Of That Which Happened To A King and His Favorite

October 13, 2016

Count Lucanor and Patronio

When Count Lucanor was once in confidential conversation with Patronio, his adviser, he said, “Patronio, a man of rank, much honored and of great influence, and who, you must know, is a particular friend of mine, a few days since informed me, in strict confidence, that, from circumstances which have occurred, he had determined upon leaving this country never to return; and, in testimony of the great regard which he has for me, he desires to leave me all his lands — those which he has purchased, as also those which he holds on tenure. It appears to be a great honor as well as very advantageous to me; yet I pray you to tell me what you think of it, and how I ought to act under such circumstances.”

“Count Lucanor,” said Patronio, “your own good sense needs but little of my advice; but, since you desire my opinion of the matter, let me caution you against being deceived. In the first place, I would say, that however much you may consider this man as your friend, I am of opinion his object is to deceive you; indeed, your position calls to my mind that which, under similar circumstances, happened to a king and his favorite.”

Count Lucanor desired to be informed what that was; and Patronio related it as follows: —

“There was a king, who had a favorite in whom he had great confidence, which excited the jealousy of those around, so that they sought every opportunity to speak evil of him to the king, his lord. Nevertheless, with all their statements, the king could not be induced to suspect or doubt his loyalty. Seeing that they were in no way able to accomplish what they desired, they informed the king that his favorite was plotting to bring about his death, and as to a young son that the king had, as soon as he had him in his power, he intended to destroy him, and so possess himself of the kingdom.

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“It was not until the king heard this that he entertained any doubt as to the loyalty of his favorite, but now he was sorely grieved, and was not without fear; for in such cases, where there is so much to lose and so much to be gained, no prudent man can hope to act rightly without proof; and therefore the king remained overwhelmed with doubt and suspicion and in great fear, not knowing how to act until he really knew the truth, for he knew there were those who sought evil against his favorite.

“The courtiers, seeing the king’s anxiety, came to him and informed him of an ingenious method, by which he would be enabled to prove the truth of what they had asserted.

“After hearing them, the king thought well of their suggestions, and acted upon them. Some few days after, the king, conversing with his favorite, gave him to understand by degrees that he was much disgusted with the life of this world, in which all appeared as vanity; saying no more to him on this occasion. At the end of some days, while talking again with him, he remarked, as if by accident, that each day made him more dislike the life and manners of the world, and so often repeated the same thing until at last the favorite was impressed with the conviction that the king really had no enjoyment in the honors, or riches, or pleasures of this world. And when the king saw that he was fully impressed with this feeling, he said to him, one day, ‘I have been reflecting upon the subject which occupies my thoughts, and have come to the determination to resign my kingdom, and retire into a distant country, where I am not known and where I can enjoy the pleasure of retirement and peace, and where I can do penance for my sins, and so obtain the mercy and grace of God, fitting me for the glory of Paradise.’

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“When the favorite heard these words of the king, he was much astonished, and used every argument to divert him from his intentions; and, among others, how unjustly he would be acting towards God, in leaving his people, amongst whom now there was peace and justice; for it was quite certain that as soon as he had departed the country would be torn by revolutions and contentions, doing great injury to the cause of God, and to the kingdom, and, above all, said he, ‘you cannot with justice leave the queen and your son, who is still so young, exposed (as they certainly will be) to so much danger, both as regards their persons and their estates.’

“To this the king replied, ‘I have well considered in my mind how best I shall be able to leave my kingdom well protected, as also my wife and son, and maintain order in the land. You know that I have raised you to your present position, and have rendered you great service. In return, I have ever found you loyal; you have always served me well and with rectitude. For these reasons, I feel assured I can leave the queen and my son with you in greater safety than with any other man in the world. I therefore consign them to your care, with all the fortresses and provinces of my kingdom, convinced that no harm can come to them, or treachery to my son; and if I should ever return, I feel certain of finding safe all I have left in your charge; and if, perchance, I should die, I have equal confidence that you will guard and protect my son until the time comes when he is able to govern the kingdom. It is for these reasons that I feel I can leave well protected all that I possess.’

