Pawn Promoted

Hostage to fortune, offered for display
Upon the slab of matrimonial gain
To those with status and ability to pay
The asking price (including ball and chain),
Jane Grey was simply salmon on the bone,
Succulent bait to anglers for the throne.
Throughout her days, it could not honestly
Be claimed that she was free from custody
Of some grim gaoler. Like the Nazarene,
They nailed her to the cross of destiny.
She fainted when they told her to be Queen.

Her pa collected titles in the way
Upwardly mobile corporate sharks gain
City directorships. To disobey
Him, or mama, ran counter to the grain
Of birthright, upbringing. Never alone,
Somebody always acting chaperone,
Inevitably choked the possibility
Of chance romance or impropriety.
Trapped, semi-suffocated by routine,
Inclining to excessive piety,
She fainted when they told her to be Queen.

Assuming that she was alive today,
Her slim good looks and swift responsive brain
Would make her popular at school. She’d play
The latest CDs, holiday in Spain
Or Florida. At home, she’d have her own
Poster-filled bedroom, use the telephone
For hours, half-fancy her geography
Professor, study fanzines avidly.
In essence, be a typical sixteen
Year old, but, fettered to reality,
She fainted when they told her to be Queen.

Even a boxing pro with feet of clay,
Cauliflower ears, black eyes, enfeebled brain
Addled by blows, can drop his guard and say
“I quit,”decline to suffer further pain.
Such weakness royalty may not condone.
Blue blood must flow before the towel is thrown.
This featherweight, pummelled mercilessly
Round after round, received no clemency.
The referee declined to intervene.
Jane faced the sucker punch resignedly.
She fainted when they told her to be Queen.

Witnessing from a prison passageway
The execution party of her vain,
Unloved, immature husband march away,
She watched his headless corpse wheeled back again.
In turn, attentive to the monotone
Of priestly prayer, she went to kneel alone,
Stripped of her short-lived sovereignty,
Blindfolded and bereft of family,
Before the headsman upon Tower Green,
Seeking release from long captivity.

Think of her, when you’re browsing through the twee
Romantic novels we call history.
Sixteen years old. Imagine it. Sixteen!
Fiction? This is the actuality.
She fainted when they told her to be Queen.


by Peter Wyton