Originally published February 21, 2020.
There’s an episode of the Netflix show The Crown, where Prince Phillip becomes obsessed with the moon landing. He watches all of the coverage, he reads all the articles, he pushes his jet plane to the limits so he can see the curvature of the earth, and when Queen Elizabeth tells him that the astronauts can come to the palace for a meeting he jumps at it, writes a list of questions, and insists on a private discussion with them.
He turns Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins into more than heroes in his head.
And then they show up, and they’re short, process-obsessed, boring men, and he’s gravely disappointed. Meeting your heroes is almost ALWAYS disappointing.
It is the same with Peerage.
No, no, hold on. I’m not dissing anyone, merely suggesting that people remember peers are human, and that makes peers even more heroic, really.
One of the benefits I have as I transition through my elevation is that I have filled a role very similar to peerage in the past. As a Warder of the Bronze Ring, I was part of the Order when it was the terminal position for rapier in the Middle Kingdom – before the Order of Defense existed. We weren’t peers, we didn’t enjoy the privilege of peerage, but we held many of the responsibilities of peerage. MidRealm royals often consulted with us. We built a list and conducted polls – only providing the results when requested, of course. We took students and provided them with a signifier that they were associated with us.
The thing is, that put us in a position, socially, that not all of us were prepared for. Those of you who knew me from late 1997 through early 2005 know that my life was pretty chaotic. Plenty of it was my own fault, but that’s not the point.
The point is, there were times when fencers would talk to me, and I could tell that they were disappointed, not because of what I’d done, but simply because of who I was – an immature, struggling man, unsure of his footing in almost everything, and completely desperate for a level of acceptance that didn’t feel present.
Even as a Warder.
I lost friends over it – people who held me, for whatever reason, to a higher standard, and had a harder time accepting me when I fucked up, failed, or fell down. Was that fair or right? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter now, even as much as it hurt at the time.
But folks, our heroes are still, and only, human. They can’t be anything else. Yes, peers are held to a higher standard, and yes, they should be, but when you judge, try to hold kindness in your heart, and as my best friend often says, assume no malicious intent. Everyone has bad days, everyone misspeaks, and everyone holds aspirations and has goals. Be kind.
My heroes are heroic, not in spite of their flawed human selves, but because of them.
So be kind.
Because I’ve had these experiences, I am, perhaps, better prepared for the work ahead. I hope I am. I know that peerage won’t make me popular, or powerful, nor will it bring me respect. Those things are earned, every day, by keeping that bucket of renown full, by showcasing the talent of the people around me, by lifting other people up. And I’ll work every day to live up to my oath of fealty, by my honor, my hand, and my heart.
For these are the duties of the honest minister.