Summary and Analysis
Chapter 33 and Conclusion
Miles Hendon, looking "picturesque enough," according to Twain, moves through the riot on London Bridge and by the time he emerges, what little money he had on his person has been filched by pickpockets. Nevertheless, he continues his search for his young friend, deciding that perhaps he can find him in the poorer sections of town. After awhile, he realizes that he has walked many miles without success. Noon finds him still looking, however, this time he is among the rabble that follows the royal procession. He continues on, following the pageant out of town, until at last he lies down and falls asleep under a hedge.
When he awakens the next morning, he moves on toward Westminster, thinking that he can perhaps borrow a few coins from old Sir Humphrey Marlow. As he approaches the palace, the whipping-boy notices him and notes to himself that this man fits the description of the man whom his majesty has been concerned about. When Miles approaches him and asks about Sir Humphrey Marlow, the boy agrees to carry a message, and he asks Miles to wait in a recess sunk in one of the palace walls.
As he sits down, however, a group of halberdiers arrest him as a suspicious-looking character; they search him and find the letter which the king wrote earlier. They hold him while an officer hurries into the palace, and when he returns, he is much more courteous, conducting Miles into the grand entrance of the palace. From there, another official enters and treats him with great respect, leading him through a great hall into a vast room filled with many of the nobility of England. Then he is left in the middle of the room.
While the king talks with someone at his side, Hendon looks about him, and when he sees the king dearly, he is amazed; indeed, he cannot be sure whether he is sleeping or if his eyes have deceived him. To test whether or not this is his old companion, he reaches for a chair and sits in it in the middle of the floor. Keenly, he watches the young king. The ensuing commotion over such unseemly behavior catches the attention of all the nobles, but before anyone can do anything about this "disrespect," the king affirms that Miles Hendon does indeed have the right to sit in the king's presence. In addition, the king affirms Miles's knighthood, his earldom, and sufficient money and lands befitting that station. Miles falls to his knees, swears allegiance to young Edward, and pays proper homage to him.
The king then suddenly sees Hugh Hendon among the many people in the room; he orders him arrested immediately and stripped "of his false show and stolen estates." Next, Tom Canty enters; he is richly dressed and marches down to the king and kneels. Edward tells Tom that he is pleased with the way that Tom governed in his stead. He announces that Tom's mother and sisters will henceforth be cared for throughout their lives at Christ's Hospital, as will Tom himself. In addition, the king gives Tom the "honorable title of the King's Ward" and grants him distinctive dress for affairs of state.
In the concluding chapter, Twain confirms that the Lady Edith repudiated Miles because of a command of his brother Hugh, who threatened both her life and Miles's life if she did not obey him. Neither she nor Miles win testify against Hugh, and so he is not prosecuted for his threats or for usurping his brother's estate and title, but Hugh abandons his wife and goes to Europe where he dies a short time later. And not long after, Miles marries the widow.
Nothing more is heard of John Canty, but Twain tells us that young Edward seeks out many of the people whom he encountered on his travels — the farmer who was branded and sold as a slave, the old lawyer from the prison, the daughters of the Baptist women who were burned, the boy who found the stray falcon, the woman who stole a remnant of cloth, the judge who was kind when the prince was believed to have stolen a pig, and the official who whipped Miles undeservedly. To those who did him a service, he gives aid and comfort. To the officials who misused their power, he orders immediate punishment.
Miles Hendon and Tom Canty remain favorites of the king. But as Earl of Kent, Miles does not abuse his privilege of sitting in the king's presence, and this right is exercised only a few times in the following years. Tom Canty lives to be an old and distinguished looking man, honored throughout his days.
The reign of Edward is short, but he is a worthy ruler — lenient with his people and always doing his best to mend harsh and repressive laws. His is a merciful reign, especially during the difficult times that confronted England.
Continuing the contrast between the pauper and prince, Twain focuses on Miles Hendon as yet another pauper; Miles wants to use his friendship with Sir Humphrey Marlow in order to gain access to the new king, who is reported to be very concerned over the many injustices in the land. Miles Hendon, of course, has just suffered a terrible injustice at the hands of his young brother Hugh, but — dressed as he is — his chances of gaining access to a royal audience are very slim indeed. However, in terms of Twain's plot, young King Edward has described in great detail the man known as Miles Hendon, and when a man fitting Edward's description is discovered in the neighborhood of Westminster, it becomes part of the plot that the king's whipping-boy be the one who discovers Miles. Remember that, coincidentally, one of Miles's last acts was to be whipped himself rather than have young Edward be whipped. Thus, this royal whipping-boy reports the presence of Hendon, but before he can gain admission to the court, he is arrested again. Luckily, the letter that young Edward wrote — in Latin, Greek, and English — is found on Miles's body and saves him in the nick of time. Even when Miles is finally brought before the king, however, he can still not believe that his "mad young friend" is really King of England — as he insisted all along that he was. For that reason, Miles tries the ruse of sitting in the king's presence; that will be a fail-proof test of the king's identity.
The last chapter of almost all nineteenth-century novels concerns itself with tidying up all the details that were left hanging after the climactic incident of the plot. Twain's novel is no exception. His readers felt almost certain that young Edward would eventually be restored to his rightful place on the throne of England, but no doubt they all wondered if he became a good king. Twain tells us that Edward long remembered all of his experiences when he lived as a pauper among his subjects. He rewarded those who showed honor and mercy and justice, and he punished those who were wicked and cheap and evil. We have witnessed the education of a king — a young boy who passed from innocence as he grew up in the royal apartment and gained further maturity as he was exposed to the very worse extremities of life, living as a pauper, despised and hated by most people. All these experiences made him become a wise and tolerant king, one whose rule, although brief, was always just.