One never knows what one will come across while researching something else. Such a fascinating tale from the not too distant past. It begins:
Once upon a time a king was in his counting house counting all his money. He had been summering away from the castle and had a lot of money to count. So he left his Queen in charge. There was no time for sitting around the palace eating bread and honey for this queen. She was determined to fix things before the old king came back; determined to please him and do him proud before some hostile king took over the country. That old rascal, her king, had taught her well. She admired him as if he were a giant on whose shoulders she stood. “Loyalty,” he always said, “was personal.” His baby blues flickering,“forget about ‘king and country.’ Loyalty is to me, country, comes second or third.”
One of the Queen’s first acts when the king was gone, was to make a ruckus with those hopeless bishops over the appointment of the country’s curates. She was all for teaching lessons. The curates had cast sideways glances at her when the king had made her queen. They were all astonishment at this choice and muttered things, though just barely, and gasped, but she heard them and she knew. The bishops, on the other hand, knew palace protocol, knew their place, knew which side their bread was honeyed, knew who was in and who was not and what it meant. They kept stony and bared their heads in her presence. They were practiced at pretense. In private they might roll their eyes and cast knowing looks at each other as if to say “you gotta be kidding me,” but in public they bowed and scraped as they had done for the other queens. Although the curates could be bought off cheaply and had little communion with the queen or her council since their main job was to keep the churls to the grindstone and to make sure that the ever more labyrinthine policies, the complex and contradictory decrees of the palace were carried out, they had nevertheless caused offense and had to be dealt with. The King taught by word and deed that no slight was too small to be left unpunished. For the Queen, the curates and the churls had been, well, churlish to her, now the joke would be on them. The Queen insisted on seeing the appointments lists.
Every year, the curates were named by the bishops and for some reason, the recommendation of the churls. They were then confirmed by the king. This year the Queen had that duty. She consulted her magical mirror. “This one,” the mirror mirror on the wall said was, “ok.” “But that one, you remember, refused to give you lavender blue dilly dilly. ” “And that other one refused you a sixpence for your shoe…” Scores were about to be settled.
“He cannot be a curate, his loyalty is with the churls,” she stammered out to her council. “If the king has taught us one thing, it is that loyalty is to me, er, I mean the crown.” One after another she objected to the names on the list. 'If only it were this easy to get rid of the churls,' she thought.
The churls were a continual burden to the country. But the palace churls were the worst. They were bound to the land by tradition and inheritance. Except for death there was no way to root them out. ‘Well,’ thought the Queen, ‘we may be stuck with them, but we don’t have to make their life easy.’