Sovereign Service

- Sovereignty over us, Propriety in us, and the Zeal he hath to his own worship -

Ted the farmhand receives an invitation to the Palace: The King desires to meet with his subjects. There is a prescribed list of regulations that subjects are obliged to follow, when addressing the royal, as showing due deference to one who guards, keeps and nurtures his people well. Ted visits his neighbour, William, and ask what it was like when he went to the Palace. William tells of the goodness of the King and how he spoke to him, William! 

Ted begins to look forward to going to the Palace and finally the big day arrives. On arrival he is handed a list of the regulations to obey when meeting the King, but Ted the farmhand gives it back to the courtier.

“Can you not read?” asks the courtier.

“Oh, yes. I read well,” replies Ted. “But I don’t need to read any regulations. You see, my friend William visited here the other month and said about how good the King was, and how he spoke civil to him and treated him nice.” The courtier looked long at Ted and offered the regulations once more.

“I told you,” insisted Ted, “they’re not important.” And Ted strode into the main hall, at the far end of which stood a grand throne. 

The King was more regal and beautiful than Ted had imagined. He watched as a little girl stood silent, almost trembling. When her name was called she approached the throne with caution and curtsied low and long. She did not look into the eyes of the King until he lifted her face to his. The child seemed to melt in his smile of approbation and although her knees still shook, there was a glow of joy on her face as she stepped backwards, away from the throne.

Ted’s name was called next. He had imagined this moment so many times and he almost ran across to the throne. He looked the King square in the eye, put out his hand to shake and said, “Morning, your majesty. Nice to meet you!” The King did not shake Ted’s hand, nor did he smile. “Ted the farmhand - why do you not do me the honour that is required? Have you no fear of my power that you do not show deference? Do you not respect my person that you give me no bow? Would you look at me as at an equal?” Ted was a little surprised by this but stood casually, with one hand scratching his back pocket while he thought before answering. 

“You see, William, me mate, he came here. And he said how kind you was to him. So, you being so kind and good and all, I didn’t think you’d care much about formality.” As Ted finished he winked at the King. 

The King sat very still. Ted began to feel a bit awkward, just standing there. He wondered why there wasn’t a chair nearby - he thought they might have anticipated that.

At last the King said, “You knew of my goodness and my condescension, but rather than obeying my commands out of gratitude and love, you choose to mock me in my own court.”

Ted was confused. A courtier gestured to him that it was time to leave and Ted slouched away, turning his back on the King.

That evening, William came round to see Ted and find out how the meeting had gone. Ted said he was disappointed. After a long silence, Ted asked, “William, did you read the regulations?”

“Sure!” answered William.

“Just out of interest - what did they say?” asked Ted.

William eyed his friend carefully. “They instructed visitors on how to address the King and how to present themselves before him.” Ted still looked confused and cried, “But why must things be done a certain way?” William smiled at the memory of his own meeting with the King and answered in a far away voice, “That is what the King would have made plain to you, if you had obeyed his commands.”

Written in 2008.