Summary and Analysis
Near dawn, on the same morning as the prince's disappearance, Tom Canty awakens in his royal bed. After a few moments of confusion, he calls for his sisters to come to him so that he can tell them about his strange dream. The person who comes to Tom however, is a stranger and asks what Tom's "commands" are, reminding him that he is Edward, King of England. This greatly upsets Tom, but fie manages to go back to sleep and to dream a pleasant dream about a dwarf who shows him where to dig for twelve pennies every week, enough to satisfy his father and still have some left over to give to the priest and to his mother.
In the midst of Tom's dream, he is awakened and must submit to the process of being dressed, with each item of clothing passed from one person to the next in a long line of serving men. Once dressed, he is then officially washed and dried and given over to the Hairdresser-royal. He is allowed to eat, and he is then taken into the throne room, with much ceremony and with many officers and other functionaries attending him. There, he must hear and approve many tedious reports, assisted by his "uncle," the Lord Hertford. When he learns that the king is to be buried later in the coming month, he is surprised and wonders if the body will "keep." When he learns of the expenses of the royal household for the past six months and of the fact that most of it has not been paid, he bursts out, "We be going to the dogs, 'tis plain." He then begins to outline means of economizing (taking a smaller house, releasing servants, and so forth), but he is brought up short by pressure on his arm from the Lord Hertford. The assembled company seems to notice nothing, and as business continues, Tom learns that the king made a provision in his will to raise the Lord Hertford to the ducal degree and to raise Sir Thomas Seymour, his brother, to the peerage, and that both grants were accompanied by grants of money. He is about to blurt out something about the propriety of paying the late king's debts, but a touch from his advisor saves him from such indiscretions. Finally, all of this business of state so wearies Tom that he falls asleep, letting the business of the kingdom come to a standstill for the moment.
Later that morning, Tom spends an enjoyable hour with the Lady Elizabeth and the Lady Jane Grey, and he also has a brief and unpleasant interview with his older "sister," later known as "Bloody Mary. "
After these young women have left, a boy of about twelve is shown in. This boy is Humphrey Marlow, the royal "whipping-boy." It takes Tom some time to figure out that Humphrey is actually paid money to take the punishment that would be meted out to the prince. In his talk with Humphrey, Tom shows signs of realizing what is expected of him, as he leads Humphrey to believe that he is helping the prince regain his memory.
Humphrey has two requests. The first is that Tom will intercede so that the punishment that is to be meted out to him on this day be annulled; Tom grants this request quickly. Humphrey's second request is that he not be turned away, now that the prince is King of England and will no longer need a whipping-boy. Being a "whipping-boy." is Humphrey's only means of support for himself and his sisters, he explains, so Tom makes him and his heirs "Hereditary Grand whipping-boy to the royal house of England!"
Once these requests are granted, Tom keeps Humphrey with him, encouraging him to talk with him. As he does so, Humphrey notices that Tom's memory has "improved" markedly after he has had several incidents "recalled" for him. Tom, in turn, resolves to visit with Humphrey as frequently as possible.
After Humphrey leaves, the Lord Hertford enters to tell Tom that the Council has decided that Tom should eat in public so as to dispel all rumors of his madness, and in the course of "reminding" Tom of what is expected of him, Hertford discovers that Tom's memory has "much improved." The Lord Hertford is encouraged, therefore, and he tries other areas; here, too, Tom's earlier conversation with Humphrey stands him in good stead. When Hertford asks about the Great Seal, however, Tom asks what it looks like. Hertford takes this as a sign that the prince's wits "are flown again" and, rather than answering the question, he begins speaking of other matters, diverting Tom's attention from the Great Seal.
On the following day, the foreign ambassadors come to pay their respects to the new king. The scene is splendid and Tom enjoys the ceremony, but eventually it becomes tedious and wearies him. As far as he is concerned, the day has been wasted — except for the hour he spent with his whipping-boy; during that hour, he gained enjoyment and information, and he was not constrained by ceremonial rituals.
