GORDON BROWN is in schtuck over the naughty rumours spread by one of his spin doctors and deservedly so, but New Labour dirty tricks are nothing compared to what it was like in the corridors of power 500 years back.

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Those Tudor corridors must have had constant traffic jams. At Hampton Court, Henry VIIIth had 1,000 hangers on. Given that England’s population in the early 16th century was about 2 million, in today’s money that would be like having 30,000 back-biters around your house, most of them spreading dirt about the other guy in order to get ahead.

They might not have had email in those days, but Hampton Court had an even faster method of communication, a huge communal toilet – the Great House of Easement – where dozens of people could go at the same time, to spread all kinds of muck.

In that poisonous atmosphere, it’s no surprise Henry became paranoid about what his wives were up to. You almost have to give the man credit for stopping at just the six marriages. If I was Sarah Brown, I’d be getting in the food-tasters pronto.