Author's Note: In honor of Prince William and Catherine Middleton's upcoming nuptials, I'm posting this short story concerning a certain other fairy tale royal wedding.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called France:
Beautiful, spunky Princess Die was being pursued through a dark, primordial woods by a pack of rabid, baying hounds. She was riding in the backseat of the royal carriage of the fabulously wealthy Sultan of Smarmi, with whom she had recently at long last found True Love—just like in one of great aunt’s romance novels.
“Don’t worry, my dear,” the Sultan said unctuously, taking one of her pale, delicate hands in his dark, hairy ones. “We will soon outrun these curs. Then we will retire to my private boudoir for a little pre-wedding honeymoon, as is the custom in my country.” The two prime exports of his native land were oil and oiliness. He rapped sharply on the carriage roof. “Driver! Faster! And don’t spare the horses!”
The chauffeur mercilessly cracked his whip, urging his equestrian charges into a foaming frenzy. “Don’t you worry, mum,” he slurred. “I know a shortcut through the woods. We’ll lose this pack of blighters, hiccup. Since starting on Prozac, I feel a renewed sense of confidence.”
Princess Die didn’t like the way chauffeur sounded; he appeared to be intoxicated. He was also driving awfully fast, way above the speed limit for a primordial woods; they had already sideswiped a dryad. But she was too polite to say anything to the Sultan. Also out of politeness, she followed his lead and didn’t fasten her safety harness; she didn’t want to be a stick in the mud. After all, this was what she had given up life in the stuffy Palace for in the first place—to be free, spontaneous, and adventurous.
Suddenly, the horses, perhaps frightened by the hounds, perhaps maddened by the drunken driver, reared up. The carriage flipped over, there was a resounding crash, and Princess Die saw darkness for awhile. After an indefinite period of time, her sight slowly returned. She wished it hadn’t.
Both the Sultan and the driver had been killed instantly; a horse had fallen on top of each one. And Princess Die herself was trapped in the wooden wreckage, impaled through a delicate portion of her anatomy on a still-spinning axle. Ironically, she would never get to consummate her relationship with the Sultan. The hounds—hideous mongrels of no breeding or integrity—circled menacingly, snapping at her pain-contorted features. Just as she started to black out again, she remembered how the whole fairy tale had begun, as if through a series of lurid Sunday color supplements…
The Royal Family had decided it was time for Prince Jugears to marry and raise a family. This is what Princes principally did until they assumed the throne. Then—the throne being symbolic in a constitutional monarchy—they issued longwinded proclamations nobody paid any bloody attention to.
A search commenced for a suitable candidate. She had to be young. She had to be healthy. She had to come from the right stock. Most of all, she had to be “untampered with.” (This last stipulation alone eliminated ninety percent of the eligible maidens in the kingdom.)
But there was a hitch in getting hitched. Although the Prince was a Prince, he was not a handsome one. His ears were of a size and protuberance as to suggest another well-known fairy tale—Dumbo the Elephant. Worse, his twin obsessions—buildings and botany—were not the sort of passions designed to set a prospective Princess’ heart aflutter. Couriers were dispatched far and wide, but always the reply was the same: those with strong enough constitutions to stomach “the Ears” had ingested other organ meats as well; those with delicate enough appetites to remain unsatiated threw up when they heard his name.
Just when the Queen Mum was about to give up hope and was thinking of slipping a little strychnine into the Prince’s steak and kidney pie, a messenger brought word of a Princess Die, from the colorful land of Bulimia, who might be suitable. She was nubile, she was presentable, she was of the right class, and by all accounts nobody had gotten into her knickers yet.
She lived with her two wicked stepsisters in a humble, split-level cottage just off a roundabout. It should be noted that they were not wicked in the conventional sense that they were mean to Princess Die in any way; rather they enjoyed “a good shagging with the local lads down at the pub” now and then. Princess Die, as if sensing her greater destiny, refrained from such activities, contenting herself with instructing the children of Bulimia at the local Vomitorium.
