King Henry VIII.
By the year 1536 the state of relations between the Roman Catholic
Church and King Henry VIII Tudor of England had reached a head. In
those days Rome was not only a spiritual power but a princely power
as well, and exercised control over a good number of nation states,
including England. Vatican orthodoxy ruled. And the recent beginning
of the Protestant Reformation had caused the Church to tighten its
Things came to a head over the important issue of Vatican-approved
vegetables. There were vegetables that were considered "orthodox" and
which were permitted on the dinner table and those that were not.
Vegetables that were not of the orthodox variety were still available,
but had to be grown in secret.
According to accounts King Henry was having dinner one night with a
group of friends including Thomas Wolsey, then Archbishop of Canterbury.
At one point a drunken Henry, disliking the approved orthodox Roma
tomatoes that had been served, rose up out of his chair and cried "I'm
the bloody King of England! I can eat any type of tomatoes I want!"
Henry's outburst was followed by his instructions to Wosley to issue a
proclamation that non-Roma tomatoes were to be considered acceptable in
England. Pope Clement VII, hearing of this, promptly excommunicated both
Henry and Wosely claiming that the right to judge tomatoes could only be
given by the Roman Church. Hearing of the excommunication, Henry objected;
upon which he was excommunicated a second time. "I don't care!" Henry
said of this. Upon which he was excommunicated a third time.
A great schism had begun. In 1536 Henry issued the "Act of Six Vegetables."
In this Henry proclaimed that other "good, English-grown vegetables — not
only tomatoes but squash, lettuce, onions, and potatoes" were orthodox and
asserted that only he had the right in his own land to approve any vegetable.
One by one the other vegetables were championed by the court and so called
"Roman vegetables" were persecuted. Between 1536 and 1542 six pumpkins
were taken to the Tower of London, axed, and made into pies. Rather spurious
sources claim that Henry gloated while eating the pies.
The matter unfortunately did not end with Henry's death. His daughter and
eventual heir, Queen Mary, was a lover of Vatican vegetables and for a while
demanded their consumption throughout all of England. Her successor, Elizabeth I,
took up with her father Henry's position in favor of English vegetables.
English tomatoes are still grown in the gardens
of many Protestant churches.