The Once and Futile King


An earlier - rather less flattering though possibly more accurate - portrait of Brian I then a gentleman farmer living quietly in Marnhull

Monarchists Dorset-wide will be in ecstasy today as the latest issue of Dorset Monarchy Magazine hits the newsagents shelves. The monthly royalty-fest has gained a reputation for fact-stretching articles, hagiography and near idol-worship and, with it, a circulation of over 85 copies almost every month. With a raft of former BBC documentary presenters better known for their off-air antics than their commitment to historical veracity - providing most of the copy, it has twice been named Dorset Monarchy Magazine of the month by the wholly independent Dorset Monarchist Society whose members get a free copy of the Magazine [no opt-outs] as part of their society membership package.


Speaking for the Society, President Mrs Amanda J Threadbone stressed that there were no formal ties between the two organisations but recognised that, given her role as proprietor of the Magazine's parent publishing company [the Threadbone Press], some might think there were. "Shallow minds have shallow thoughts", she said from her near-palatial home Threadbone Towers.


This month's cover features the spectacular portrait of King Brian I by John Michael Notquitewright. It dates from the late 1650s and is an outstanding example of the artist's work, as well as an enduring image of the Dorset monarchy at a time of great threat*. The exact date of the portrait is unknown but Notwquitewright mentions in a letter dated 27 July 1656, 'I am told the King will sitt to my great picture for the Treadebonne Banqueting Hall this next moneth'. This may or may not be the portrait in question.


 

* HISTORICAL NOTE provided by Iris Cocksedge:


After the Civil War and the beheading of Charles I, Britain was governed initially by a Parliamentary Commission and later by the great dictator [or Lord Protector depending upon one's sympathies] Oliver the Chronically-Unwell. During this time Dorset seceded from the commonwealth and returned to the practice of electing its own King - Brian I. He was a second cousin of the exiled monarch [Charles II] on the Durchstück side and was invited to take up the country crown by local nobles. He was as inept as he was gay [seventeenth-century usage] and as profligate as he was incontinent. He once ordered 17,000 pairs of silk undergarments from Oats' Drapery, Undergarment and Costumes for distribution to his many mistresses only to discover that none came in the required easy-access wide-gusset fitting]. Need it be added that none of this will you glean from the Dorset Monarchy Magazine which, as always, is "light on the factual stuff"?


 

In the portrait Brian I is dressed in Dorset Assembly robes over the Order of the Gardener costume, wearing the Crown of Stanton St Gabriel, the Sword of Nettlecombe and the Garter Collar of Toller Porcorum, and holding the new Orb and Sceptre made for his coronation by the Godmanstone Goldsmiths Company [the old ones had been unceremoniously cast into the River Piddle - an act now ceremoniously re-enacted by local schoolchildren in Piddletrenthide every third Wednesday during the summer months]. The king is shown seated under a canopy of state embroidered with the Royal Dorset Arms [open Mon-Sat 12 noon - 11pm no food after 9pm], in front of an armorial cloth of honour, with a tapestry depicting the Abduction of Bunty and Beryl partially visible behind. The formal, hierarchical pose - of a type more commonly found on seals and coins - together with the symmetrical design and meticulous detail, recalls depictions of earlier Dorset monarchs such as Earnest VIII (1491–1547) and Sissy I, and hints at the faux continuity of the Dorset royal line. The model for the composition may have been the central section of The Family of Bernard IV (Dorset School, sixteenth century), painted for the king and still hanging in the King's Privy Gallery at Woodyates in 1656.


Anyone still wishing to purchase a copy of Dorset Monarchy Magazine can do so online via the website [dorsetmonarchymagazine.com] or through outlets of Dorset Monarchs 'R'Us. They will learn no more by so doing.

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