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all hail the king! how michael jackson built his kingdom

Once again cementing his status as the King of Pop, today Sony releases the second posthumous album of songs recorded by Michael Jackson. But Michael wasn’t just a king of music.

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Michael Jackson changed the world. It’s in the history books, and while his relentless willingness to keep creating, push the boundaries, and make the world a better place can’t be reiterated enough, people don’t give nearly enough attention to the fantastical world he created for himself. Infatuated with fairytales of conquests and kings on a throne, Michael took inspiration from the grandeur and opulence of historic rulers, and turned his world into a kingdom where he reigned supreme as the people’s king of hearts. Embracing his fame and position as a leader, he strove to demonstrate that displays of wealth and power could easily be synonymous with fellowship and love instead of brutality and tyranny. He marched for a better world and ruled with compassion over politics. Even without his gilded furniture and embellished jackets, Michael Jackson was a king. The following are simply the facts that definitively sealed his royal status.

He was a leader
Much like the son of a monarch, Michael Jackson was in the public eye from an early age. And much like a king’s subjects, Michael’s audience watched him grow up and eventually turn into the king he became, making royalty relatable and an obvious leader. Throughout his life, Michael inspired his audience to lift themselves, stand up, and make a change. True leadership. 

He had a crown made for himself 
In 1990, Michael sent his dressmakers Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins on a research trip to London to look at crown jewels. When they came back, they cast the King’s crown for him: silver-plated solid brass with rhinestones and gems, faux ermine, and dark blue velvet.

His grandfather was Prince Albert 
Just not the Prince Albert, but Michael’s maternal grandfather’s name was indeed Prince Albert Scruse Jr. Born in 1907, he was a railroad worker, who descended from a long line of Princes: his father Prince Jr., born 1878, was a cotton farmer from Alabama, whose father – also named Prince – was a slave emancipated after the Civil War. Michael named his youngest song Prince Michael Jackson Jr., although it’s his oldest son who’s known as Prince.

He owned his own throne
Because why sit if it’s not on a throne? Thought to have stood in his en suite bedroom in Neverland, Michael’s throne was actually made by his dressmakers, who had to learn a number of crafts to keep up with demand. With its gilded carvings of trumpeters, cherubs, horses, lions, and sea creatures, and dark red velvet upholstering, it matched the work of his favourite purveyors of regal furniture, Colombo Stile in Milan.

He lived in a modern-day palace
Neverland Valley Ranch may be a Tudor-style house located in Santa Ynez, but to Michael it was his Versailles, with all the features the world’s most famous palace had in its glory days. From tropical animals to a theme park and a theatre, Marie Antoinette’s royal playground has nothing on Michael’s.

His nickname was the ‘King of Pop’. In the late 80s there was a rumour that Michael came up with the nickname that would eventually become his a-k-a himself. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Michael actually lost out on half the original moniker, which Dame Elizabeth Taylor came up with when she presented him with the Soul Train Heritage Award in 89, as “the true King of Pop, Rock, and Soul”.

He ran with armies
What is a king, after all, if he doesn’t run with armies? Much footage from Michael’s career is devoted to either running or walking with armies behind him, something he no doubt picked up from the triumphant returns of old-world warlords. His finest parade ever has to be the HIStory Teaser, although some of the Dangerous army sprints are pretty extraordinary, too.

He was worshipped by masses
The Beatles, One Direction, and Justin Bieber all have one thing in common: they never experienced idolisation quite like Michael. The King of Pop lived his life around his subjects, most of all because he had to. They were there outside his gates, when he went shopping, and in thousands at his concerts, screaming and fainting away, hoping to catch their king’s eye, touch his hand, or get a piece of the fedora he’d throw at them during his concerts. Michael Mania was like the an everyday royal wedding.

He once nearly sang with Prince
(Not that Prince is royal, but his name is Prince, after all.) The song Bad was meant to be a duet between Michael and Prince, but when Prince heard the song, he didn’t think it needed a second voice. In an interview in 97, Prince quipped, “The first line in that song is ‘Your butt is mine’. Now I said to Michael, ‘Who's gonna sing that to whom? Cause you sure ain't singing it to me and I sure ain't singing it to you, so right there we got a problem.’”