Tom's third day at court is very much like the second, except that he is becoming more accustomed to all the pageantry and ceremony. Even though he often wishes to be back on the streets in familiar surroundings, there are times when he forgets these things and enjoys his present circumstances. Tom's fourth day would perhaps have seen further adjustment to his station, but the matter of the approaching dinner and the fact that he must eat in public is distressing. Tom's apprehension leaves him "low-spirited and absent-minded," and his "sense of captivity" weighs heavily upon him.
While in this mood, Tom wanders to a window to look out and get some sense of the freedom of those who are not confined within the palace walls. He becomes interested in a "hooting and shouting mob" approaching. He gives orders for someone to find out what this is all about, and word is brought back that the mob is following a man, a woman, and a girl who are about to be executed for their crimes.
Filled with pity for these poor people and never thinking about the laws they might have broken, Tom orders them to be brought before turn so that he might find out more about them and their crimes. When he does, he sees that his commands are instantly carried out. He marvels at the absolute power he has.
The three doomed people are brought before him, and Tom recognizes the man, after a moment's thought, as the man who saved one of Tom's comrades on New Year's Day. Tom's first question is whether or not the crime the man is accused of has been "proven upon him." When assured that it has, Tom sighs and is about to send the man to his doom when the man unexpectedly asks a boonthat he be hanged for his crime. When Tom asks why he wishes this as his boon, the man tells him that "it is ordered that I be boiled alive!" Tom is horrified by this order, and when he is told that such is indeed the law of the land, he demands that the law be changed immediately.
After learning of the punishment that was to be inflicted upon the man, Tom inquires more closely into the crime that the fellow allegedly committed. Tom is told that the man entered the house of a sick man in Islington; within an hour after the man left, the man who was ill died in a manner that the doctors believe could only have been caused by poison. Furthermore, Tom is told that the entire crime had been foretold. At this point, the prisoner claims that at the time he was supposed to be killing the man, he was actually saving a life. Hearing this, Tom asks when the so-called crime took place. Learning that it supposedly took place on New Year's Day, the very time when the man was saving Tom's comrade's life, Tom declares that the man should be freed, and he says, "It enrageth me that a man be hanged upon such idle, hare-brained evidence!"
His questioning of the man, of the sheriff, and his decisive action in the case, bring forth admiration from all those in the audience. Indeed, there are those who feel that if Tom is "mad," it is certainly an improvement on the normal state of affairs.
Next, the woman and the young girl (her daughter) are brought before Tom; they are accused of having sold their souls to the devil and of bringing down a storm that laid waste to the entire region around them. This "crime" has been proven, it is charged, by people who saw them going into a ruined church and by others who experienced the storm. Tom's first question is whether or not the woman also suffered from the storm; when told that her home was swept away, Tom comments that this suggests that perhaps she is mad and did not know what she was doing; therefore, she could not be guilty.
When Tom asks how the woman is supposed to conjure up such storms, he is told that she does so by "taking off her stockings." He then tells her that he would like to "see a storm." He says that if she conjures up a storm for him, he will let her and her daughter go free. The woman pleads with him, telling him that she would raise the storm to save her daughter, but she cannot. Tom accepts her story and he gives them both a full pardon.
The experiences of the morning boost Tom's self-confidence so thoroughly that he finds that he no longer dreads the state dinner that he must attend. He is beginning to adjust to his new role, and he is doing so very admirably.
The royal dinner, like all things involving the king, is splendid and picturesque. Twain describes the costumes as all being magnificent, and the movements of all — servants and nobility alike — are all carefully orchestrated. Tom, for his part, "bore himself right gracefully, and all the more so because he was not thinking of how he was doing it, his mind being charmed and occupied with the blithe sights and sounds about him."
He eats with not the least embarrassment during the dinner, even though he is conscious that all eyes are upon him. He makes sure that he does nothing for himself, he lets the servants all wait on him, and he is particularly careful to take his time doing everything expected of him. As a result, he feels triumphant. He could, he thinks, endure this several times a day if he could avoid certain other requirements of his office.
Chapter 14 again focuses on Tom Canty, the pauper who has been suddenly thrust into the role of a prince. As Edward Tudor did, while he was awakening in the hovel occupied by the Canty family, Tom awakens and calls for familiar people, especially his sisters. This scene reflects the difference between dreams and reality, a motif that frequently appears in the novel. In all cases, the dreams are wonderful, and the experiences on awakening to reality are depressing and frightening. Once, Tom Canty dreamed of being a prince; now, after he has seen what it is like to actually be a prince, he dreams of being back with his own family, even though he would have to endure the dismal conditions under which they live.
