A Shameful Coronation
by Jeff Goode
copyright © 2009
Dedicated to "The Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom"
January 20th, 2009
© 2009 Jeff Goode - THIS SCRIPT IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND MAY NOT BE DOWNLOADED, TRANSMITTED, PRINTED OR PERFORMED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR(A SERVANT greets a livid NOBLE newly-returned from the Royal Coronation.)
NOBLE. You cannot imagine the horrors I have witnessed. Human degradation and rampant starvation striking in the very heart of our nation's capitol. There were courtiers openly weeping in the antechambers, shut out from the Coronation they never thought they'd live to see. Locked away from his Grace's presence in the very moment of our commutual triumph.--Although I suppose we shall have to call his Grace "His Majesty" now, shan't we?
SERVANT. It must have been magnificent, though. To be in his antechambers.
NOBLE. Oh, pish! I have seen antechambers. I have seen bedchambers! The royal sitting room is not an especial treat. Why, the Duke of Wellington's washrooms are more ornate. And the Bishop of Gastonbury serves finer pastries.
SERVANT. You were fed his Majesty's pastries?
NOBLE. Well, of course. What did you think? The man is a King and therefore not inhuman. Though we were treated considerably less than such. Imagine the humiliation! To be treated no better than a... than a...
SERVANT. A serf?
NOBLE. No, of course not. Better than a serf.
SERVANT. A servant?
NOBLE. Are you trying to insult me?
SERVANT. A dog?
NOBLE. Yes, that's it! To be treated no better than his Majesty's cherished lap dog. When others, far less deserving than I, should spend the afternoon in his royal presence. It is a travesty!
SERVANT. It is, at that. A travesty of etiquette, assuredly.
NOBLE. Have not we all suffer under the yoke of the usurper? Did not we all endure the hardship of his reign? And now, having thrown our whole-hearted support behind certain of his Majesty's reforms during the victorious military campaign, are not we all entitled to bask alike in the glory of his ascension? May not we all share in the fruits of his triumph? And not just the plates of jellied fruits and assorted sweetbreads they dared to serve us while we awaited the Coronation. And a passable tea service. And tray upon tray of domestic caviar. Ugh! The thought of it raises one's gorge.
SERVANT. It sounds wretched. I only wish I could have been there. To comfort you, I mean.
NOBLE. Yes, I wish I could have brought you along. You know exactly how I like my chocolate spiced. As it was, I had to drink it bland. But the invitations I procured clearly extended only to myself, my immediate family, and whatsoever guests I might have designated. Not to servants.
SERVANT. I understand. You did your best. It was generous of you to consider me.
SERVANT. To consider taking me.
NOBLE. Oh. Think nothing of it. I wouldn't dream of putting you through that. And the time it would have taken to make you presentable? Ugh! Out of the question.
SERVANT. Uh huh...
NOBLE. And then to be further forced to endure the ordeal in the company of the vulgar Marquessa de Volga--who you know I can no longer abide, since she has spurned my overtures of friendship over a petty knitting accident.
SERVANT. One would think by now she'd have forgiven you for stabbing her in the knickers.
NOBLE. Her knees have healed quite nicely. But the woman does bear a grudge. She will no doubt gossip herself to be the hero of this debacle.
SERVANT. She is horrible, horrible, so I am told.
NOBLE. Yes, horrible. And a charming dinner companion. I must have her round for crumpets.
SERVANT. I shall make a note of it. But do you mean to say you dined at the palace during your starvation?
NOBLE. I would have liked to, certainly, but my appetite was foiled by the grueling conditions. For if matters were not sufficiently intolerable as it is, we had also to contend with the insufferable maddening keening of the madding throng gathered outside to bear witness to the historic event. As if thronging onto the castle lawn in the dead of winter amounted to participation in his Coronation. Or that proximity to his premises might somehow allow them to imagine they could snatch a glimpse of his greatness through the bars of an upstairs window, reflected in the gilded ceiling of the throne room.
SERVANT. The ceilings are gilded?
NOBLE. Well, of course they are. There is nothing remarkable in that. I have a gilded ceiling in my study. Why wouldn't the King have one in his great hall?
SERVANT. Oh. I've never seen your study.
NOBLE. No, and you never shall if you cannot cease to have an unhealthy fascination with the decor of my sanctum.
SERVANT. I assure you I did not mean to be fascinated, and will refrain from doing so in future.
NOBLE. There is no need to apologize, you cannot help yourself. I daresay you would love it in there. I doubt you have known such comfort since the womb.
SERVANT. It was rather a scratchy womb, now you mention it.
NOBLE. But for one accustomed to the luxuries of privilege, such as myself, no begilded mise-en-scène can compensate for the humiliations I have suffered. To be so nigh unto so momentous an occasion, and yet so utterly unable to watch it oneself, save from the galleries above, and to the side.
SERVANT. Oh. You were allowed to watch from the gallery?
NOBLE. Don't be ridiculous. I would sooner be guillotined. The galleries are reserved for landed merchants and persons of self-made wealth. And those who inherited only on their mother's side. How would it look to be seen with such an accomplished rabble?
