Virtual Event: Peter Andersson at York Festival of IdeasFool: In Search of Henry VIII's Closest Man

In some portraits of Henry VIII there appears another, striking figure - a gaunt and morose-looking man with a shaved head and, in one case, a monkey on his shoulder. This is William or “Will” Somer, the king’s fool, a celebrated wit who reportedly could raise Henry’s spirits and spent many hours with him, often alone. Was Somer an “artificial fool,” a cunning comic who could speak freely in front of the king, or a “natural fool,” someone with intellectual disabilities, like many other members of the profession? And what role did he play in the tumultuous and violent Tudor era?


Join historian Peter K. Andersson, author of Fool, as he explores the life of Somer. Unearthing as many facts as possible, Peter has pieced together the fullest picture yet of this enigmatic and unusual man. Somer’s story provides new insights into how fools lived and what exactly they did for a living, how monarchs and courtiers related to commoners and people with disabilities, and whether aspects of the Renaissance fool live on in the modern comedian.

This event will take place live on Zoom Webinar. You will receive a link to join a couple of days before the event and a reminder an hour before. During the event, you can ask questions via a Q&A function, but audience cameras and microphones will remain muted throughout.

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