Good Advice From|A Tutor to a King

     From what he thought was his deathbed, Mr. John Cheke wrote a letter to his student, the King of England.
     Edward VI was a fellow we colonials know nothing about because he reigned for just six years, between Henry VIII and his daughter, Bloody Mary.
     Queen Mary, a religious fanatic, managed, just barely, not to kill her younger half-sister, Elizabeth. After Mary died — thank God for small favors — Elizabeth reigned for 45 years, over Shakespeare, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and England’s growth into a world power.
     Just filling you in on the background.
     England loved their young King Edward. He was their Great Male Hope. All that was left after him were girls.
     From all indications, Edward would have been a good king. He would have spared England the witch burnings that Mary inflicted. But Eddie died young and Mary took over.
     Mary was, so far as I can tell, out of her mind: a religious bigot, a mass murderer. Oh, well, that was what queens did then.
     On his deathbed, in his own spelling, here is what Mr. Cheke told the King of England.
     “Most affectuouslye beseachinge your Grace, if any of your servaunts about you shall francklye admonishe you of anye thinge whiche in you may be misliked to take it at their hands, thincke them that shall so doe to be your only servaunts of trust, and to consyder them, and to rewarde them accordinglye. And if any suche shall be, that shall of all things make fair weather, and, whatsoever they shall see to the contrarye, shall tell you all is well; beware of them, they serve themselves, and not you.”
     As a copy editor, I shall refrain. As a columnist, I shall not.
     Translated into modern English, Mr. Cheke told his king to trust the counselors who disagree with him and admonish him, and to reward them for their courage. And to beware of counselors who praise him for everything he says.
     Mr. Cheke died in 1557, four years after King Eddie. Cheke lived to see Queen Mary burn Protestants at the stake, because of the way she thought they thought. But not long enough to see Elizabeth take the throne, and refuse to burn people because of the way she thought they might think.
     Mr. Cheke, the king’s tutor, told his king not to commit mass murder for light and transient reasons. He told his king not to surround himself with counselors who truckle to him, but with counselors who would francklye admonishe him. And to consider the counselors who did so his only servaunts of trust.
     Why am I bringing this up?
     Isn’t it obvious?
     It’s a complicated world we live in today, my fellow citizens. All is not well. No one today — no one — knows everything about everything. Or even very much about very much.
     As we prepare to vote, I affectuouslye beseache you to consider Mr. Cheke’s advice.
     Does your candidate seek advice from people who know more than he does? Does he even acknowledge that other people know more than he does, about subjects on which the fate of the world may depend? Or would he mislike such a suggestion?
     Does he seek advice from, hire, or even speak to people who think differently than he does? Or does he consort only with obedient political piranhas, with sharp little teeth and sharp little minds?
     “Beware of them, they serve themselves, and not you.”

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