Henry VIII and a very different Tudor England

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DoubleOphicleide32, Dec 20, 2018.

  1. DoubleOphicleide32 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2018
    Henry Tudor Junior had always had a streak of pure brilliance. A talented musician and singer from an early age, he was also noted as a poet and songwriter. One night at Windsor Castle, Henry, then not quite ten years old, had a premonition that his older brother Arthur had fallen grievously ill at Ludlow, he sneaked out of the castle and made off on one of the fastest horses in the Royal stables. He then rode hard for two days, via Oxford, Evesham and Worcester, to be with his dying brother.

    Having arrived in Ludlow and broken his fast at an inn in the town, he made his way to the castle, and was received with the welcome his royal status demanded, if not without much surprise and a little suspicion. He was shown to the bedchamber where Arthur lay, seemingly dying.

    “Henry! What are you doing here?”, Catherine of Aragon shrieked as he entered the room.

    “How is he doing?”, Henry asked her as she threw herself into his arms and sobbed.

    “Not well, he may die any day", Catherine cried. “I had the same affliction, but whereas I have recovered, Arthur continues to deteriorate, and the physicians have given up on him. They have bled and leeched him, and prayers have been said, but they have now ordered that he be starved in order to kill off whatever it is that ails him. I am no doctor, but I cannot say it has helped”.

    “They're starving him? That's bullshit!”, Henry raged. “I know how weak I felt when I arrived here in Ludlow, I hadn't eaten in two days, and in this cold and pouring rain... how is he supposed to fight illness? There isn't even a fire in here, the whole castle is cold and damp!”.

    “I know, but the physicians will not allow me to bring him anything, and refuse permission to heat the room. I have tried bringing food and firewood here, but each time they were confiscated. All I was able to sneak up here was a bowl of oatmeal, but Arthur hardly touched it, it's still sitting there”.

    Something struck Henry with a bolt of inspiration. Seeing the bowl of oatmeal going mouldy on a window-sill, he remembered how once, while suffering a bad throat infection, he had eaten mouldy cheese every day for a week to win a bet, and had quickly recovered, Henry wondered whether the mould had the ability to kill infections. He picked up the bowl and carried it to his comatose brother, who was lying back with his mouth open, then tipped the oatmeal into Arthur’s mouth, mould and all. Arthur choked momentarily, but sat up and swallowed. Semi-conscious, he accepted the food unquestioningly, while Catherine looked on, astonished, convinced Henry had lost his mind entirely.

    Henry explained to her whence the inspiration to do so came. What he did not know was that this was the first instance in recorded history of penicillin antibiotics being used as a medical treatment.

    “All right, if you insist”, Catherine sighed. “Oh, Henry, I don't know what I would do without him...”

    “You're not going to have to! Firstly, we are going to get him somewhere warmer than this. Secondly, we are going to get him properly fed. Thirdly, if any physician gets in our way, I'll kill him with my bare hands. This treatment may be unconventional and somewhat unpleasant, but it's not as bad as bleeding or leeching, and there is some evidence that it works. We need to make sure there is an adequate supply of that mould – I believe my recovery was down to the fact I had to eat it every day for a week. Little Johnny Marshall recovered from the same throat affliction, but his brother Edward wasn't in on the bet, and he died of the same condition shortly afterwards”.

    “Well, I hope to the most merciful God that you are right. I know a good place to take him, one of the empty bedrooms down in the Bailey, above the stables but below the hayloft. It's warm and dry there, it's much more private and there are fireplaces. We have often sneaked off there...”.

    “Sounds good. Go and get some of your most trusted people to help move him, and I'll hold off the physicians and anyone else who tries to stop us from saving Arthur's life!”.

    Catherine dashed off immediately, bringing back two big-boned ladies-in-waiting, and spoke to them. They moved in to lift the Prince, while his young brother kept one hand on the hilt of his sword. They succeeded in carrying Arthur out of the great tower, and were advancing down the ramparts when they were cut off by two men, one of whom was a monk.

    “That's the physician, a man called Williams”, Catherine groaned. “Father Eustace is no friend of mine either. We have got to get past them somehow!”.

    “Leave it to me", Henry hissed.

    “And just where do you think you are going?”, Williams sneered. “Take Prince Arthur back to his chamber at once! He must not be moved! He is already overdue for further blood-letting”.

