The Ordinary King

In a far-off land, there lived young prince. He was very forward thinking in his views, having read much and mixed much among the common people, whom he loved dearly. He swore that, when he became king, he would make their welfare and their happiness his first priority.

In the meantime, he thought less and less of the nobles and courtiers he had to spend his days with, thinking them haughty, arrogant, and vain. He came to despise the pomp and show of court, and even to think less of his own father, the king. Again, he swore that when he became king he would put a stop to all that nonsense, or at least reign it in a good deal. As is the way of things, the more time went on and the more he thought on these things, the more radical he became in his views.

In due course, the old king died, and the prince ascended the throne. The very first thing he did was to reduce his coronation from a fine, expensive spectacle at the cathedral to a quiet ceremony in the palace chapel. In his first address to the people, he assured them that the days of autocratic, exploitative rule was over: “For I am but a man; a common, ordinary man like any other, and I shall act like it.”

He was as good as his word, riding a common horse, wearing common clothes, and eschewing his retinue. The money that would have been spent on all this went to doing good among the poor and destitute. And though the nobles grumbled, the king was happy and well-loved by the people.

One day, while the king was on his daily ride, he came across two men quarreling. Stopping his horse, he inquired as to the issue. He learned that they were brothers, and the elder had denied their father’s dying wishes and disinherited his brother, who had a young wife and child.

“This is intolerable!” said the king. “I order you sir, to render your brother his due inheritance.”

The hard-bitten farmer leaned back and fixed his eyes on the king.

“You order me, do ye?” he said. “Ye go about ridin’ an ordinary horse, with not but a common man’s clothes on yer back. You even announced at yer coronation that ye were naught but an ordinary man. Well, I don’t give a straw for what an ordinary man tells me to do.”

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