Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey….
Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey . . . .
The above drawing (partially coloured by me) is of unknown origin, but I like it because it shows Henry’s pet monkey. I don’t know what its name was, or even if it had one, but in my next Cicely books he is called Crumplin. This is a fond way of referring to someone who is small of stature and perhaps a little crooked – not as in lawbreaker, but in appearance. The monkey also appears in the above painting, by Frank Cadogan Cowper, of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More meeting Henry’s children.
My fictional Henry gives his monkey the name Crumplin, as a sly dig at Richard III, who, apparently, was sometimes fondly referred to by it. I understand that the supposed tomb of Richard’s little son at Sheriff Hutton was, and still is, referred to as ‘Little Crumplin’, the inference being that the boy’s father, Richard, was ‘Big’ Crumplin. Whatever the truth, the nickname was not meant unpleasantly, certainly not in Yorkshire, where Richard was particularly loved. However, it was not fond or a compliment when used by Henry Tudor for his monkey.
So, fictional name or not, for the sake of argument, let’s call the little creature Crumplin. Henry was apparently very fond of it, and laughed at its antics, even if no none else did. If the above illustrations are to be believed, it had a handler who carried it behind the king and it was often with Henry. But they aren’t pictures from the period, so must be taken with a pinch of salt.
I am told that Henry carried a dreaded notebook with him at all times, in which he jotted down who had said what, and when they were unwise enough to say it. Henry has a book in the drawing, and while it looks more like a Book of Hours, I can imagine it was this omnipresent notebook, to which he was apt to refer in order to be sure of his facts when he wished to haul someone over the coals. Or, perhaps, to praise them, although the fact that it was dreaded suggests not. That notebook was definitely feared and hated. If he had it in his hand when he entered a room, hearts would sink in unison.
There is a story that one day, when Henry was not present, Crumplin was particularly naughty and drove the attendants to distraction. He was roundly scolded, which he did not like at all. So, what did he do? He found the notebook on a table, Henry having left it there in error, and tore it to shreds! Henry wasn’t pleased, but everyone else was delighted. And relieved. I imagine Crumplin was forgiven a lot of monkey sins after that.
No doubt a new notebook was soon in Henry’s hand, but at least his courtiers enjoyed a little respite.