Pitiful and pitied by no one, why have I come to the ignominy of this detestable old age, who was ruler of two kingdoms, mother of two kings? My guts are torn from me, my family is carried off and removed from me. The young king [crown prince Henry, ? 1183] and the count of Britanny [prince Geoffrey, ? 1186] sleep in dust, and their most unhappy mother is compelled to be irremediably tormented by the memory of the dead. Two sons remain to my solace, who today survive to punish me, miserable and condemned. King Richard [the Lionheart] is held in chains [in captivity with Emperor Henry VI of Germany]. His brother, John, depletes his kingdom with iron [the sword] and lays it waste with fire. In all things the Lord has turned cruel to me and attacked me with the harshness of his hand. Truly his wrath battles against me: my sons fight amongst themselves, if it is a fight where where one is restrained in chains, the other, adding sorrow to sorrow, undertakes to usurp the kingdom of the exile by cruel tyranny. Good Jesus, who will grant that you protect me in hell and hide me until your fury passes, until the arrows which are in me cease, by which my whole spirit is sucked out?
This light of history is pitiless; it has a strange and divine quality that, luminous as it is, and precisely because it is luminous, often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; out of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one attacks and punishes the other, the darkness of the despot struggles with the splendor of the captain. Hence a truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon violated diminishes Alexander; Rome enslaved diminishes Caesar; massacred Jerusalem diminishes Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. Woe to the man who leaves behind a shadow that bears his form.
This is what you get when you found a political system on the family values of Henry VIII. At a point in the not-too-remote future, the stout heart of Queen Elizabeth II will cease to beat. At that precise moment, her firstborn son will become head of state, head of the armed forces, and head of the Church of England. In strict constitutional terms, this ought not to matter much. The English monarchy, as has been said, reigns but does not rule. From the aesthetic point of view it will matter a bit, because the prospect of a morose bat-eared and chinless man, prematurely aged, and with the most abysmal taste in royal consorts, is a distinctly lowering one.
Power loves not the light of day, nor the attention of curious eyes. In darkness it thrives most...A lord may send his army hither and thither, but the true testing of his power is in those places where his army is not...Has he sent its long fingers far enough through the backstreets and alleys, into the drinking dens and the lending-houses, so that he may gather them unto himself and hold them firm without a single swordsman?
What infinite heart's-easeMust kings neglect, that private men enjoy!And what have kings, that privates have not too,Save ceremony, save general ceremony?And what art thou, thou idle ceremony?What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st moreOf mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?What are thy rents? what are thy comings in?O ceremony, show me but thy worth!What is thy soul of adoration?Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,Creating awe and fear in other men?Wherein thou art less happy being fear'dThan they in fearing.What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!Think'st thou the fiery fever will go outWith titles blown from adulation?Will it give place to flexure and low bending?Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;I am a king that find thee, and I know'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,The farced title running 'fore the king,The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pompThat beats upon the high shore of this world,No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,Not all these, laid in bed majestical,Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,Who with a body fill'd and vacant mindGets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,But, like a lackey, from the rise to setSweats in the eye of Phoebus and all nightSleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,And follows so the ever-running year,With profitable labour, to his grave:And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.The slave, a member of the country's peace,Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wotsWhat watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,Whose hours the peasant best advantages.
There is a darkness in you. In all of us, probably. Beasts we keep chained. Ordinary men have to keep the chains strong, for if we let the beast loose then society will turn upon us with fiery vengeance. Kings though...well, who is there to turn upon them? So the chains are made of straw. It is the curse of kings, Helikaon, that they can become monsters. And they invariably do.
Thieves are not so bad, and killing wears all possible costumes. There is no death, no murder that is better than any other. If you can kill me, the manner hardly bears consideration. You want to kill your own father, and you think it will make your sleep easier for the next seventy years if you can say you did it honorably. But your honor is blackened by patricide, and no amount of high-sounding formalities will make it white again.