Friday, August 24, 2007
The Madness of Monarchs
King Charles VI of France,
believing he was made of glass,
eschewed his carriage on the chance
a bump would smash the ruling class.
He’d pace the palace corridors
by night, howling, which so aggrieved
Queen Isabeau that her ambassadors
were forced to insist she mustn’t leave.
But, wolf or wineglass, the man
was insufferable, and so Odette
de Champdives was made to stand—
or sleep—as Isabeau’s soubrette,
and she, for the next thirty years,
went unnoticed as she lay
in the queen’s place in the queen’s gear,
while Charles pounded the cold parquet.
Later, in Bavaria, we find
among the aristocratic psychos
the Princess Alexandra, who dined
as a little girl on grand pianos,
a fact she steadfastly maintained
until the day she shuffled off
these mortal scales, and which explained
the sonant passages when she coughed.
Her nephew, Ludwig II, was worse;
he declared that night was day,
roamed the frozen black traverses
bundled in his golden sleigh,
looking for a place to build
another pile of gingerbread;
Ludwig’s fantasies fulfilled,
what if the exchequer bled?
Called “The Fairy Tale King”
by trolls, Ludwig was declared
unfit for rule, then for lingering.
His little brother? Ludwig squared.
Otto by name, this unpleasant
fellow believed he could retain
his sanity only by shooting a peasant
every day, which became a strain
on the servants’ quickly thinning ranks.
At last they bribed an inside man
to chamber Otto’s piece with blanks,
and picked a gardener to stand
alone in the field till a shot was fired,
and then to fall convincingly dead;
Otto, relieved, would then retire,
demons quiet in his head.
Nowadays, there’s Georgie the First,
who is by all accounts the worst;
a vain, incurious, callow clod,
his policies are set by God
in frank, extended nighttime chats.
They sit and dish on this or that
until they’re seeing Eye to eye
on who should live, who should die.
Henri I of Haiti once
marched his army off a cliff
to demonstrate obedience;
death wasn't at all so swift
for those refusing, but it was sure;
Henri Christophe was then alone,
rebels approaching. He had the cure:
a bullet through his own breastbone.
If only George could take a hint--
though a heart shot would not apply,
and one in the head only scatter lint--
he could reach around, and try, try.