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The first meeting between the Prince Edward Tudor and the pauper Tom Canty becomes an act of mercy on the part of Edward. Tom is peeking through the crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of the prince, and gradually works his way through the surrounding bodies until he is closer to the gates of the walls surrounding the castle grounds. When he is bodily thrown back by one of the guards, Prince Edward
with his face flushed, and his eyes flashing with indignation...cried out, "How dar'st thou use a poor lad like that! How dar'st thou use the King my father's meanest subject so! Open the gates, and let him in!"
Edward goes on to provide food beyond Tom's wildest dreams.
Living with the commoners, Edward - dressed and treated as Tom Canty - learns a great deal about the lifestyles and conditions of his subjects. Edward resolves that his lessons will shape the way in which he rules his kingdom and the changes he implements for his subjects.
"When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved."
In the end, Edward and Tom revert back to their original roles. However, Edward issues a proclamation recognizing the unique experience Tom has had and shows great mercy toward Tom and his family.
he hath been a king, it is meet that other than common observance shall be his due; wherefore note this his dress of state, for by it he shall be known, and none shall copy it; and wheresoever he shall come, it shall remind the people that he hath been royal, in his time, and none shall deny him his due of reverence or fail to give him salutation. He hath the throne's protection, he hath the crown's support, he shall be known and called by the honourable title of the King's Ward."
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