Prince UnCharming was a good and handsome man but nonetheless he was an unusual prince. When he was still a young man, his father, the King, had fallen in love with one of the ladies in waiting and banished the Queen from court. As his mother had been banished and her marriage to the King declared null and void, the Prince was disinherited and expelled from his father’s kingdom. And so it was that Prince UnCharming was forced to leave the lands he should have inherited and fend for himself in a hostile and far off country.
During this period of exile, the Prince became accustomed to living alone and gave up all hope of finding a fair princess to share his life with; for he had no prospect of making a good marriage to a woman of noble birth having lost his fortune and place at court. He was now forced to work for a living and even had to learn basic survival skills such as cooking and ironing since there was no longer anyone to do it for him! Worse still, during this prolonged period of exile and solitude, he had forgotten the skills that men rely on to charm and impress women. In fact, because of his disagreeable nature, he had become known locally as Prince UnCharming and nobody ever used his regal title of His Royal Highness, Prince Alessandro Enrique del Toro Reyes.
One day, however, events took a dramatic turn. Lady Rosa Isabella de la Nieve, the Prince’s only remaining confidante and contact with the noble court of his former kingdom, invited him to a dinner party at her country residence. Prince UnCharming had hesitated whether to accept her invitation as reminders of his former life at court were not always welcome and he was no longer accustomed to social interactions. But Lady Rosa would not take no for an answer; she was very fond of the Prince and deeply concerned for his wellbeing. Furthermore, she thought she might just have found a solution to his problems. So, having resolved to take action, she invited her good friend Lady Clarabella Houghton-Smythe to spend a few days with her in the country. Lady Clarabella lived in a palatial residence in Marylebone but she never passed up the opportunity to get out of the city at weekends whenever she could. She was a woman of good breeding and some fortune and, although she had been unlucky in love, she had not given up hope of finding a man who might be worthy of her. She dreamed of meeting her own Prince Charming and starting a new life with him, somewhere far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Luckily, it seemed that the universe was listening to her, although perhaps only with half an ear; for the Prince she had dreamed of would be quite different from the man that her destiny would bring!
As things turned out, Lady Rosa’s matchmaking did not exactly go to plan. Truth be told, she had harboured some misgivings all along about introducing the Prince and Lady Clarabella, for it had occurred to her that they shared certain character traits that might not make them ideally suited. But, being a woman of good heart and wishing to see them both happy, she had decided to put her doubts to one side and hope for the best.
Things went wrong almost from the outset. First impressions count, and neither party received a favourable impression of the other: Lady Clarabella found Prince UnCharming to be uncharming indeed which, despite his name, was still a surprise to her because the men from his land had a reputation for being suave, sophisticated and very attractive to women. She knew this from firsthand experience because she herself had been courted by a number of suitors from that particular kingdom. As she observed the Prince that evening over dinner – Lady Rosa had thoughtfully seated him directly opposite her - Lady Clarabella found herself wondering whether if she were to kiss him, this so-called prince might not turn into a frog! She had kissed a few frogs in her time in the hope that they might turn into princes but she couldn’t help feeling that this man, for all his noble credentials, might well be a frog in disguise as a prince!
For his part, Prince UnCharming quickly formed the impression that Lady Clarabella was both rude and self-obsessed. She made no effort to make conversation with him throughout the evening; instead she monopolised the attention of their hostess, complaining vociferously to her about the uselessness of the various men who had recently courted her. Confused and insulted by her derogatory comments about the male sex, Prince UnCharming took refuge in a book - thus giving her the very pointed and unambiguous impression that his attention was engaged elsewhere.
Lady Rosa could hardly fail to notice that her plans were coming unstuck and tried to steer the conversation towards topics where they might have something in common. This worked initially but to her dismay, it soon became apparent that Prince UnCharming and Lady Clarabella could not agree on even the most trivial of subjects. A simple discussion about the weather turned into a violent disagreement and politics was definitely a no go area. Lady Clarabella had a great admiration for Cuba, a country whose rulers she had met and admired, whereas Prince UnCharming was quick to express the damning opinion that they should all be hung, drawn and quartered! Lady Rosa observed that her friends made no effort to be polite to one another and just said whatever happened to be on their minds at the time, with no regard whatsoever for the effect that their words might produce! She had noticed this characteristic in both of them on previous occasions but it had never been quite so apparent to her until the pair of them had been brought together. It seemed unlikely that a romance could blossom from such a mismatch of personalities, so Lady Rosa realised that she would have to accept that this was a union not meant to be. But as it happened, she had overlooked a couple of small but significant facts about her friends: outspokenness and tactlessness were not the only traits they had in common; they were also both unusually curious and fond of a challenge.
