The term “white elephant” came about because albino elephants were quite rare. In the Court of the King of Siam, it was the custom for the elephant’s owners to give the elephant the very best. If a courtier angered the King, the King would announce to the court that he was planning to give a presentation of a royal white elephant to the courtier to show him his special regard. As it was very costly to feed and tend these unique beasts, the courtier either had to refuse the King’s gift and be ruined, or be ruined financially by the upkeep of the elephant. Usually the courtier left in a bit of a hurry before having to make that choice.
The Swedish king Charles VII was the first king with the name Charles. Charles, I, II, III, IV, V and VI never actually existed and nobody seems to know why. Three hundred years passed before there was a Charles VIII.
If you’ve ever wanted to be one of royalty, just find yourself a poor monarch and offer to paint their portrait for them. The Flemish painter Peter Paul Reubens painted the ceiling of King Charles I of England. When King Charles couldn’t afford to pay Reubens, he simply knighted him as payment.
King Louis XIV of France was a rather vain sort of chap. Apparently he was so conceited that he would often hum or sing songs of praise that had been written about him during his rule. On the other hand, King Philip V of Spain could have been a bit of a worrier. King Philip hired the famous opera singer Farinelli to sing him to sleep at night.
King Louis XIV
Bathing must have been a chore for the royals. King Louis XIV of France only took three baths in his whole life – and each time it was against his will. Castile’s Queen Isabella took only two baths in her life, one when she was born, and the other, just before her wedding. But if you think that stinks, then consider Joachim Patinier, a well-known Flemish painter who managed to live his entire life without having a bath at all!
In 1939 King George VI and his wife queen Elizabeth visited Canada. When they reached Winnipeg the royals were greeted by the mayor of Winnipeg and his wife, Mr and Mrs Queen and by the Canadian Prime Minister, MacKenzie King. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announcer had an interesting time describing the visit. His speech went something like this:
The royal couple whilst in Canada
“Here comes the royal family now. The automobile has now stopped, a member of the RCMP is opening the car door – oh, there’s the King – he’s stepping out, followed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, nattily attired in a silver coat. Mr King is now shaking hands with the King and introducing Mr Queen to the King and Queen and then Mrs Queen to the Queen and King. They are now proceeding up the steps to the well-decorated City Hall, the King and Mr King together, with the Queen being escorted by Mr Queen. The King has now stopped and said something to Mrs Queen and goes to Mrs Queen and the Queen and Mr King and the Queen laughed jovially. The King leaves Mr King and goes to Mrs Queen and the Queen and Mr King follow behind…”And finally, one of my favourite true stories:
The King of England from 1714 to 1727 was George I and he could not speak nor write English. George I was a German prince from Hanover and when he was 54yo succeeded Queen Anne. He had no interest in learning English and in the 13 years he ruled, he just never bothered.
King George I
In the late 1840’s, anaesthesia was first used to ease the pain of childbirth. Male churchmen protested because in the Bible, Eve was told, “In sorrow you shall bring forth children.” This was one of the punishments for eating the forbidden fruit. However, in 1853 Queen Victoria used chloroform when she gave birth to her 7th child and suddenly all of the disapproval ceased. None of the men were brave enough to criticise the Queen.
In 1917 the British royal family’s surname was made up. The family’s original surnames were Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. During the first World War there was understandably some anti-German feeling and it was decided to change the family’s name. Lord Stamfordham who was George V’s private secretary thought up the name Windsor. So the British royal family actually have a surname made up by a commoner.
There have been some wise rulers in the past and one of these, was King Canute the Dane who ruled England from 1016 to 1035 AD. King Canute set his throne on the beach and commanded the tide not to rise. The tide of course did not obey and eventually lapped his feet and soon began to rise around his legs. At that moment, the King leapt up and said that “Nobody was worthy of the name king ‘save Him whose nod heaven and earth and sea obey under laws eternal’.” King Canute’s intention was show his courtiers how limited his powers actually were. After that time, the king refused to wear his crown again. Instead he placed the crown on a crucifix, above Christ’s head to show his respect.
In the middle of the 11th century AD, an Arab king by the name of Almotamid decided to plant almond trees over an entire Spanish hillside as a gesture for his favourite wife Itimad. Itimad was a Christian and had once been a slave. The idea was not for the trees to produce almonds but because the King’s wife had never seen snow and he wanted to surprise her. During spring-time, the petals of the almond trees covered the ground and turned the slopes white. This is the closest the King could come to producing snow in warm southern Spain.