In the annals of English history, no other man had as colorful a life as my distant ancestor William “Bill” Tryer, who was the Royal Food Taster to King Henry VIII.
The job of Royal Food Taster contained many perks, including free food and attendance at the best royal parties. Of course, Bill had to stand behind the king throughout every meal and every banquet, standing up straight and pretending he wasn’t there. All of that put a damper on the fun, not to mention callouses and fallen arches on his feet.
Bill invented a shoe that cushioned his callouses and supported his fallen arches. That would have made him the father of orthopedic footwear, but Bill refused to share his custom-made shoe design with anyone, and his secret went to his grave with him. He was that kind of a jerk.
Bill’s chosen occupation put him in mortal danger. A lot of people didn’t like Henry VIII, including most of England’s Catholics. Henry didn’t like the Catholics, either, and he had a bad habit of hunting and killing them, along with a couple of his wives and anyone else who got him mad enough. Getting rid of Catholics was very profitable for Henry because he figured that once they were dead, they wouldn’t need their property anymore, and he might as well not let it go to waste.
This era was known as the Renaissance or the Age of Poison. As you can guess, a lot of people dreamed of slipping a little belladonna into Henry’s entree. Bill, who had to taste the first bite of whatever the king was eating, was first in line to get the poison.
Fortunately for Bill, Henry VIII died of natural causes before anyone could poison him. Bill died much later, during the reign of Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth I. Bill didn’t die of poison, however.
He died because his shoes were cutting off the circulation to his feet.