‘Alas, I now repent me sore that I ever suffered you to go away, I care for match nor nothing, so I may once have you in my arms again; God grant it! God grant it! Amen, amen, amen ... God bless you both, my only sweet son and my only best sweet servant and God send you a happy and joyful meeting in the arms of your dear old dad.’
Now who the hell, wrote that? Not me for sure. Nor have I ever exclaimed: ‘God's wounds, I will pull down my breeches and they shall also see my arse,’ though I have many times felt inclined to do so. And, on one memorable occasion, Jarvis Cocker did.
No, the guy responsible for both these remarks was our own dear, sweet dad, James 1st of England and 6th of Scotland.
The second remark is both funny and crude, especially coming from the mouth of a king. The first is just downright weird. As paternal letters go it makes Victorian sentimentality acerbic in comparison. James is not just wearing his heart on his sleeve; he’s embroidered it with jewels and flashing neon lights. The weirdness is that his love for his son, the ill-fated Charles 1st, is fused with his more carnal love for his ‘best sweet servant’ the Duke of Buckingham.
I’ve never had that problem. The Duke of Buckingham leaves me cold. But could I ever write a letter like that to my own children? My ‘sweet son’ would shudder being in the arms of his ‘dear old dad’. My daughter hugs me regularly.
My own father wrote me a brilliant letter shortly after I was born. He was at sea. It’s a strong letter, wistful, loving, hoping for great things. And yes, I think there is a case for fathers to write at least one letter to their daughter or son. It’s something treasured and never forgotten.
I’ve not done it yet. My father was wise, writing his shortly after I was born. The later you leave it the harder it becomes – a bit like writing a Will. You don’t want to think about death and posterity.