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Ernie The Dolt?

Mention in a recent issue of Dorset Monarchy Magazine of Dorset's King Earnest VIII [1491–1547] - an influential though little-known predecessor of Dorset's most famous monarch Brian I - has prompted reader, Roia Liszt to ask whether anything of significance is known of Earnest and whether any authentic portrait of him survives. Happily, the answer to both questions is an affirmative YES, as our Royal Historical Correspondent Linny Idge writes:

Dorset Monarchy Magazine's Issue 5,300 [April 2016] was devoted to the rehabilitation of Earnest VIII a King who despite having at least 8 wives, had largely disappeared from history.

Locate, if you can, a copy of Dorset Monarchy Magazine's Issue 5,300 [April 2016] and you will find adorning the front cover the marvellous portrait of King Earnest VIII by Richard Greengage commissioned by the Company of Butchers and the Guild of Recovered Meat Traders in 1540 to commemorate the grant of a royal charter on their successful if controversial merger. [The merger was controversial in that it was widely believed that the charter gave the butchers in the Company carte blanche to adulterate sausages with substances anything other than meat. In the event, such fears were well-founded. Dorset sausages have hardly contained any real meat from the moment of the merger onwards.]. The portrait itself hung in the Great Hall of the Combined Company until it was damaged - ironically - in the Great Fire of Longburton in 1666. Heavily restored it now hangs in the Binstock Gallery of the Longburton Museum.

4 September 1666 - perhaps the worst single night in the Great Fire of Longburton. Here Brian I surveys the scene in which - though he certainly did not realise it - the portrait of one of his greatest predecessors Earnest VIII was slowly singeing.

Inside the April 2016 edition of the Magazine, Nigella Lawnmower provides us with somewhat limited insight into Earnest's court, concentrating more on the culinary than the political and leaving us very little further forward in our understanding of the man and his significance*. It is, as Tudor historian David Starkraving notes, "something of a missed opportunity, given that Earnest might be properly credited with the creation of modern [sic] Dorset as we know it".

* Entitled Ernie In, it notes that the monarch's favourite meal consisted of a "prawne coktaile in a sauce of pinkishe hue, a syrloine of the Dorsete cowe's buttock followed by a cake and cherryes stack'd in the mann'r of a Baden-Württemberg thickette, the whole wash'd downe with Spanish wine of sicklie sweeteness". Some have postulated that the King's fondness for this thrice daily fayre might go some way to explaining his later life obesity. On his death, he weighed 32 stones and was believed to be "A rhesus nougat".

Of Earnest VIII himself, we can say only that he married at least eight times but fathered no sons. Producing a series of bastards by mistresses, he proved unable to father a legitimate heir, meaning that the crown passed on his death [he choked on a large Dorset Nob] to his German relations the Durchstuckes who were in turn deposed after a series of inept political manoeuvres. Something of a sportsman and would-be musician in his youth [he was known to some as Earnie the Troubadour and sometimes Earnie the Slow - a reference not to the speed of his mind but rather to draw a contrast between him and his younger brother Earnie the Milkman who, in pursuit of country wenches, reputedly drive the fastest milk cart in the West Country]. [That the elder brother was the more significant historical figure cannot, however, be denied as anyone who has seen Casro Dilwes's magisterial The Importance of Being Earnest VIII will readily attest.]. Earnest VIII has left us one ballad - Green Gilberts - and the fragments of a chivalrous love poem, "O mistresses mine who plucked the hairy fruit and didst me take entire". Readers will know that one of his illegitimate daughters married court favourite Sir Thomas de Threadbone, creating a bloodline that would echo through West Country history. [See Amanda J Threadbone [1999] My Favourite Ancestors VI: Sir Tommy, The Threadbone Press]

Returning to the portrait: its likeness to the later image of King Brian I painted by John Michael Notquitewright more than 120 years later is certainly striking, leading many to believe that one was the prototype of the other, the Brianine rendering consciously mimicking its predecessor's iconography and seeking to draw from it persuasive signifiers of both legitimacy and continuity for a monarchy which was by the 1750s significantly bereft of both.

Only by viewing the portrait entire can we properly appreciate its majesty and power. This was showboating on a regal scale.

To find out more about King Earnest VIII, Brian I and the Dorset Monarchy in general, learn to read properly, either buy a book or join a local library scheme and put in a bit of effort instead of sitting on your fat arse on the sofa watching the execrable Liar. You people!

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