Eric the Depressor (1005 – 1042)

Back in the days when Edward the Confessor was governing what was England, few people knew that he had a bastard half-brother. Eric the Depressor was born to a lowly servant girl who just happened to be one of King Ethelred the Unready’s favourites. At an early age his mother, Beatrice, told him of his heritage and warned him to be careful in life so as not to offend the noble classes. He had a robust upbringing in rural England near Rochester. It was here that he developed a manure-coated view of the world fuelled by the knowledge that he wasn’t going to get the benefits that his brother would.

When asked how he was, he would often respond with, ‘Mustn’t grumble, but…’ and then list all of his ailments, both real and imagined. He was often heard to comment, ‘Mark my words, things can only get worse’ and ‘Nothing good will come of this’ when commenting on current events. And when the time came for maintenance of the village farm tools he would court disaster by commenting that, ‘If it isn’t broke, it soon will be.’ On the brightest of summer’s days he would invariably find an opportunity to say, ‘Looks like it’s going to rain to me’ or ‘There’s bound to a plague this summer – I can feel it in my water.’

If there had been a couple of years without war, there was bound to be one just around the corner; if the summer had been good, there was bound to be a harsh winter on the way; and if there had been a bumper harvest, there would surely be an infestation of rats that would eat the stockpiles. He was undoubtedly one of the most pessimistic people that have ever lived, if not the most pessimistic. People took to the bottle at the first sight of Eric as this was commonly thought to be the best of dealing with his conversation.

Edward the Confessor eventually became King when his predecessor, Hardicanute, died after a drinking party – allegedly caused when Eric was asked directions by a group of passing nobles including the King. Edward immediately seized on the opportunity to imprison his half-brother on the grounds that he was a threat to the stability of the country and may have caused Hardicanute’s death. As he was being led to his cell, he commented to his Edward, ‘You’d better watch those Norman buggers you’re trading with, mate. From what I’ve heard they’ll soon be over here looking for kingdom to conquer.’ Unfortunately for everybody, nobody took him seriously. Edward’s mother, Emma, was a Norman and everybody thought they were friends!

After five years of incarceration most people thought that Eric would be running out of things to be miserable about, but they were wrong. From early on he was complaining about the poor quality of workmanship in his cell, and for once he was right when a wall and the stone ceiling gave way and severely depressed him for the last time. On the day he died, his last words to the prison guard were:

‘That bloody sun is shining through the window too early in the morning. Did I tell you that the crops will fail this year, there’s bound to a pestilence of some sort, and I reckon the end of the world is nigh…but mustn’t grumble eh!’

The guard admitted that if the wall had not fallen on Eric, it was most likely that he would have been in significant danger of being executed, just to stop the severe onset of depression sweeping the prison.

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon). Real name Peter Tapsell...just started off writing under a pseudonym and kept going.

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