Tom Canty was a member of a poor family. John Canty, his father, was a thief. The other family members were his mother, his grandmother, and two sisters named Bet and Nan.
His mother and his two sisters were nice people, but his father and grandmother were mean. They often beat Tom, especially when they were intoxicated.
The family lived in a room on the third floor of a building located in a place in London called Offal Court. Father Andrew, and old priest, lived in the same building. He secretly taught the three children to lead Christian lives. He also taught Tom some Latin, and told him charming tales of giants, fairies, and enchanted castles, as well as gorgeous kings and princes.
Because of the influence of Father Andrew, John Canty failed to turn his son into a thief. However, he did turn Tom into a beggar, and beat him if he failed to bring any money home at the end of the day. He also received a flogging from his grandmother on such occasions.
Since Tom lived in sixteenth century England, when begging was punishable by law, Tom did only enough begging to purchase food. He spent the rest of the time with Father Andrew or playing with his friends.
Tom was deeply influenced by the stories of Father Andrew concerning kings and princes. He earnestly desired to see a real prince, and he himself developed a manner of speaking such as you would expect to hear in a royal court. His royal interests even influenced his play. He pretended to be a prince, and his playmates eventually agreed to join in his princely games. They became guards, chamberlains, lords, ladies, etc.
By a strange coincidence, Edward, the Prince of Wales, was born on the very same day as Tom Canty. Moreover, the two looked exactly alike, except that Prince Edward wore fine clothes, while Tom Canty was dressed in rags.
Edward was the pride and joy of the royal family. His father was King Henry VIII. Other members of the family were his stepmother Catherine, nee Parr, and two half sisters: Mary and Elizabeth. Edward also enjoyed regular association with his cousin Jane Grey.
One day Tom Canty walked farther away from home than he usually did. His wanderings brought him close to a palace, and he happened to see Prince Edward through the golden bars of the palace gate. He went to the gate to get a closer look, but a soldier grabbed him and rudely shoved him away.
Prince Edward happened to see the incident. He indignantly scolded the soldier and invited Tom to enter the palace grounds.
Edward led his guest into one of the rooms in the palace. They told one another about their families and their domestic life. The prince was intrigued with Tom’s life, and he wished that he could enjoy some of the pauper’s experiences. He would like to wear Tom’s clothes for a while and revel in the mud. Since Tom also desired to try on Edward’s apparel, the two boys changed clothes. They then realized that they closely resembled one another.
Before changing back to his own clothes, Prince Edward noticed a bruise that Tom had received when the soldier shoved him away from the palace gate.
Edward was indignant. He told Tom to stay where he was till he returned. Then he rushed out to punish the soldier.
Since Edward was still wearing Tom’s rags, the soldier thought he was the pauper. He punched Edward on the ear, so that the prince fell on the roadway. When Edward identified himself as the Prince of Wales, the soldier and the assembled crowd mocked him. The crowd hustled him far from the palace with expressions of mock homage.
When the crowd finally left Prince Edward alone, he found himself near an ancient Church of the Grey Friar’s. His father had taken it from the monks and had made it a home for poor and forsaken children. It was now called Christ’s Hospital.
When he entered, he encountered a group of boys. He commanded them to tell their master that the Prince of Wales wanted to speak with them. Instead of the courtesy that he expected, the children began to mock him. They jokingly pretended to honor him and began to abuse him.
Edward figured that the bad manners of the boys were due to a lack of education. He decided that when he became king, he would add education to the benefits that the boys received at the institution.
Later, Edward met John Canty. When he learned that John was the pauper’s father, he identified himself as the Prince of Wales. He asked the drunken man to take him to the king and to fetch his own son from the palace.
John Canty thought that the boy was his son. He concluded that Tom had become mad. He rudely dragged the boy homeward and resolved to punish him. The prince struggled indignantly while a crowd of bystanders jeered. When Father Andrew tried to defend the boy, John struck him on the head with a cudgel, and Father Andrew fell senseless to the ground.
