Mark Twain

A Royal Compliment

Short Story by Mark Twain

The latest report about the Spanish crown is, that it will now be offered to Prince Alfonso, the second son of the King of Portugal, who is but five years of age. The Spaniards have hunted through all the nations of Europe for a King. They tried to get a Portuguese in the person of Dom-Luis, who is an old ex-monarch; they tried to get an Italian, in the person of Victor Emanuel's young son, the Duke of Genoa; they tried to get a Spaniard, in the person of Espartero, who is an octogenarian. Some of them desired a French Bourbon, Montpensier; some of them a Spanish Bourbon, the Prince of Asturias; some of them an English prince, one of the sons of Queen Victoria. They have just tried to get the German Prince Leopold; but they have thought it better to give him up than take a war along with him. It is a long time since we first suggested to them to try an American ruler. We can offer them a large number of able and experienced sovereigns to pick from--men skilled in statesmanship, versed in the science of government, and adepts in all the arts of administration--men who could wear the crown with dignity and rule the kingdom at a reasonable expense.

There is not the least danger of Napoleon threatening them if they take an American sovereign; in fact, we have no doubt he would be pleased to support such a candidature. We are unwilling to mention names--though we have a man in our eye whom we wish they had in theirs.--New York Tribune.


It would be but an ostentation of modesty to permit such a pointed reference to myself to pass unnoticed. This is the second time that 'The Tribune' (no doubt sincerely looking to the best interests of Spain and the world at large) has done me the great and unusual honour to propose me as a fit person to fill the Spanish throne. Why 'The Tribune' should single me out in this way from the midst of a dozen Americans of higher political prominence, is a problem which I cannot solve. Beyond a somewhat intimate knowledge of Spanish history and a profound veneration for its great names and illustrious deeds, I feel that I possess no merit that should peculiarly recommend me to this royal distinction. I cannot deny that Spanish history has always been mother's milk to me. I am proud of every Spanish achievement, from Hernando Cortes's victory at Thermopylae down to Vasco Nunez de Balboa's discovery of the Atlantic ocean; and of every splendid Spanish name, from Don Quixote and the Duke of Wellington down to Don Caesar de Bazan. However, these little graces of erudition are of small consequence, being more showy than serviceable.

In case the Spanish sceptre is pressed upon me--and the indications unquestionably are that it will be--I shall feel it necessary to have certain things set down and distinctly understood beforehand. For instance: My salary must be paid quarterly in advance. In these unsettled times it will not do to trust. If Isabella had adopted this plan, she would be roosting on her ancestral throne to-day, for the simple reason that her subjects never could have raised three months of a royal salary in advance, and of course they could not have discharged her until they had squared up with her. My salary must be paid in gold; when greenbacks are fresh in a country, they are too fluctuating. My salary has got to be put at the ruling market rate; I am not going to cut under on the trade, and they are not going to trail me a long way from home and then practise on my ignorance and play me for a royal North Adams Chinaman, by any means. As I understand it, imported kings generally get five millions a year and house-rent free. Young George of Greece gets that. As the revenues only yield two millions, he has to take the national note for considerable; but even with things in that sort of shape he is better fixed than he was in Denmark, where he had to eternally stand up because he had no throne to sit on, and had to give bail for his board, because a royal apprentice gets no salary there while he is learning his trade. England is the place for that. Fifty thousand dollars a year Great Britain pays on each royal child that is born, and this is increased from year to year as the child becomes more and more indispensable to his country. Look at Prince Arthur. At first he only got the usual birth-bounty; but now that he has got so that he can dance, there is simply no telling what wages he gets.

I should have to stipulate that the Spanish people wash more and endeavour to get along with less quarantine. Do you know, Spain keeps her ports fast locked against foreign traffic three-fourths of each year, because one day she is scared about the cholera, and the next about the plague, and next the measles, next the hooping cough, the hives, and the rash? but she does not mind leonine leprosy and elephantiasis any more than a great and enlightened civilisation minds freckles. Soap would soon remove her anxious distress about foreign distempers. The reason arable land is so scarce in Spain is because the people squander so much of it on their persons, and then when they die it is improvidently buried with them.

I should feel obliged to stipulate that Marshal Serrano be reduced to the rank of constable, or even roundsman. He is no longer fit to be City Marshal. A man who refused to be king because he was too old and feeble, is ill qualified to help sick people to the station-house when they are armed and their form of delirium tremens is of the exuberant and demonstrative kind.

I should also require that a force be sent to chase the late Queen Isabella out of France. Her presence there can work no advantage to Spain, and she ought to be made to move at once; though, poor thing, she has been chaste enough heretofore--for a Spanish woman.

I should also require that--

I am at this moment authoritatively informed that "The Tribune" did not mean me, after all. Very well, I do not care two cents.