SERVANT. But at least you would have witnessed the Coronation.
NOBLE. Yes, and I would have been seen witnessing it from the beggardly balconies, while my predesignated seat of privilege sat empty in the chamber below. It's lonely cushions longing for my rightful placement. I shudder to think how the gall would have welled in my gullet had I subjected myself to such an abasement. It was better to wait in the antechamber, and bear my grievances like the Saints of old are said to have done in similar situations, and hope for some later compensation.
SERVANT. Do you think you will receive your reward in heaven?
NOBLE. I should hope it will be considerably sooner than that, if his Majesty has any decency. After all, was it not we chosen few hundred who his majesty deemed most responsible for his successes in the campaign and subsequently considered most worthy of sharing in his triumphal moment? Why, I marvel that he did not stop the proceedings at once when he noticed our absence.--He must not have seen me.
SERVANT. Well, you were in the next room.
NOBLE. That is no reason to be disconsiderate of one's guests!
SERVANT. Were not there several thousand witnesses to the Coronation?
NOBLE. Yes, but none who would have sat so close to the royal throne itself. Excepting, of course, for those few hundred members of the immediate nobility who had even better placements.--Nobles who were not, by the way, forced to wait in the antechamber till it was over. And where is the justice in that? When one class is elevated above another by mere dint of birth, and for no better reason than royal preference, how can any citizen expect to receive justice in the land?
SERVANT. It does seem uneven-handed.
NOBLE. Do you know there are society ladies who would have given their nephew's left birthright for a seat at that Coronation? And I, having curried a few favors to obtain such a seat, was forced to wait in an adjacent chamber as history unfurled itself, with naught but pastries, fresh fruit and honeyed tea to soothe the pangs of deprivation. And so deafened by the shrieks of the o'erweening throng and the Marquessa de Volga's insipid dinner conversation, that I could not even overhear his majesty's oration through the somewhat open transom.
NOBLE. And then, when it seemed the tribulation of missing the Coronation had finally passed, we were still not allowed to leave the antechamber because the streets of the town were obstructed with a procession of bedraggled mourners bearing away the bodies of peasants who had frozen to death on the lawn.
SERVANT. Oh my!
NOBLE. We were forced to endure an additional hour of their muffled wailing, cooped up in the fetid confines of that spacious little parlor with nothing to pass the time but each other's company and endless rounds of pinochle, backgammon, shuffleboard and charades.
SERVANT. Oh, I love charades.
NOBLE. Yes, but how many times can one see the Marquessa de Volga's seven virgin nieces enact "The Rape of the Sabine Women" before the episode becomes entirely tiresome?
SERVANT. I should have liked to have seen that.
NOBLE. Well, you are never likely to do so, as six of the seven received immediate marriage proposals at the close of their performance and are not expected to remain virgins long. Here are the invitations. See that they are entered in my schedule.
SERVANT. Oh. But you don't intend to attend a series of weddings for that horrible woman's nieces?
NOBLE. Well, of course. I wouldn't miss them for the world. The King is likely to be at a few of them, and I'm sure he would prefer to tender his apology to me in person, rather than the formal decree that has already been issued to resolve the matter.
SERVANT. Well... Forgive me for asking, but...
NOBLE. You are not forgiven.
SERVANT. What will happen if his Majesty, given the opportunity, does not deign to apologize?
NOBLE. I should not fret for that. The Marquessa de Volga has already drawn up a petition to charter a charitable society for the aggrieved victims of the intolerable incident. They are calling us "The Survivors of the Gilded Antechamber of Unparalleled Shame". We intend to lodge a formal complaint about our mistreatment at his Majesty's hands. Or lack thereof, rather.
SERVANT. His lack of hands?
NOBLE. His lack of treatment. One way or another, his Majesty shall pay for this transgression or it could well cost him his crown. And quite possibly the head it rests upon, if you take my meaning.
SERVANT. Your meaning seems vaguely treasonous, if I may say.
NOBLE. Is it more treasonous than to be deprived of one's just desserts? And given nothing but dessert in return? I think not!
SERVANT. No, of course.
NOBLE. But I suppose I cannot expect someone like you to understand.
SERVANT. Like me?
NOBLE. Someone who was not there. In your absence, you can never imagine the crushing disenfranchisement we felt. You did not have to endure the horrible press of human bodies in almost direct physical contact. The grumble of voices joined as one in a great murmur of general outrage. A mass of disconsolate humanity so downtrodden that we barely had the strength to applaud when the messengers informed us that the Coronation had commenced.
SERVANT. You are right, of course. I could never imagine being so outraged at such a slight.
NOBLE. No, I supposed not.
SERVANT. And I am sure it's true that there is no parallel for your unique discomfiture.
NOBLE. I don't know why I bothered to describe it to you. But rest assured, in time, we shall all put this shameful Coronation behind us. (cheerfully) And there may even be a Knighthood in it for me! Now, where is my chocolate? (Exits.)(END of PLAY.)