Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company
December 31, 2000

COMMENTARY

LIBERTIES

 

When the Boy King Ruled

By MAUREEN DOWD

 

Reign of George II. After the Hundred Chads' War, the Bush dynasty once more seized power.

The boy king, George II, ascended the throne in 2001. To safeguard the sheltered dauphin, fearing he might wander out of the palace and get lost, the royal seamstresses stitched his name and title on the lapels of all his garments and the blacksmith hammered his name onto his brass belt buckle.

George II began his reign amid anxieties about the economy, the fuel supply and royal taxation. The kingdom quivered with doubt about whether the handsome, charming youth would become an able, assured ruler or an indolent, indecisive one.

Role of the Regents. George I and Queen Mother Bar, who liked to pretend they were not running things, chose a trio of Regents: The Duke of Halliburton was first minister; Cardinal Rumsfeld was secretary for war, and Colin of Arabia was secretary for foreign affairs.

Contessa Rice tutored the boy king in geography, government and history, but he was an indifferent student. Like England's Edward II, George II was bored by the duties of kingship and easily swayed by favorites.

The Regents were happy to let their charge immerse himself in sport and games while they reawakened the two eras they most admired: his father's reign, with its victorious military campaign, and the Golden Age of Dullness that came to pass during the brief dominion of Gerald the Pardoner.

Peasants and burghers resented sovereign attempts to enhance the privileges of the nobles. Opposition to George II among dissidents and malcontents crystallized around the former king, William the Smooth, living in luxurious exile in Embassy Row, a stone's throw from court, with a member of Parliament.

Court Life. George II was not sickly or dull-witted, as many of the Bourbon boy kings had been. And he was less spoiled than Pu Yi, the Last Emperor of China, who was 3 when he first sat on the Dragon Throne. Pu Yi demanded 100 dishes at every meal and chased away bad moods by having eunuchs flogged in his presence. George II was often tempted to flog the press, but he was too well mannered to flog the servants.

He exercised admirable discipline over his hot temper, which he inherited from the Queen Mother. And he controlled his taste for grog. He had no tantrums like England's Edward VI, who took the throne at 9 and once got so enraged that he tore a live falcon into four pieces.

George II was an obedient son who emulated his father, the old king, in all respects. He felt no need to put his own stamp on his monarchy. Unlike France's Sun King, America's Son King did not create a brilliant cultural and intellectual life at court. He was content merely to restore George I's royal council, horseshoe tournaments and strumming troubadours from the southern provinces.

He also renewed Bushian alliances with the princes of business and the barons of oil. George II welcomed all petitions to sink wells in pristine parts of the kingdom, and encouraged his royal groundskeeper, Lady Gale of Colorado, to drill throughout Alaska. Unlike his Catholic predecessor, John of Camelot, George of Crawford tore down the antiquated wall between church and state and legislated against sin.

Although he never missed a beheading or a hanging, he was largely indifferent to the glittering social life at court. He preferred to take Queen Laura, a highly learned woman, and escape the pressures of constant delegation by retreating to the brambly isolation of their country seat.

Influence of Katherine de MÈdicis. George II issued only one official public proclamation: The Edict of Loyalty to All the Bushes.

Unlike other monarchs, he did not exile or execute jealous and scheming family members. He had always suspected his younger brother Jeb was less than vigorous in protecting his southern flank during the Hundred Chads' War. He did not like Jeb's overreliance on the Countess of Not Counting, Katherine de MÈdicis. But he did not want la guerre folle, a silly, fratricidal War of the Rosebushes, so he did not charge Jeb with treason. He did, however, christen him the Black Prince.

War of Succession. In 2002, the kingdom entered a dark period when the Regents fell into a ruthless struggle for power. George II was oblivious to the intrigues all around him and ruled serenely until 2008, when Jeb of Tallahassee arose to do battle with Hillary of Chappaqua.