In the Canty residence, all family members thought that Tom had become insane when the Prince of Wales identified himself. Tom’s mother treated him with sympathy, but John mocked him, and the grandmother was dumbfounded. When John asked Edward how much money he had obtained by begging, the prince told him not to trouble him with his sordid affairs. The prince received a beating from John and from the grandmother.
When the prince was sleeping, Tom’s mother began to doubt whether the boy was his son. She decided to apply a test. Whenever Tom was startled, he regularly raised a hand in front of his eyes. So she crept to the boy’s side and suddenly flashed candlelight in his face and rapped the floor by his ears. The boy awoke, but he did not move his hand. She did the same thing two more times during the course of the night, but the results were the same. Though the test showed that the boy was not her son, she still could not believe it.
In the meantime, Tom did not fare too much better. When Edward did not return, he began to worry. He was afraid that he would be punished if someone saw him wearing the prince’s clothes. When Jane Grey entered the room, he got down on his knees and begged for mercy.
Jane thought that Tom was the prince. When Tom told her who he was, she thought that he was mad. She ran out of the room.
Later Tom was brought before the king, who also concluded that his son was mad. When the king found out that the boy knew Latin, he was somewhat encouraged. He concluded that some traces of sanity still remained. However, the king was dismayed when he learned that his supposed son had forgotten Greek and French.
The king thought that excessive study may have driven his son mad. He decided to discontinue the boy’s studies till he recovered. In the meantime, the boy was to divert himself with sports.
Whether mad or not, the king was determined that his son be honored as the Prince of Wales. So he decided to install him in his princely dignity in due and ancient form.
However, there was a problem. The Duke of Norfolk, the Hereditary Grand Marshall of England had been arrested, and this official had to be present during the ceremony. The king sent a message to Parliament commanding them to condemn the Duke of Norfolk to death immediately so that he could appoint someone to take his place.
Tom did not like it that the duke was going to die because of him. He urged the king to spare his life. The king was pleased that the compassionate heart of his son was still the same, even though his mind was deranged. However, he did not change his mind about killing the Duke of Norfolk.
The king did not want his subjects to know that the Prince of Wales had lost his mind. So he appointed Lord St, John and Lord Hertford to watch over him till he recovered.
At the command of the king, Lord St. John gave the supposed prince the following instructions. He was to hide his infirmity as much as he could. He was never to deny that he was the true prince. He was to uphold his princely dignity and receive without protest the reverence to which the prince was entitled. He was not to tell anyone that he had a lowly birth. He was to try to remember the names and faces that he formerly knew, and he was to keep silent if he could not remember. If he was puzzled about what he should do or what he should say in any situation, he should seek the advice of Lord Hertford or Lord St. John.
Since Tom honored his king, he agreed to obey the instructions that the king had given him.
When Lord Hertford and Lord St. John were alone, Lord St. John expressed doubts whether the mad boy was really the prince. Lord Hertford rebuked him sharply. However, Lord Hertford secretly had doubts of his own. Nevertheless, he concluded that the boy could not be an impostor. He reasoned that it would be natural for an impostor to claim that he was the prince. However, no impostor would deny being a prince when the king himself called him the prince.
At his first royal dinner, Tom made a lot of blunders. At the end of the meal, he even left the table when the chaplain was about to pray. At his request, he was taken to his private cabinet, where he cracked and ate some nuts that he had stuffed in his pockets during the meal. He also found a book on court etiquette, which helped him considerably.
King Henry VIII felt that his end was drawing nigh, but he was determined not to die before the Duke of Norfolk was executed. The Parliament had decreed the death sentence, and the king had to confirm it. However, he could not find his Great Seal. Lord Hertford reminded the king that he had given it to the Prince of Wales.
Lord Hertford asked Tom where the Seal was. Of course, he did not know anything about it. So Lord Hertford returned to the king empty-handed. So King Henry instructed the Lord Chancellor to use his small seal. The execution of the Duke of Norfolk was scheduled to take place on the following day.
That night there was a water pageant. Forty or fifty state barges took part. The hero of the pageant was Tom, supposedly the Prince of Wales. Tom sailed down the Thames in splendor, accompanied by Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey.
