The Controversial Princess(3)

By: Jodi Ellen Malpas

“We had better be going before the King sends his minions to track us down.” I link arms with Eddie and walk to the pristine Mercedes.

“I believe Davenport has already called, ma’am,” Damon says as he holds the door open for us.

“Now there’s a surprise,” Eddie breathes, giving Damon a friendly smack of his suited shoulder. “Is that stick still stuck up his arse?”

I laugh. Major Davenport, the King’s private secretary, is old school, just like the King. I’m a thorn in his side, Eddie more of an itch, whereas our elder brother, Prince John, is the saint of the King’s three offspring. The arse-licker. The Heir Apparent, and the perfect prince with it.

“I believe it is, sir,” Damon replies dryly as we both get into the car. I smile my thanks as he shuts the door. I might hate my royal existence, but I love my staff. Unlike my father’s entourage of personal aides, advisors, and servants, mine aren’t stuffy, old-fashioned, uptight, pompous windbags. It’s a mild relief in my suppressed world, especially given my apparent flaws. I smile and cuddle into my brother’s side, so relieved he’s home to lift my spirits.

Happy birthday to me.

AS WE APPROACH THE GATES of Claringdon Palace, the street is awash with crowds of the British public and the Metropolitan Police lining the railings that hold them back. Camera flashes are constant, the press out in force. Damon slows the car to a crawl, and I hear the chants of my name, calls of birthday wishes.

“They love you,” Eddie says softly, like a reminder that at least someone in this world admires me, because my family—present company excluded—certainly doesn’t.

“They love you equally,” I reply, smiling across the car at him. But while the youngest of my brothers has the public’s affection like me, he has our family’s fondness, too. Unlike me. He has a purpose in the military, is making use of himself. “Stop the car, Damon.”

“Ma’am?” His eyes jump to the mirror, unsure.

“Stop the car,” I repeat. “I’d like to have a walkabout.”

“But it’s not scheduled, ma’am.”

I just about refrain from rolling my eyes. “It’s my birthday. All these people are here hoping to catch a glimpse, and I don’t want to disappoint them.”

Eddie remains quiet, knowing I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and Damon, albeit reluctantly, slows the car to a stop just before the closed gates. I wait for him to exit and open the door for me, his hand at his earpiece, telling the cars behind of the revised plan. “Are you coming?” I ask Eddie.

“We’ll be late. The King won’t be happy.”

“By our lateness, or because I’ve stopped to say hello to some well-wishers?”


I feign fright, widening my eyes. “Will I be hung, drawn, and quartered?”

“Very funny.”

I smile and step out, straightening my dress as Kim dashes toward me from the car behind. “Ma’am, this wasn’t part of—”

“I know.” I dismiss her and plaster a smile on my face, turning toward the crowds. Their excitement notches up a few decibels as I wander to the nearest railing. Flowers are thrust at me, people bowing their heads in respect. I come to a stop by a young girl, who has climbed up the waist-height barriers so she can see over them. She has a bunch of daisies in her grasp, a huge, excited smile on her face. I step forward, forcing her to crane her neck back to keep me in her sights. “Are those for me?” I ask gently, pointing to the flowers. She nods enthusiastically, thrusting them forward for me to take. I smile as I accept them, bringing them to my nose. “They are beautiful.”

“Happy birthday, Princess,” she sings, and a few people close by chuckle.

“Why, thank you.”

“It’s my birthday, too.”

“It is?” I mirror her excitement as her mother pulls her down from the metal railings, placing her on her feet. I crouch in front of the barrier to get back to her eye level. “Then happy birthday to you, too. What is your name?”

“It’s Clara.”

“And how old are you today, Clara?”

Her little chubby hands come up to the metal rods, clasping them, her face pushed as close to them as she can get. “I’m six, and I’m going to be a princess when I grow up, just like you.”

I let my mouth drop open in feigned shock. “Wow. You will make a beautiful princess. Will you live in a castle or a palace?”

“A palace,” she declares. “And I’ll be pretty like you, too. But I have white hair, and you have brown. And my eyes are blue, and yours are brown. And I’ll wait for my Prince Charming to come find me.”