For All Nails #80: Ferdinand the Bull
by David Mix Barrington
Ferdi was a fourteen-year-old boy with one thing on his mind -- how to score. He stepped right and broke hard to his left, freezing one defender. The other three closed on him. Ferdi broke again straight toward the goal line and took the hit from two of them. "The Bull" was not going to score this time.
But his team was. Ferdi no longer had the ball when he went down -- Ashmead did, there to take Ferdi's blind pass exactly where he was supposed to be. Ferdi looked up from the ground to see Ashmead touching the ball down for a try. That was real football FN2. Teamwork -- counting on other people to be where they should and do their job.
There was too little of that at this G-ddamned school, Ferdi thought as he picked himself up. Too little about doing what you should, and too much about who you were. Brother Francisco said it was the Anglican heresy and the worship of temporal power instead of the timeless values. The Franciscan monk was often boring, but it was good to have another Spaniard around in this strange country, let alone being able to have a normal Catholic confession.
What was he learning here anyway? He supposed the classes were worth something, particularly history with Powlett-Jones. He was starting to see how the economic choices of individuals and of societies shaped the course of events, and Pow-wow had been happy to suggest extra readings. Pow-wow ran his classes like he ran the house football team, with everyone working together to succeed together. Not like most of the masters, unfortunately, a mixture of bullies and weaklings for the most part. Brother Francisco said that the Spanish instruction had been a complete travesty before he'd taken it over, but that the boys were able to learn quite well if you treated them firmly and knew what you were doing.
Treat them with alternating indulgence and severity, though, and you got rotters like those fifth-formers last fall. They'd decided that a new Spanish boy should demonstrate bullfighting personally from the bull's point of view, kept in a ring of boys and pummeled on each attempt to break out. That had gotten him some bruises, a nickname, and some grudging respect when he never reported it. The same boy could be a complete hoke most of the time, like Ashmead, and then when you got him on the field--
But what was this? Pow-wow blew the whistle as a red-faced first former puffed towards him.
"What is it, Delderfield, take your time, get it out--"
"Head's-- head's compliments, sir, and could you send Honezone to him at-- at your earliest con-- convenience, sir?"
"The boy's name is Hohenzollern, Delderfield, a name I dare say you might recognize from last term's Modern History. All right. Hohenzollern, front and center!"
"Sir?" What was this about?
"That was a fine run and pass, Ferdi -- you too, Bertie, excellent position for the pass. I think our backfield is shaping up very nicely. But it seems you're off to see the Head -- he did say 'earliest convenience', Delderfield?"
"Then you'd best go as you are -- take off your cleats outside the door. The rest of you, we've got more work to do here..."
The Honourable Ian "Chunky" Gilmore FN3, Head of Sir Francis Burdett Academy, hated emotional scenes. And dear God, if there were ever a reason for one, there was now. At least the boy's Papist confessor would be able to break the news first. Perhaps they could all pray together or something -- was that legal for an Anglican? Shouldn't be too bad, our priests seemed to get on all right with this fellow. Dear God, if the boy and the monk went back, where was he going to get another Spanish teacher on short notice? A knock on the door interrupted this unpleasant thought.
"Head, sir? Hohenzollern is here."
"Ah, thank you. Come in, boy, come in. I'm afraid there is bad news, very bad--" The boy's eyes went straight to the monk.
"Brother Francisco?" The monk answered in a slow, measured voice.
"There has been a revolt in Madrid. Troops of Senor Puente's movement took the Palace and the other government buildings. There were many casualties."
"The King my father?"
"Is dead, Your Majesty. As is the Queen your mother. And--"
"My what? You mean Felipe and Carlos?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. You are the rightful King of Spain."
"My God!" The boy ran to the monk and buried his head in the brown robe. The heavy cloth muffled the racking sobs. After a moment the boy came up for air and looked into the monk's eyes. He was still crying, but somehow now deadly serious.
"Yes, my poor, dear boy?"
"I don't want to a king. I don't think I can be a King."
"I think you could do it if it were the will of God, Your Majesty. But you are right not to wish such a thing. And I am by no means sure that such a thing will come to pass..."
Statement issued by the Palace of the Grand Duke of Minorca FN4
11 March 1971
"I, Don Ferdinand Alphonse Philip Charles Hohenzollern, Viscount of Port Mahon FN5, do today on my eighteenth birthday assume my title and my station as an adult. On this occasion I reaffirm the declaration made on my behalf by my beloved uncle Alphonse Robert Philip Charles, Grand Duke of Minorca, on 24 April 1967, by which I then abdicated and do now abdicate the title, and abjured and do now abjure the style, of King of Spain, for myself and any present or future heirs of my body FN6. In addition, since my homeland of Minorca no longer forms part of the Spanish State, I hereby reaffirm my renunciation of any citizenship in that State FN7. In making this declaration I in no way endorse the present government of the Spanish State, which bears the primary responsibility for the deaths of my beloved parents and my two beloved brothers. The individuals directly and indirectly culpable in those foul murders must eventually face the Judgement of God and of his Son on that day when we are all judged. For my part I pray for the Grace and Compassion of God upon their souls and the souls of their innocent victims. I pray for the same Grace and Compassion of God upon the noble people of Spain, and for the blessings of God upon their struggle for freedom and for righteous government. But that struggle must carry on in my absence. I believe that the will of God is that I serve my beloved uncle the Grand Duke, and through him the noble people of Minorca."