Among the crowd that had assembled to honor the Prince of Wales were Tom’s entire family and Prince Edward himself. It came about in the following manner.
Father Andrew was dying because of the blow that John Canty had delivered. Someone knocked at the door and warned him to flee for his life, lest he be arrested. So the entire family fled. John Canty dragged the prince along with them.
As the fleeing family approached the waterfront, they were engulfed by the crowd that had assembled for the pageant. The family members got separated from one another.
While John Canty was still holding on to the prince, someone in the crowd insisted that he drink to the Prince of Wales. Since John expressed ill-humor, bystanders made him drink the loving-cup. Since John had to use both hands while drinking the loving-cup, the prince slipped away.
Prince Edward noticed that someone else was being honored as the Prince of Wales. He thought that John Canty had deliberately taken advantage of the situation and usurped his position as prince. He decided that Tom should be hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason.
After sailing down the Thames, the fleet was towed up the Walbrook Tom and his two companions then disembarked and proceeded to the Guildhall, where they were received by the Lord Mayor and the Fathers of the City. A banquet and revelry followed.
Prince Edward also made his way to the Guildhall. He denounced the impostor and demanded admittance, but no one believed him. He was cruelly taunted, but he stood his ground.
A man named Miles Hendon admired his courage and defended him. When someone laid hands on the boy, Miles sent him to the earth with a blow from the flat edge of his sword. The crowd then attacked. In spite of his bravery, Miles would have been overcome eventually. However, all of a sudden a messenger sped toward the Guildhall, and the crowd hastily got out of the way. Miles used the diversion to escape with the boy.
In the Guildhall, the messenger announced that King Henry had died. Looking at Tom, the assembly said: “The king is dead! Long live the king!” Then everyone kneeled before Tom.
Tom had a wonderful idea. He asked the Earl of Hertford if everyone would obey him if he uttered a command. When the earl offered an affirmative response, Tom told him to get off his knees, go to the Tower, and say that the king decrees that the Duke of Norfolk shall not die.
When Edward heard the crowd say that his father was dead, he was filled with grief. Of course, he realized that he now had become king.
Miles took him to an inn on London Bridge, where he was staying. As they neared the door of the inn, John Canty saw them. An argument ensued. John told Miles that the boy was his son and wanted to take him. Edward said that John was lying. When John tried to take Edward by force, Miles scared him away by threatening to split him with his sword.
Miles thought that the boy was mad. He decided to take him under his protection and do what he could to cure him. However, he humored the boy. For example, when Edward pointed out that Miles was not supposed to sit down in the presence of his king, he got up and served Edward. He also addressed the boy with such titles as “majesty.”
Edward asked Miles about his situation in life and his family. Miles belonged to the minor nobility. Sir Richard, his father, was well-to-do. His mother had died when he was a boy. He had a good brother named Arthur and a bad one named Hugh. Sir Richard was the guardian of a girl named Edith. Miles and Edith loved each other, but Edith had been engaged to Arthur ever since she was a baby, so Sir Richard refused to break the engagement.
Hugh had managed to turn his father against him by magnifying his faults. His father had banished him from England for three years, and he fought as a soldier in the continental wars. He was taken prisoner in his last battle and spent seven years in captivity. He had just returned to England and was going home.
Edward then promised to right the wrongs that had been done to Miles. He also told Miles how it happened that he was driven from the palace. Miles did not believe what the boy said, but he was amazed at the coherence of his story.
Edward was grateful to Miles for rescuing him. He asked Miles what reward he would like to have. Miles was startled by the offer, but it gave him an idea.
Miles considered it a nuisance that he could not sit down when the boy was present. So he reminded Edward that when De Courcy had performed a significant service for England, King John granted that he and all his descendants might have the privilege of remaining covered in the presence of the kings of England. Miles requested that he and all his heirs might sit in the presence of the king. He made this request while kneeling before the boy.
Edward granted his request and also made him a knight. It amused Miles that he had become a knight in a Kingdom of Dreams.
