A Royal Visit

Godfrey cringed under his mother’s touch.  She tried yet again to flatten the cowlick that persisted in sticking up with the palm of her hand – the same palm into which she had spat only seconds before.

“Stand still, my boy!”  She cuffed the back of his head.  “And stand up straight.  What will Her Majesty think to see you so slovenly and crooked?”

Perhaps, Godfrey thought but didn’t dare utter, she’ll think I’ve been toiling too hard and will take pity on this humble peasant and shower me in rubies.

“Now, I would just like to rehearse what you are to do, and what you are to say – if you get the chance.  Remember: you must never speak unless Her Majesty speaks first.”

“I know, Mother.  For pity’s sake.  You’re making me nervous.”

Godfrey’s mother pinched his cheek.


“There.  That’ll take your mind off your nerves and put some colour into your cheeks, you whey-faced loon.”  She stood back to give him one last appraisal.  He was in his best clothes and, as long as you didn’t peer too closely, you couldn’t see the patches and the threadbare places where the fabric had stretched over his gangly knees and elbows.

The boy would have to do.

“Say it once more, Godfrey; say it for mummy.”

Godfrey sighed but, fearing another pinch from mother’s bony fingers, took a deep breath and recited the greeting they had rehearsed ever since they received news of the Queen’s visit to their lowly village.  With Godfrey’s mother being the reeve’s widow, she was the most important peasant in the vicinity, and it was their humble home that would form the focus of the call.

“Welcome, Your Majesty. Thank you for stopping by. Please accept this fruit basket and case of wine as tokens of our esteem.”


“Welcome, Your Majesty.  Thank you for stopping by. Please accept this fruit basket and case of wine as tokens of our esteem.”

“Once more!”

“Welcome, Your Majesty.  Thank you for stopping by. Please accept this fruit basket and case of wine as tokens of our esteem.”

“And then…?”

“And then what?  I give her the basket.”

“And then you bow, you idiot!”

“Before or after I give her the basket?  And the wine?  Is it basket of fruit first or case of wine? Fruit, wine? Which is it?”

A fanfare sounded out in the square.  Godfrey’s mother flew into a panic.

“There’s no time for that now.  Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.  Just don’t let me down, son.  Get this right and we’re all in clover.  We shall want for nothing.  Although I understand the last village to displease Her Majesty was burned to the ground, and every throat for miles around was cut from ear to ear.”

Godfrey was sure Mother was exaggerating.  What little he knew of the Queen was she was a kindly soul, her nature reflecting the beauty of her exterior.  She was indeed the fairest in the land.

Mother opened the front door and dropped in a low curtsey as the Royal entourage swept into the hall.  The guards parted to reveal Her Majesty the Queen, flanked by ladies-in-waiting.

“Good day,” the Queen’s cut-glass voice declaimed, slicing the atmosphere of expectation like a cleaver – like an executioner’s axe.

Godfrey shuffled forward.  A Royal eyebrow arched.

“Yes, boy?”

“Er…” Godfrey flushed bright red.    His mother looked up from the flagstones, silently urging the tongue-tied boy to speak.  Godfrey coughed – his throat was dry and scratchy.  His mind was blank.  He searched every corner of his brain for the lines he had so often repeated.

“We do not have all day,” the Queen observed, her lovely face unsmiling.

And then Godfrey uttered the words that would seal their fate.

“Stop whining and have some fruit, you basket-case.”


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