I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Ahasuerus Royal Court
by Anonymous, A Senior Courtier in King Ahasuerus’ Court
The New Persian Times is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior courtier in Ahasuerus’s Royal Court whose identity is known to us and whose position would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. (1)
King Ahasuerus is facing a test to his monarchy unlike any faced by a contemporary royal leader.
It’s not just that the “eunuch conspiracy” of Bigthan and Teresh still looms large. Or that the palace is bitterly divided over the king's leadership. Or even that the King’s party that led to Vashti’s downfall.
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own Royal Court are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the Mordecai. We want the palace to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made Shushan safer and more prosperous.
But we believe our first duty is to this land, and the king continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of the realm. He deposed Queen Vashti, the hereditary monarch, in a palace coup that has unsettled the very foundations of the realm. He has surrounded himself with a vizier and advisors whose pursuit of power singularly undermines supremacy of the monarchy. He regularly humiliates and endangers women, sows fear amongst his subjects against specific groups, and has allowed Haman’s reign of terror in an attempt to consolidate his power base.
That is why many Ahasuerus appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our royal institutions while thwarting the king’s more misguided impulses until the threat has passed.
The root of the problem is the king's amorality. Anyone who watches with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
Although he was elevated from his humble roots as a stable hand by his former wife Queen Vashti, the king shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by benevolent royalty: clever minds, prosperous markets, and industrious people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted pronouncements. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
In addition to assenting to Haman's prejudicial portrayal of the Jew as the “enemy of the realm,” the king’s impulses are generally anti-women and anti-Persian.
Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative palace gossip fails to capture: expansive treasury, a more robust military and more.
But these successes have come despite — not because of — the king's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.
From the palace court to the satrapies (governmental provinces) and royal agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the king’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.
Meetings with him veer off topic, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an audience in the Throne Room at which the king flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.
The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the kingdom. Some of his aides have been cast as villains. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep the king’s cynical decrees contained to the Palace Court, though they are clearly not always successful.
It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Persians should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when King Ahasuerus won’t.
This isn’t the work of the so-called deep court. It’s the work of the steady court.
Given the instability of Ahasuerus many witnessed, there were early whispers within the palace about beginning a complex process to force his abdication. But no one wanted to precipitate a royal crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.
The bigger concern is not what Ahasuerus has done to the monarchy but rather what we as a Persian people have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.
Queen Vashti put it best when she called on the courtiers who were with her at the end to break free of the king’s tyrannical reign, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great realm.
We may no longer have Queen Vashti. But we will always have her example — a lodestar for restoring honor to palace life and our monarchy. Ahasuerus may fear such honorable people, but we should revere them.
There is a quiet resistance within the Royal Court of people choosing to put the realm first. But the real difference will be made by everyday royal subjects rising above palace intrigue, and resolving to shed other labels in favor of a single one: Shushan.
(1) With apologies to Anonymous (New York Times, September 5, 2018)