The next morning, Miles decided to buy some better clothes for the boy. He did not have too much money, but he found something that was better than the rags that the boy was wearing.
When he returned, he spent some time stitching some tears in the clothing. Then he went to awaken the boy, but he was gone.
A servant of the inn informed Miles that a young man had come while Miles was gone. He claimed that Miles wanted the boy to come to him at the bridge-end at Southwerk side. Miles correctly figured that John Canty had played a trick on the boy so that he could gain control of him.
In the palace, Tom did not like the life to which he was subjected. He was bored by all the ceremonies that he was compelled to undergo while dressing or eating. Moreover, he was hampered by a total ignorance of Edward’s past life.
Humphrey, the whipping boy of Edward, came to his aid. When Edward had made mistakes in his lessons, Humphrey received the whipping that Edward deserved. That is why he was called Edward’s whipping boy.
Tom encouraged Humphrey to help him recall his past life so that he could be cured of his madness. Humphrey met with him regularly, and Tom eventually had a lot of information concerning personages and matters pertaining to the court.
Tom enjoyed a moment of glory when a crowd wanted to execute three people. First, he investigated the case of a man accused of entering the house of a sick man in Isington and administering poison to him.
Tom had seen the man before. He had heroically rescued a child who was drowning.
The man said that he was going to be boiled in oil even though he was innocent and the charge was lamely proved. He asked that Tom allow him to be hanged instead of being boiled in oil.
Tom not only granted his request, but also prohibited further executions by boiling in oil. Lord Hertford liked the decree because he had a compassionate heart.
As the under-sheriff was about to remove the prisoner, Tom decided to look into the case. He asked some intelligent questions that cast doubt on the man’s guilt. Finally, the man pointed out that he was not even in Isington on the day when the sick man died. He was saving the life of a drowning child in London, but he had no friends who could testify in his behalf.
Tom then asked the Sheriff to tell him the date on which the sick man had died. Tom learned that it was the very same day that he had seen the man rescue the drowning child. Tom immediately commanded that the prisoner be released. The assembly burst into applause.
Then Tom looked into a case of a mother and her daughter who had supposedly caused a destructive storm by removing their stockings. It was claimed that they sold themselves to the devil to get the power. By intelligent questioning, Tom learned that the woman’s house had been destroyed by the storm and that English law did not recognize any pact that a little child made with the devil or anyone else.. Then he asked them to take off their stockings and cause another storm, preferably a small one. He promised them that she and her child could go free if she would produce such a storm.
The woman prostrated herself and protested that she could not effect such a miracle. Tom believed her. He observed that if her own mother had the power to save his life by creating the storm with the devil’s power, she would have caused such a great storm that the entire land would lay in ruins.
Tom then told her to take off her stockings. She did so, and nothing happened. He commanded that she and daughter be set free and told her to fetch him a storm if she ever got her power back.
Later Tom had to attend a public state dinner. This time, all went well.
In the meantime, Miles searched unsuccessfully for the boy that he had taken under his protection. Tom’s father had taken him to a gang of thieves. John Canty had belonged to this gang before he settled down in London.
When Edward told the thieves who he was, they mocked him in a jovial manner. They called him King Foo-foo the first. One of the thieves came to kiss his foot and received a kick from Edward. The thief said that he was going to put a rag over the spot where the king kicked him to protect it from the vulgar air. Then he was going to make a fortune by exposing the spot to people he met for one hundred shillings a peek.
In their rude way, they treated Edward in a kindly fashion. The leader of the thieves refused to let John Canty punish him. Edward was entrusted to a man named Hugo.
Hugo took Edward out alone to get money by stealing or begging. However, Hugo could not persuade the boy to steal or to beg. So Hugo told him to play the decoy while he did the begging.
When a kindly man approached, Hugo lay on the ground, apparently in agony. He claimed that he was having a fit and asked for a penny.
Edward was supposed to pose as Hugo’s brother, but instead he exposed Hugo as a thief and told the stranger that he could perform a healing miracle if he hit Hugo on the shoulder with a staff. Hugo did not wait for the healing miracle. He got up and ran away. Edward then ran in the other direction.