And so it came to pass that within just a few short weeks of their first meeting, this improbable pair became a couple. Unsurprisingly, theirs was not a conventional courtship. Prince UnCharming, who had been instantly drawn to Lady Clarabella - almost in spite of himself - immediately realised that though she was of lesser birth than he, she was in fact far out of his league in most other ways. For one thing, she had had many suitors despite her difficult character, whereas his lack of charm and general outspokenness had not endeared him to the fairer sex; and furthermore, his royal lineage seemed of little consequence to those ladies he had tried to pursue. So having realised he would never seduce her by conventional methods, the Prince had decided that the best course of action would be to feign indifference. This strategy produced unexpectedly rapid results: Lady Clarabella was used to men falling at her feet and her vanity would not tolerate such insolence! Consequently, the more the Prince resisted her, the more determined she became to have him! Within a very short time, the Prince had got Lady Clarabella wrapped around his little finger. Fortunately for her, she was blissfully unaware of his deceit and continued to congratulate herself on having finally won his heart.
When Lady Rosa was eventually informed of this unforeseen turn of events, she became even more anxious than before - remaining firm in her conviction that nothing good could possibly come of such a union. Furthermore, she was worried that her mismatched friends would end up blaming her when things inevitably went sour between them! Initially it appeared that her misgivings were not unfounded, for this was a relationship beleaguered by difficulties from the outset. These problems were fairly inevitable because on the one hand, the Prince and his Lady shared a fiery and undisciplined character; and on the other, they did not share a common language. So, the Prince would say one thing and his Lady would hear another, and vice versa. This is undoubtedly a common enough problem between men and women, but it was made far worse by the fact that although the Prince had successfully mastered the language of his host country, he had not learnt to grasp the subtleties of its humour. Consequently, he was frequently offended by Lady Clarabella’s remarks. This inevitable led to all kinds of misunderstandings between them which often culminated in angry exchanges and mutual accusations.
Time passed and the Prince and his Lady eventually married. But the problems between them continued, and they would almost undoubtedly have continued indefinitely had it not been for the unexpected arrival of an unusual gift. This item was delivered by messenger a couple of months after their marriage with no note to identify its sender. In the circumstances, they both assumed that it was an overdue present from one of their wedding guests who wished to remain anonymous. The object was enveloped in layer upon layer of delicate tissue paper so it took them time, and some patience, to unravel. But, when it was eventually removed from its packaging, they discovered a beautiful, gilt edged mirror. Next to the mirror was a note which read:
I am the mirror of truth, look into me and you will see what you need to know. If you are not afraid to open your mind and see what I reveal, you will be blessed by many years of happy marriage.
The Prince and his Lady were intrigued by the cryptic meaning of this message and being of bold and curious nature, they did not shirk from the challenge it presented. Wasting no time and determined to discover its secrets, Lady Clarabella took the mirror in her hand and gazed unflinchingly into its depths. She had imagined that the mirror might have magical powers that would transport her backwards or forwards in time or take her to some parallel universe whose mysteries she would be required to uncover. So you can imagine her surprise and disappointment when the image reflected back from its shiny surface was the face of none other than her own Prince UnCharming. For a moment Lady Clarabella was lost for words, but when she eventually recovered her power of speech, she looked over her shoulder to see if the Prince was standing behind her. However, he had not moved from her side and stranger still was the fact that the mirror did not reflect her face at all - only his. Meanwhile, the Prince was impatient to try the mirror for himself. So, leaping forwards, he wrenched it from her hands. For a brief moment the mirror’s surface clouded over and became opaque. Then it seemed to flicker and waver like a dying flame. All of a sudden the mirror cleared and the delicate and unmistakable features of his Lady appeared before the Prince’s confused eyes. For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Then Lady Clarabella finally broke the silence:
“Is this some kind of practical joke?!” she demanded. “How can this be a mirror of truth when it doesn’t even reflect reality! For how is it possible, that I look at myself and see you and you look at yourself and see me!”
There was a brief silence while they both considered the implications of this statement. Then, very slowly, they turned to look at one another. It was a hot day and, due to the interchange of light and shadow, Lady Clarabella could see herself clearly reflected in the pupils of the Prince. Suddenly she exclaimed:
“I look in the mirror and I see you, then I look in your eyes and I see me!”
And in an instant, with no need for further discussion, they finally understood.
From that day forth whenever the Prince and his Lady engaged in a dispute, they would remember the mirror. Then instead of blaming one another, they would silently give thanks for the gift of understanding that it had given them. For the mirror had allowed them to see that whenever it appears that we are struggling with another, we are actually just struggling with ourselves.
However, this is not quite the end of this tale because although they had learned the wisdom of the mirror, the Prince and his Lady still found it difficult to communicate. The Prince would say one thing and his Lady would frequently hear something quite different from what he had said, and vice versa. Fortunately, help was at hand: for the benevolent forces of the universe are generous and there is no limit to the gifts of wisdom available to those who are ready to receive them. And so it came to pass that one day a few months later, a small parcel arrived - again by messenger and with no accompanying note. This time our protagonists could barely contain their excitement and nearly fell over each other in their rush to receive it. The Prince grabbed hold of the mystery package first and impatiently began to rip off the wrapping paper. Inside there was a book, the title read:
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
And from that day forward, the Prince and his Lady lived happily ever after. The End.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
And from that day forward, the Prince and his Lady lived happily ever after. The End.