“When the counsellor found that it was impossible to divert the king from his intentions, and heard that the queen and her son were to be left in his charge, he could not conceal the gratification he felt in having full power to act as he pleased.

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Now he had in his house a captive, who was a very wise man and a philosopher, and whom he was accustomed to consult in all important matters. As soon, therefore, as he parted from the king, he sought his captive and recounted to him what the king had said, and how gratified he felt in the good fortune of having the queen, and her son, and all the kingdom placed under his entire control.

“When the captive philosopher heard all that had passed between his lord and the king, he blamed him very much for accepting the king’s proposals, saying that he felt certain he had placed himself and his possessions in great danger, ‘for, whatever the king may have said, it is not his intention to do so; his only object is to verify the suspicions which your enemies have impressed on his mind; and by letting him see that you are pleased by his proposal, you have placed yourself in great danger.’

“When the counsellor of the king heard this explanation he was in great trouble, for he now saw clearly that everything was as his captive had said. And when the wise man whom he kept in his house saw him in such great distress, he counselled him in what manner he might escape from the danger in which he was placed, and this was the way. He was that night to shave off his hair and beard and clothe himself in an old and patched garment, such as is worn by wandering beggars, and with a staff and a pair of old broken shoes well ironed and gaping open, and to put between the lining of his clothes a quantity of gold pieces. In this way, at the break of day, he appeared at the gate of the king, and desired the porter who was there to inform the king secretly that he was prepared to depart with him, before the people were awake. The porter was astonished to see him come in that style to have an interview with the king, but did as he desired.

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“The king marveled much at this message, and desired his favorite to enter. When he saw him he was astonished, and requested to be informed why he presented himself in that style of dress.

“The counsellor replied that, knowing his determination to travel into a foreign country, and that he so desired it that no persuasion could alter his resolution; and, as all the honor and wealth which he possessed were derived from the king, and seeing the misery and expatriation he had determined to undergo, even to the leaving of his queen, his son, and his kingdom, he had resolved to travel with him, and to serve him with an unceasing fidelity. He had assumed the dress in which he presented himself in order that they might travel unknown, and having placed gold enough in his vest to serve both their lives, he ventured to suggest that they should immediately depart, before their intentions could be known.

“When the king heard what his favorite had said, believing in his true loyalty, he expressed himself much pleased, and related the manner in which he had been deceived, and that what he had said was but to prove his sincerity. And the counsellor thanked God that he had taken the advice of his philosopher whom he held as a captive in his house.

“And you, Count Lucanor, must take care not to be deceived by this offer of your friend, for certain it is that he only makes it to test your feelings, as to your desiring to possess yourself of his honor and possessions. Assure him, to the contrary, that you desire neither the one nor the other; for without confidence, friendship cannot continue long.”

And the Count thought well of the advice which Patronio gave, and, following it, found the end beneficial.

And Don Juan, considering this example to be very good, caused it to be written in this book, and composed these lines: —

Do not believe that a man will descend
To dishonor himself for the good of a friend.

And these others which say: —

By the pity of God, and a good counsel in need,
A man shall from danger escape, and succeed.

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NOTE.

In this example, the moralist and courtier, Don Manuel, gives us two distinct lessons, the principal of which is addressed to court favorites, and, we suspect, the fruit of his own experience, he having passed the greater part of his life in constant trouble and anxiety, caused by the perfidy of Alfonso XI, who was continually laying snares for him, though, being more enlightened than his master, he knew how to evade them. In 129many Indian and Arabian tales we find examples of the constant struggle going on between kings and favorites. In those states where despotism reigned, ambition was always urging men to dangerous stratagems; the art exemplified in such cannot astonish us more than the multiplicity of plots arising from the natural distrust of the Asiatic character.

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Prince Don Juan Manuel, Count Lucanor: of the Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio, trans. James York (London: Gibbings & Company, Limited, 1899).

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 546

 

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