Edward eventually became hungry. He went to a couple farmhouses to seek help, but he was rudely driven away. At night, he sneaked into a barn and fell asleep. He kept warm by snuggling up to a calf. In the morning, he noticed that a rat was also snuggling up to him.
Two sympathetic little girls approached him. When Edward told them that he was the king, they believed him.
The two children lived alone with their widowed mother. The widow treated him with sympathy, but she expected him to work. She told him to take care of the cooking for a while. Edward remembered that King Alfred the Great had tried to do some cooking on one occasion but had burned the cakes. He figured that if Alfred could do this menial task, so could he. He wanted to do a better job than Alfred.
However, Edward fell asleep while watching the food. It would have been totally ruined if the widow had not returned in time to salvage some of it. She scolded the boy sharply, but immediately regretted it. To atone for her sharp tongue, she allowed Edward to sit at the table instead of eating in a corner of the room. Edward in turn regretted his failure to watch the food, so he did not insist that the woman stand and serve him while he ate.
His regret and the example of King Alfred also made him compliant when the widow ordered him to perform other tasks, such as washing the dishes. However, he was about to draw the line when the widow told him to drown some kittens.
Before he expressed his objection, he saw Hugo and John Canty approaching. So he took the kittens and went out the back door. He put the kittens in an outhouse and ran into a nearby forest.
The forest proved to be dark and cold, but eventually Edward came to the retreat of a hermit. The hermit believed Edward when he said that he was the king. He thought the boy had given up his royal crown and decided to live an ascetic life.
The hermit proved to be insane. He claimed that he was an archangel. He would have become pope, but the king dissolved the religious house in which he had been living as a monk. As a result, he was a mere archangel instead of pope.
King Edward began to wish that he was still with the robbers instead of being imprisoned with this lunatic. However, the manner of the hermit abruptly changed. He started to treat the boy with kindness. He moved the boy nearer to the fire so that he could get warm. Then he fed him and tucked him in bed.
Just before Edward fell asleep, the hermit asked him what king he was. He learned that Henry VIII was dead and that the boy was his son.
The mood of the hermit then changed. Since Henry VIII had dissolved his religious house, he decided to take vengeance on his son. He sharpened his knife, tied Edward’s hands and feet, and tied his mouth shut so that he could not scream.
When Edward awoke, he vainly tried to free himself, while the hermit gloated over the impending death of the son of Henry VIII. However, as he was about to strike, he heard noises outside. John Canty and Hugo had followed Edward’s footsteps to the door of the hermit’s house. Miles Hendon happened to see them and made them tell him where Edward was.
Miles then knocked at the hermit’s door. The hermit said that he had sent Edward on an errand. Miles said that he was lying because King Edward would not run an errand for any man. However, when the hermit said that he was an archangel, Miles figured that Edward would obey a heavenly being.
Edward vainly tried to make his presence known to Miles, but his mouth was tightly tied shut. After some discussion, the hermit offered to take Miles to the place where the boy left. After the two left the scene, John Canty and Hugo entered the hermit’s dwelling and freed Edward.
Hugo was angry with the boy. When the thieves were assembled, Hugo kept humiliating the boy, seemingly by accident. Hugo “accidentally” stepped on Edward’s toes twice. The boy ignored it with kingly dignity. However, when Hugo trod on his foot a third time, Edward knocked him to the ground with a cudgel. The delighted thieves ordered them to fight one another with cudgels. Since the royal youth had practiced this art, Hugo did not have a chance. He was badly beaten and finally withdrew from the contest. After that, the thieves gave Edward a better title. He was no longer King Foo-foo the first, but King of the Game Cocks.
Hugo plotted revenge. First, he planned to put a clime on the boy’s leg, expose the resultant sore to people who passed by, and force the boy to beg for alms. A clime was a poultice made of unslaked lime, soap, and the rust of old iron spread upon a piece of leather. When bound to the leg, it caused a nasty-looking sore.
Hugo, with the help of a companion, attempted to apply the clime to Edward’s leg. However, before it did too much damage, a friendly thief put a stop to the operation. He brought the three back to camp and reported the incident to the leader of the thieves.
