Read CHAPTER VIII of Her Royal Highness Woman, free online book, by Max O'Rell, on


The rule of women over men is the survival of the fittest.

The best thing that can happen to a man is to be ruled by his wife; but she should rule him so discreetly, so diplomatically, that he could almost boast that it is he who rules her. At all events, he should remain very undecided which of the two it is that rules the other. And when a man is not quite sure that it is he who rules his wife, you may take it for granted that it is she who rules him. Of course, I start from this indispensable, fundamental element, that there is love between husband and wife. Without love existing in matrimonial life, no rule can be laid down, no advice can be given on the subject.

How is the art of ruling a husband to be learned? The American and the French girls are at a good school; they have only to study how Mamma does it. I have travelled all over the world, and so far I have discovered two countries only in which the men are in leading-strings and the women are the leaders-my own beloved one and the United States of America. In these two privileged nations the women lead the men by the nose; but in America the women boast of it, and I do not think they should. In France the women do not boast of it, but they do it, and with a vengeance. Yet, before the people a Frenchwoman will always say: ‘Oh, I do so and so because it pleases my husband.’ Dear little humbug! does she, though! Butter would not melt in her mouth when she says that.

Now, the rule of the women over the men, both in France and in America, is simply the survival of the fittest, the power of the most keen and intelligent; but for all that, and perfectly as he may realize it, a man objects to his submission being obvious to everybody. In public he will let his wife pass first; in the elevator with her he will take off his hat; in the street car he will give her a seat and remain standing. All this is not submission; it is merely politeness. He behaves, not like a henpecked husband, but only as a gentleman, and a man should always be as polite to his wife as he would to any lady he comes in contact with. A French gentleman, who meets his wife in the street and stops to speak to her, remains with his head uncovered until she begs him to put on his hat. A French son does the same to his mother.

This leads me to the first and the most important principle of the art of ruling a husband, and that is, never to allow him to do to her, or before her, what she knows he would never think of doing to or before any lady of his acquaintance-at any rate, without her permission. The day on which either a husband or a wife says, ’Oh, never mind; it’s my husband,’ or ‘Oh, it’s only my wife; I can do as I please,’ on that day, that awful day, Cupid packs up his traps, and when that little fellow is gone he never comes back; he is too busy visiting.

To rule a husband it is not at all necessary that the wife should be the more clever of the two, unless by clever you mean intelligent, much less that she should possess a better education than he. The latter qualification would probably lead her to rule him in an assertive and aggressive manner, which would be fatal to their happiness. Very few marriages are happy when the wife is the superior of her husband. I know very clever men, scientific and literary men of prodigious ability, who are completely ruled by charming little geese who are fortunate enough to possess the most enviable of gifts-common-sense, delicacy, refinement, consideration, amiability, devotion, unselfishness, and a good temper. These men enjoy the rule of their wives thoroughly.

God save you, my dear fellow-man, from the conceited woman who cannot do wrong! You will find that you cannot live up to that. If the day after you are married you discover that your wife is perfect, run away for your life. Perfection in a woman ought to be a cause for divorce. In fact, never have anything to do with angels this side of the grave.

How I do love that simple, fascinating little woman who gently puts her arms round her husband’s neck, kisses him, and confesses that she was wrong! What a brute that man is if he does not at once take that dear creature in his arms and make all the apologies he is capable of for behaving in such an ungentlemanly way as to force his wife to acknowledge that she was in the wrong! That man, if he is a gentleman, a man even, will spend weeks and weeks after such a confession attending to the smallest wishes of his wife. I would lay all I am worth in this world at the feet of a woman who would acknowledge that she was in the wrong. Most of them will argue and talk you deaf, dumb, blind, and lame, until, for peace’ sake, you will say: ’Yes, dear, you are right, of course. How could I imagine for a single moment that you were not?’ Then a ray of satisfaction flashes across her face, which seems to say to you: ‘I knew you would have to acknowledge it.’

To rule your husband, my dear lady, do exactly as you please, but always pretend that you do as he pleases. That is where your ability comes in.

Men are ruled, as children are, by the prospect of a reward. The reward of your husband is your amiability, your sweetness, your devotion, and your beauty, of which you should take a constant care. Love has to be fed constantly. And always let him suppose that it is for him only that you wish to remain beautiful.

The woman who believes that she is asserting her independence every time she puts on a hat particularly displeasing to her husband is as intelligent and clever as the Irishman who buys a return ticket at a railway office, and, on entering his compartment, says to his fellow-passengers: ’I have played a good joke on the company, I have bought a return ticket-but I don’t mean to return.’