Page 4 of New Orleans Mail and Picayune FN8
New Orleans, Georgia, S.C., CNA
25 September 1973
ONCE KING FOR A DAY, NOW PRINCE AMONG MEN
King for ten days, actually, from the time the nihilist Puentista thugs gunned down his family until he gave up the crown for good. Ferdi Hohenzollern was a Georgia boarding school student then, and he remains in Georgia today, as a third-year student at UNO.
Whether swotting the books for his degree in Economics, sweating on the football field, or leading the Knights of the Immaculate to do good works on the mean streets of Spanish Town, this Fighting Pelican wins admirers at every turn.
"He's a fine lad, a real addition to the team," says UNO football manager Padraig McCafferty. "He's not got the size or speed to make our starting XII, but he's there at every practice working to make his teammates better."
"I've never had a better worker," says Dominic DiMaggio, 47, head groundskeeper at UNO. "All the students here have service jobs of some sort, and most of them just do the minimum. Ferdi was different from the start. See this garden? Ferdi planned and planted it himself!"
"He changed my life," says Spanish Town housewife and creche proprietress Maria Guerrero, 23. "When my 'Nardo got out of diapers I just sort of had this idea of taking care of other babies as a business. But I needed a license, and some repairs to my house, and what bank is going to give a loan for something like that? But Don Fernando and the others got me the money from the neighborhood credit union they started, and he helped me with the paperwork himself. There are three other people on this street who've started new businesses the same way, and it's all thanks to Don Fernando and the Knights of the Immaculate FN9."
"This 'microcapital' idea is something we're really looking to support," says provincial MLA Luigi Frecotti (L-Garibaldi) FN10. "Residents of less prosperous neighborhoods face a lot of barriers to opening new enterprises, but with the right help they can pull themselves out of poverty. The government has a lot to learn from charitable operations like young Mr. Hohenzollern's."
What does the young ex-King say? "I'm very happy to be in New Orleans and at the University. I want to give as much as I can back to my host community, so I can return to Minorca and be the best possible leader for my homeland." FN11
When he graduates this May, Ferdi is bound for the storybook island of Minorca, where his uncle the Grand Duke rules over beaches, elegant casinos, and thousands of adoring subjects. But for now he's among us in New Orleans, staying out of the limelight but working hard to make our city and his school a better place.
- Zahm Hall
- University of New Orleans
- New Orleans, Georgia, S.C., CNA
- 14 October 1973
Manuel Ballesteros was a man on the job, which was all right by him. He had enjoyed his years as a Madrid police detective, until his close ties to the royal government forced him into exile in '67. His new post as bodyguard to Don Fernando FN12 had been blessedly uneventful (Puente seemed to be satisfied that there was no need to complete his slaughter of the now ex-royal family) and his extra job was pleasantly diverting. Only sworn law officers could carry weapons on the UNO campus, but the university police had been happy to swear him in as a supernumerary.
Today his primary job had brought something unusual. The two South Americans had come to him directly and asked to see Don Fernando. They'd submitted to a search (the bigger one had volunteered his holdout knife beforehand) and were now quietly following him up the dormitory staircase to the ex-King's room.
"Don Fernando? These two gentlemen have asked to see you, on what they say is important business. I'm fairly confident they aren't reporters."
"Well, that's certainly mysterious. Come in, gentlemen, and let's hear it."
The smaller man stepped forward and began in Spanish. "Don Fernando, it is a pleasure to meet you at last. My name is Alexander Elbittar. Permit me also to introduce my personal assistant, Serjeant Gomez."
"That's funny, there's a South American dictator named Alexander Elbittar."
"I must admit to being South American, Don Fernando, so it is possible that I am the same man of whom you speak. As to the word 'dictator', I trust you are familiar with its original Roman meaning?"
"An official given absolute power during a crisis for a fixed period of time -- six months or a year."
"Precisely. I have chosen the official title of 'Maximum Temporary Leader'--"
"But the Romans had a constitutional pro-- Wait a minute, I can't believe I'm talking to you. Manuel, do you think these guys are for real?"
"Hard to say for certain, Don Fernando. They're both clearly experienced soldiers, and their accents match the story. 'Serjeant Gomez' grew up in Bogotá and 'Colonel Elbittar' in Caracas, unless they've trained very hard to change their voices. I'm afraid I don't know where the real Colonel Elbittar is supposed to be today, though I hadn't heard he was in the CNA. They have New Granadan passports with different names, but that also fits the incognito story."
"So you think they're for real?"
"It's easy enough to confirm later, so why not hear them out?"
"Hmm. All right, 'Colonel', why should I be interested in talking to a man who took over a country by force and murdered the head of state? I have a bad personal history with that sort of person."
"Of course, Don Fernando, within your own family. A most tragic event, and quite different from what happened in New Granada."
"You deny that your men murdered the President?"