The leader decided to relieve the boy of the duty of begging. He was worthy of better things. So the leader promoted him from mendicant to thief. Hugo was overjoyed because he was harboring a nefarious plan.
Hugo wanted to turn the boy over to the authorities. He could not do it openly, since the boy was popular with most of the thieves. He had to make it look like an unfortunate chance occurrence.
Hugo brought the boy out on a stealing expedition and waited for his opportunity. He noticed a woman carrying a bundle on her back. He stealthily took the bundle, handed it to the boy, and ran away. The woman screamed, and a crowd gathered around. Edward dropped the bundle on the ground and made no attempt to run away. The woman grabbed the boy with one hand and picked up the bundle with the other. Edward protested his innocence.
A blacksmith was about to trounce the boy when Miles Hendon intervened. He pointed out that this was a matter for the law to decide, not private and unofficial handling. A constable came and took Edward into custody.
Hendon did not believe that the boy was the king. However, he used the concept of kingship to induce the boy to cooperate with the law. He pointed out that the king was the fountain from which the law flowed. He told Edward that when he regained his scepter, he would be ashamed of himself if he did not submit to the law when he himself had to play the role of a private citizen.
At the hearing, Miles had some bad moments. The stolen goods proved to be a pig. The woman said that it cost three shillings and eightpence. Miles knew that the prescribed penalty for this was hanging.
The judge thought that the boy stole because of hunger and sympathized with him. He asked everyone to leave the courtroom except the woman, the boy, Miles, and the constable. He then told the woman that the boy would hang if he had stolen something worth more than thirteen pence. The woman did not want the boy to hang; so at the suggestion of the judge, she revised her estimate of the pig’s value. She said that it was worth eight pence.
The woman then left the courtroom with her pig. While the judge was writing down the proceedings, the constable followed the woman. Miles suspected that the constable had evil designs and listened to what was happening.
The constable offered to buy the pig for eight pence. When the woman indignantly replied that she had bought it for three shillings and eight pence, he accused her of swearing falsely in court and told her to return with him so that she could answer for the crime. However, he said that he would not say anything if she sold him the pig for eight pence. The woman sadly agreed.
Edward was sentenced to a short imprisonment followed by a public flogging. However, as the constable was taking the boy to prison, Miles told the constable that he had witnessed the conversation in which he had cheated the woman. He told the ignorant constable that the penalty for his crime was hanging and he spoke some irrelevant Latin phrases to prove it.
The constable was alarmed. He agreed to return the pig to the woman and to let the boy escape from custody. He would claim that Miles came by night, broke down the door, and freed the boy. Miles assured the constable that he would not be punished for letting the prisoner escape, since the judge sympathized with the boy.
Hendon replaced Edward’s rags with the secondhand clothes that he had bought. Then he took the boy to Hendon Hall, where he eagerly expected a joyful reunion with his family. However, he quickly learned that Arthur and his father were dead and that Hugh had taken possession of Hendon Hall.
Hugh pretended that he did not recognize Miles. He said that they had received a letter informing them that Miles had died in battle. He said that Miles was an impostor and asked the servants if they recognized him. They all gave a negative reply. Even Edith supported the lie of Hugh. She did so because Hugh had threatened to kill Miles if she did not cooperate.
The repudiation of Edith hurt Miles deeply. However, when Hugh happened to mention that Edith was his wife, his sorrow turned to anger. He correctly figured that Hugh must have written the lying letter himself so that he could steal his bride and usurp his place as owner of Hendon Hall.
In a fit of anger, he charged at Miles and pinned him temporarily to the wall. Hugh went to fetch the watch to arrest Miles. Miles did not run away because he figured that he was the rightful owner of Hendon Hall. (Miles was the rightful heir since he was older than Hugh.)
While Hugh was fetching the guard, Edward decided to inform the court of his plight. He wrote a letter in Greek, French, and English. He gave the letter to Miles and told him to go to London the next day and give the letter to Lord Hertford. Since Miles was concerned with his own troubles, he put the letter into his pocket without being conscious of the act.
