Kong has been my favorite King for a long time now; in fact, ever since I saw the original movie some twenty years ago at a special screening which included a live on-stage talk by Fay Wray. She was close on ninety at the time, but spry and feisty as ever. I particularly remember her describing how she got the part. “It was my scream that did it,” she confessed, “I couldn’t act for peanuts and had no special relationship with the director.” Well, we all have some special talent, usually undiscovered, and if you have it you should flaunt it.
Other kings tend to keep their hidden talents hidden. They may be quite nice people in private life – though many historians and courtiers would dispute that – but they are most often mediocre or worse in public. Some do get remembered as ‘the Great’ or ‘the Conqueror’, but they are outnumbered by those who receive derogatory names like ‘the Impaler’ or ‘the Unready’ or just ‘the Terrible’. Making a modest allowance for the bias towards flattery and relief when the worst failed to happen, I think it is fair to say that most kings would grade close to C-minus as private citizens.
But that is not their fault. Inbreeding has its unavoidable drawbacks. And absolute power does tend to bring out the worst in most anyone. Strip away the power and the magic of heredity [both of which are disputable in any case] and you end up with a creature more like the CEO of a corporation, or the General Secretary of a Party, or just a rich heiress with good connections. Perhaps nowadays those people are actually more powerful than hereditary monarchs. If so, the rest of us should be vigilant for signs of abuse of that power. Typical signs are nepotism, yes-men on Boards of corporations, or excessive media adulation. If those signs appear, the wise will cut potential rulers down to size, preferably by laughing them out of court. When the Emperor has no clothes, giggle at his gonads.
My second-favorite King is Stephen, but I dare not laugh at him lest he sets his monstrous characters upon me.
Copyright 2017 Flight of Eagles