The Puppet Prince

Masked ball participant at Venice Carnival 2010

Sophie’s man was always fresh out of ideas. But he desperately needed a new roster of financial ventures to stay solvent. At the outset, his advisors found it difficult to tether him to a coherent idea. Thus, for his own good, his role had to be more “paperweight” and less “partner”. Occasionally, when hurled at an aide, his temper would do a lot of damage. Otherwise, Sophie compelled him to exist as a voiceless lunk.

The man’s lack of foresight had threatened to destroy Sophie’s childhood ambitions. However, she couldn’t simply chuck him to one side, grab a tiara and let that be that. This was not 18th century Russia. Yet, even in those days, serfs would not obey autocrats unless convinced of their right to rule.

And yet, it is 18th century Russia, though the serfs are tending to plots in unformed space. Tapping and scrolling, oblivious to bandwidth overheads, they tithe their landlords in views and clicks. Under Sophie’s influence, the landlords gather with advertisers and content providers at the private soirées she hosts. Grateful, they pay their dues in cash and kind.

Now, as then, the serfs assert the right to touch their rulers, and lash out if someone in power abuses their privilege. The man has an irrational fear of being stoned in public, so Sophie controls him by pointing out what he stands to lose. She does that by feeding him to the serfs, one intractable flaw at a time. Then, she makes the alternative easy to bear: “Let qualified advisors do the heavy lifting. Go along and do not interfere.” She accomplishes this task by training the man to be helpless.

It is breakfast time in the drawing room. As usual, a valet is spreading homemade jam on a slice of crumb-free toast. A mandarin tells the man when to start sipping his coffee. The pages of the morning papers are carefully screened and selected articles outlined in green ink. The same mandarin hovers nearby and murmurs a summary of each one into the man’s right ear.

Though somewhat soothed by the devoted scratchings of knife on bread, the man is in a strop. An item of blind gossip had been planted in the previous evening’s tabloid, and a copy “forgotten” on a coffee table outside the drawing room. He’d seen it on his way in. Someone had blabbed about that day last month when he was pouting about going outside for thirty minutes to cut a ribbon. The front page photo showed him wearing the tiniest frown as he was leaving the car. The sun was in his face, but no matter.

+_*

Image credit: Carnevale di Venezia, Italiana 2010 (Italy), photo by Anja/Edward N. Johnson, 13 February 2010, via Wikimedia.

Notes: Four years on WordPress. Time really flies. My archives are bursting and so was I. Big thanks to everyone who has made this loads of fun.