By George Brown
You remember the Little Rascals – Spanky, Buckwheat, Darla, Alfalfa, and the rest of the gang. I had the good fortune of growing up as one of six little rascals. Our team of little rascals included Tommy, Kathy, and Georgie, and our three cousins, Louie, Clovie, and Timmy.
Of course I was Georgie – a name I came to dislike when I reached school age and the other kids chased me around the playground chanting, “Georgie Porgie puddin’ and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.”
I later discovered that kissing the girls was not a bad thing even if it did sometimes make them cry.
Even later I learned that George was a name of nobility in my ancestral homeland, and that one scholar (no doubt a very wise one) had actually identified the first George ever to be called, “Georgie Porgie.”
This little known but significantly historical event (at least to those of us named George) occurred around the year 1610, and the George in question was not a commoner but a George of great nobility, being none other than George Villiers (Vil-arz), 1st Duke of Buckingham.
After reading of an account of his life, I’m certain the first reciting of the now infamous Georgie Porgie rhyme was prompted more by jealous envy than by mockery because George, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, was reputed to have been “the handsomest bodied man in all of England.” This good fortune no doubt afforded him many opportunities to “kiss the girls,” inspiring, I suspect, not tears of repulsion or regret but of exalted joy and hoped for romance.
The 1st Duke of Buckingham’s prowess with the ladies was brilliantly described by Alexandre Demas in his novel about The Three Musketeers. Although not one of the famous three, the 1st Duke of Buckingham was presumed to be a member of the Guard, and thus it was that Demas included a fascinating chapter about the Duke’s passionate encounter with Anne of Austria – Queen of France.
Sadly, the 1st Duke of Buckingham’s life came to an untimely end at the hand of an enraged assassin while still in the prime of his masculinity.
He was only 35. Apparently uncertain about how best to honor his memory, the epitaph inscribed upon his lavish tomb in Westminster Abbey sums up his life with these simple words – “The Enigma of the World.”
While drafting this column I suggested to Yvonne that I might like to be called George Brown, 1st Duke of Monterey (the town closest to our home). Her reply was short and to the point, “You’re no Duke, but I may use that epitaph.”
Of equal notoriety in his day but for different reasons than the 1st Duke of Buckingham, is the George whose birthday we celebrate this week – George Raymond Washington. Well, actually, the Washington family bible does not indicate that Washington’s parents gave him a middle name, but had they done so I’m sure it would have been Raymond, which comes from the Gothic words counsel and protect. Raymond would indeed have been a fitting middle name for our first President. (Note: the fact that my middle name is Raymond is purely coincidental.)
There is no account of George Washington ever being called Georgie Porgie, and unlike the 1st Duke of Buckingham, George Washington was never referred to as “the handsomest bodied man in all of America.”
Perhaps this was because of that stern expression resulting from his wooden teeth – correction – actually they were crafted from pieces of animal bone and the extracted teeth of slaves.
Nor was George Washington known as a ladies’ man. I suspect this is because he was too busy fighting the descendants of the 1st Duke of Buckingham and then fighting the members of Congress as our first President to be a philandering husband (a virtue cast aside by more than a few of his successors.)
George Washington did share one vice with the 1st Duke of Buckingham, this being a love of good wine, rum, and whiskey. (I have my opinion but shall leave it to the reader to decide whether the love of wine, rum, and whiskey is a vice). Washington was renowned as a distiller of fine whiskey and even tried his hand at growing marijuana, though there is no record that he ever tried to smoke it, let alone inhale it – and I cannot tell a lie, neither did I.
Two important decisions made by George Washington confirm beyond doubt that he was a man of great wisdom and character.
First, when colleagues proposed titles such as King, Your Excellency, and Your Royal Highness, Washington soundly rejected them all, preferring the simple title, Mr. President.
Then, after nobly serving two terms in this capacity he stepped aside and retired to the tranquility of Mount Vernon, presumably preferring the brewing and sipping of whiskey as more pleasurable than serving a third term as President.
Hearing of this decision another George, King George III, is said to have described Washington as, “the greatest character of the age.”
This nobility of character displayed by George Washington brings to mind yet another George I greatly admire, George Washington Carver.
Try as you might, it is unlikely you will ever find a single reference suggesting that Carver possessed a vice of any kind. Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of products he created from peanuts and sweet potatoes, there is no mention of peanut whiskey or sweet potato wine; and it seems that Carver loved cultivating peanuts and other vegetables far more than the cultivation of female relationships.
In contrast to 1st Duke of Buckingham’s “Enigma of the World” epitaph, the words on George Washington Carver’s grave stone declare, ‘He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”
I didn’t ask Yvonne if she might consider this epitaph for me.
Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to share a story about six little rascals, but I digress. Oh well, I’ll save that story for next week.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township near the Village of Monterey.