For the next several months I will introduce a new character from my work-in-progress, The Heartless Princess, a retelling of The Princess who never laughed.
Today I’d like to introduce you to Princess Hette.
The safety of the people is in the heart of the ruler. And a ruler who does not love is a danger to the people.
The words of Herzog Heinrich itched in the back of my mind. He’d never quit pestering me to marry. But why should I? Was I not as capable to rule as my father? He’d ruled without a spouse since my birth, and his wife’s death, twenty-eight years before. And now that he lay dying, his life shortened by extravagance in food and women, it was time for me to rule. I’d be wiser than him. I’d never let my heart lead my decisions. And I’d never marry.
The memory of another of Heinrich’s constant arguments jabbed me. But what of an heir? I paced across the rose paneled receiving room to the mirror and tugged at the stiff lace collar that stuck out around my neck like the ridged gear of a clock. My dark hair, about as lovely as mud or so my father said, was pulled back in a tight bun, making my narrow face even sharper. I had the face to make one pause before speaking. I pulled on the curled blond wig, adding an imposing height to my shortness—an element that made it worth the itch. The thick layers of my dress fitted around my body like embroidered armor.
I lifted my chin and practiced the bored annoyance that had ended the last suitor’s visit.
What of an heir? Did I not have cousins? I’d train one up as heir. But until my father’s death, I had to respect Herzog Heinrich’s wishes and meet with all suitable and even more unsuitable courtiers. When I was queen, I’d stop this nonsense.
The grandfather clock in the corner struck three. Each metallic bong a reminder of the coming wasted hour—an hour listening to eloquent wooing, full of empty praise, self importance, and little else. Tiresome fellows. They didn’t appreciate time or brevity. Nor did they appreciate direct responses. Wars could start over such honesty.