    “Make way for the Duke of York, you insufferable charlatan!”, Henry barked. “Consider yourself dismissed! Your services are no longer required!”.

    “Why, you snivelling little swine...”, Williams began, reaching for his sword. Henry moved quickly to disarm him, flicking the blade out of his hand and over the battlements onto the green below.

    “I repeat, Williams; get out of our way!”, Henry snarled. “Do you want the Prince of Wales to die?”.

    “Your elder brother’s fate rests in the hands of Almighty God alone”, Father Eustace intoned solemnly. “If the Eternal Father calls him to his Heavenly rest, that is God's ineffable will”.

    “The only thing ineffable here is that you are still standing between me and my brother's recovery”, Henry growled, jabbing at the monk’s chest with the point of his sword.

    “How dare you treat a man of God thus!”, Williams scolded Henry. He moved to strike the Duke of York with his clenched fist, but Henry was too fast for him, grabbing him by the wrist and twisting it until a sickening snap was heard by all present. The physician fell heavily, then crashed through the timber balustrade and plunged to his doom on the ground far below. Father Eustace did not hang around: with a final accusation that Henry was a murderer and would surely die and be condemned to eternal Hellfire, he fled the castle and was seen riding out of the town altogether.

    Catherine and her two Welsh friends were struck speechless. They made their way unchallenged to the loft above the stables, and installed Prince Arthur in a bed there, taking advantage of the heat rising from the stables. Henry lit a fire in the hearth in the small bedchamber, while the ladies did likewise in the room next door, which was quickly adapted as their living quarters. One of the Welsh girls, Megan, went off to get a cask of Prince Arthur’s favourite cider, while the other, Sophie, set up to begin cooking, preparing a rich beef broth with strong beer and a mess-of-pottage, consisting of mutton, barley, lentils, peas, celery, carrots, spinach and nettle leaves and parsley.

    Henry made a naive comment about this being peasant food, fit only to be fed to horses, Megan turned on him angrily. “Peasant food, indeed! ‘Tis what generations of us have grown up on, where do you think we get our strength?”. To demonstrate the point, she had grabbed Henry by his tunic, lifted him bodily and pinned him against the wall. “And as for feeding it to the horses, it is much the same as we feed them, and what horses they are too!”. She let go of Henry, who slumped to the floor. Catherine and Sophie just stood there and laughed as he stood up and brushed himself down.

    Humiliated by the manner in which he had been set straight, Henry went off to see to his horse, Hercules, a large black hunter. The poor animal had been exhausted when they arrived, but had reportedly been wolfing down all the hay, oatmeal and carrots the stable hands had given him, and was in a much-improved state. If it was that good for the horse, Henry reasoned, it had to be good for the humans too, royal or not. He also scavenged around the back of the main castle kitchen and found, discarded atop a sack of vegetable waste, a whole cheese wrapped in nettle leaves which had gone mouldy. Perfect. He grabbed it and took it up to the cosy little apartment over the stables.

    While Catherine fed Arthur, starting off with modest quantities, Henry ate with Sophie, Megan and their younger sister Anna, a very pretty maid in Henry's estimation. Megan hadn't been wrong: the food was hearty, warming and full of flavour. He gorged his way through two large bowls of the pottage and a quart of broth, to the amusement of all present. He had to admit, the food and company were superb. Despite their lowly birth, of yeoman farming stock, he felt a sense of kinship with the Welsh girls. It didn't hurt that they were easy on the eye, with the flawless smooth skin that seemed to run in dairy-farming families – no smallpox pockmarks. Hmm, that was another idea to explore – why did milk-maids never suffer the accursed pox? Maybe there could be a way of developing some form of immunisation by exposing more people to cows...

    Against all the odds, Arthur began to rally that evening, and, on a steady diet of broth, pottage and bread with the mouldy-nettle-wrapped cheese, his health steadily improved over the next few days, as further sources of the life-saving mould were found and actively cultivated by young Henry. It was clear that Prince Arthur was a long way from recovering his former strength, but his life was now safe, and Henry, with some regret, returned to Windsor and his increasingly anxious parents.
     
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  2. JonasResende Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2012
    Location:
    Oranje Vrijstaat, Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek
    All paging Dr. Tudor to the emergency room please :p
     
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