Then Edith reentered to room. She still pretended that she did not know Miles. She warned him that her husband had unlimited power in the region. She urged Miles to flee. While they were still talking, officers entered. After a fierce struggle, they overpowered Miles and put him in the common prison, bound with chains. King Edward was given the same treatment.
While Miles was in prison, Hugh sent some of Hendon’s former acquaintances to repudiate and insult the so-called impostor. Finally, Blake Andrews, an honest servant of his father was brought to the prison. He heaped insults on Miles and said that the villain should roast. The jailer gave Blake permission to mistreat Miles and left the prison.
When the jailer was gone, Blake showed his true colors. He not only recognized Miles, but he offered to go out and proclaim the truth. Hendon told him not to do so, since that would ruin him.
Blake came to the prison several times a day, supposedly to abuse the prisoner. Instead, he gave him food and furnished current news. He also told Miles what had happened during his absence. When Arthur died, his father became sick. Since he expected to die soon, he wanted Edith and Hugh to be settled for life before he passed away. Edith still hoped that Miles would return, and she managed to delay the marriage. However, when a letter came announcing the death of Miles, his father’s health deteriorated further, and Edith was compelled to marry Hugh as the sickly man lay dying.
King Edward grew discouraged. Miles tried unsuccessfully to cheer him up. He failed, but two kind women succeeded. They were chained near the king, so it was easy for them to converse. They told him that they were in prison because they were Baptists, but they refused to tell him what their punishment would be.
The next morning, the two women were gone. Edward was glad because he thought that they had been released. However, all the prisoners were escorted to the courtyard and compelled to watch while the two women were burned at the stake. As they were burning, their two young daughters tried to join their mother but were restrained. Edward said that he would always remember the horrible sight.
That night, three more prisoners were incarcerated. The king learned that a half-witted woman had stolen a yard of yarn. A man had shot a deer in the king’s park. A tradesman’s apprentice had found a hawk that had escaped from its owner. He was accused of stealing it. All three were going to be executed.
The indignant king urged Hendon to break jail and fly with him to London, so that he could right these wrongs.
The king also conversed with an old lawyer who was in prison because he had written pamphlets accusing the Lord Chancellor of injustice. He had been punished by fines and by mutilation of his ears. The king promised to free him and to remove the disgraceful laws from the books.
At his trial, Hendon was sentenced to sit for two hours in the pillory. Edward received only a lecture and a warning.
When Miles was sitting in the stocks and being abused by the crowd, Edward expressed his indignation. Hugh suggested that the boy be given half a dozen lashes with a whip. Hendon pleaded for the boy and offered to take the lashes in his place. Hugh gladly agreed to the suggestion. Miles was removed from the stocks and whipped.
Hendon bore the blows without complaint. The jeering stopped. Miles was returned to the stocks, but the crowd no longer insulted him. The king came quietly to Hendon. He touched Hendon’s shoulder with the scourge and said: “Edward of England dubs thee an earl.” Miles was touched, but he did not take it seriously.
After Miles was released, he decided to go to London to seek help in high places. He knew a Sir Humphrey Marlow, who held some position at court. Edward also wanted to go to London to reclaim his scepter.
When they got to London, Miles and Edward were overwhelmed by a crowd that was celebrating the impending coronation that was scheduled for the following day. In the confusion, they got separated from one another.
By the time Coronation Day arrived, Tom Canty was enjoying his role as king. During the Coronation Day procession, he saw some boys that he knew. He had mixed emotions. He wished that they knew that they were honoring their old playmate. However, he was conscious of the fact that he would be in trouble if they recognized him.
Then Tom was startled by the appearance of his mother and involuntarily raised a hand in front of his eyes. From the gesture, the mother recognized her son. She went up to him and called him her child and her darling. While an officer of the King’s Guard was pulling her away, Tom said: “I do not know you, woman!”
Tom was immediately smitten with remorse. His attitude toward the kingship changed, and he wished that he could get out of it. Lord Hertford saw his despondency. When Tom told him that the woman was his mother, Lord Hertford attributed it to a recurrence of his madness. He managed to induce Tom to wear a smile that he did not feel in his heart.
