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The Rose and The Ring is a satirical work of fiction that criticises, to some extent, the attitudes of the monarchy and those at the top of society and challenges their ideals of beauty and marriage. Set in the fictional countries of Paflagonia and Crim Tartary, the story revolves around the lives and fortunes of four young royal cousins, Princesses Angelica and Rosalba, and Princes Bulbo and Giglio.
This is Valoroso XXIV., King of Paflagonia, seated with his Queen and only child at their royal breakfast-table, and receiving the letter which announces to His Majesty a proposed visit from Prince Bulbo, heir of Padella, reigning King of Crim Tartary. Remark the delight upon the monarch’s royal features. He is so absorbed in the perusal of the King of Crim Tartary’s letter, that he allows his eggs to get cold, and leaves his august muffins untasted.
‘What! that wicked, brave, delightful Prince Bulbo!’ cries Princess Angelica; ‘so handsome, so accomplished, so witty–the conqueror of Rimbombamento, where he slew ten thousand giants!’
‘Who told you of him, my dear?’ asks His Majesty.
‘A little bird,’ says Angelica.
‘Poor Giglio!’ says mamma, pouring out the tea.
‘Bother Giglio!’ cries Angelica, tossing up her head, which rustled with a thousand curl-papers.
‘I wish,’ growls the King–‘I wish Giglio was…’
‘Was better? Yes, dear, he is better,’ says the Queen. ‘Angelica’s little maid, Betsinda, told me so when she came to my room this morning with my early tea.’
‘You are always drinking tea,’ said the monarch, with a scowl.
‘It is better than drinking port or brandy and water;’ replies Her Majesty.
‘Well, well, my dear, I only said you were fond of drinking tea,’ said the King of Paflagonia, with an effort as if to command his temper. ‘Angelica! I hope you have plenty of new dresses; your milliners’ bills are long enough. My dear Queen, you must see and have some parties. I prefer dinners, but of course you will be for balls. Your everlasting blue velvet quite tires me: and, my love, I should like you to have a new necklace. Order one. Not more than a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand pounds.’
‘And Giglio, dear?’ says the Queen.
‘GIGLIO MAY GO TO THE–’
‘Oh, sir,’ screams Her Majesty. ‘Your own nephew! our late King’s only son.’
‘Giglio may go to the tailor’s, and order the bills to be sent in to Glumboso to pay. Confound him! I mean bless his dear heart. He need want for nothing; give him a couple of guineas for pocket-money, my dear; and you may as well order yourself bracelets while you are about the necklace, Mrs. V.’
Her Majesty, or MRS. V., as the monarch facetiously called her (for even royalty will have its sport, and this august family were very much attached), embraced her husband, and, twining her arm round her daughter’s waist, they quitted the breakfast-room in order to make all things ready for the princely stranger.
When they were gone, the smile that had lighted up the eyes of the HUSBAND and FATHER fled–the pride of the KING fled–the MAN was alone. Had I the pen of a G. P. R. James, I would describe Valoroso’s torments in the choicest language; in which I would also depict his flashing eye, his distended nostril–his dressing-gown, pocket-handkerchief, and boots. But I need not say I have NOT the pen of that novelist; suffice it to say, Valoroso was alone.
He rushed to the cupboard, seizing from the table one of the many egg-cups with which his princely board was served for the matin meal, drew out a bottle of right Nantz or Cognac, filled and emptied the cup several times, and laid it down with a hoarse ‘Ha, ha, ha! now Valoroso is a man again!’
‘But oh!’ he went on (still sipping, I am sorry to say), ‘ere I was a king, I needed not this intoxicating draught; once I detested the hot brandy wine, and quaffed no other fount but nature’s rill. It dashes not more quickly o’er the rocks than I did, as, with blunderbuss in hand, I brushed away the early morning dew, and shot the partridge, snipe, or antlered deer! Ah! well may England’s dramatist remark, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!” Why did I steal my nephew’s, my young Giglio’s–? Steal! said I? no, no, no, not steal, not steal. Let me withdraw that odious expression. I took, and on my manly head I set, the royal crown of Paflagonia; I took, and with my royal arm I wield, the sceptral rod of Paflagonia; I took, and in my outstretched hand I hold, the royal orb of Paflagonia! Could a poor boy, a snivelling, drivelling boy–was in his nurse’s arms but yesterday, and cried for sugarplums and puled for pap–bear up the awful weight of crown, orb, sceptre? gird on the sword my royal fathers wore, and meet in fight the tough Crimean foe?’