In fact, the two wicked stepsisters were in mid-shag when there was a knock on their door. “Coming!” they cried in unison. Then they dismounted from their swains and went to answer the door.
“I say, does a Princess Die live here?” Prince Jugears inquired. “The one who is, you know—wink wink, nudge nudge—intact?” He was accompanied by his close confident and ever-present traveling companion, the Lady Carnalia Parker Bowwow. She had a face like a rottweiler and a personality to match, but she exerted a strange vaginal attraction over the Prince. He would have made her his official consort except that, due to some hormonal imbalance, she was incapable of bearing children; the rumor around the castle was that she was “constantly on the rag.”
“What do you want her for?” one of the stepsisters asked suspiciously. “Do you fancy a shag?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” The Prince explained the nature of his mission. Princess Die was hastily summoned from her duties and, after being hosed off, presented to him.
“Before she can marry the Prince, she must first pass a test,” Lady Bowwow said. From somewhere hidden on her person, she produced a glass speculum. “C’mon, Cinderella, let’s see if the shoe fits.” Princess Die lowered her eyes modestly and raised her skirts. Lady Bowwow briskly and efficiently inserted the speculum and performed a thorough gynecological exam. “Hmmm, hymen intact. No sign of venereal disease. Wide pelvis. No piercings or tattoos. A bit on the hairy side—don’t they believe in bikini waxing in this neck of the woods? Right, she’ll do.” She withdrew the speculum and slapped Princess Die’s arse sharply, signaling the examination was at an end. “C’mon, Goldilocks, cover it up—we’ve all seen Puss ‘n’ Boots before.”
“Well, Princess, what do you say?” Prince Jugears said. “Can you bear to give up all this and come live with me in a palatial palace, wear lots of fancy ball gowns, earn tons of tax-free income, and be the future queen of a major kingdom? Be quick about your decision—I’ve got a meeting with the Royal Academy of Architects at two.”
Princess Die looked around the humble cottage where she was born, at her two loving step-sisters, and the Vomitorium beyond where her devoted young charges eagerly awaited her return. “In a flash, m’lord,” she said.
And so the Prince and Princess were married in a storybook wedding that was carried on all the major networks. The wedding night itself was a bit awkward: Prince Jugears insisted that Lady Bowwow be present. She stood at the edge of the bed, barking instructions: “Just relax and think of English pounds!” Princess Die gamely complied, and over the course of two years produced not one, but two male progeny, both suitable for ascending the throne—first Prince William the Lucky, then Prince Harry the Envious. (Prince William later died in a mysterious foxhunting accident. How a Siberian tiger got in a British foxhole was never properly explained. King Harry blamed animal rights terrorists.)
It was quite a change for Princess Die. Overnight, through the magic of the media, she was transformed from an anonymous drudge into the most beautiful, glamorous, photographed woman in the world; she was bigger than Madonna. Her opinion was solicited on everything from fashion to fragmentation bombs. She was particularly worshipped in countries with no native aristocracy (other than the Kennedys), and thus could not easily distinguish between cabbages and queens.
After a few years, though, of relative marital bliss, Prince Jugears seemed to withdraw from her. She tried to share with him her interest in popular culture: “C’mon, Juggy, we can go to the Albert Hall and see The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.”
But Prince Jugears was a stickler for protocol: “I’m sorry, Die, but when His Purple Paisliness abdicated his title, I started boycotting his concerts. Besides, I have a symposium on potted plants to attend tonight.”
His visits to her bedchambers became infrequent; Lady Bowwow stopped coming altogether. He spent most of his evenings locked away in a tiny room in a remote tower of the castle, which, Bluebeard-like, he forbade her ever to enter. Finally, curiosity got the better of her: she made a soap impression of the lock and had the Royal Blacksmith forge a key. What she saw when she opened the door froze her blood.
