In 1685, King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes with the Edict of Fontainebleau. The Edict of Nantes provided certain religious and economic freedoms to the Huguenots, French protestants. With the revocation, Louis came down hard on Huguenots, demanding they recant their religion and convert to Catholicism, or else. The or else included loss of property, imprisonment for males, seclusion in convents for the women, torture and a variety of types of execution, including beheading and burning at the stake.
Numbers are debatable, but between 200,000 and 250,000 Huguenots fled France, many crossing the Atlantic to resettle in America. Charles Towne in now South Carolina was one of those destinations. Those who left represented about one percent of the population of France.
Two similarities strike me from that day and age to the present: the “ramrodding” of power by Louis, and the Huguenot diaspora, which included some of the most intelligent and creative French of the day.
A friend, considering (however seriously) leaving the US for places less antagonistic, got me to thinking. The poem below is the result of that cogitation (I apologize in advance for its poor literary quality):
The Lonely King
by Yours Truly
There was once a king
Who sat on his throne
Surveying his great and vast kingdom.
From the East to the West
To the ends of the earth
His realm could be equaled by none.
“Jester!” said he
To a motley-dressed clown
“Bring my fiddlers — I’m bored and want sound!”
But the clown,
With a frown, said
“Your fiddlers aren’t here,
Sire, they all have left town
And there’s no more sweet sound
To be found all around.”
“Left town? The lot of them?”
“Yes, Sire. The lot of them, sad to say,
Have amscrayed this place
Which is why there’s no music
To call for, Your Grace.”
“Why would they go and leave me alone?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” said the clown to the king on his throne.
“Then bring me my choir, and bid them to sing!”
“Your Worshipful, that, alas, too, is a shame,
For all of your choristers — sopranos to altos,
Tenors to basses —
Have left your vast kingdom for far away places
So remote that some don’t even have names.”
“And my servants and wise men?”
“Please don’t despise them,
But they’ve all left the kingdom as well.”
“But WHY then? Why have they left me here all alone?
To mourn and to moan all alone on my throne?”
“But I am still here!” said the motley-dressed jester,
“And I’ll entertain you so your sadness won’t fester,
And agree with your wisdom and all your decrees
And serve you while groveling down on my knees!
There’s nobody else you need, if you please,
But motley-dressed, dancing clown, silly old me!”
The king sighed a sigh, and nodded,”You’re right.
Those silly old fiddlers, those out-of-tune singers,
Those supposedly-wise wise men,
Those fat, needy people, all stupid and lazy —
Why together they drove this king crazy all day and all night!
“I’m far better off here alone and without them!
Here on my throne with my kingdom about me.
“Who needs all that so-called music? Who needs the riff-raff?
I’m far better off alone on my throne
with my beautiful hand-carved elephant tusk staff
To decree my decrees with a sneer and a laugh.”
To wit, he said, to the clown kneeling there,
“Get me my quill and my parchment post-haste.
I’ve a decree to declare — why there’s no time to waste!”
And he whiled the days on his throne all alone,
(The exception, of course, was his true, loyal clown)
And made his decrees which the clown did declare
To the large empty kingdom, with pomp and with flair.
Any similarities between the King and any person living in the District of Columbia on Pennsylvania Avenue are purely, most sincerely, absolutely coincidental. And that’s the purely, most sincerely absolutely alternative Truth!