Have You Heard the News? – Sara Stevenson [Short Story]

Do you come from a small town? I do. We have less than 2000 people where I grew up, so everyone knew each other and there was a lot of gossip. After reading this it got me thinking. Life at court would have been a lot like life growing up in my town, just with more uncomfortable clothing.

I really enjoy this submission from Sara, because it addresses something that I feel is really only touched on it a lot of books – gossip! Its always

A word from the author,

I recently graduated with my Masters degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities, and my specialty has always been Shakespearean literature and the Tudor reign.  I spent my undergraduate years studying Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, and everything in between, and it is an area of history that I am extremely passionate about.

“Have You Heard the News?”

“Have you heard the news?”

I glanced at the blonde sitting next to me, her blue eyes wide with the need to discuss whatever newest piece of gossip she had acquired. As the newest addition to the castle’s ever-growing staff, and one of the youngest, Isabelle had a hunger for gossip and an eagerness to share it with whomever she came in contact. I’d been relatively successful in keeping her at bay, often pawning her off to another, younger maid who happened to be nearby. Having been at the castle for almost six years, I was growing tired of the repetitious scandals that floated within the castle walls.

Sighing heavily, I debated whether or not it was worth listening to her ramble about the latest misconduct. It wasn’t typically my style, but with the recent passing of England’s King, Henry VIII, the gossip had gotten more interesting: skepticism about whether or not the King and Queen had consummated their marriage three years ago, questions about the fate of England now that he had passed on, and other critiques in regards to his weight and physique at the time of his death. He had been riddled with illnesses — gout in his legs that led to sores that constantly leaked a foul-smelling pus and severe obesity that lead to him being confined to his bed to name just a few — and after battling them for several years, his body had lost the fight and he’d passed away. Last night his body had been taken to Syon Monastery until this morning, when he would be laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel next to his third wife, Jane Seymour. This morning, the castle was abuzz with murmuring voices and hushed whispers.

Returning my attention to the blonde at my side, I shook my head. “No, Isabelle. What’s happened?”

Isabelle snorted, quickly covering her mouth but unable to suppress her laughter. “The King’s body…exploded last night.”

My eyes widened with surprise and horror. I knew the King had been obese — everyone in the kingdom knew his physical state had been quickly declining — but to say that he had literally exploded in his coffin… that was a bit extreme, even for the gossip of the castle’s help. “Isabelle,” I scolded. “That’s a terrible lie to spread.”

She shook her head. “It’s not a lie, Mira. I overheard the royal physician talking to the Queen this morning. He told her that while the coffin sat in Syon Monastery, the King’s body filled with gases as it decomposed, and the gases caused his body to literally explode.” She giggled before continuing. “And that’s not all. Some of the monasteries from the church to the Queen that there had been a few dogs on the property; when they smelled the blood, they rushed into the room where the coffin was and started to lick the blood off the cement floor!”

My stomach turned with Isabelle’s story, and my heart ached for Queen Katherine. How she must have felt to stand there and listen to these men tell her these horrific things! Having become a widow myself earlier in the year, I knew the pain of losing a loved one. A physician in the kingdom, my husband had made the mistake of speaking ill of the King’s health in his presence, alluding to the prophecy of Friar William Peto in 1532. Immediately, King Henry decided that my husband should be punished, and he was executed within the week; I’d hardly had a chance to say goodbye.

“… crazy how similar it was to Friar Peto’s prophecy. That’s all the kingdom can talk about.”

I nodded in Isabelle’s direction, still only partially listening to her ramblings. My mind had travelled to the very prophecy she was referencing. I wasn’t surprised that the entire kingdom was talking about it — though it had happened so long ago, it had remained in the back of everyone’s mind; everyone wondered whether the friar’s prophecies would ever become reality.

On Easter Sunday, 1532, the King and Queen attended Friar Peto’s sermon, and they were extremely displeased by the message that was put across to those in attendance. Friar Peto told the congregation the story of King Ahab, a man who refused to listen to the men who had his best interest at heart and chose, instead, to follow false prophecies. His warning was that if King Henry did not take care to listen to his people — the people of England — he would lose his kingdom. More than that, he quoted to the congregation 1 King 22 of the Old Testament: “So the King died and was brought to Samaria, and the buried him there. They washed the chariot at the pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared” and compared Queen Anne Boleyn to King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. Why he said this, in front of the King and Queen of England, no one understood. He knew the risks involved with saying such a thing, and still he spoke his mind.

Now, as I sat next to Isabelle, I thought on Friar Peto’s prophecy. I thought of what my husband had told the King, warning him that if he didn’t mind his diet he would lose his life. I felt my lips curl into a slight smile, thinking of the private comments my husband would make as we laid in our bed together, discussing the King’s death. I turned back to Isabelle, a slight chuckle slipping.

“Tell me again what happened?”


I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

2 thoughts on “Have You Heard the News? – Sara Stevenson [Short Story]

  1. In this short story, so much has been encapsulated – the feel of village life within the court, the circulating rumours, Friar Peto’s warning and then the horror of King Henry VIII’s body exploding. I was aware of this – in fact, the version I heard (which I never felt totally reliable) was that the explosion had occurred while his body was on a boat being transported along the Thames – and that filled me with a sense of revulsion. In your story, Sara, you have cleverly related the event without too many gory details, but just enough to impart the information and let your readers draw their own conclusions. As to Henry’s execution of Mira’s husband, perhaps if he had heeded the advice of his doctor, his life may have been prolonged and without the final indignity which befell his body.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing on the Tudor era, Sara, as this story quickly drew me in and had me picturing the characters and their surroundings – always a good indication that it has been well written.

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