Kingsblood Royal, by Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 8

Dr. Kenneth M. Kingsblood (the M. was for his Scotch mother, Jennie McCale) had puttered contentedly through life. He was proud of having once seen Ex–President Herbert Hoover on a train, and of having bought a new X-ray machine, and to him each of his four children was a golden filling. He was more often tired than he should be, at sixty, and his heart fluttered, and he thought that perhaps Mother and he ought to go to Florida next March, when it would be raw in Minnesota.

He was particularly pleased that Neil, the miracle child, was going to be a financier and a civic leader, who would carry out all the reforms — larger schools and a new water-reservoir — of which Dr. Kenneth had dreamed, but which he had been too busy with dentistry and gardening and scrollwork to carry out.

As they sat with knees close together in Neil’s “den,” smoking cigars that harmonized only with Christmas or a dinner for the Governor, Dr. Kenneth puffed:

“Boy, it’s curious, your changing your dog’s name to Prince, because our family might have a special reason to be interested in princes.”

“How’s that, Dad?”

“Well, maybe it’s all foolishness. I like to call it The Secret to myself and here I am acting mysterious — guess the fact is, I don’t quite believe it myself, and I’ll only tell you and not the rest of the family, because you’re the only one that’s got enough imagination so you won’t laugh at me. Just the same, there’s one chance in ten thousand that the story might be true, and if it was, I guess the Beehouses would be mighty proud to be intermarried with the Kingsbloods, and not the other way around.”

“Dad, what IS this big mystery?”

“Son, my dad and his dad before him believed that we have sure-enough royal blood in our veins.”

“How do you mean?”

“Just what I say. Maybe we’re kings. No joke. And not any of these French or German rulers, either — Looeys and Ferdinands and that lot, but real royal BRITISH kings. Some people think the name Kingsblood is kind of unusual. Well, it is, and for a very good reason. According to my dad’s theory (if he ever really believed it, of which I ain’t too sure), ‘Kingsblood’ was originally a kind of nickname for our forbears, indicating that they had the blood of kings — as you and I have! Now what do you think of THAT?”

“I don’t know as I’d care so much, Dad. I’d rather live in Grand Republic than in a drafty old palace.”

“Well, so would I, for that matter. I bet none of them have automatic furnaces. But I just mean it would be kind of nice if, while we went right on sticking to business here, we could know that by rights — maybe — we’re really the kings of England. It would tickle your mother and Joan and Vestal and some day Biddy. And I don’t guess it would hurt your position in the bank one bit if Mr. Prutt realized what kind of a high-born guy he had working for him. IF it’s true!

“The theory is that by the true line of descent, I’m the king of Britain, and you would be my successor. Of course I suppose your brother could claim to be Prince of Wales, but (if the thing were true), I don’t know but what I’d ask Robert to step aside, as he certainly ought to, fellow with no imagination like that, and I do wish to God he would quit referring to my really very fine collection of Florida seashells, as ‘that junk’!

“Well, here’s the dope. I was told about it by my father, William, who may not have been any great shakes as a royal monarch but he certainly was the smartest farmer and horsetrader in Blue Earth County. He had the story from HIS father, Daniel Kingsblood, the Civil War one, and he had it in turn from HIS father, Henry Aragon Kingsblood, who was born in Kent, England, in 1797, and emigrated to New Jersey, after having been arrested for publicly claiming, at a state fair or whatever they had in those days in England, that he was the Legitimate Monarch of Great Britain and Ireland — and I suppose all these Realms Beyond the Sea, whatever they are. He’d of been King Henry the Ninth. And born right there in England that way, maybe he knew — maybe it’s true! How’s that?”

“Well, it’s interesting, but I don’t suppose we could prove it, even if it was true.”

“That’s what I’m coming to. I notice that, now your leg keeps you from going out for sports, you read a lot more than you used to. So maybe it would amuse you to look into this. I’d kind of like to know about it, before I pass on.

“We haven’t a scrap of written proof. I always intended to try and check the facts, but I’ve been awful busy, and household cares and so on, and all of us dentists overworked, with so many of the profession in the armed services, and here lately it seems as if people have no consideration about a dentist’s schedule and think you can work ’em in any time, especially these young punks home from school on vacation. If you let ’em, they’d simply work a dentist to death, and THEN never pay their bills, and so — I never got the time. But here’s what happened, the way I got it.

“This Henry Aragon Kingsblood claimed he was descended from a son of Henry the Eighth and Catherine of Aragon, who would be the real heir. But when Henry got sore at Catherine and kicked her out, he concealed the existence of this son, who’s supposed to have been named Julian, Prince Julian, and who was brought up by faithful cottagers who called him ‘Julian of the King’s Blood’— hence our name.

“Now of course, him being the son of Catherine, that makes us part Spanish, and I don’t know as I like that so much — I’ve always been proud of our English and Scotch blood; you know my mother was very distantly related to Bruce and Wallace and all those famous kilties, and THAT’S a REAL fact! But still, when you think that Catherine’s folks were Ferdinand and Isabella, that told Columbus to go and discover America, that makes her just about as high-born as the English, and you can see from our red hair, yours and mine, that the Spanish blood hasn’t done us any harm.

“Well, there’s the story. Maybe there isn’t a word of truth in it, but do you suppose you could make a little effort to find out, boy?”

He looked so wistful. Neil was fond of his gentle father, and he vowed, “You bet I will, Dad.”

“I’d appreciate it. Just remember that it’s not plumb impossible. There was this fellow out West, in Alberta, I think it was, or it might have been Wyoming — I don’t believe he was a Mormon, but very likely he was — and he found out he was the rightful earl of something or other — just a plain ranchman! So you see.”

“Anyway, be kind of nice to know,” Neil agreed. “And you may think it’s a joke, but when Biddy put on that gilt crown in front of the tree, she sure looked like a real queen. Yes, I’ll take a shot at it.”

And in January of the new year, he did.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57