See also: The AP History of “The Mermaid’s War”
Good morning all.
Given the state of my inbox, I understand that a number of you have issues with the marks you received on your term papers. I would ask that you book time to speak with me during office hours – I am, myself, in the process of completing a monograph on the catastrophic inflation and economic disruption that occurred in the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Agrabah after the discovery of the so-called “Cave of Wonders” mine during the reign of Queen Jasmin and Sultan Alladin. My patience for Wikipedia articles to buttress your theories pertaining to genies in Mason jars or what-have you is therefore limited. This is a political history class. We care about institutions. We care about economics. But above all, we care about facts. The persistence of the djinn mythos is an interesting cultural phenomenon, but I absolutely will not entertain theories that one kidnapped Vizier Jafar.
I hope you all did the readings for today’s lecture, as the topic is a fascinating one: the White Princess, or – as she is now known, “Snow White the False.”
We covered last week how the Kingdom of the original White Princess was thrown into turmoil after the presumed murders of the original White Princess and her stepmother and Regent, Queen Grimhilde. For those of you who weren’t here, I would recommend you read Junger’s “A power to dwarf all: the Rise of the Diamond Guild.” After the Guilds assassinated the Regent and kidnapped and killed the White Princess, they moved to consolidate their power by building a shrine to the deceased royal. They were able to capitalize on her lifetime’s imprisonment by the Regent to craft an image for her: painting her as a “People’s Princess” and themselves as her legacy’s guardians.
What’s that? Well, had you attended last week’s lecture… sigh. No, the Regent did not kill her – she had the Mirror Council under her thumb, and the Princess locked away. Were there no Princess, there no would be no need for a Regent. For Grimhilde to murder the White Princess would be to ensure her own downfall.
Excuse me? An actual Mirror? Young man, I beg you, do the readings. “The Mirror” was the commoner’s nickname for the Council, as it tended to reflect Grimhilde’s wishes back to her rather than alter her policies. We’d call it a rubber stamp Parliament today. Not that this was a bad thing – while Grimhilde was apparently determined to keep the White Princess cloistered, she was otherwise a popular ruler in her own right. Some even called her “The fairest of them all.”
No, Occam’s Razor demands that that the real Snow White died at the miners’ behest. The likely assassin was an old woman seen leaving the castle just after the Regent was last seen, and at the Guildhouse just before the Princess died. The Guild members were the only ones to know where the White Princess was, she died in their hall, and they profited from her death. There is no other credible theory. Now, may we move on?
As the White Princess’s legend grew, and visitors to the shrine increased in number, the power of the Diamond Miner’s Guild grew. Over the course of the year they became the vanguard of a political rebalancing in the kingdom, in which the guild was able to appropriate the aura of the White Princess in order to replace the Mirror Council with a Council of the Guilds, at which the Diamond Miner’s leader – known by the honorific “Doctor” – sat supreme with his cabinet of the Seven.
The monarchy itself was not, however, banished. The Seven decided instead to leave the throne empty, probably to make their own seizure of power seem less threatening. They promised that once a legitimate monarch was found they would be allowed to reign: the motto of the cabinet expanded on the theme “Aliquando principis erit” translates, roughly, as “Someday our prince will come.”
Now, here is where the tale turns morbid and bizarre. The Princess’s body was, of course, a relic of incomparable value; there was even talk of beatifying her. Her corpse was, initially at least, key to the Guild’s power.
Prince Florian – who, as I mentioned last week, was a potential suitor for the White Princess – personally led a sortie into the Kingdom and made off with the Princess’s body. Incredibly, well over a year after the White Princess died, he claimed that he had somehow brought her back to life, married her, and was now entitled to rule the Kingdom.
From all accounts, “Snow White the False” matched the superficial characteristics of the White Princess – hair colour and pallor among them. Nonetheless, he had gravely miscalculated the desire in the Kingdom to be ruled by a foreign Prince whose best claim was clearly a fabrication and, even were it somehow true, meant that he intended to rule alongside a reanimated corpse. Even the most devoted member of the nascent Snow White cult quailed at the thought.
Nonetheless, the claims of the False Princess threw the two kingdoms into a stalemate, not unlike that which faced Christendom during the era of the Antipopes: on the one hand, a state whose legitimacy depended on reverence to the memory of the White Princess, and another who claimed, however insane the notion, to actually be the White Princess.
As the “People’s Princess” mythos bound the conduct of both sides, talk of war was muted. On the other hand, scribes on both sides were vicious – the Guild leaders were caricatured as shrunken and slovenly old men, and given nicknames mocking their supposed addiction to intoxicants: “Happy” and “Dopey” are obvious, “Grumpy” for his mood swings, “Sneezy” presumably for his snuff habit… you get the idea. The False Princess was meanwhile denounced as a sorcerer, able to enslave wild animals with her incantations and songs.
Fortunately for all concerned, the Kingdoms never went to war over the issue and – over time – while Snow White the False never renounced her claim, the two sides eventually reached a détente. When Snow White the False died – tragically, she choked on an apple – the Guild sent a member to her funeral. Famously, the fact “Grumpy” apparently wept uncontrollably throughout the service went a long way to mending relations between the two nations.
So, there’s your happy ever after, I guess.
All right, next week we examine what happens when the a reigning monarch is mentally unstable. In this case, haunted by the formative trauma of an abusive upbringing in solitary confinement. Please read “A hair’s breadth from ruin: the reign of Rapunzel the Mad.”
Mark Reynolds is a writer and editor in Chicago Il. Originally from Canada, he has also lived in France and California. He is the proud father of two little girls. In university, he took a course on international maritime law, and has wondered ever since what would happen if the mer-people ever signed the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, or if they were even consulted.