Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Pigs will fly

I have long admired the way the French named their monarchs- so descriptive, Jean le bon, Charles the bald, Pepin the short, Philippe le bel and so on. The old Franks could be very frank. William, "the Conqueror" to us, was simply known as "the bastard" at home in Normandy. Watching Henry VIII Mind of a Tyrant on Channel 4 last evening it occurred to me that the late portrait by Holbein shows very piggy eyes. Appropriately enough the 500th anniversary of his accession is being marked by an outbreak of swine flu. Henry the swine seems like a not unreasonable description. Come to think of it Holbein's portraits of the English court are pretty telling. We can see, for instance, that Thomas Cromwell was not a nice man.

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