There once was a prince so anxious to get married that he asked his father to find him a bride, quick. His father, the king, being oblivious to his son’s urgency, agreed.
“Your wish is my command, son. However, you must be married to nothing less than a princess so we must send word that we are seeking the finest princess in the land.”
“Whatever, pops. Just hurry!”
A proclamation was sent throughout the land, and soon the palace was overrun with young ladies claiming to be princesses. The prince pointed to one of the princesses at random.
“Her! I want her!”
But the king did not think the girl the prince chose was a princess, and under interrogation it turned out the king was right, she wasn’t a princess. In fact, none of the girls who showed up were princesses.
“I want a wife! I want a wife! I want a wife!” the prince shouted, like an impatient child. “At this rate I’ll be dead before I have a wife!”
The queen – who it should be known was the true power in the kingdom, for she was wise and could see beyond the surface of many things – noted the peculiarity of her son’s behavior and decided to step in.
“Calm yourself, my son. We shall find what you are looking for soon enough.”
Soon enough there appeared at the door a young woman. She was bedraggled, her clothes muddy and faded, her hair in tangles.
“You can NOT be serious,” said the prince. “Girl, you’re a mess.”
“You come to us like this and expect us to believe you’re a princess?” said the king.
“I came from a distant country, as fast as I could,” said the princess. “In order to gain a chance I had to forgo traveling with a retinue as they would slow me down. True, my clothes have faded in the sun and become muddy with travel, but I felt if I was to have a chance against those who lived closer I required haste as my master.”
The queen was pleased, for here was a girl as desperate as her son to marry and she hardly seemed to care to whom she was married. And so the queen devised a plan to test her suspicions.
“I know an ancient test to tell if, indeed, she is a princess and worthy of our son. She shall spend the night with us and in the morning we will know.”
“But how?” said the prince.
“There are ways. Now, my son, I need to you take to your bedchamber and prepare to share your bed.”
“Mother!” said the prince.
“What?” said the princess.
“Do as I say or no one shall get what they want!” barked the queen. And once the prince’s bedchamber was ready the queen took the princess aside and spoke with her.
“My son will not bother you in the night, but he is rough in bed, tossing and turning the whole night long. If you should be his bride you will need to prove you can sleep with him the night through.”
The princess agreed, reluctantly, and reported to the prince’s bedchamber as instructed.
“My mother has lost it,” said the prince.
“Trust me, she has nothing on my mother,” said the princess. “Well, let’s make the best of this.”
The prince and the princess went to bed and were soon visited by the queen.
“I have brought you both some warm milk to help you sleep,” she said, carefully handing them each a cup of warm milk. The milk seemed to have an instant calming effect on the prince and princess and they were both nearly asleep before the queen left the room. What they didn’t know what that the queen had added medicines to their milk, a deep sleeping potion for her son and another for the princess that would cause her to wake up after a short spell.
Within an hour the princess awoke and quietly gathered some bedclothes to sleep alone curled up on the floor next to the fire. Meanwhile the prince slept as deeply as the queen intended, so deeply that he lost control of himself and wet the bed during the night.
Sleeping on the floor was rough but the princess knew it would keep her alert that she could wake before the prince and pretend to have slept with him through the night. As she heard the prince stir she rushed up from her place by the fire, tossed the bedclothes back onto the bed, and proceeded to the window as if greeting the day. The prince, shivering and cold from having slept on a wet mattress, sat up embarrassed and alarmed.
“Good morning,” the prince said cautiously.
“And to you, you highness,” said the princess.
At the sound of their voices the queen entered, having spent the night camped outside their room.
“Ah, children,” said the queen, “How well did you sleep?”
“I had a most marvelous sleep, one of the best ever,” said the princess.
“Really?” said the queen.
“Oh, yes,” said the princess. “Trust me, I’ve been forced to sleep on beds full of hardened peas, and beds full of pebbles, and all sorts of lumpy beds.”
“How odd,” said the prince, although he was grateful that the princess didn’t seem to have noticed the condition of their own bed.
“Yeah,” said the princess, “I told you about my mother.”
“And you, my son? How did you sleep?”
“I?” said the prince. “I slept the sleep of angels in a heavenly pillow of cloud.”
The queen nodded and smiled, pleased that he test had worked.
“I suspected something was up, given the desperation with which you both wanted to be wed, and so I devised the pee test.”
“The pea test?” said the princess. “But that was the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever lay upon.”
“The most comfortable mattress you’ve ever lied about more like it,” said the queen. “For if you had spent the night in that bed you most certainly would have been most uncomfortable sleeping in the prince’s urine.”
“What?!” said the princess.
The princess ripped off the bedclothes and saw that, indeed, most of the mattress had been soaked. The prince and the princess looked at each other in alarm, then to the queen.
“I see right through you both. Neither of you desires a partner of the opposite sex and are hoping to use your position and marriage to hide the fact from the world. But a marriage of convenience, built on lies and deception toward one another, will only suffice to make you both miserable.”
“Well, what now, mother?”
“You shall both be married.”
“But you just said…” the princess sputtered.
“Yes, because the rest of the world is not yet ready to accept who and what you both are, it is better than you appear married in public and live openly with each other in private. The outside world need not know what you do in private and with whom, and I suspect that you will be able to work out a suitable arrangement. I only want what any mother would want, if their hearts were true and honest, for their children to be happy. If you will allow it, I will set about with the marriage arrangements and make sure all runs smoothly. There is some trickiness involved in your producing an heir, but we can discuss those matters at a future point. If you can make a ceremony of your happiness I can assure you true happiness will follow. Are we agreed?”
With this the prince and the princess fell to their knees, each kissing one of the queen’s hands.
And they lived happily ever after, but not the way most people imagined they did.