OpEd: 140 years later, let’s remember what really happened to Kristoforo X

By MAYA ABELDARME and TOMAS GALIXENU (via TeleMaura News Ingerish) –

In just under two weeks, Mauretia will come up on one of its most intentionally overlooked anniversaries. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone even mention it. The tale of 16 July 1877 seems to be a story no one wants to remember. How does abdication only get passing mention in the history books? Our country has gone to great lengths to expunge King Kristoforo X from its annals. No one complained when he was outright omitted from a recent Vuwo! article ranking all our monarchs from best to worst. (We think many did not even notice!) His grave in Lalla Maga is marked by a small block of limestone that is weathering. The marker might as well read, “Here lies a disgraced king that his country will not even acknowledge existed.” The site has deteriorated so poorly that the cemetery was forced to exhume the body and re-lay in a proper hole that would not collapse down the hillside. While we would never defend the king for his actions in the wake of the plague, we believe it is time for our country to recognize the truths of his tortured life, stop ignoring him, and honor him with a proper burial.

Here is how the story usually goes: The death of Queen Pitra during li Mawaṭo Ravo (“The Great Death”), along with much of the ruling government, unleashed a period of political chaos. The country was still at the peak of the plague with thousands dying by the week. Prince Kristoforo was quickly hurried away to The Island to retain succession. The story we always hear then continues to say that he was a reclusive and ineffective king. The country voted four years later to force abdication. That’s it. Nothing more.

Over a century later, we know what really happened in between 1873 and 1877. King Kristoforo X is really a tragic figure. The new king was crowned unceremoniously in a carriage as it scurried away from his dying family in Sansu Andaros li Apostili. The monarch was very ill himself, coughing violently. In the recent exhumation, the forensics and archaeology team noted that he likely suffered broken ribs in such a frail state. When the royal shuttle arrived on The Island, the king had to be carried into the building. He was unable to walk and could not handle the light or sound. He remained bedridden for days. During this time, word leaked out about the decimation of the ruling classes. The public demanded to know where their new king was and what he planned to do. The inexperienced and frightened staff in the royal palace said nothing to the outside world. (Frankly, we as a nation are fortunate Commonia or some other malevolent power did not attack us during this time. We would have been powerless.)

Consider that King Kristoforo, while ill, was tossed directly into the travails of running a collapsing country. He never had the time to mourn the death of his wife or mother; he suffered tremendously from hallucinations and chronic, debilitating pain from plague and treatment-related aftereffects in his central nervous system; and he had no political help in his sequestration, because the plague had claimed so many of the experienced individuals. Only years after the abdication did the truth of his conditions become public. In reality, that was part of the problem. The king wanted so desperately to be seen as strong, so he said nothing of his health. Yet, when he suffered worst and was absent, the opposite occurred. The king could have been a symbol of hope by walking beside his people and visibly sharing their burdens. Instead, he hid and appeared uninterested.

The only reason anger against him did not overflow earlier was that parliament did not want a regency during such a vulnerable time. Shortly after Prince Ferde came of age, parliament passed a resolution for forced abdication. The king was, perhaps surprisingly, not angered by the vote even though he sent his refusal about two hours later. Historians note meetings he held during this two hour window and believe he actually considered stepping aside. Even so, parliament demanded removal. They scheduled the public referendum for the morning of Monday 16 July 1877. All business and work schedules were to be canceled for the morning to allow a national vote. King Kristoforo X must have known what was about to happen. He sent for his son and had a carriage loaded with a few small number of belongings. About nightfall, word reached the palace of the provisional vote totals in Massaeya and Dara Aqarel. Heartbroken, the king quietly walked out to a loaded carriage and set off for the Aziga countryside. Aides and family alike noted that he never stopped to say anything to anyone. Prince Ferde arrived ten minutes after his father’s departure.

Across Mauretia, the final vote total was 85% in favor of abdication. Prince Ferde desperately wanted to distance himself from his father in the public perception. He quietly sent provisions to Lalla Maga to care for the ousted monarch and visited on three occasions. Yet, no public mention was ever given of the former king throughout all of Ferde’s reign. Even parliament went on ignoring the former ruler. When Kristoforo X died a couple years later, only a few townspeople and a local priest attended the funeral. It was revealed that he never once accepted the payments for anything other than his medical care. The former king died alone, ill, and impoverished.

As a people, we grieved and mourned after the plague. We moved on and recovered. But, generally speaking, we have not really forgiven. No, we probably should not be building monuments to or naming streets after Kristoforo X. He did nothing to warrant that. But, do we really have to ignore him? Can a former king at least be given a proper burial? Perhaps Queen Gabriela might even allow his body to be repatriated and buried with his family. Every year, this date in July comes and goes. Maybe in 2017 we can let Mauretia, and its former king, have the closure we all need.

Dr. Maya Abeldarme is a professor of history at the Universita Sansu Trinitu in Masqula.
Dr. Tomas Galixenu is a historian with the Bivlioteqad Nationala ad-Mauretia.

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