The Tale of the Royal Christenings

[Things were settling down in the castle of the King. Her Royal Highness Maria Teresa had ended her reign of vocal terror, and had settled down into a nice, normal schedule; at least, normal for a baby who wants to be fed every three hours, and sleep the rest of the time. The Queen was no longer looking quite so haggard, and his Majesty was even seen to crack a smile now and then. The happiness the castle residents felt about the birth was segueing into the anticipated joy of the Christening. Everyone was busy making sure that all would be perfect on that glorious day.

Everyone, that is, except Samuel, one of the King's Pages. He was from a poor family, and had little to his name but for his clothes, and even those were mostly "donated" to him by other Pages after they had outgrown them. He wanted to show his love for the new baby girl, and he also wanted to show respect and thanks to the King and Queen who had given him this chance to be more than just a simple farm boy. Try as he might to come up with a wonderful gift he just could not think of anything he could do that would be a suitable gift for such an august person as Princess Maria Teresa.

Finally, he approached his friend Roger about his dilemma. The old monk was always just full of good ideas, and if anyone could figure out a fitting gift for a royal baby, he could. He carefully knocked on the Herbarium door, and upon hearing the monk's merry "Don't come in, unless you are bringing cookies!" Samuel carefully opened the door, and put a plate of the monk's favorite snack into the monk's surprised hand.

"I was only kidding!" spoke Roger; "I really did not want to take your cookies away from you."

The young man responded with, "I got these from the chief cook to give to you; Mistress Damietta knows how you always like a snack in the afternoon."

"Well, you must share them with me. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Is there something I can do for you?"

Samuel told Roger about his plight, and as they munched their cookies, they both tried to come up with something nice that Samuel could give to the baby Princess.

"I would like it to be special, something that others had not thought of before," spoke Samuel. "The poor little girl will get many lovely clothes, and dolls, balls, and other toys enough to make a dozen children happy."

"And that is what they will likely do," returned the monk, "Tradition is that most of the gifts given to a Royal baby be given away to the poor; the children in the Royal Orphanage will be overjoyed."

"I'd like to think that my gift would not be given away." The page spoke, and then seeing the stern look on the old monk's face quickly added, "not that I think giving to the poor is wrong, I am poor myself, it is just, er . . ."

"I know," softly spoke the monk; "you want to give back to those who have given you so much."

"Exactly!" said the boy, "But when you have no money, what can you do?"

"Why not tell them all what you just told me; tell them how much you love them and how much you love their little girl?"

"You mean I should tell them a story? But they will have forgotten all about this day by the time Princess Maria Teresa is old enough to understand, and besides, you are the Royal storyteller."

"Well, yes. I am going to tell them all a story, and I suspect that someone will remember it when the child is older. Nevertheless, I was not thinking of you telling a story; I had a much better idea. Why not write the three of them how much you love them on this piece of parchment, and on the other side make them a pretty picture for the baby to smile at when she gets older."

The lad thought that was a splendid idea, and soon the old monk had cleared a space on his worktable for the Page to sit at, and got Samuel a pot of ink and a pen. "You can paint the picture on the back tomorrow when the ink has dried. Now sit and think about what you want to say to the Princess and her parents. You can practice your writing on this paper, no use wasting expensive parchment."

The young Page gave no thought of the value of the parchment the old monk was letting him use, all he could think of was what to write that would please the King and Queen, and make their daughter smile when she got older. He knew babies liked to see bright colors, and Roger had a wonderful set of paints of every possible hue.

As the Page was creating his Christening letter, he listened to his friend as he spoke of spelling and grammar. When Samuel had questions about his letters, Roger did not ask to read what the Page was writing, but merely pointed out a chart on the wall that demonstrated how to create very fancy letters, and soon the gift was taking form. After awhile, as they both paused in their chosen tasks, Samuel asked Roger about other Royal Christenings; what were they like, and were they the same as the one planned for next Sunday?

"Well, they were similar; after all, the ceremony itself is rather simple, and it is only the festivities surrounding the Christening that is different. That actually is the subject of my story gift to their Majesties; and although it is a short one, I am rather fond of it, for something very unusual happened that day. Would you like to hear it now?"

Never one to turn down a story, Samuel quickly nodded his head, and as he carefully started to copy his letter to the good parchment, Roger began to tell the tale . . .]

Everyone was thrilled; never had twins been born into the Royal House, and all that everyone could think of was how the next few years would be twice as marvelous as had they had ever expected, with Two Royal Children to fawn over and spoil. As time came closer for the Royal Christening; people were almost jumping out of their skins, they were so excited. On that day both children would be given their full royal names, and then little Elizabeth would be presented to the people as the official heir.

The day of the Christening was clear and fair, not a cloud in the sky, and the sun shone through the windows of the Cathedral and made the colors bounce over the assembled guests. Not everyone in the kingdom could fit into the Cathedral, of course, but each city, town and village had at least one representative among the happy throng. A huge crowd filled the courtyard, and everyone was overflowing with eagerness to see the Royal Darlings.

