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The Earl of Cork's Enigma

Monday, July 3, 2023

Something About English Monarchs

Was rightful heir unto the English crown.

I found a reminder I wrote last year to discuss the following topic, but I chose to wait until this year when The Curse of the Blue Figurine – the first book in the Johnny Dixon series – celebrates its 40th anniversary. I probably should have timed it closer to the coronation in May, but – eh.

While riding in a helicopter following a harrowing escape atop Hellbent Mountain, Professor Childermass bides his time by trying to remember the kings and queens of England and which one came after which.

Arguably a throwaway lone, but I wondered what process Childermass used to remember everyone up to George VI and how such a process would reflect the addition of Elizabeth II (1926-2022) – and now Charles III (b. 1948).

Curse begins in January 1951, and Childermass's helicopter ride occurs in June, meaning George VI (1895-1952) would have been the current king. But let's get a bit technical since we assume Childermass would assuredly be, too. Kings and reigning queens of the Kingdom of England began with Alfred the Great (c. 886-899), who ruled for a mere 13 years. On May 1, 1707, under the Acts of Union, the kingdoms of England and Scotland united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. Anne, therefore, ceased being an English monarch and became the first British monarch. So was the professor honestly thinking English or everyone else?

While you dwell on that, let's wonder how Childermass rattled through 800 years or so of history. One possible approach is a mnemonic device. These are techniques for aiding retention or remembering data or lists. One type of mnemonic is to use the first letter of each word to create a new word. For example, one popular way to remember the rainbow colors - and one Brad Strickland mentioned in The Beast under the Wizard's Bridge (2000) - was ROY G BIV (for red, orange, yellow, and so on). Another device is putting the list into verses.

The Guardian includes a few rhymes, name-checking such royals as Steve, Dick, and Harry.

It also includes parts of a more extended verse, also available on Wikipedia (where there's an entire page devoted to this topic): 

Willie Willie Harry Stee
Harry Dick John Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four five six ... then who?

You'll note two Willies kick this off, referring to William the Conqueror and his son, thereby ignoring the 16 rulers between Willie...William...and Alfred the Great. See, the Battle of Hastings was a big deal.

Now to figure out if such a thing exists for the popes.

And egad, there is.

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