http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/firblast.htm) and mentioned how when he later came to look for a pension from Elizabeth I she - having read passages such as
|I am assured that God has revealed to some in this our age, that it is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man. And yet, with us all there is such silence, as if God therewith were nothing offended. I know the natural man, enemy to God, shall find many causes why no such doctrine ought to be published in these our dangerous days: first, for that it may seem to tend to sedition; secondarily, it shall be dangerous, not only to the writer or publisher, but also to all such as shall read the writings, or favour this truth spoken; and last, it shall not amend the chief offenders, partly because it shall never come to their ears, and partly because they will not be admonished in such cases.|
Elizabeth, who was in her own view (and the view of those who fancied keeping their heads) The Prince chosen by God himself, was all cold outraged dignity giving Knox the 'benefit' of her Humanist education in logic and rhetoric. Knox all fire and brimstone secure in his 'true adherent to Scripture' megalomania suddenly found himself being interrogated by a furious women (with Absolute Power), a woman he firmly believed owed him a pension... clean underpants time!
So this got me thinking - what moments in History would people love to pop back to in the Tardis, grab a deckchair and a bucket of popcorn and sit back and enjoy the show?
Apart from Elizabeth I Vs John Knox, I would love to see the assassination of William The Silent - Prince of Orange- by Balthasar Gérard in 1584. Or at least the version of it I heard recounted by the Great Ken Nicholls many years ago (FYI - for the majority of Early Modern Irish historians If Ken says it happened. It happened! When questioned by the unwary he reels off from memory the MS sources he found the info in - the rest of us get popcorn and watch that show too ).
So, as Ken told it - Balthasar Gérard was a French Adventurer who talked big and had attached himself to supporters of Phillip II of Spain. He swaggered around regaling people with tales of the daring-do deeds he would perform for his Catholic Majesty if only fate would give him the chance. Eventually, people got fed up of Gérard's talking-talking so he decided to try and claim the reward of 25,000 crowns offered by Spain to the assassin of William.
Gérard set off for the Netherlands in 1581, but didn't manage to get close to William until 1584. On the 10th of July, as William was descending the stairs after dinner Gérard shot him.
At this point the official histories note only that Gérard was captured and brutally tortured before being executed. For Nicholls - the tale of Gérard's capture is the best part of the story and, in my view, a definite popcorn moment.
Gérard had a cunning plan which consisted of shooting William and legging it away across the gardens to the canal. He correctly reasoned that as there was quite a high wall separating the grounds from the canal the area would be lightly guarded. Gerard had every faith in his ability to quickly scale the wall...there was, however, one teeny little drawback with the plan. But fear not, good reader, for Gérard had come up with a clever solution.
Gérard couldn't swim.
Greased leather inflatable waterwings made from bladders.
So Gérard takes off like a scaled cat in his finest 'Blackadder' stylee - codpiece, hose, thigh high boots with a lovely heel and spurs, ruffs bouncing as he ran pursued by very, very angry guards baring very, very sharp things indeed intent on sticking them in him.
It was at this point the fatal flaw in Gérard's cunning plan and clever solution to the teeny problem manifested itself. He couldn't very well have pre-inflated his bladdery waterwings as this would be bound to cause comment while he nonchalantly lingered waiting for William.
This left Gérard no option but to inflate on the go.
So there is our brave assassin going hell for leather across the lawn in his thigh high boots trying desperately to inflate a pair of water wings - which, to give him credit he managed to do.
Sadly, valves had yet to be invented so for his cunning plan to suceed, Gerard need to hold the blow holes closed until such time as he could stop running and tie them shut.
Again, to give him credit, Gérard's faith in his climbing ability proved well founded as by the time the Dutch guards got to the wall, Gérard had somehow - while pinching the waterwing blowholes closed! - managed to attain the summit. Possibly sheer terror of sharp things helped. Gérard sat atop the wall busy tying his bladder wings blowhole in apparent safety from the Guards who couldn't quite reach him. Freedom just a short doggy paddle away then riches! Mega bucks!
Then, as Gérard launched himself from the wall, a lucky jab from a halberd punctured a waterwing.
He was quickly fished out of the canal - half drowned.
Poor Balthaser Gérard suffered a horrendous death.