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  December 09, 2023
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Home > Holidays and Occasions > Christian Easter > Stories for Kids > King Robert of Sicily

Religious Easter Short Stories

King Robert of Sicily

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Adapted)

King Robert was ruler of all Sicily. Many lands and beautiful castles were his, and he had many servants, who obeyed his every word; but they obeyed not because they loved him, but because they feared him. He was a proud king, and haughty - that is, he would look over his lands, and he would say, "Surely, this is a great kingdom, and I am a great king!"

One Easter Sunday morning, King Robert went to church. He wore his finest robes, and riding with him were all of his lords and ladies. The morning was beautiful, and everything seemed to bear a message of love and joy. The grass and flowers that grew by the roadside, the trees that waved their branches above, and the blue sky, all seemed to bear the same message.

But King Robert saw nothing beautiful. He was thinking only of himself. They reached the church, and the sunlight came through the beautiful windows, seeming to speak of God above. The pure white lilies on the altar whispered to each other, "On this day Christ was risen!" The music from the organ seemed to reach every heart, but King Robert sat unmoved in his pew. When the minister spoke, the king heard nothing of the sermon until certain words caught his ear. The minister was saying these words, "The Lord can exalt the humble and can bring down the proud and mighty from their seats." The choir chanted the words again and again.

As the king heard, he threw back his head and said, "Why do they teach such words as these? There is no power on earth or in heaven above that could take my throne."

By and by the king fell asleep in his pew. He must have slept a long time, for when he awoke the great church was dark and the moonlight was streaming through the great glass windows. The king sprang to his feet in alarm, and said, "How dare they go away and leave me alone?" He rushed quickly to the door, but it was locked. He called loudly and knocked upon the door, and finally the old sexton, asleep on the outside, heard the noise and shouted, "Who is there?" And the king answered, "It is I - the king. Open the door!"

The old sexton shook his head and murmured to himself, "It must be some madman locked in the church," but he unlocked the door, and the king rushed wildly out - on out in the street, where the moonlight fell upon him. Then suddenly he stopped and gazed at his clothes in amazement, for instead of wearing his royal robes he wore nothing but rags. His crown was gone, and he seemed a beggar, and he cried out, "How can these things be? Some one has robbed me while I have slept, and left me these rags."

Then he rushed on to the great castle, and at the gate he again called, "Open! I, the king, am here." The great gate swung open and the king rushed on through the great castle halls, never pausing until he reached the throne room, and there he stopped and stood looking in surprise and amazement, for there on his throne sat another king, wearing his crown and wearing his robes, and holding in his hand his scepter. King Robert looked at the new king and cried, "Why do you sit on my throne, wearing my robes and my crown and my scepter?"

The new king only smiled and said, "I am the king, and who art thou?"

King Robert threw back his head haughtily and answered, "I am the king. You have no right on my throne."

At these words the strange king smiled sadly, and replied, "I am the king, and thou shalt be my servant. Yes, thou shalt be the servant of all my servants, for thou shalt be court jester, and wear the cap and bells, and have for your companion the ugly ape."

Before King Robert could say more, the servants came and hurried him through the castle halls, down to a little room, cold and bare, with nothing but a pile of straw in a corner, and there they left him alone, save for the ugly ape, which sat in the corner grinning at him. As King Robert looked down on the rough pile of straw he said, "It must surely be a dream, and I will awaken in the morning and find myself the king."

The morning came, but when he awoke he heard the rustle of the straw beneath him, and there in the corner still sat the ugly ape. That day the new king called him to the throne, and, looking at him, said, "Art thou the king?" And King Robert proudly threw back his head as before and answered, "I am the king."

And each day the new king sent for him and asked him the same question, and each day King Robert gave the same proud and haughty answer. One day there came a summons to the court - King Robert's brother, the Emperor of Rome, sent word for King Robert and all of his court to visit him at Easter-time, and great preparations were made for the journey. When the train was ready it formed a beautiful procession. The new king rode at its head, in his splendor, and all the beautiful ladies and the brave knights came riding behind in their gorgeous robes. At the last of this splendid train rode King Robert on a queer old mule. He had on the cap and bells, and behind him sat the ugly ape, and, as they passed along the street, the boys laughed and jeered; but King Robert said to himself, "They will not laugh long," because his heart was glad now, for they were going to Rome, where his own brother ruled, and now surely he would be restored to his rights, for his brother would see and know that the new king was an impostor. Thus the splendid train rode to Rome, and the emperor was there to meet them.

When the emperor saw the strange king he went to him and embraced him and called him "brother." At this, King Robert rushed forward and cried out, "I am the king, thy brother. This man is an impostor. Do you not know me? I am the king." But the emperor only looked at him strangely, and, turning to the strange king, he said, "Why do you keep this madman at your court?" The new king only smiled, and made no answer.

The visit ended, and again the splendid train passed back to Sicily, and King Robert still rode behind. His heart was very sad, because he thought, "If my own brother knows me not, what hope can there be?"

When the new king came back to Sicily he changed many of the cruel laws, and the whole land was made glad and happy, as it had never been before. King Robert noticed the change and wondered at it.

It was Easter-time again, and King Robert said in his heart, "I will go to church again this morning." Behind all the procession he rode, as usual, and took his seat in the back of the church, so that no one might see him. Everything was beautiful at this Easter-time. The church, the flowers, the music, all bore the Easter message. When the music began it crept into King Robert's heart, and as he listened the tears rolled down his cheek, and he bowed his head in prayer. The first words that he heard were the old, familiar ones, "The Lord can exalt the humble and bring down the proud and mighty from their seats." As poor King Robert listened he humbly bowed his head and said, "Ah, surely that is true; the Lord in heaven is mightiest of all. He is the king."

When the king and his court had reached home again that day, the new king called King Robert immediately to his throne room, and upon his face there seemed to be a glorious light shining forth, and, looking at King Robert with a wondrous smile, he asked the old, old question, "Art thou the king?" But King Robert only bowed his head and said, "I know not who I am. I only know that I am the most humble and most unworthy of all men to be the king." To these words the new king replied, "Thou art indeed the king, and I - I am an angel sent from Heaven to help thee for a little while."

When King Robert raised his head, behold! he was alone. The angel had gone. He again had on his own robes, his own crown, and was bearing his own scepter.

That day, when the courtiers came to wait upon the king, they found him kneeling beside his throne in prayer.


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