AIR TO THE THRONE
King and queens have long employed court jesters to keep themselves entertained. Henry VIII had court favourite Will Sommers. His daughter Mary Tudor had a shaven-headed female jester known as Jane the Fool. And even King Arthur had the foresight to appoint his jester Sir Dagonet as one of the knights of his Round Table.
The court jester of Henry II, meanwhile, was Roland the Farter.
“The one who smelt it, dealt it”:
Henry II explains the rules to Thomas a Beckett. (Wikipedia)
Henry was king of England in the mid twelfth century, so perhaps understandably the precise details of Roland’s life and service are patchy at best. But it seems likely that he was originally Henry’s father Henry I’s court jester before continuing his employment with his son when he came to the throne in 1154.
Other than that, all the history books record is that Roland was awarded for his, er, talents with a prize of 30 acres of land outside the village of Hemingstone in Suffolk.
And that’s the truth. Unless you think something doesn’t quite smell right...