"The official determination was that he was killed attemping to escape,of course. But he died while in the custody of forces under my command, so I accept full responsibility. I did not seek his death, and I regret it to some extent, but I cannot say that it was undeserved. For years President Hermión ruined my country, stripping its vast resources for his own personal gain. He ordered hundreds, no, thousands of deaths himself, not to mention those who died as a result of his mismanagement. He was the center of a web of corruption, Don Fernando, a direct participant. Your family, by contrast, were killed because of who they were and what they represented, not for anything they actually did. It was a way for Señor Puente to demonstrate his will and resolve, and it was an act of pure barbarism. I extend my sincerest condolences for your loss."
"Thank you. So why are you here? Some sort of plan to get me the crown back? I was serious about renouncing it, you know -- all I want is to do my job on Minorca, the job I've been preparing for all my life."
"Alas, Don Fernando, no. I have not the power to offer you the throne of Spain. But your speculation is closer to the mark than you might think. I have the power to offer you the throne of New Granada."
"You're not serious. No, I suppose you are. It makes as much sense as anything else. Well, I'll humor you. Why do you think New Granada needs a King, and what sort of King to you have in mind? Not a Maximum Permanent Leader, I trust?"
"No, Don Fernando, I want a King to reign and not rule. But I could promise you a more interesting position than that of King Henry or of your Imperial cousin in Berlin. I want a King first of all to act as a symbol for the new vigor of our nation, a young, vigorous, educated King with a reputation for personal interest in the welfare of his people."
"While you retain all actual power for yourself."
"To some degree, and for some time, yes. But I do sincerely consider myself to be only the Temporary Leader. As soon as I can establish some sort of stable constitutional structure, and the nation has passed the crisis of transition from the former government, I intend to become a more conventional head of government, under a more conventional head of state such as a King."
"An elected head of government?"
"Ah yes, popular election certainly has its place. But I think we see in this country, in Mexico, in Britain, even in Germany that it has its limits. A nation consists of many different constituencies with many different interests. Some of them are well served by popular election -- it ensures some responsiveness to the opinion of the general populace, and to the wealthy interests who can sway that opinion with advertisements and even outright payment. But a nation is not only its general populace and its business sector -- there is the military that guards its security, the church that guides its moral development, and perhaps other clearly identifiable interests. I would like to somehow knit all of these interests into a common structure to represent them all."
"Like the Romans, with tribunes of the people and so forth?"
"Perhaps. Another model is the parliaments of the early European monarchies. If all the 'estates' of society are represented in the deliberations, then all the estates can unite behind a common policy and a common leader. They can work together like the various units of an army."
"Or the players on a football team."
"Precisely. I admire the brand of football they play here -- perhaps as King you could popularize it along with the kicking game we play already."
"What about the Jeffersonista rebels?"
"Of course a nation cannot tolerate armed opposition to its rule, but as a fighting man I know better than anyone the limits of military force in coercing the unwilling. I am trying to reconcile both the peasant rebels and the planter militias to a peaceful resolution of their differences, even as I work to limit their ability to kill each other and various third parties. Again, a respected symbol of national unity, with the wit to negotiate personally between the sides and gain the respect of both, could be enormously useful."
"I'd be a member of the cabinet, or whatever you called it?"
"Privy Council, I think -- your Privy Council, though we would operate more by consensus than by any kind of medieval obedience to your sole command. The German cabinet is not a bad model in that respect -- each member is responsible for airing the views of his or her own constituency, and the whole body stands behind the decisions of the whole. Yes, you would be at that table, and free to implement other projects of your own. This credit union idea, for example -- it seems to be succeeding quite well here and I would be interested in your advice in implementing it in New Granada, whether you became the King or not."
"The basic idea's not new -- I took it from the caisses populaires that the Church started in Quebec. But the point is to have the implementors really go among the people who are going to use them -- find out what they really need and show them how to get it themselves--"
"This is the very spirit that New Granada needs in its King, Don Fernando. You have trained to be a wise and learned leader of a small island. Will you consider applying those same talents on a somewhat larger stage? Do not answer me just yet. Only promise me that on your next school holiday, you will visit New Granada as my guest, and meet some of the people I am asking you to serve. Perhaps we might even arrange to go among them incognito, with the help of Serjeant Gomez here."
Was Don Fernando buying it? Manuel thought he might be -- should he be buying it?. He considered himself an experienced judge of character, but this Elbittar was hard to read. All this talk of teamwork was just what Don Fernando would want to hear. But of course Elbittar would know that and tailor his sales pitch appropriately, wouldn't he? You didn't get to be a colonel, much less a Maximum Temporary Leader, without knowing what people wanted to hear. On the other hand, if you wanted a King for your country, you couldn't do any better than Don Fernando, could you? Maybe this proposal was exactly what it appeared to be -- a man forced to take the leadership of his country and looking for a way to start sharing the burden. Well, they would probably find out soon enough. What was New Granada like, he wondered?
Proceed to FAN #81A: Youth of the Coronation.
Proceed to June 1967: The Traitorous Eight.
Proceed to New Granada: Southern Exposure.
Return to For All Nails.