Summary and Analysis
Conducted into the principal apartment of the royal suite, Tom begins to receive instructions on the actions appropriate to a prince. In spite of his reluctance to sit while the great men of the realm are standing, he is told that it is fit and proper that they stand while he sits. When the Lord St. John requests a private audience with him, attended only by themselves and the Lord Hertford, Tom learns to make a gesture of dismissal.
The Lord St. John's message is brief and to the point: The king has commanded Edward to disguise all signs of his infirmity. He will cease to speak of his lowly birth, and he will make every effort to recover his former state of mind. Tom resignedly acquiesces.
He is then "reminded" of the city banquet that he is to attend, and at that moment the Lady Elizabeth (also called the Princess Elizabeth) and the Lady Jane Grey enter. The Lord St. John reminds Tom in a whisper to remember the king's command. Although Tom agrees, he almost breaks his pose while conversing with the two ladies. Several times, the tact of the Lady Elizabeth saves him, and several times the Lord St. John intercepts a difficult question and answers for him. Only once does Tom totally lose control and speak of his real father. He quickly catches himself, however, and apologizes. The two ladies finally leave and the Lord Guilford Dudley is announced; shortly, the Lord St. John and the Lord Hertford advise Tom to excuse himself, which he does, and is conducted into an inner apartment by Sir William Herbert, where Tom quickly learns that his every need will be handled by a servant. It seems that it is believed that he can do nothing at all for himself.
Once Tom is gone, the Lord St. John and the Lord Hertford discuss the matter of the prince's madness. The Lord St. John advances the possibility that the boy might not be Edward; Hertford scolds him for such thoughts but, nevertheless, after the Lord St. John leaves, the Lord Hertford considers the possibility that perhaps the lad is not the prince. Yet he finally sighs and declares, "Tush, he must be the prince! Will any he in all the land maintain there can be two, not of one blood and birth, so marvelously twinned? And even were it so, 'twere yet a stranger miracle that chance should cast the one into the other's place. Nay, 'tis folly, folly, folly!"
At noontime, Tom suffers through "the ordeal of being dressed for dinner." He is then conducted to the dining room, a room of ornate, stately grandeur. There, everything is done for him: a chaplain says grace for him; an earl fastens a napkin around his neck, and an official "taster" tastes everything before Tom tastes it — making sure that the food is not poisoned. This confuses Tom; why not use "a dog or a plumber," he wonders; but he concludes that "all the ways of royalty are strange." There are still other persons present to wait upon Tom, as he soon discovers, and among those whom Tom identifies are the Lord Chief Butler, the Lord Great Steward, and the Lord Head Cook. He also discovers to his amazement that he has three hundred and eighty-four additional servants to wait on him.
Everyone present in the dining room has been alerted that the prince is somewhat mad and that any strange behavior is to be ignored. Therefore, when Tom commits a blunder of dining etiquette, his attendants, rather than snicker, are most compassionate and ignore what seem to be "coarse" manners. Tom — because he knows of no other way — eats with his fingers, refuses to use the dainty napkin he is given, lest it become soiled, and inquires about the nature of such food as turnips and lettuce, both curiosities to him.
When dinner is finished, Tom fills his pockets with nuts and is about to leave when his nose begins to itch. Tom wonders momentarily if there might be an official "Nose Scratcher"; fearing that there might indeed be such a personage, he is afraid to scratch his nose, in spite of his discomfort.
When an elaborate finger bowl is presented to him, he takes it, drinks from it, and comments, "It hath a pretty flavor, but it wanteth strength." The servants grieve silently for their master's troubled mind. Meanwhile, Tom makes other unconscious blunders, then returns to his apartment, where he is finally left alone. Perusing the room, he finds some inviting books in a closet and among them is one about the etiquette of the English court. This is a prize, and he quickly curls up to read it.
