Many years ago, in a kingdom far away, there lived a widowed king with his beloved sons, the princes Luis, Jaime and Alberto. The boys were triplets and they looked a lot alike physically: all three had blue-almost-violet eyes, pale skin, wavy shoulder-length hair, and an exquisite natural elegance inherited from their mother. Since their birth they had received the same education and equal privileges, but the truth is that although at first glance they used to confuse them, in terms of being they were completely different.
Luis was a somewhat uptight, superficial young man with refined tastes who was very concerned about his appearance. She liked nothing more than living in luxury and adorning herself with jewels, the bigger the better! Jaime, on the other hand, did not attach too much importance to material things; he was the typical born prankster who radiated joy at all hours and whose goal in life was to work little and have a lot of fun. Alberto, the third brother, was the most shy and quiet; Passionate about art and culture, he used to spend his afternoons writing poems, playing the harp or reading old books in the palace’s lavish library.
The day they turned eighteen, the monarch wanted to give them a very special gift, and for this reason, after a succulent family breakfast, he gathered them in the room where the audiences and the most solemn acts were held. From his throne of gold and red velvet he gazed happily at the boys standing before him, wondering why their father had summoned them at such an early hour.
– My children, today is a key day in your life. It seems like it was yesterday when you came into the world and look at yourselves now… you are already full-fledged men! Time flies, doesn’t it?…
Emotion cracked her voice and she had to pause briefly before she could continue her speech.
– I have to confess that I have been thinking for months what to give you on this important occasion and I sincerely hope that you like what I have prepared for you.
He picked up a small mother-of-pearl box that rested on the table next to him and from inside he took out three small leather bags tied with a golden thread.
– Come closer and take one each!
The old king made the deal and went on talking.
– Each bag contains one hundred gold coins. I think that’s enough for you to go on a trip for a month! You are now adults, so you are free to do whatever you want and spend your money however you want.
The boys looked at each other in shock. A month to do what they wanted, how they wanted and where they wanted… and on top of that with all expenses paid! Hearing the word ‘gift’ they had imagined a dress cape or silk breeches, but not at all this magnificent surprise.
“My only condition is that you leave this noon, so go pack while the servants saddle the horses. In thirty days, neither one more nor one less, and at exactly this time, we will meet here and you will tell me about your experience, okay?
The three young men, still bewildered, thanked and gave their father a big hug. Then, as if floating on a cloud of happiness, they went to their rooms with their pockets full and their heads full of plans for the next four weeks.
When the clock struck twelve o’clock, the princes left the palace, determined to enjoy a unique and unforgettable month. Obviously, each one took the direction that pleased him according to his plans.
Luis decided to ride to the East because the richest and most influential noble families were concentrated there and he believed that the time had come to meet them. Jaime, like the good bon vivant he was, went straight to the South in search of sun and happiness. He needed a party and he knew exactly where to find it! Unlike his brothers, Alberto concluded that it was best not to make plans and travel the kingdom without a fixed course, without a specific destination to go to.
One day after another the weeks passed until finally it was time to return and appear in the throne room to give an account to the king. With a difference of a few minutes, the princes greeted their father, who received them with an affectionate hug.
– Be welcome, my children. You can’t imagine how much I’ve missed you! This castle was so empty without you… What are you waiting for to tell me about your adventures? You have me on tenterhooks!
Luis was excited and wanted to be the first to tell his story. Looking at his father and brothers, he elaborated:
– The truth is that I have had a magnificent trip! It didn’t take me more than a couple of days to reach the most prosperous city in the kingdom.
– Wow, that’s great! And how did they receive you?
– Oh, wonderfully! As soon as they learned of my presence, the aristocrats entertained me with parades, fireworks and all kinds of festivities. In addition, naturally, the time I stayed there I stayed in elegant mansions, tasted exquisite delicacies, and was introduced to a beautiful and sophisticated duchess who stole my heart…
Luis stared into infinity, nostalgically recalling those moments that were so special to him. When he came to, he showed everyone his bag of coins.
– And look at my bag… it’s still full! They have invited me to everything, so of the hundred coins I have only spent three. A month of luxury for the face!… Isn’t it great?
Luis’s self-confidence made his father laugh.
– Hahaha! It is clear that you have enjoyed and I am very happy for you.
Next, the king looked at another of his sons.
– And you, Jaime, have you had as good a time as your brother?
The nice boy was also overjoyed.
– Oh, yes, yes, better than good!… I can say without lying that it has been the best month of my life!
– Don’t tell me!… We are eager to know your adventures.
