Sunday, October 25, 2009

Department of Quotation: The Talking Starling

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Susan reports:

Modern world leaders worry endlessly about their public image. Not so 17th c. English King Charles II (1630-1685), who was about as carefree and casual among his subjects as any king in history.

Here's a short example, widely circulated (and widely enjoyed) in the 1670s. Imagine the kind of outraged indignation a 21st c. cable news station would get from a king who:

1) is on most familiar terms with an actress/party girl/orange wench named Betty Mackerell;
2) accepts from her a pet bird who talks dirty;
3) receives the leader of the national church in his bed room, with predictable results;
4) laughs heartily at said bird's dirty-talking;
5) then tells everyone at court about it himself.

"Bett Mackarell ye orange wench taught a starling to speak baudy & gave ye bird to ye King. One day ye Bishop of Canterbury came into ye bed chamber & ye bird hop on his shoulder & sade 'Wilt thou have a whore, thou lecherous dog?'"

from Sir Francis Fane, c. 1675 (MS Commonplace Book)

10 comments:

Vanessa Kelly said...

You know, I think the world would be a safer, better place if all world leaders had a dirty-talking bird in their bedchambers. Not to mention a wench named Betty Mackarell!

Jane O said...

Charles had both a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself — qualities that are sorely lacking in most world leaders, alas.

Monica Burns said...

The more I read about the Big C, the more I adore the man. Anyone who loved his dogs the way he did is A-OK in my book!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Charles wasn't perfect, but he loved women, loved dogs, had a great sense of humor, and left England better off than when he was crowned. Can't complain about any of that.

I have to admit I'd love to write a book with a heroine named Betty Mackerell -- too perfect. :)

Monica Burns said...

Charles wasn't perfect,

What man IS? LOL

Susan Holloway Scott said...

You are so right, Monica. But I had to put in that disclaimer because after having written five books with Charles in them, I've been accused of being, well, not impartial where he is concerned. *g*

Monica Burns said...

I've been accused of being, well, not impartial where he is concerned.

A gal after my own heart! LOL

Loretta Chase said...

I wish I had that bird. I can think of shoulders for him to sit on.

Carrie said...

You gotta love this story -- a bird that talks dirty pirate-speak to the archbishop. Arrgggg, matey!

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Carrie, you're right, it does sound like pirate-speak -- because 17th c.-speak IS pirate-speak, most pirates doing their thing in the 17th c. Come to think of it, "Betty Mackarell" sounds like a pirate wench herself....*g*

Arggh, Archbishop!

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