I read these from The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy:
1. "The fact is, he needed her to strengthen his social position. Her family was rich and powerful, and then there was that Alfred the Great routine."
What does "Alfred the Great routine" mean?
Who is Cuppy talking about in this extract?
2. "Henry VIII had so many wives because his dynastic sense was very strong whenever he saw a maid of honor."
What does "dynastic sense" mean? In this context, that he could not resist the idea of sleeping with the girl. He was desperate for a son.
3. "Anne of Cleves had been much admired in the Low Countries, but in England she just wouldn't do. The way she got herself up, they thought she was playing charades."
Does "got herself up" mean "dressed herself up"? I don't understand what dressing-up has to do with playing charades. To the English eye, her costume was old-fashioned, ugly and out of date.
4. "When Queen Elizabeth first met Essex, she was fifty-three and he was nineteen. He felt he wasn't getting any younger."
I mean...Of course he wasn't getting any younger. Why would the author especially say so? To make a point about the differential in age, particularly since Essex was a desirable catch for a young woman but if he was tied to the ageing queen, no-one would look at him. On the other hand, Elizabeth was definitely feeling her age.