– It is difficult to summarize everything I have experienced in a few words!… I will only tell you that shortly after leaving I came across some wagons in which a company of more than forty artists was travelling. Since they didn’t recognize me, I told them I was a cloth merchant going south and they let me join the group. It was awesome! In each town they went to, they offered a show that left everyone speechless. There were tightrope walkers, comedians… and even fakirs!
– Wow, how good all that sounds!… It must have been a lot of fun!
Jaime was excited remembering his experiences.
– Yes! I would sit in the audience to watch it, but the best part came later, because once the gear was picked up we would go to dinner and dance under the moonlight. Oh, what a carefree life those people have! If it weren’t for the fact that I am the son of the king, I assure you that I would be a juggler…
Jaime also stared blankly for a while, wallowing in his memories. Moments later, he added:
– By the way, they gave me a bed and food in exchange for doing the dishes. I had so few expenses that I bring back almost all the coins I took!
The father sighed thinking that his son was hopeless.
– Oh, my dear Jaime, when will you settle down? Look, you like doing extravagances!… In any case, I am very glad that this trip has been so pleasant for you.
Finally, it was the turn of the third brother.
– Well, then only you are left… Tell us how it went!
Alberto didn’t seem too pleased.
– Well, I wanted to see with my own eyes how the inhabitants of our kingdom live. For a month I visited all the farms I could and talked to a lot of farmers about the things that worried them the most, such as the scarcity of seeds and the lack of rain in recent years. I must say that everyone was very kind and shared with me what little they had.
The old man fixed his gaze on the young man’s and asked:
– It doesn’t sound too funny, really… My son, do you want to explain to me what all this has done for you?
Alberto answered without hesitation
– To see the reality! To find out what happens beyond the palace walls!… Those of us here have it all, but out there the majority of the population works from dawn to dusk in very harsh circumstances. Did you know that many do not even have an old plow to make their tasks in the field easier? And that most survive on bread and cheese because they have nothing else to put in their mouths?…
Despite the fact that what he was telling was very depressing, Alberto did not give up and exposed the positive part of the trip.
– The good thing is that I have taken note of everything and I have a lot of ideas that we can carry out to improve the living conditions of all those people! As for my coins, I’m sorry to say that I come with an empty bag because I distributed them among the most needy.
The king, very moved, got up and in a deep voice announced:
– When I made the decision to invite you to discover the world for a month I wanted you to live a unique experience following the dictates of your heart.
The three princes held their breath as their father grew more serious than usual.
– But I must confess that it was also a ruse to put you to the test. Look at me… I’m already an old man! I need to rest and spend my remaining years taking care of the flowers in the garden and walking my dogs. The time has come for this kingdom to have a new ruler to guide its destiny!
The king sighed wearily.
– As you know, the honor of inheriting the crown always falls on the eldest son, the heir, something that in this case is impossible because you are triplets born on the same day. Therefore, I believe that my successor should be the most deserving of the three.
She took off her sparkling emerald crown, placed it on the palm of her hands, and walked over to her children. The first words were for Luis.
– Dear Luis… You have become a man who achieves everything you set out to do. You like to live well and I praise it, but I hope that spending your days among lace and porcelain does not rot your noble heart. Never forget to cultivate a great virtue: generosity, which will allow you to share part of how much you have with those who have nothing. I wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
Luis lowered his head and the king walked a couple of steps until Jaime was a few centimeters away.
– Dear Jaime… You have become a man who knows how to enjoy everything around you. You need strong emotions and I know that you will live intensely until the end of your days. I just hope that so much enjoyment doesn’t turn you into an empty being with nothing to offer others. Try to make your life useful, leave an important legacy that will never be forgotten. I wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
Finally, the king approached the good Alberto.
– Dear Alberto… You have become a cultured and compassionate man. You have taken advantage of all these years to study and train as well as possible because you have perfectly understood what the responsibilities of a prince are. You are interested in the welfare of your people and you care about the most disadvantaged. My heart tells me that you are the chosen one.
Saying this, and to the astonishment of Prince Luis and Prince Jaime, he placed the crown on his head.
– From today you will be the king of this kingdom. Rule with justice and you will bring prosperity, rule with kindness and you will be loved, rule with reason and you will be respected by generations to come. Like your brothers, I also wish you love and happiness for the rest of your life.
And that was how, for the first time, a birthday present was used by a monarch to choose his successor. Apparently it was a wise decision, because according to legend, the new king fought to create a less unequal society, promoted great reforms, and went down in history with the name of Albert the Kind.