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The Lonely King seeks help

The Lonely King part II


The Lonely King seeks help

In the first instalment we met King Philip of Mantava. Philip has been King for many years now, and yet he has a disquieting feeling that he could, and should, be doing more. We met King Philip as he began to ask himself, where did he lose his vision? And how had this happened?

This next instalment follows King Philip as he seeks advice from others and wrestles with how to reconnect to his purpose. Following the story of King Philip, this three-part Lonely King series examines the issues and challenges of what it’s like to lead at the top.

King Philip woke up tired, and gazed out of the window, the curtains drawn back by his page. He knew that there was a lot he had to do, but he wanted to spend another ten minutes in peace on his own before the realities of the day would come flocking around him.

He also knew that he needed a change. Last night something had happened, he had realised that there was something missing.

Finally, summoning up his energy, he threw off the covers. His page, who had been waiting by the door, rushed up and started fussing about him. Philip shouted for his secretary, who glided in obsequiously.

As his page brushed his hair and adjusted his clothes, Philip gave his orders for the day – who he needed to see and what he needed to do. He had a meeting with the Chancellor about finances, and with Baron Hardman who was leading a force to patrol the Northern borders to deter the Salvanians from raiding. Philip needed to remind Hardman that his job was to deter, not to use the opportunity to do some raiding of his own. He also wanted to meet the ambassador of Pavada, to argue for a better trade deal.

The secretary made notes and was about to glide out again when Philip said, ‘I need to see the Archbishop of Penza, in my private rooms’. ‘And what shall I say it is about?’ enquired the secretary. Philip paused. It had been an impulse and he did not really know. However, if there was anyone he could discuss this malaise with, then surely it would be the Archbishop. ‘Just say I need to see him’ he ordered, as he strode out towards the hall for his breakfast.

King Philip is given a solution

there is something missing. I have more to do, I have more to give, I want to be more than what I am.

It was early afternoon before Archbishop Anselm came to the King’s chamber. Anselm was one of Philip’s trusted advisors. He was clever and successful, having risen through the ranks of the clergy with an ability to know what levers he had to pull to get things done. He had brilliantly engineered the treaty of Acona, bringing peace between Mantava and Padava, and his current project was to build the largest and most beautiful cathedral in the world in Penza.

Anselm embraced the Philip warmly, and accepted the offer of a chair by the fire and glass of ale. He looked across at the King enquiringly. ‘Your Highness, you asked for me, how can I be of service? ’.

There was a silence, Philip looked at his glass, and swirled the ale around the bottom of it. He then looked up at the Archbishop, then hesitantly said. ‘I do not know. I am just aware that I am not as good a man as I should be, I am not doing as good a job as I should be. I am not bad, but I could be better.’

The Archbishop relaxed, smiled and leaned back in his chair. ‘Your Highness is a great King, greater than your uncle whom I knew well. Your people love you, you have bought peace and prosperity to the nation, and soon Mantava will be home to the greatest cathedral in Christendom – bringing glory to both our nation and to our God who is above all’.

Philip gave an impatient wave of his hand. ‘But there is something missing. I have more to do, I have more to give, I want to be more than what I am’.

Anselm’s eyes gleamed. ‘You can my Lord. You have taken an important step towards true enlightenment, towards spiritual wholeness. You have the soul to do this and the opportunity.’

The Archbishop leaned forward and described what the King needed to do. He should establish a new monastery, one that would be associated with the cathedral. He could endow it with the richest gifts, and the monks would sing his praises for all eternity. Anselm pointed to stain glass windows of the saints behind Philip, reminding him of his ancestor, St William, who as one of the early kings of Mantava had founded the great monastery at Sion and had been canonised by the Pope soon after his death. ‘….and a monastery at Penza would be far more important than Sion.’ he gently suggested.

Philip listened. It all made sense. It was a relatively easy solution, all he needed to do was endow enough land, and persuade the barons that it was in their best interests to do the same, and Anselm would do the rest. He could then look forward to an eternity of being King Philip the Great, or even St Philip the Holy. It was tempting….

Call to action

‘My friend, I am troubled. Every year we go out and fight somebody, and we normally win, and then there is peace for a year or two – and then we fight again. What is the point? Why are we doing this?’

His secretary slipped into the room and coughed gently. It was time to meet Baron Hardman. He thanked Anselm fervently, and went into the Council Chamber.

The baron leapt up and bowed as Philip entered. He was a tall man, with a bushy black beard and bright excited eyes. He was the best commander that Philip had, brave to a fault and passionately devoted to Mantava and the King. Hardman had won his reputation at the battle of Trebia when he had led 50 knights, hidden by mist, around the side of the Salvanian army and had charged into a force that was at least 5 times larger, routing them totally. He and Philip had shared several campaigns together, and the bond of shared danger and success united them.

Philip and Hardman discussed the forthcoming campaign. Hardman was going to take his knights in a big sweep just inside the border. It was a show of arms, not only to deter Salvania but to ensure that the locals knew that they were not forgotten by the King. It should be routine, though Hardman’s love of action might tempt him into battle.

They talked for more than three hours, and the servants came in to light the candles. Finally, they rolled up the maps and walked down to the Great Hall for dinner. It was a relatively small group that evening, as it was the Feast of St Bridgit and the Queen and much of the court were at the convent celebrating its foundress.

During the meal Philip turned to Hardman. ‘My friend, I am troubled. Every year we go out and fight somebody, and we normally win, and then there is peace for a year or two – and then we fight again. What is the point? Why are we doing this?’

Hardman looked troubled. ‘Sire, what is the point? So long as we are winning we are on top. The point is to be the winner – and by God’s good grace we normally are!’

But is that enough? Do we fight forever, and keep doing this forever? Surely there must be more?’

Hardman was startled. ‘Are you well my Lord? Don’t tell me that the monks and priests have got to you? The point of my sword is point enough so long as there are enemies of Mantavia out there’

Then suddenly Hardman laughed, slapped Philip on the back ‘You know what you need – action. You need to get out from this court, all this the politics and flummery is making you soft. You need to go out and live.’ He lowered his voice conspiratorially ‘Look, why not come with me on this campaign. They will survive well enough without you here for a couple of months. It will be like old times, you, me, 500 good men and a gang of Salvanians to keep at bay…..’

They drank a lot of wine that night, Hardman always seemed to be shouting for more. For the first time in years Philip needed his page to help him up the stairs to his chamber. He collapsed on his bed, thinking that this might just be what he needed. He needed to get back to the reality of being a king, and what could be better than a military campaign? What would put him more in touch with himself than sharing the hard lot of soldiers, campaigning and living with the salt of the earth? He fell asleep with sound of trumpets in his dreams.

In the final instalment King Philip will need to reconcile the demands on him, and his feeling of disquiet. He has to find a way forward that will allow him to reconnect his purpose with the needs of his kingdom, and so create a clearer vision of the future for his people.

Andrew George

This blog is written by Professor Andrew George.

Professor George is a consultant and coach, having previously held senior roles at Imperial College London and Brunel University London. He has worked closely with the NHS, especially on research ethics (for which he was appointed MBE) and innovation. He specialises in education, health sciences and research ethics (see

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