He had himself painted as kings
Michael was a fervent art aficionado and collected books from all walks of the art sphere, but his greatest pieces were his regal self-portraits. Commissioned from Kehinde Wiley and Michael’s court painter par excellence, David Nordahl, portraits at Neverland included Michael painted as kings, angels, and historical figures. On a side note, Michael was also an accomplished sketch artist in his own right.

He was friends with Hollywood royalty
So famous that he became a celebrity to celebrities, Michael’s famous friends could never be your average Hollywood superstars. Instead he found common ground with the legends of the silver screen, from his beloved Dame Elizabeth Taylor to Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren. Outside the film world, he befriended a first lady – Jackie O – and went on a few dates with the Queen of Pop, Madonna.

He was friends with real royalty
Michael and Princess Diana famously met on his Bad tour, when HRH asked him if he was going to play her favourite song, Dirty Diana. But out of respect, he had already removed it from the set list thinking the Princess would frown upon the song. The two became each other’s confidantes, bonding over their at times devastating fame, until Diana’s death in 1997.

He married the King’s daughter
In 1994, Michael married Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, who was known simply as ‘the King’. The year after, the couple visited Versailles together, and rumour had it they were house hunting for their own palace in France. The marriage only lasted two years, but Lisa Marie remained in touch with Michael for the rest of his life.

He wore regal insignia
Michael’s tailors made him a wide array of personal insignia for his royal wardrobe, most famous perhaps his CTE epaulettes, which were interpreted to mean ‘Children of the Earth’ when actually they were random letters drawn from a hat. Michael’s magic was often about keeping people guessing. But he also purchased rare real items, for instance a Serbian Order of the White Eagle, which he may have worn upside down at an appearance in 2004, much to the dismay of Serbian officials. He wore it well, though.

He named his son Prince
It’s only fitting that the King should have princes for sons, but it’s actually only Michael’s youngest son, who bears the regal name on his birth certificate – namely Prince Michael Jackson Jr., nicknamed Blanket (a word Michael used to signify comfort). His first son is Michael Jackson Jr., nicknamed Prince, while his daughter’s name is Paris Michael Katherine.

He was generous to no end
Speaking of Michael’s wardrobe and all things that made up his sparkly royal world, a lot of it went missing over the years, simply because he’d give it away to whomever asked. Once in New York, for instance, he handed Aaron Carter a military jacket he was wearing, just like that. But Michael’s princely generosity was at its most regal in the many huge checks he signed for charitable causes throughout his life. When he died, he left a third of his posthumously nearly restored fortune to charity.

He dressed his children in crests
On their most incredible outing together, Michael was pictured with his children wearing matching school uniform-like outfits with his gilded MJ crest embroidered onto their cardigans. When his eldest son was younger, Michael dressed him as a little prince, too, in silky garments like the little royal he was (and still is).

He wore gloves a lot
Forget about military dresscodes, orders, and medals. If there’s one thing that makes you royal, it’s wearing gloves. Well, that and wearing those thick nude tights with added sheen, but thankfully Michael had his black Levi’s 501s in their place. Gloves, however, he mastered like no other. He first started wearing his single sequined glove to draw the light to his hand while he was dancing, and like so many other stage pieces, it became his trademark.

He had a royal cape made
Michael’s children were – and are – a part of his kingdom, and for a special Father’s Day, they commissioned their dad’s tailors to make him a real king’s cape. The tailors obliged and soon Michael could drape himself in a deep red velvet cape with a faux ermine collar, gold rope and gilded tassels.

He ruled with his heart
Michael’s regal surroundings – his house, his wardrobe, and his parades – were only the fairytale backdrop to his mission in life: making the world a better place, and fighting famine, child abuse, animal cruelty and endangerment, and the destruction of nature. His Heal the World Foundation was his true kingdom, and the charities he supported – more than any other artist in the world ever, in fact – are just as big a part of regal legacy as his music and the universe that surrounds it.

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