History Jokes: Queen Elizabeth's Court Jester


Funny anecdotes and short stories are a great source of examples in public speeches. This website contains short funny stories, clean jokes and humorous legends of kings and queens, politicians, famous literary figures and artists from many books and sources. The styles of writers from different time periods was preserved - they often enhance the stories in an amusing way. Enjoy and have fun!

Queen Elizabeth's Court Jester 
In 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham introduced the celebrated Dick Tarleton to the Queen, and he soon became one of the most popular comedians in London and was appointed to the "high and honourable" office of Court jester to her Highness. Several robes were purchased for him in Paris, to appear before the Queen at dinner, dressed as a buffoon or jester. His duty on those occasions was to make the Queen " merrie." Fuller styles him a master of his faculty who, " when Elizabeth was serious and out of good humour, could undumpish her at his pleasure." When persons about Court had "small compliments" to seek, Tarleton acted as their usher to pave the way, and lined his pockets with silver and gold by this means. Notwithstanding, however, the liberal gratification of his rapacity, Dick was ever needy and always in debt. Fuller relates that "laughing Dick Tarleton " told the Queen " more of her faults than most of her chaplains ; and cured her melancholy better than all her physicians." " If the Queen admired Dick," observes the author of " Court Fools," " the latter felt great reverence for his mistress. He could compare her, he said, to nothing more fitly than a sculler ; for, he added, neither the Queen nor the sculler hath a fellow." Disraeli states that Tarleton possessed considerable power of extemporising satirical rhymes on the events of the day. Lord Burleigh and other courtiers, who secretly hated Leicester, instructed Tarleton to allude to that nobleman's Court favour, when making his satirical sallies upon the Queen. She, however, took it in good part, although sometimes mortified at the pertness of his observations.

Once, when the Queen dined at Lord Burleigh's, in the Strand. Tarleton accompanied her, and, when the noble host besought her Highness to remain for the night, she positively refused. An application was then made to Tarleton, with the promise of a large reward if he could induce the Queen to remain. " Procure me," said Tarleton, " the parsonage of Sherd." They immediately caused the patent to be drawn up. He then put on a parson's cap and gown, and loudly repeated these words as the Queen descended the stairs: "A parson or no parson? A parson or no parson?" When Elizabeth understood what he meant, she not only stayed all night, but remained a fortnight, and actually confirmed him in his possession of the benefice. "Never," says a writer upon those times, " was there a madder parson." He eventually turned the bell-metal, parsonage, and all into ready money.

On one occasion Lord Leicester met Tarleton at Greenwich Palace, upon which the former, with a vicious sneer, exclaimed:" Good morrow, my merry fool and knave." Tarleton replied:"Well, I can't bear both titles together. I will, however, take the first, and you are heartily welcome to the second." The anecdotes respecting Tarleton and the Queen are numerous ; but the majority are more traditional than authentic. Tarleton died in Shoreditch, of the plague, to the greatregret of the Queen and the citizens of London, who were wont to consider him as having stood for the world-renowned portrait of " Yorick." A genuine collection of Tarleton's jests were published in 1611, on which occasion the citizens of London proved that their old favourite was not forgotten, for they eagerly sought after the volume which contained his " merrie sayings."

From Domestic Life of Queen Elizabeth by S. Hubert

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