The Short Reign of Pippin IV

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The Short Reign of Pippin IV
First edition
Author John Steinbeck
Illustrator William Pené du Bois
Country United States
Language English
Subject Monarchy of France
Genre Political satire
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 188

The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication is a novel by John Steinbeck published in 1957; his only political satire, the book pokes fun at French politics.

Plot summary[edit]

Pippin IV explores the life of Pippin Héristal, an amateur astronomer suddenly proclaimed the king of France. Unknowingly appointed for the sole reason of giving the Communists a monarchy to revolt against, Pippin is chosen because he was rumored to descend from the famous king Charlemagne. Unhappy with his lack of privacy, alteration of family life, uncomfortable housings at the Palace of Versailles and mostly, his lack of a telescope, the protagonist spends a portion of the novel dressing up as a commoner, often riding a motorscooter, to avoid the constrained life of a king. Pippin eventually receives his wish of dethronement after the people of France enact the rebellion Pippin's kingship was destined to receive.


  • Pippin Arnulf Héristal - Protagonist of the story; he is an amateur astronomer whose bloodline traces back to Charlemagne. He later becomes the King of France.
  • Marie, Pippin's wife - a practical, buxom woman who becomes Queen of France in a down-to-earth fashion. She likens managing the kingdom to managing a home.
  • Clotilde, Pippin's daughter - a best-selling author, inspiration for a religious movement, intellectual prodigy, and Crown Princess, all by the age of twenty. She is a stereotypical youth, clumsy and frivolous.
  • Charles Martel - Pippin's uncle, an antique dealer who shares a name with the historical figure. He often advises Pippin on tough situations.
  • Sister Hyacinthe (née Suzanne Lescault) - a former cabaret performer-turned-nun who provides sage advice to Marie and Pippin.
  • Tod Johnson - a young American traveling in Europe who becomes involved with Clotilde; heir to a large fortune from his father, the Egg King of Petaluma, California. He introduces Pippin to the American way of politics.