by, Jo Carol Hebert
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Once, in a faraway land lived a king. He ruled all the land from the sea in the West to the mountains in the East. He ruled all the land from the lakes of the North to the sands of the South. He owned servants and cattle and horses and peacocks. He owned forests and rivers and oceans and fields. His word was law and his way was followed by every man. But in all his great power, he was good and wise and loved by all his people for he was generous and gave them all they needed.
Now, the King was very old and he knew that the days of life left for him were few. But he was content, except for one thing – his daughter, the little Princess, had not shown herself to be like him. She was naughty and disobedient and the people despised her for she caused their beloved King much grief. She was haughty and proud and all the people spoke ill of her for she cared nothing for their needs. She cared only for her precious jewels.
The first day of each new year was the Time of the Royal Appearance. The old King would come out onto the gilded balcony of his palace to show himself to the people. From all across the land the people journeyed to see their good King. The little Princess would also appear with him, her head held high, wearing her gold crown, full of red rubies, sparkling with green emeralds, so bright with yellow garnets and dazzling with white diamonds.
Everyone knew that when the old King died, the little Princess would become Queen. She would rule all the land from the sea in the West to the mountains in the East. She would rule all the land from the lakes of the North to the sands of the South. She would own servants and cattle and horses and peacocks. She would own forests and rivers and oceans and fields. Her word would be law and her way would be followed by every man. But she would also enslave the people and make them suffer to buy herself more jewels. And so the old King died, mostly of a broken heart.
The next year when the time came for the Royal Appearance, the little Princess Queen stepped out alone to receive the homage of the many people that had been ordered to gather beneath the gilded balcony. She wore her gold crown with the bright jewels blazing in the sun and waited for the shouts of adoration. But no sound came from the people. Even the birds hushed their singing. The little Princess Queen left the balcony in a great rage. She punished the people greatly. She put them to work building her a larger castle and vast gardens.
The next year the people came again as commanded for the Time of the Royal Appearance. The little Princess Queen again stepped out on the gilded balcony of her new castle with more jewels set in her gold crown. She expected the loud praises of her people but once again, only silence greeted her. She was even more enraged and set harsher laws. She commanded the people to love her as they did her Father.
Each year it was the same. The little Princess Queen added more jewels to her crown and appeared before the people but not one raised their voice for her.
Now it happened, as it does with all people, that the little Princess Queen grew up. She was lovely- tall and regal like her father, but the people whispered that she was sad and lonely with only her servants as companions. It was rumored among the people that she had all the jewels in the kingdom in her golden crown.
And so it was again the Time of the Royal Appearance. The people below the gilded balcony stretched farther than the eye could see. As the Queen prepared to appear, she no longer expected the people to shout for her and had long since told herself that she did not care. But as she put on the gold crown with the precious jewels she loved so much, she noticed that it had become a great weight on her head. It was so heavy that she could hardly stand. Since it was her duty to appear, she stepped out alone with her head held high.
But to balance herself from the great weight of that crown, she leaned forward over the balcony to hold onto the rail. She felt the combs loosen and fall out of her hair. She watched in horror as the circle of jewels went tumbling far down to the earth below. The royal crown hit the ground and shattered into thousands of pieces.
Oh, how the people rejoiced and went about picking up the precious bits of jewels that were to them a life’s earnings. And oh, how the people bowed down and praised the Queen for her most generous and gracious act towards them! They shouted loud and clear, over and over, “You are our beloved Queen, the daughter of your Father!”
So in that moment, the love of the people became worth all the jewels of the little Queen’s kingdom. Her heart was filled with love for them and the sound of their praise became the jewels of her crown.
Soon after, she married a wealthy prince from a neighboring kingdom who brought her a new crown covered with jewels. But the Queen cared nothing for that crown.
The royal couple had three little girls. The two youngest were good, sweet, and gentle. They spent their days visiting the sick and old people with their mother. But the older princess who would inherit the kingdom only loved to play dress-up with her mother’s new gold crown, full of red rubies, sparkling with green emeralds, so bright with yellow garnets, and dazzling with white diamonds . . .