Henry VIII awakens from a troublesome nap and is informed that the Lord Chancellor is waiting to see him. The Lord Chancellor's message is that, according to the king's command, the peers of the realm have agreed to the Duke of Norfolk's doom and now they await further instructions. The king would like to appear before them himself, but a sudden stab of pain forces him to reconsider. Nevertheless, he will put his seal upon the orders so that the Duke of Norfolk will be dead before another day is past.
There is a problem, however. No one can find the Great Seal of England. The Lord Hertford recalls that it had been given to the Prince of Wales, and he is immediately sent to fetch it. Unfortunately, since Tom has no idea of what it is, he thus doesn't know where it is. The king says not to trouble the poor mad child and dozes off. When he awakens, he discovers that the Lord Chancellor is still there; he tells him angrily to take care of the matter of the Duke of Norfolk. To the Lord Chancellor's reply that he is still waiting for the Great Seal, Henry impatiently tells him to use the small Seal and not to return — until he brings him the head of the Duke of Norfolk.
At nine that evening, Tom goes into London to dine so that the city can see that he is not mad. The splendor he sees is absolutely magnificent. Great and richly decorated barges carry the royal entourage from Westminster, and the entire company — a troop of halberdiers, officers, knights, judges, and other dignitaries (English and foreign) — precedes the splendidly clothed Tom Canty, a young boy far more "familiar with rags and dirt and misery" than with all this ornate pageantry.
These four chapters present Tom's rather traumatic adjustment to his sudden role as the Prince of Wales. All of his many blunders, however, are accounted for by the fact that he is believed to be mad. Furthermore, no one is to mention the fact that he is mad, but, nonetheless, the rumor spreads quickly and so far that even old Blake Andrews (in Chapter 27) mentions to Miles Hendon and to the true Prince of Wales that "the king is mad . . . (but] 'tis death to speak of it."
Twain, it should be pointed out, adheres to a certain degree of historical accuracy by having Edward's companions be the Lady (or the Princess) Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) and also the Lady Jane Grey. Both of these ladies help Tom through difficult situations — Elizabeth, in particular, being quick to note and make amends for Tom's blunders.
The fact that Twain emphasized in the first chapter that Tom Canty was a quick learner is illustrated again in Chapter 6, as Tom is able to learn his new role rather quickly; soon there are fewer and fewer "snags and sandbars, " as Tom grows more and more at ease in his new surroundings.
Chapter 7 deals essentially with the various types of blunders that Tom, quite naturally, makes during his first day as prince and especially during his first "royal dinner." He does not know what a napkin is, for example, and has it sent away, fearing that he might soil it. In addition, he drinks from the finger bowl, and he evinces a growing distress with all of the servants who surround him. At the end of the meal, he greedily fills his pockets with nuts from the table. But it is not until the end of the novel that we discover that he uses the Great Seal of England to crack these nuts. In fact, he discovers the Great Seal because, in his daydreams of being a prince, he always wanted to wear a suit of armor. Here, Twain mentions "the greaves, the gauntlets, the plumed helmet" and other such pieces of armor, and it is while Tom is trying on these pieces that he finds the Great Seal.
Tom's ability to read and to learn quickly allows him to read the etiquette book about the English court and, by this means, he instructs himself on how to act in some of the situations which he will soon encounter.
In Chapter 8, the subject of the Great Seal of England is expanded upon. It is made clear that only the true Prince of Wales knows where this Great Seal is, and it is needed in order to make official the order commanding the Duke of Norfolk's death. Consequently, Tom's ignorance that his "nutcracker" is, in reality, the Great Seal temporarily delays Norfolk's death — a matter which Tom strongly objects to, anyway.
The main purpose of Chapter 9 seemingly has little to do with the plot of the novel; instead, it is a kind of "time out," during which Twain details the richness and pageantry of the royal court of England. In describing this scene, Twain strives for historical accuracy, and also he quotes from various sources that deal with precisely the kinds of actions that Tom must perform in an attempt to dispel the rampant rumors of his madness.