When Tom is finally awakened to begin the day, the process of dressing takes up a good deal of time. Undoubtedly, this process was lengthy enough in real life, but Twain has added as many retainers as he could and has lengthened the process even more to satirize all the pomp and circumstance involved. Unlike the pageantry of the river trip into the city, which allowed the citizens a chance to see their prince and to find some reason to celebrate, the "pageantry" of dressing is useless and unproductive, in Twain's eyes.
Once again, the difference between the way the prince is treated as a commoner and the way the pauper is treated as a prince is contrasted. Both are believed to be mad, but whereas the prince is laughed at, scorned, and beaten for the "errors" he makes in his "madness," Tom is given every consideration; everyone at court is willing to overlook all his mistakes and to help him regain his sanity. As noted before, Tom learns quickly, and it does not take him long to learn to use his madness as a tool so that he can find out the things that he needs to know. For example, in his conversation with his whipping-boy, Tom decides to use his "loss of memory" as an aid in gaining information; he says, " 'Tis strange how my memory doth wanton with me these days.... But mind it not — I mend apace — a little clew doth often serve to bring me back again the things and names which had escaped me." The thought of helping his king regain his memory thrills Humphrey and gives him an added incentive to continue talking with Tom.
The institution of the whipping-boy interests us almost immediately. The doctrine, of course, is that the prince, a son of the king, is sacred; death is the reward for anyone who so much as touches this sacred person. Thus, any punishment due the prince is meted out to his stand-in — the whipping-boy. Note throughout the novel that the prince threatens many people with death simply for laying a hand on him. Humphrey accepts the beatings that he takes in the prince's stead with some pride. Although the beatings undoubtedly are painful, he is useful to his prince; more important, these beatings are the means by which he supports himself and his two sisters. Considering the beatings that Tom received in Offal Court, Humphrey's life cannot be worse than that; indeed, it is better in many ways than the life Tom is used to. Nevertheless, Tom is horrified by the thought of someone voluntarily taking a beating. Like the prince, Tom is willing to prevent cruelty and to reward service and need; as the prince made Hendon a knight, so Tom makes Humphrey Marlow "Hereditary Grand Whipping-Boy to the royal house of England."
The theme of Tom's fascination with pageantry, mingled with the tedium of the ritual performance of duty, appears again in Chapter 14: "The splendors of the scene delighted his [Tom's] eye and fired his imagination, at first, but the audience was long and dreary, and so were most of the addresses; wherefore, what began as a pleasure, grew into weariness and homesickness by and by." Nevertheless, as Tom learns more and more of what he is expected to do and say, he becomes more comfortable in this new role. Indeed, one of the contrasts in this novel is the way that Tom moves easily into his new role of being a prince, while the true prince resists any suggestion that he adapt to the life that he finds himself in. Of course, Tom's new life is far more pleasant — even with the tedium of all of the royal ritual — than the prince's new life is. Tom, therefore, has far more incentive to adapt, while the prince has far more incentive to try and fight his way back to his rightful position.
Tom's quick wit and native intelligence, as well as his humanity and decency, are clearly in evidence in this chapter — especially when his curiosity and desire for a diversion lead him to inquire about the nature of the mob and to have the prisoners brought before him. Tom, like Huck Finn in one of Twain's later novels, responds to the innate goodness of the prisoners and is offended by the harsh injustice of the country's laws. Consequently, Tom is creating a superb reputation for himself as the King of England. The people who have heard rumors that the king is mad begin to wonder: if this be madness, what indeed is sanity?
In Chapter 16, because of Tom's success in dispensing law and dealing with prisoners and diplomats, he gains enough confidence in his own judgments that he feels that he can now go to the state dinner with much more assurance and ease. The chapter also provides another "history lesson" in its description of the pageantry of the state dinner. Twain was obviously well-read in the history of this period and his knowledge is quite apparent in the abundant descriptions of historical details.