Prince Jugears was sitting at a drafting table, drawing a block of flats in a stiff, neo-Edwardian style. Lady Bowwow was perched coyly on top of his drafting table, her skirt above her waist, her knickers below her knees. Prince Jugears periodically dipped his quill in her crimson inkwell—the rumors around the castle were true—then continued drawing. He was making red prints.
“Juggy! How could you!”
Prince Jugears shook his head exasperatedly. “There’s just no getting around it, Die. Blood is thicker than water.”
Lady Bowwow smirked. “Oh, why don’t you go cough up a hairball, Rapunzel?”
Scorned and teary-eyed, Princess Die fled the castle. She bounced around from aroma therapist to crystal healer to psychic witch doctor, trying to recover her badly battered self-esteem. Finally she consulted the services of an astrologer/media guru, an evil-looking little dwarf named Rumplestilkstein. “I want to steal the hearts of the people away from Prince Jugears. I want them to forget there ever was a Royal Family, or even the Beatles.”
“It’ll cost you,” the dwarf warned.
“It doesn’t matter.” She removed the gold wedding band Prince Jugears had given her, in the shape of an architect’s tape measure. “All that matters is revenge.”
The dwarf bit the band, then, satisfied as to its authenticity, drew a magic circle on the floor around himself and the Princess. He muttered an incantation, and poof! the room was filled with big, dark, angry, slathering rottweilers, who paced menacingly around the circle. There was something vaguely familiar about them, but Princess Die couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Beware the Hounds of Publicity!” Rumplestilkstein warned. “They will serve you if you keep a leash on them. But if you step out of the magic circle, they will turn upon you.”
“I’m not afraid!” Princess Die cried boldly.
“You should be,” Rumplestilkstein said. “Look what happened to Kathy Lee.”
Thus started what later became known as the War of the Rose-Colored Glasses. Princess Die launched an ambitious and highly-publicized campaign of hugging lepers, visiting dungeons, and cleaning up after toxic dragons. (Earning, unintentionally, the enmity of Mother Tsuris, who thought she had a lock on the good deeds racket. Princess Die felt obliged to take out an insurance policy against the irate nun with Lloyds of Legbreakers: “If anything happens to me, sanction the old foot-kisser with extreme prejudice.”) Simultaneously, she revealed to sympathetic gossip columnists the myth about men with big ears was just that—a myth. Prince Jugears counterattacked by exposing Princess Die’s regular clandestine visits to The Royal Flush, a private colonic irrigation clinic catering to the aristocracy (“Cleaning The Seats Of Power For Over Fifteen Centuries.”)
It was also around this time that Princess Die embarked on several ill-advised love affairs of her own: a rugby player, a cavalry officer, a television sportscaster…The cavalry officer turned out to be the biggest equestrian disaster since Catherine the Great. Colonel Swaggart, acting under his own unique interpretation of “honor,” published a book detailing their intimate liaisons: “I love Die, and I want to share our love with the world. She was a shy filly at first, but then I dug in my spurs, yanked on her reins, and gave her a taste of the crop. I had her galloping around the bedroom like a thoroughbred at Ascot.”
The Queen Mum referred to this period as the annus horibilis—the terrible rectum. One day, while Princess Die was out riding with her instructor, the Royal family simply revoked her title, changed all the locks on the palace doors, and raised the drawbridge. Worst of all, they canceled all her credit cards.
“But what shall I do now?” Princess Die wailed inconsolably at the foot of the moat.
“Get a job endorsing some weight-loss plan,” Prince Jugears taunted from the battlements. “It worked for the Duchess of Pork. And don’t worry about the children—I’m sending them to architectural boarding school, just like myself.”
Princess Die wandered away miserably. Her magic coach was turning back into a pumpkin. Still in the distance, but getting closer, she heard dogs howling mournfully. Just when all seemed loss, she met the Sultan of Smarmi at a discotheque, where she had gone to boogie away her troubles. He was everything Prince Jugears wasn’t—a playboy, a deadbeat, a skirt chaser, a cokehead. At last she had found her knight in shining armor. They entered upon a mutually-beneficial love connection: she got to maintain the extravagant lifestyle she had grown accustomed to; he bagged the biggest trophy wife since Jackie O.
