The King and the Beggar Lady

An Old Tale Retold for a New Time …

This colorfully-illustrated book, now available on, is a new take on a tale dating to Shakespeare’s days—the one about a king who falls in love with a beggar woman. Does he woo her and marry her and make her his queen? In this retelling, the Beggar Woman turns the King’s world upside down.

From the award-winning creative team that created the cult classic The Jamais Vu Papers, this charming story-poem is written by Wim Coleman and illustrated by Pat Perrin. The King and the Beggar Lady is an announced Category Finalist for this year’s Eric Hoffer Book Awards!

A great little book for a gift or personal collection.

… now available on

Praise for “The King and the Beggar Lady” …

We are all too familiar with rags to riches, an abused pauper girl or boy who becomes a princess or prince. Too familiar with the triumph of a Tom Jones or a Cinderella hero who wins all in the end. So it takes rare courage and artistry to make a tale of verse and graphics as Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin have crafted that echoes the myriad stories of success but redresses for us the sequestered ballad tradition of the king who has it all but gives all to experience authentic love ─ giving up power and glory for the love of a person who shuns the worldly ideas of the good life for something more worthy of the human adventure. Well done, Wim and Pat. Thank you for reminding us of what matters in the end. 
—Nicholas A. Patricca, playwright, Professor Emeritus at Loyola University Chicago

Storytellers Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin have delivered a timeless classic tale in their picture-poem book, ‘The King and the Beggar Lady.’ With regal verse and sumptuous lyricism, Wim and Pat have provided a royal feast of language and images to delight the ears, eyes, and minds of readers of any age. The story of the lovesick king and the reluctant beggar queen is certain to enchant your senses and whisk you away to another place and time with its well-crafted storytelling, elegant verse, and captivating artwork. Pat Perrin’s precise colorful illustrations perfectly illuminate the lavish verse to draw you effortlessly into the story. Wim’s literary style in this fable is nothing short of breathtaking in its ability to evoke the long lost majesty of kings, queens, and kingdoms of yore. His linguistic dexterity in conjuring a written style that is both archaic yet pleasing to modern ears is a marvel to behold. 
—Rollin Jewett, award-winning playwright, poet, songwriter, singer, actor

This book makes me nostalgic for the time in my reading life when the world was peopled with kings and beggars, rhymes were catchy, characters noble, the moral persuasive … books just as good read to us or to read by ourselves many times over, with illustrations that really showed what happened. I haven’t seen any like that for quite some years. The Beggar, the King, Wim, and Pat are all to be commended on bringing back the magical past, a service to every child and adult reader.
—Lucina Kathmann, Vice-President Emerita, PEN International

About the story …

Is there not a ballad, boy, of the King and the Beggar?

The pompous Spaniard Don Armado asks this question of his page, Moth, in William Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. Moth makes this reply:

The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since: but I
think now ’tis not to be found …

But the ballad seemed to have reappeared a short time later, when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. It comes up again when Romeos’ friend Mercutio mentions Venus’s “purblind son and heir”:

Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim,
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid!

So a ballad about “The King and the Beggar-Maid” was already known when Shakespeare wrote both of these plays during the 1590s. The oldest known version appeared in an anthology in 1612. It tells the tale of the wealthy King Cophetua, who disdains women and marriage until he falls in love with a beggar named Penelophon. And just as Mercutio says, Cupid is to blame for the king’s unexpected passion:

The blinded boy that shootes so trim
From heaven down did hie,
He drew a dart and shot at him,
In place where he did lye …

The ballad unfolds in a traditional fairytale manner. The King woos
Penelephon, who (of course) is overwhelmed and honored by his attentions:

At last she spake with trembling voyce,
And said, “O King, I do rejoyce
That you will take me for your choice,
And my degree so base.”

And (of course) she marries the King, and they live happily ever after:

And thus they led a quiet life
During their princely raine,
And in a tombe were buried both,
As writers sheweth plaine.

The story especially inspired artists and writers during Victorian times. The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a couple of stanzas about the story, which was also a subject for the Pre-Raphaelite painters Edmund Blair Leighton and Edward Burne-Jones. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) took a photograph of Alice Liddell, thought to be the model for the title character in his most famous books, costumed as the beggar-maid.

If the story has fallen from fashion, it may be because we’ve become less enthusiastic about Cinderella-like tales in which a handsome nobleman rescues a poor but beautiful (and vacuous) maiden from a life of misery and turns her into a princess.

In our own version of the ballad, we decided to turn things around a bit.