Thursday, February 09, 2006

King Henry and his enormous codpiece

King Henry's armorSo, one of the many interesting things we saw at the Tower of London was a suit of armor originally designed and built for King Henry the VIII (yes, the one who got rid of all those wives, the scummy fellow). My first view of the suit of armor was upon turning a corner, where all I could see was the backside, which was copious, to say the least.

The comment, "Yikes, that must have been one huge knight," had just barely left my mouth when I turned the rest of the corner and was presented with it. IT. The most enormous projectile codpiece you've ever seen. The picture really doesn't do it justice. It stuck out a good 5 or 6 inches from the suit of armor, kind of shaped like a bullet...or rather, one of those martini shakers shaped like a bullet. It was frigging HUGE.

The funny thing, for me at least, is that nowhere on the display makes any mention or allusion whatsoever to this huge protuberance sticking out from the suit of armor. No family-friendly description of traditional armor styles, no slightly off-color remarks about Henry's opinion of himself (which was obviously quite, er, big). Nothing. That made it even funnier. It was like the huge pink elephant in the middle of the room that no one would talk about, but everyone was starting at.

Especially the kids. I pitied the poor mothers trying to keep their placid mommy faces intact as their four-year-old would point and ask "Mommy, what's that?"

And there is, in fact, some historical significance to the codpiece. It all dates back to a visit by King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to a Duke in Bologna. It seems the Duke was sporting a particularly large, um, codpiece. Large enough to make the Queen jest "Be that thine codling or art thou glad to see me?" And large enough to make King Henry tell his tailors, upon return to London, "My codpieces must compare favorably to Bologna." Other sources site his case of syphilis as a possible reason for the enormity of the thing, but I suppose we'll never know for sure.

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