Fatal fun

Sir Thomas More warns of the dangers of having ‘fun’ with the king.  More had enough wit and humour to have been himself occasionally likened to a jester, and had his own jester at home. 

You often boast to me that you have the king’s ear and often have fun with him, freely and according to your whims.  This is like having fun with tamed lions – often it is harmless, but just as often there is fear of harm. Often he roars in rage for no known reason, and suddenly the fun becomes fatal.

A prescient comment given he later lost his life to the rage of the lion.  See a similar stark warning in the Persian classic, the 13th century Rose Garden of Sa’di.

Source: Thomas More (1478-1535), quoted in In the Lion’s Court: Power, Ambition and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII, Derek Wilson (London: Pimlico, 2002 [2001]), frontispiece. 

Image credit: ‘Portrait of Thomas More’ (1527), Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497-1543), oil on panel; The Frick Collection, Henry Clay Frick Bequest


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