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A GOOD PRINCE

    I FIRST saw him one morning of last summer, in the Green Park.
Though short, even insignificant, in stature and with an obvious
tendency to be obese, he had that unruffled, Olympian air, which is so
sure a sign of the Blood Royal.  In a suit of white linen he looked
serenely cool, despite the heat.  Perhaps I should have thought him, had
I not been versed in the Almanach de Gotha, a trifle older than he is.
He did not raise his hat in answer to my salute, but smiled most
graciously and made as though he would extend his hand to me, mistaking
me, I doubt not, for one of his friends.  A member of his suite, however,
said something to him in an undertone, whereat he smiled again and took
no further notice of me.

    I do not wonder the people idolise him.  His almost blameless life has
been passed among them, nothing in it hidden from their knowledge.  When
they look upon his dear presentment in the photographer’s window— the
shrewd, kindly eyes under the high forehead, the sparse locks so carefully
distributed— words of loyalty only and of admiration rise to their lips.
For of all princes in modern days he seems to fulfil, most perfectly, the
obligation of princely rank.  Nήπɩος he might have been called in the heroic
age, when princes were judged according to their mastery of the sword or
of the bow, or have seemed, to those mediaeval eyes that loved to see a
scholar’s pate under the crown, an ignoramus.  We are less exigent now.
We do but ask of our princes that they should live among us, be often
manifest to our eyes, set a perpetual example of a right life. We bid
them be the ornaments of our State.  Too often they do not attain to
our ideal.  They give, it may be, a half-hearted devotion to soldiering, or
pursue pleasure merely— tales of their frivolity raising now and again the
anger of a public swift to envy them their temptations.  But against this

46                              THE SAVOY

admirable Prince no such charges can be made.  Never (as yet, at least) has
he cared to “play at soldiers.”  By no means has he shocked the Puritans.
Though it is no secret that he prefers the society of ladies, not one breath of
scandal has ever touched his name.  Of how many English princes could
this be said, in days when Figaro, quill in hand, inclines his ear to every
key-hole?

    Upon the one action that were well obliterated from his record
I need not long insist.  The wife of an aged ex-Premier came to have an
audience and pay her respects.  Hardly had she spoken, when His Royal
Highness, in a fit of unreasoning displeasure, struck her a violent blow
with his clenched fist.  The incident is deplorable, but belongs, after all,
to an earlier period of his life ; and, were it not that no appreciation
must rest upon the suppression of any scandal, I should not have referred
to it. For the rest, I find no stain, soever faint, upon his life.  The
simplicity of his tastes is the more admirable for that he is known to
care not at all for what may be reported in the newspapers.  He has
never touched a card, never entered a play-house.  In no stud of racers
has he indulged, preferring to the finest blood – horse ever bred a certain
white and woolly lamb with a blue riband at its neck. This he is never
tired of fondling.  It is with him, like the roebuck of Henri Quatre,
wherever he goes.

     Suave and simple his life is ! Narrow in range, it may be, but
with every royal appurtenance of delight !  Round the flower-garden at
Sandringham runs an old wall of red brick, streaked with ivy and topped
infrequently with balls of stone.  By the iron gates, that open to a vista of
flowers, stand two kind policemen, guarding the Prince’s procedure along that
bright vista.  As his perambulator rolls out of the gate of St. James’s Palace,
he stretches out his tiny hands to the scarlet sentinels.  An obsequious retinue
follows him over the lawns of the White Lodge, cooing and laughing, blowing
kisses and praising him.  Yet his life has not been all happy. The afflictions
that befall royal personages always touch very poignantly the heart of the
people and it is not too much to say that all England watched by the

                                 A GOOD PRINCE                                    47

cradle-side of Prince Edward in those hours of pain, when first the little
battlements rose about the rose-red roof of his mouth.  Irreiterate be the
horror of that epoch !

     As yet, when we know not even what his first words will be, it is
too early to predict what verdict posterity will pass upon him.  Already he
has won the hearts of the people; but, in the years which, it is to be hoped,
still await him, he may accomplish more.  Attendons ! He stands alone
among European princes— but, as yet, only with the aid of a chair.

                                                                               MAX BEERBOHM.

MLA citation:

Beerbohm, Max. “A Good Prince.” The Savoy, vol. 1 January 1896, pp. 45-47. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv1-beerbohm-prince/