Thursday, 9 August 2012

Rex sine Terra: King without a land

I am a king. Yes a king.  Rex sine terra, or a king without a land, in the way that Medieval Spain had men with the title dux sine terra.  The title came with certain status and authority.  It made you a duke, gave you certain prestige and acknowledged your standing in society.  But it did not come with land.  It wasn't a landed title based on the holding of certain castles or estates.  It was a title without land.  You were a duke without land.  And in this way I am a king without land.

My Kingly crest
A castle means safety; an arrow readiness for battle; a lion dauntless courage.  Red signifies military strength and magnanimity; blue truth and loyalty; purple royal majesty; silver peace and sincerity.

Now this doesn't mean that you cannot have land, authority and power.  It just means your title doesn't guarantee it.  If you were a duke without land in Medieval Spain, you only controlled your household and whatever estates you owned before the title.  Duke just came along as a bonus.  As for me, I am a king, but I did not inherit a kingdom with this title.  I have no land of my own complete with subjects.  But this does not mean I do not have power.

First and most importantly I rule myself.  I have adopted the motto "qui vicit, qui se vicit", or he conquers who conquers himself.  I believe this to be true.  A great many things can be done with self-control and determination.  The sixteenth century poet and satirist, Pietro Aretino, had this to say about the subject of self rule: "I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself."  In my personal experience self rule is not only the most important thing for personal growth, it is also what paves the way to other successes. 

Knight figurine
Does this mean that everyone is a king?  Certainly not.  One must have at least a modicum of self-control to vie for the title.  If you sit down and think about it you may be surprised at how few of the people you know actually exhibit self-control and the ability to rule themselves.  Think especially of those bad decisions you try to persuade your friends not to make.  Are they motivated by fleeting desires and lack of self-control?

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to actually look at the definition of rule now.  According to the dictionary, to rule is defined thusly: to control or direct; exercise dominating power, authority, or influence over; govern: to rule the empire with severity.

If rule can be defined as just having influence over, and let's face it some kings barely had that, then I rule all sorts of things.  I rule not only myself but also all of my possessions.  Due to the fact that I believe technological devices are magic I cannot claim to control them, but I certainly have a dominating influence over them.  (Ok, at least on most days.)  You may recall my mad ideas about the workings of flash drives.  Well, I own two of them with their attendant cities of miniature scribes and I rule their actions and inhabitants.  As far as influence goes I can reasonably say I have influence over my family and friends.  Who doesn't?  So in a small way I rule them too.

Archer figurine
Actually my friends are the reason I'm a king in the first place.  My senior year of university my friends helped me build a cardboard castle in my dorm room.  That is really a story all of its own but that is the reason I am king.  Every castle must have a king, right?  Why didn't I just name myself queen of the castle, being that I am in fact a woman?  Well, I'll get to that in a second.  However, living in a castle demanded a power structure.  I knighted my friends, gave them titles and power.  Even before I became a self-proclaimed king I settled quarrels between them to the best of my ability.  After I became a king I naturally waged wars against enemies who threatened peace in our kingdom.  I made royal declarations and of course conducted battles with foam swords and cardboard shields.  

So, why not a queen?  Think about the history of women and power.  If you think of truly powerful rulers you tend to think of men.  Alexander the Great, Caesar, Henry VIII, Genghis Khan, Napoleon.  Do you think of Elizabeth I or Catherine the Great, or Cleopatra?  No, usually not.  Not to mention that many of history's powerful women only wielded power through men.  Often women came to power as regents for their young sons.  Catherine the Great only gained power by overthrowing her husband and having love affairs with powerful men in the kingdom.  Other women had to use their femininity as their strongest asset in politics.  Cleopatra kept power and influenced politics by making alliances, or romances, with powerful Roman rulers like Caesar and Marc Antony.  Elizabeth I was probably the first monarch to rule in her own right but she had to do so by constantly using her possible marriage as a bargaining chip.  She never married and one has to suspect that this was at least partly because her most powerful tool was dangling the hope of possible alliance with her into various political situations.

Lion Architectural detail in Leeds
The lion in Leeds that greets me at my bus stop.  I like to think it is a royal lion.

So, the only real way to rule in your own right without having to use your marriage as a bargaining tool for power is to be a king.  If you are a queen your property goes to your husband when you are married and he controls it.  A king doesn't lose control by marrying.  A king doesn't rule only as long as his son is in his minority.  Historically, a king has more inherent power, authority and respect than a queen.  I didn't want my kingly status to depend on my personal choices of marriage and alliance.  I wanted to remain powerful and retain my freedom, and keep my cardboard castle to myself.  So I declared myself a king, claiming the position, the power, and the freedom that comes with such a title.  And I stubbornly defend this choice with anyone who argues.

Besides I wanted to be able to wear the color of royalty officially.  Purple was the colour of Roman emperors, kings and powerful men in ancient times.  The Roman Emperor Aurelian wouldn't let his wife buy a purple shawl because it cost its weight in gold.  It was expensive, it was a status symbol and it was highly regulated.  Sumptuary laws made it available only to certain classes of people even in the Tudor age of England.  So, I want to be ready just in case the old sumptuary laws keeping purple for the royalty come back in fashion.  Now that I've made myself a king I can wear what I like.  And more often than not I choose purple for my kingly raiment.

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