King William XXIII, commonly known as Sad King Billy, is the sovereign ruler of the Kingdom of Windsor-in-Exile. He is a great lover of the arts and the patron of several artists in the Hegemony and its protectorate, his most famous being the poet Martin Silenus.

Appearance and Character

William is known for his famously woebegone appearance, from which he earned his nickname; he was described by Martin Silenus as looking "a bit like a wax candle of a man who has been left on a hot stove." He has long hair, a wrinkled, jowled face, and sagging eyes that recall those of a basset hound. His face is said to resemble to some degree the Old Earth actor Charles Laughton.

Further accentuating Billy's air of gloominess are his slovenly dressing and living habits. He dresses in clashing colors and fashions, against the recommendations of his android servants, and his clothes are typically worn, dirty and otherwise unkempt. 

Despite his appearance, Billy himself is not a particularly morose figure; according to Martin, he often laughs, but his laughter is easily mistaken by most as sobbing. He also suffers from a moderate stutter, which tends to disappear whenever he is fully absorbed by a subject. 


He started his patronage of artists on the planet Asquith in his private castle. Fleeing the threat of the Glennon-Height Rebellion taking over the planet, he relocated to the planet Hyperion. He founded a town, known as the "City of Poets," near the mysterious Time Tombs, to give an inspiring environment for the artists he lived with. After the Time Tombs started to open, the Shrike started murdering the inhabitants. The town was evacuated, though with at least two hundred citizens remaining. The murders continued, in the end sparing only Silenus.

As time passed, Billy came to believe that the Shrike had somehow been summoned by Silenus' poem, the Hyperion Cantos. When only Silenus remained, he visited the city after his evacuation and set the manuscript on fire, but as he did so, the Shrike appeared and took him away to impale him on its tree of thorns.

Near the spaceport on Keats , the main city of Hyperion, a large statue was erected in memory of Sad King Billy.