Profiles in Toadying, Classic Edition: Robert Powell

(This post originally appeared back on my old blog in 2006.)


Robert Powell, mostly unknown lawyer and legal historian who, in 1634, decided to write The Life of Alfred, Or, Alvred: The First Institutor of Subordinate Government in this Kingdome and Refounder of the University of Oxford. Together with a Parallell of our Soveraigne Lord, King Charles, untill this yeare, 1634.

It is basically a brief and fanciful life of Alfred the Great (d. 899), one of Anglo-Saxon England’s exceptional guys. Where it falls down is that it tries to tie in Alfred’s great deeds with those of King Charles I, a king who was really not so Great. Powell is perfectly aware of this, and has to try to weasel out of it.

It is said of Alfred, that ad crastina bella victor pavebat, victus parabat; If unjust peace is to be preferred before just warre, we having the happy fruition of a just and honourable peace with all the Christian world, and having no need in the times of conquest, to dread adverse approaches, or of defeatures to prepare for fresh onsets, may glory in his Majesties assiduous and vigilant supervising of his military munition and provision both by Sea and Land, remonstrated [sic] by his frequent visiting his greatest Storehouse of his Ordnance, and other martiall supply, as also his godly number of Ships in severall harbours.

What now? Okay, let’s get this comparison straight here: Alfred, having had all his brothers die on him, his father killed and his army smashed by the marauding Vikings, who by this time had overrun most of England and were pushing into Wessex, rallied a ragtag band of supporters around an island in the Somerset Levels and came back to kick some Viking ass at the Battle of Edington, following which he fortified towns, founded a navy, and expanded the kingdom a bit, capturing London. Charles visits the Ships in severall harbours.

That’s OK, though, right? I mean, we can’t all be fightin’ men. Maybe Charles was Alfred’s equal in more scholarly pursuits, right? Maybe he translated classical texts into his native language, or spearheaded the restoration and reorganization of a church shattered by years of constant fighting?

…his Highnesse pursuing the example of his deare Father … hath by his Princely declarations vouchsafed a liberty to his subjects, concering lawfull sports to be used that day … prohibiting the same to all wilfull and negligent Recusants, that shall not resort to their owne Parish Churches to heare Divine Service before their going to the said recreations

Um… lawfull sports, eh? I mean, I guess … people like sports.

no rash oathes, nor temerous execrations breathe out of his sacred mouth…

It’s important not to breathe out any temerous execrations, all right, but is this really the equal of Alfred’s legendary learning and piety?

his highnesse in his commission directed to the then Lord Arch-Bishop, and others of his honorable Counsell, amongst many gratious directions is pleased to descend to the Stewards ofLeets and to charge them, what they shall give in charge in their turnes and half-yearley viewes of Franckpledge touching Forestallers, Regrators, and other the obvious and enormous offences of the Countrey.

Oh, well, now that changes th… wait, what?

No, the summary is clear: Robert Powell, you are a craven little ass-kisser, and for comparing your bitch-ass king with Alfred the fucking Great you ought to be laughed at in the marketplace like a clown.

Gonzo History Project Activity Corner

Use each of the following words or phrases in a sentence:

  • Recusant
  • Regrator
  • View of Franckpledge
  • Oblectations
Profiles in Toadying, Classic Edition: Robert Powell

One thought on “Profiles in Toadying, Classic Edition: Robert Powell

  1. Ev says:

    I must agree with your summary of Robert Powell’s ludicrous attempts to draw comparisons between Alfred and that lamest of all kings, the two-faced, double-dealing little prick Charles I. Beautifully put!

    My dad’s from Bolton, so there was little good said about Stuarts in general and Charles in particular in our household while I was growing up.

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