I first wrote this about six years ago. Here it is again, somewhat modified from the original:
Early in the fifteenth century, there was a son born to the king of a small country in Europe. The king had long awaited a male heir, and there was much celebration in the land at the news of his birth. Of course, the child was given the best of everything, the finest clothes, the best foods, and was taught by the most learned men in the land. He was also tall, strong, and handsome, so all the young maidens dreamed of marrying him someday.
From an early age, however, the child was a very independent sort. Even though so much had been granted to him, he disliked having been born into royalty, and had little patience for the trappings of that society. He had no patience for the ritual of the court, and his tutors could never really engage his attention on any subject, save one.
His only times of attention to his schooling were during the painting lessons. This visual talent blossomed at an early age, and he was intent on learning all he could about the methods of the masters. Since he attracted so much attention in the villages, he would go to remote scenic places to paint pictures. This was the only part of his life that brought him real happiness.
The rest of the time, he became more and more rebellious, and often argued with his father, even in public. This was unheard of in the history of their monarchy, and the otherwise peaceful land became filled with whispering and rumors. The king was well aware of this, so he devised a plan to quell the rumors. He sent his son on a journey around Europe, telling him that he could paint to his heart's content, but must return to be crowned king at the appropriate time. Of course, the son jumped at the chance to see the world, quickly packed his painting supplies, and left as soon as he could.
A few short years passed, and the king became ill. He sent messengers to bring his son back to fulfill his promise and take his father's place of rule. The son had some small advance warning of this, and managed to elude the king's men for a short while. Many in the castle were worried that the king might die before the son returned, but eventually the king's men found him and safely brought him back to fulfill his duty.
The very moment the elderly king and his son saw each other again, the past was forgotten, and they were both filled with joy. Due in part to his elation, the king actually recovered from his illness, and lived a few more years before he needed to retire. His son, having matured on his journey, began to appreciate his homeland. He never once regretted having his earlier travels cut short.
All these years, however, the royal subjects had not been told why the son had left. Gossip always assumes the worst, so they assumed he had either gone insane, deserted his country, died of some horrid disease, or been banished for some crime. With the suspicious (to them) coincidence that his return had happened so soon after his father's illness, they remained wary of him.
Though the journey was explained to everyone, and his paintings were prominently displayed in the museum, it was too late. The son had lost the respect of his soon-to-be subjects. The press even gave him the nickname "The Prince, formerly known as Artist".