case with any unobjectionable relationship, theirs seems to have begun and ended over their shared infatuation over golf.

Still, with all that star power listed above, Prince Andrew is the biggest fish to have been caught up in the media’s net. Coincidentally, of them all, he’s the public figure about whom we Americans know the least. Out of them all, he’s the one, especially after the recent airing of his disastrously illuminating BBC interview, by whom we’re all so thoroughly disgusted. But, as I mentioned in this article’s first line, we mustn’t forget our British history as we settle upon our judgment of this reprobate of a man. We mustn’t be remiss in assessing today’s events and Andrew’s lechery without reference to the past. In levying our odium upon Prince Andrew, in condemning him to the pits of hell—be they heated by Catholic or Anglican fire—we must keep in mind the family and the history of which he’s so inextricably a part.

He’s a member of a monarchy, after all, which is sprung from the loins of Henry VIII—that tumultuous Tudor from whom, so many years later, these wild Windsors collectively spring.

Henry VIII, as our attention shifts from Andrew toward the man by whose accession his line was established, was the paterfamilias of this perennially naughty clan from whom, for the better part of four centuries, so much uniquely English scandal has been produced. He was the king, an incumbent for nearly four decades, under whose massive weight and overwhelming pressure the entire nation’s future creaked and moaned. It was a result of his influence, at once sanguinary and resolute, myopic and self-serving, that the Britain of modernity was built. If not in philosophy, then doubtless in biology and theology, Henry VIII was the man in whose burly, corpulent, and inebriate image all of these current royals were made.

However diluted, this most recent display of sexual impropriety for which Prince Andrew has lately become infamous is, so to speak, in his regal blood—red, fiery, and corrosive to the last of its drops. Sexual promiscuity, an apologist for him and that fallen family might claim, is in fact wholly predetermined. It’s all but written in his bones, entrenched in his destiny—a genetic, indelible imprint of which he can’t be dispossessed. The fact that he indulged his sexual perversion and bedded at least one underage girl is, you might hear said, an ineluctable act of fate. Such, though, is to be expected of Andrew—a direct inheritor of the misogyny, mischief, and indecency of his progenitor, Henry VIII.

Henry VIII, of course, is the one English monarch outside of George III about whom we Americans know a little something (albeit, our encounter, study, and appreciation of the latter is experienced through the lens of our own Revolution; yet what better lens is there, I ask, through which a tyrant might be seen?). In thinking of Henry VIII, if we know anything about him, we know that he was a fantastic and inexhaustible collector of wives. Indeed, his accrual of partners with whom he shared his bed (if only fleetingly) nearly matched the roman numerals by which his Christian name was followed: he was the eighth in his lineal succession, while his wives numbered six. An account of them in full would be better suited for displays of pedantry and unwanted erudition—to which, for hope of retaining your devotion as a reader, I’ll not here condescend.

Yet we know, be it by years of bar-room trivia or daily Jeopardy! observance, at least the first three of the total six: in order of their appearance, they were Catherine of Aragon (the daughter of the same Ferdinand and Isabella under whose auspices Christopher Columbus sailed), Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour. Those by whom this first fifty-percent was succeeded (Catherine Howard, Anne of Cleves, and, finally, Catherine Parr) are unknown to almost all readers of history, save those bothersome and meddling pedants by whom we’re so insufferably annoyed. Though seemingly an exhaustive list for a man who lived but fifty-five years, Henry VIII appended to these half-dozen ladies the amours of so many other mistresses, so various a collection of lustful lovers, that history has stopped keeping count.

Yet for all his efforts (and no one can doubt that he didn’t earnestly try), the game of biology—that universally human competition of which we all take part—was not one at which he was especially adept. Certainly, one can’t say that he was a victor in this struggle to transmit one’s genes, characteristics, and name. Between the wombs of six youthful and, more or less, willing wives, he begot only three children. At least there were only three for whom the perils of a Medieval infancy weren’t too overwhelming. Infant mortality rates, in that era, were discouragingly high; Henry VIII’s only legitimate son, Edward VI, died at the tragically premature age of fifteen. Likewise, his most cherished bastard, Henry FitzRoy, died three years before breaking into his twenties. “Bloody” Mary and Elizabeth I, of course, would survive long enough into their adulthood to come into possession of their father’s throne and quarrel amongst themselves, but neither proved sufficiently fertile to carry a son, much less Henry’s name.

One might suspect of these Tudors that most ungenial curse of sterility. Perhaps, in fact, their barrenness and their inability to reproduce was a punishment meted out by an understandably angry God. It was, we might surmise, the response of a piqued deity to whom, through years of irreverence and the killing of Thomas More, the practice of Anglicanism, an admittedly newfangled and heretical creed, was nothing short of an abomination. Thus, contemptuous of Catholicism, that gift of whose possession Abraham was continually assured until end of his days (that of a philoprogenitive nature) was removed from Henry VIII’s Tudor descents.

You see, Henry VIII, not unlike Prince Andrew, was painfully indiscriminating when it came to the ladies by whom he was to be pleasured and amused—and hopefully, by whose fecundity his lineage was to be extended. On this last part, both Henry and Andrew seem to have failed. Had it not been for Henry’s sister, Margaret and the Stuarts and, eventually, the Hanoverians, and the Windsors who continued in her path, there’d be nothing to speak of Henry VIII outside of his infamy. Prince Andrew, it seems, has only this. Infamy, and infamy alone. There is no contribution of his to history by which he might be reconciled. And, despite what I’ve said, we ought not to judge him leniently—though lechery be in his blood.

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