Then, just as they were about to live happily ever after, the Sultan up and got himself killed. And Princess Die was preparing to join him in the heavenly kingdom. Not even a good fairy godmother could save her now; but perhaps a well-connected dwarf would do. Rumplestilkstein materialized before her bleary eyes. Hope swelled in her crushed breast. “Quick! Dial 911! There’s a cellular in my purse.” But the dwarf just laughed maliciously, stamped his foot on the portable phone, and turned, amidst a cloud of brimstone, into Lady Carnalia Bowwow.
“It was you all along!” Princess Die moaned.
“Of course! Who else would be the mistress of the hounds except the queen of bitches? You’ve outlived your usefulness, Sleeping Beauty. The Prince has the kids and I have the Prince. Time to die!”
“But why? What have I done to deserve such a dreadful fate?”
Lady Bowwow ripped her own bodice in anguish. “Nothing. Do you think Fate is fair? Look at me—all I ever desired was to be the Prince’s consort. I who loved him for himself when nobody else could. But Fate has cast me as the Wicked Witch in this fairy tale, you as Snow White. Fate made you pert and pretty, me horsy and homely. The tabloids call you ‘the People’s Princess’ and ‘the Queen of Hearts,’ me ‘the Royal Homewrecker’ and ‘Mrs. Ed.’ Tomorrow they’ll be filled with stories about Saint Die, the Martyred Princess, who was crucified for the sins of the Royal Family. But at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you won’t live to read your own obituaries.” So saying, Lady Bowwow viciously spun the wheel on which all the Princess’ hopes and entrails were pinned, and Princess Die…died.
And a great weeping and lamentation went up among the people, and many hours of CNN were filled. The funeral procession was rerouted several times to accommodate all the mourners, and to throw the paparazzi off the scent. Said mourners, predominantly women and/or members of various Twelve Step organizations who identified with the Princess’ triumph over adversity (“Being a Royal,” sobbed one, dabbing at his mascara, “is just like being addicted to crack”), surged forward past the restraining bobbies and knocked the casket, Ayatollah Khomeini-style, to the ground, spilling out its grisly contents. They plucked at her funeral shroud—a stunning Versace number—in the hope of taking a little piece of fame home. Order was only restored when it was announced over riot bullhorns that the Spice Girls would be performing at Westminster Abbey Lane, making her an honorary member posthumously—Princess Spice.
Originally, her corpse was to be interred in the family plot. Then for security reasons it was moved to a small, secluded island, surrounded by a crocodile-infested moat. Finally her earthly remains were launched into space to ensure they weren’t tampered with by celebrity worshippers and/or necrophiliacs. (Alas, it was not to be: two years later her satellite-coffin collided with a Russian space station and burned up on re-entry.) Prince Jugears took a vow of chastity and entered a nunnery; Lady Bowwow was burned at the stake as a bitch. Mother Tsuris was found floating face down in the Ganges, strangled with her own rosary beads.
But this would not be a fairy tale without the requisite happy ending. After Princess Die had passed beyond this Veil of Tears and gone to Celebrity Heaven, she was met at the Celestial Gates by a very special Guardian Angel: Greased-back pompadour. Gold lame jumpsuit. Blue suede shoes. “Excuse me, little sister, but you look all shook up. You mind if I give you some of my burnin’ hunk of love?”
He was an American, and a commoner at that, but something about his earthiness, his sincerity, his muttonchops, after all the pomp and intrigue of the Court, appealed to her. He may be a hound dog, but he sure seamed a friend to her. She accepted his extended arm. “Thank you, ma’am. Thank you very much. Let’s leave the building.”
The Media Princess had at last found her Media King.