Just as the crowd began to grow a bit restless, a trumpet fanfare was heard to sound, and then Heralds on horseback rode along the path the royal coach would take. The message given to the assembled populace was short and simple, and very to the point: "The King bids you greetings, and asks that you all refrain from cheering, lest the sounds of your happiness frighten the Royal Children!"

The people were observant as best they could be, but when thousands of folk all whisper to one another, the resulting sounds can be quite strong. Soon, as people settled down in anticipation, the Heralds deemed the King's request satisfied, and rode back to the Castle, ready to begin the Procession. Finally, another trumpet fanfare was sounded, and the cavalcade began the short journey to the nearby Cathedral.

First came the King's Own Troop, the finest soldiers in the land, where many a man vied for the honor to wear the King's colors, and every officer was a belted knight. Then followed the exquisite royal coach, pulled by 6 black stallions, and covered with thousands of flowers of every color and description. In the coach was the King and Queen, and in their laps were the sleeping royal babes. As the children came into view of the assembled mass, their collective sigh was loud enough that the Queen feared for her children's ears, but babies are much more sturdy than their parents think, and aside from a little fidgeting, the children remained at rest.

The outfits the children wore had been sewn by their Royal mother and her Ladies, and their matching blankets protected them completely, such that their little faces were all that showed to the people. Princess Elizabeth wore the traditional yellow-laced gown, while her younger brother Prince William looked adorable in his matching green garb. The Prince and Princess would have their gowns changed after the ceremony, with the Princess dressed in the Royal Blue, and her heir and brother gowned in pale pink rose, again the traditional color for a secondary heir.

As the carriage arrived at the Cathedral steps, two nursemaids stepped forward to receive the children, so that no possibility of an accident would occur if something amiss happened and the King or Queen slipped or was jarred. Fortunately, nothing untoward happened, and the Royal family was able to enter the Cathedral safely and in comfort.

The babes were handed over to their Godparents, and the people chosen were a surprise to some of the assembled Lords and Ladies. The King and Queen had chosen not the high-ranking visitors from neighboring kingdoms, but modest Nobles of their own kingdom. The Lords and Ladies selected were not picked for their great wealth, or wisdom, or their exalted position in court; they were chosen for the strength of their religious belief, their reputation for honesty and integrity, and not the least the happiness of their families. The Royal family saw their proven ability to raise honest, well-educated children, and felt that if anything were ever to happen to them, these were fit parents to raise their beloved children.

The ceremony itself was simple, and soon over. The children were whisked away to the Cathedral Sacristy, where their nurses were ready with their garb for the next part of the ceremonies. The King and Queen were also garbed in the Royal Robes of State, for this was a ceremony of great legal and historical significances.

Soon everything was ready; the Archbishop gave a prayer, and then the child in the beautiful blue robes of state was placed in the King's arms. All fell silent as the King raised his child in his arms and spoke the ancient words of inheritance: "My Lords and Ladies behold my Son, William Edward Michael Plantagenet, who is my daughter's heir, and shall reign over you if she ever leaves the throne without heirs of her body!"

The crowd was stunned! The King had not named his daughter as heir, or had he? The Prince was supposed to be brought forward at a later ceremony, and in the traditional pale pink rose gown of a secondary heir. The King handed his son back to his nurse, and asked, quite loudly, "Please take my son to his mother, and bring me my daughter, that I may present her to the people of the kingdom!"

Therefore, it was done. The Princess, Elisabeth Rose Carmelita Plantagenet looking adorable in her pale rose gown, was duly presented to the people, and the mix-up was attributed to two nurses who did not know what they were doing; they thought that William would follow his father, even though he was not the first-born. All was well, however, and eventually it became a great joke in the kingdom.

One strange thing that did occur after this minor error; the preferred color for a little girl's garb ceased to be yellow, but became pale pink rose, while a young boy was likely to be seen in blue instead of green!

[". . . And that is why when our Princess is presented to us all by our King, she will be dressed in a lovely pink gown, slightly faded from the years, that Elisabeth Rose wore that long-ago day." Roger stopped speaking, and looked at the parchment the boy had carefully lettered. It was not just an expression of love for the Royalty; it was much more. It was clearly the work of a child, but the message was quite to the heart, and Roger felt that the King and Queen would appreciate the gift the boy had to give:

"Dear Princess Marie Teresa, I wanted to wish you a very happy day on this, the day you are being baptized. I do not have any special gift of money or jewels, and I cannot sew you a gown or a dress. But I wanted to give you something that will be useful to you, both now and in the days to come. Therefore, I am giving you my loyalty. I will serve your Highness in war and in peace, in joy and in sorrow, and will do so for the rest of my life. Know that although I am now just a Page, some day I hope to be a Squire, and hopefully someday a Knight, but even if I fail at that, I will always serve you, as best as I am able."

"That is fine," the old monk was finally able to choke out; "Let it dry now, and tomorrow come back, you can paint a picture on the other side then. Perhaps you could make a picture of a little girl with a guardian angel?"

As the old monk sent the lad off to his chores, he reflected that of all the marvelous gifts little Maria Teresa would get, none would be quite so beautiful as the little Page's letter.]

Roger of Belden Abbey
Copyright © 2005, Daniel A. Thompson, Jr.

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