King Henry VIII and gambling

Members of the royal family have always been spotlighted. It`s no wonder, it is only natural and it has been so for a couple of centuries now. Only the reasons might have changed but the fact itself that somebody belongs to the environment of His or Her Majesty is more than enough to be in the centre of attention. Nowadays, the arrival of the Royal Baby keeps the citizens aroused, and previously the wedding of the new parents or tragic events like the death of the princess of Wales, scandals, adulteries guaranteed front-page-presence in newspapers and magazines.

Although techniques, habits, life and the whole atmosphere are constantly changing, kings, queens, princes and princesses have never had any opportunities to hide from the public eye. One of the most famous kings of England, Henry VIII is renowned not only for having had eight wives, founding the Church of England and establishing the Kingdom of Ireland but also for being obsessed with gambling.

The nation’s number one gambler, as he was referred to, was fond of dice, cards and a version of backgammon called “tables”. Similarly to the situation in ancient Rome, English people were gambling quite often in the 16th century. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, a betting rampant swept throughout London, called “Bragg”, a three-card game that was a kind of pioneer of poker. The most popular games that kept the citizens busy and (most of the times) empty pocketed, was betting queek (a checkers-type game) and Fox&Geese (a pursuit game). The King himself took part in events where betting and gambling were the most important activities and he was not always as lucky at gambling as he was in other areas of life. Over a single two-year period he is said to have lost £3,250 playing cards but the most surprising (and let us confess: the most outrageous) allegation is that King Henry VIII lost the Jesus bells of old St Paul’s church on a single throw of dice. Henry did not attribute any extra value to bells he considered them only a piece of metal that could be melted and sold or staked at dice. The courtier Sir Miles Partridge was the lucky one to come to the possession of the famous bell but he could not be happy with his new property since he was convicted of treason and hanged on Tower Hill

The resolution of the mystery why emperors and kings are so fond of gambling still remains to be found out but it’s for sure that being rich is not the only factor that facilitates wagering. How about the present queen, Elizabeth II? It is obvious that she does not go to casinos and does not risk losing any bells of any English churches but it is rumoured that she does not keep playing cards aloof and a deck of cards is always hiding in her unique handbags. Is it true or not? Just another mystery to reveal and it remains as iffy as the existence of the Loch Ness monster, we bet.

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