Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great was a shy king
Who found it not much to his liking
__Making do with cornflakes
__‘Cos he’d burned all the cakes
While hiding his face from the Viking.


Sweyn Forkbeard

It is said that Sweyn Forkbeard
Would frequently walk weird.
__His lumbering limp
__Made him look like the wimp
The lusty old Bishop of York feared.


Æthelread the Unready

Æthelread the Unready
Often felt rather heady.
__Territorial gains
__From his war with the Danes
Left him moderately flushed and unsteady.


King Canute

King Canute entered into dispute
With his courtiers hot in pursuit.
__No matter, the tide
__Was to shatter their pride
And refute his omnipotent repute.



Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.

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18 Responses

    • Peter Hartley

      Ravi – Thank you for the comment. Either that heady mix or the poor vodka has a lot to answer for.

  1. Ravi Choks

    Nice ones Mr. Hartley.
    Would like to add some more spice to the heady mix.

    Bloody Mary

    Didn’t want to get blackened at fiery stake
       So chanted her name to keep me awake
             I saw fear in mirror’s eyes
             Now thousand piece it comprise
       Blame icy Russians for poor vodka make.

    • Peter Hartley

      Joe – Thank you for the kind comment, but I’m glad he wasn’t King William of Orange.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Peter, these limericks serve as a witty appetizer to whet palates for more since they assume readers know as much about these characters as you do! Not surprisingly, I didn’t know that Sweyn (Sven?) Forkbeard had a limp or, more important than that, I didn’t know who he was at all.

    As for Æthelread, besides having the coolest last name in history, wouldn’t it be great if a few parents gave that name to their child and insisted that it be spelled and formatted correctly? “This is my son, Æth.”

    You have also succeeded in enabling my dream of being better able to multi-task insofar as I am 1. reading your limericks, 2. scratching my head, and 3.
    laughing all at the same time. Thank you for that.

    • Peter Hartley

      James – I only make the assumption that Sweyn Forkbeard had a limp because he accidentally had both his kneecaps shot off in a motorcycle accident in 1013AD. As you probably know “unready” means poorly counselled or ill-advised. As to multi- tasking if I lie on my back I am able to breathe, sleep and snore all at the same time, oh! and juggle four bananas. Thank you for the kind comments.

  3. Paul Freeman

    Very nicely done, Peter. I, too, was unaware of Sweyn Forkbeard and the Bish.

    If I may:

    Though Alfred the Great ruled a nation,
    He caused one old hag consternation;
    For her cakes, which he watched,
    Got entirely botched
    On the stove in a mass conflagration.

    Thanks for the entertaining reads.

    • Peter Hartley

      Paul – Thank you for the kind comment and, particularly, for the incendiary poem.

      King Edward the Elder
      From the moment he beheld her
      Shared exactly the views
      Of his twenty-stone wife Eadgifu’s.

      King Æthelstan’s
      Unacceptably murderous plans
      Involved spearing Saint Cuthbert
      On the point of his halbert.

      • Paul Freeman

        Aha! So we’re going down the Clerihew route!

        The Briton, Queen Boudicca,
        The Roman centurions called a moody cur,
        to which, with a screech and a frown,
        she got in her chariot and mowed them all down.

  4. Peter Hartley

    Paul – you don’t know how pleased I am that you brought up the issue.

    King Edward the Martyr,
    His claim to the throne a non-starter,
    Only wanted a life without hassle
    But was sadly killed at Corfe Castle.

    King Edmund Ironside
    Was glorified countrywide,
    And was better known for his valour
    Than his thanatognomonic pallor.

    King Edward the Confessor’s
    Comedo expressers left his mirrors less reflective
    And consequently less effective.

    Hereward the Wake took umbrage
    At outcasts from Cambridge
    But associated more freely
    With exiles from Ely.

    • Paul A. Freeman

      Thank you for ‘thanatognomonic’!


      Ethel the Woke
      claimed she misspoke.
      She wanted headlights on bikes,
      not heads high on spikes.

      • Peter Hartley

        Paul – An immensely useful word it is, particularly since it has a silent G slap bang in the middle.

        Ethel the Woke at a stroke
        (Though folk spoke of her as a joke)
        Would forsake her beefcake
        And take Hereward the Wake
        Till a poke proved he wasn’t a bloke.

  5. Jeff Eardley

    Peter, “Forkbeard,” “walk weird” and “York feared” is so delightfully, breathtakingly bonkers. Thank you for a huge chuckle today.

    • Peter Hartley

      Jeff – Sweyn really was a king of England, the first Danish one, though he only lasted from 1013 to 1014 and his life was made a misery by all the revolting peasants. I can’t vouch for the limp though. Thank you for your splendid comment.

      • Jeff Eardley

        Peter, I have just noticed a range of gentleman’s shaving products under the brand name of “Sweyn Forkbeard” I wonder if if you give some as a gift on Christmas Day, to a revolting peasant, it will last just five weeks…a bit like Sweyn’s reign?

  6. Peter Hartley

    Jeff – Dedicating a range of gentlemen’s shaving products to Sweyn Forkbeard sounds a bit like honouring the name of Orwell’s Napoleon with a set of giant pig-castrating shears. Swine Forkbeard never shaved in his life, being far too busy with his revolting peasants.

    • Jeff Eardley

      Peter, just a word to say that Chieftains founder, Paddy Moloney, passed away today. He was an amazing bundle of energy. Best wishes to you and thanks for the smiles today.

      • Peter Hartley

        Jeff – Thank you for that information and it is sad to think he will no longer be around. To me he always looked old, but that is only because he was so much older than me, but his age was always belied by his incredible energy. A great loss to the world of Irish music and I particularly like the sound of instruments that, like the hurdy-gurdy and the Northumbrian and Highland pipes, always sound good on their own because they have their own drones.

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