The procession reached Westminster Abbey, and the ceremonies began. When the Archbishop of Canterbury was about to place the crown on Tom’s head, an interruption occurred. King Edward entered the cathedral in his secondhand clothes. He identified himself and commanded the archbishop not to place the crown on Tom’s head.
When indignant hands were laid upon Edward, Tom said: “Loose him and forbear! He is the king!”
In spite of the fact that both boys agreed who was the real king, they had trouble proving their point. People thought that the so-called king had suffered a recurrence of his madness. The Lord Protector examined Edward and found that he was intimately acquainted with court life. However, he was not satisfied. He was about to have Edward arrested when he thought of a foolproof test. He asked Edward where the missing Great Seal was located.
Edward described the secret compartment where he usually had hidden the seal. However, when Lord St. John investigated, it was not there. The Lord Protector ordered that Edward be cast out and scourged through the street.
Tom came to the rescue. He asked if the seal was round, thick, and had letters and devices engraved on it. After receiving an affirmative response, he said that Edward had put it in a different place. When Edward could not remember where he had put it, Tom prompted him by describing all that had happened the last time that they had met. Edward finally remembered that he had put it in the arm-piece of the Milanese armor that was hanging on the wall of his private cabinet. This time he proved to be correct.
The Lord Protector wanted to consign Tom to the tower, but King Edward rebuked him. The king then asked Tom how he managed to remember where the Great Seal was hidden. The embarrassed boy explained that he had used it several times as a nutcracker. Everyone laughed, and everyone knew for certain that Tom was not the true king.
Meanwhile, Miles was searching for his little friend. The day after the coronation, he decided to go to the palace and look for Sir Humphrey.
Humphrey, the whipping boy, was the son of Sir Humphrey Marlow. Humphrey knew that the king was looking for someone that matched Miles’ description. So he invited him to come into the palace and wait inside till he returned.
An officer thought that Miles was a suspicious character and searched him. In his pocket, he found the letter that the king had written in three different languages. After reading the letter, the officer thought that Miles was another claimant to the crown. He ordered his men to seize Miles while he sent the letter to the king.
When the officer returned, he and others showed him great respect. Miles thought that they were mocking him.
When he saw that the boy he had befriended was really the king, he was amazed. He decided to use his privilege. He got a chair, planted it on the floor, and sat down on it. When people scolded him, Edward explained that it was his right. He then explained that Miles had earned knighthood by saving him from bodily harm and possibly death. He had also earned an earldom by saving his sovereign from stripes and shame. He was now the Earl of Kent.
Hugh happened to be present. The king ordered that he be arrested and stripped of his stolen estates.
The king was pleased with how Tom had handled himself during his brief reign as king. He gave him the chief place among the governors of Christ’s Hospital, which was henceforth to feed the minds of the children as well as their bodies. He also gave Tom a special dress of state to remind people that he had once exercised royal authority. Tom would henceforth have the title of King’s Ward.
Tom had been reunited with his mother and his sisters, and the king promised to take care of their needs. However, Tom’s father had disappeared.
Hugh was not prosecuted for his threats or for stealing his brother’s estates because neither his brother nor his wife would testify against him, and his wife would not have been allowed to testify against him, even if she had wanted to. Hugh deserted his wife and fled to the continent, where he soon died. Miles then married his widow.
The king pardoned the woman who had stolen the yard of yarn. He also saved the boy who was falsely accused of stealing the hawk. However, Edward could not help the man who had shot the deer because he had already been executed. Edward also released the old lawyer from prison and remitted his fine. He provided good homes for the daughters of the Baptist women who had been burned at the stake.
After Edward’s short but merciful reign came to an end, Miles exercised his special privilege twice. He sat down at the coronations of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. His descendants also exercised the privilege on rare occasions.
Tom Canty lived a long life. People continued to honor him as the King’s Ward, even doffing their hats as he passed.
“The Prince and the Pauper” by Mark Twain.