It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies – a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.
The truth was, the nation as a body was in the world for one object, and one only: to grovel before king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them, be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of this world. And for all this, the thanks they got were cuffs and contempt; and so poor-spirited were they that they took even this sort of attention as an honor.
Well, I liked the king, and as king I respected him – respected the office; at least respected it as much as I was capable of respecting any unearned supremacy; but as MEN I looked down upon him and his nobles – privately. And he and they liked me, and respected my office; but as an animal, without birth or sham title, they looked down upon me – and were not particularly private about it, either. I didn’t charge for my opinion about them, and they didn’t charge for their opinion about me: the account was square, the books balanced, everybody was satisfied.
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)
“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”