For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s about about a man who has the chance to see what life for those he loves would be like if he hadn’t been born. And it ain’t pretty. His wife, notably, is a dried up (young) spinster, and works at, you guessed it, the library. (We’re told, “She’s an old maid. She never married,” since, apparently, “old maid” did not adequately convey just how unmarried his wife would have been without him.) But I digress.
Watching Wonderful Life again got me thinking. As a lover of history, the 15th and 16th centuries in particular, what if, Henry VIII only had one wife? What if he had never batted his eyes back at The Boleyn Girl. What difference would that have made in the world?
Many scoff at all the attention Prince William and his queen-consort-to-be have swirling about her swelling belly. And no, the fate of western civilization does not rest on Kate Middleton’s womb. But once it would have. Once upon a time people’s lives were at stake, changed by the whims of an ornery and horny king. This seems ridiculous to us now, so much so that the British have officially changed the succession rules so that the eldest child, regardless of gender, becomes the ruling monarch. If Kate and William have a bouncing baby girl, she won’t have to take up arms against her Uncle Harry – or in this day and age, a tabloid smear campaign. But back then…back then, the fate of not just England, but Europe (and eventual the whole West) swayed in the balance of one king’s “y” carrying sperm. Or lack thereof.
In the weeks to come, I’ll tell you a bit more about the historical and other influences of Heirs & Spares, but for now, I invite you to join me in wondering, what if…