Or How Heavy Words Often Get Lightly Used and Confused

Little Jack Horner

Little Jack and his Christmas pie

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said "What a good boy am I!"

There I was telling Jack and Owen, my two grandsons, the history behind a poem that they both like to have me read to them. As a special treat during my long history lesson, we went from my office to the kitchen where Jack and I made a Christmas pie. We were finishing it up when Jack said, "Henry VIII wasn't a very nice man."

The wives of Henry

The wives of Henry

I explained to Jack and Owen that Henry also had 6-wives: his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled, his marriage to Anne Boleyn was annulled and then she was beheaded, his marriage to Jane Seymour ended when she died during childbirth, his marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled, his marriage to Catherine Howard ended when she was beheaded, and his last marriage to Catherine Parr ended when Henry died. In addition, he wasn't a great regal example of a king in general. When I finished Henry's marital litany and the type of king he was, Jack just shook his head.

Jack and Al measuring dough

Jack rolling out the dough

Jack making the pie crust

Always trying to see the brighter side to life, I said to Jack, "Hey, without Henry, you and Owen and the rest of the children of the Western world wouldn't have had most of your nursery rhymes." That seemed to help Jack deal with the not very nice man. Owen seemed indifferent; he merely wanted some of the pie filling. After we put the Christmas pie in the oven, the three of us went to my office again where each of us sat at our desks and discussed the rhyme further.

Jack and Owen at their desks

I explained that Jack Horner was the steward of Richard Whiting who was the Bishop of Glastonbury, which is in the southwest of England. In addition, neither Jack nor Owen knew that Jack Horner's name was really Thomas Horner. I didn't go into the reason behind the name change.

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

Both the boys know that I am right brain, which means that I often will go off on some interesting tangents. Actually, my college students have noted this strange habit of mine also. I went off talking to Jack and Owen about King Arthur and Queen Guinevere who were said to have been buried at Glastonbury.

 King Arthur and Guinevere's gravesite

King Arthur and Guinevere's gravesite...note the mentioning of the abbey destruction

I realize that Arthur and Guinevere have nothing directly to do with Jack Horner, but it is an interesting aside. In addition and another tangential aside, this is a photo that I took at Arthur and Guinevere's wedding years ago:

Arthur and Guinevere's marriage service

Arthur and Guinevere's marriage service

Back to Jack Horner who was the Bishop of Glastonbury's steward, which I explained to my two grandsons was an important job back in those days over 500-years ago. A steward was basically an executive running the bishop's administrative needs like collecting taxes, rents, and dealing with problems with the peasants living at Glastonbury.

Additionally, Henry VIII didn't like the manner in which the Catholic Church was running things out in the hinterlands. Therefore, he removed the church from control of anything within England and replaced the pope's authority with his rule, which wasn't much of an improvement, if any. However, Glastonbury somehow got below Henry's radar and was still independent of Henry's rule.

The Bishop of Glastonbury knew that things were changing and that he didn't have a lot of time to act. So the bishop decides to bribe Henry. This is where Jack Horner comes in. Jack was to deliver a dozen title deeds to Mells Manor estate also owned by the bishop. Jack's job was to go to Henry with the a plum piece of a bribe. However, the deeds were to be placed inside a Christmas pie due to the problem with the fear of being robbed on the road to London.

Jack does as he is commanded and off he goes to see Henry in London with his Christmas pie. However, Jack and Owen needed to know that Jack Horner intentionally left the plum, the title deeds for Mells Manor, back at his home.

While the bishop trusted Jack Horner, Jack didn't trust Henry thinking that a dozen deeds were anything close to the value of the Abbey for which the bishop wanted to trade. The bishop figured that if he gave Mells Manor to Henry, Henry would allow the bishop to keep the abbey, the lands around the abbey, and all the great wealth associated with the abbey. However, Jack realizes that Henry won't fall for that uneven exchange of a miserly manor for the wealthy abbey and reneges on his assignment. He keeps the title deeds for himself. Then off to London to see the king about the bishop.

Jack rats out on the bishop. Henry arrested the bishop and has him stand trial for treason. Guess who was one of the 12-jurors at the trial of the bishop? Jack Horner. Not surprisingly, the jury finds the bishop guilty, sentenced to death, hung, and drawn and quartered at Glastonbury Tor.

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor

And now for the rest of the story, Henry went and destroyed Glastonbury Abbey and seized the lands and all of the wealth. As I was summing up my English history lesson, I turned to my grandson, Jack, and asked him like any good professor would to a student, "And what did Jack Horner say?" My Jack looked at me, smiled, and said, "What a good boy am I!" I responded, "Correct. Let's eat. You both are good little boys." There we sat devouring our Christmas pie as we thought about the nursery rhyme.

Jack and Owen waiting to eat pie

Jack with his thumb in the pie

Jack eating pie

Owen isn't allowed to eat pie yet, but he did offer me a puffy

I also started to talk to them about Ann and me going to Scotland in a couple of weeks to interview a representative of the Scottish National Party. In the fall of 2014, there will be a national vote on Scottish independence from the UK.

Battle of Bannockburn in 1314

Battle of Bannockburn in 1314

At the Battle of Bannockburn, the Scots won their independence from England. However, 700 years later, the Scots will vote for devolution from the UK. If my readers notice, I am wearing the blue and white wristband, which is for Scottish independence. However, I'm going to wait until my return from Scotland to give a history lesson to Jack and Owen. We will make haggis for dinner during that history lecture. What a wondrous meal!



Campbell's Cooking Class

"Campbell's Cooking Class"

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