It was during the December when Emerald Pièroc, princess of the minor kingdom Jewel, had seventeen years of age that the Minor Palace of Roc Presh received a visit from Her Majesty Anita Solay, Queen over all Emriqa. She came desiring - amazingly - to speak with the young princess on the subject of royal women and their roles.
The air was warm in the Receiving Room, due to the blazing hearth in one of the walls. High Queen Anita and Jewel Princess Emerald sat on comfortable armchairs on either side of a short table on which stood the ladies’ cups of tea, the teapot and a plate of untouched biscuits. Emerald kept asking herself if this was a dream; surely the Queen of all Emriqa couldn’t truly wish to have a private audience with her.
High Queen Anita was smiling at her.
“So, Emerald, how do you find being a princess?” she asked.
The question was a little strange but Emerald replied, aiming to speak with a degree of care.
“I quite enjoy it, Your Majesty. I like my education, I like riding my horse, I like picnics on the lawns in the place of meals in summertime, but I also like knowing that I have been entrusted with a role of responsibility. I would like to see more of my subjects, though, and become more involved in their lives and the amelioration of those lives. After all, what purpose holds the Royal Family other than to ensure the safeguard and happiness of the kingdom’s populace?”
Emerald felt her cheeks warm with embarrassment as that question left her mouth: it had, perhaps, been a little direct of her to ask it. But if the High Queen felt insulted, she did not show it. Having listened attentively to Emerald’s response, she nodded and said, “You demonstrate deep thought, princess. What do you believe to be the role of a queen?”
Emerald smiled shyly at the compliment, flattered to be given it by a woman in such a high position.
“Thank you, Your Majesty. The queen of a region... or land... should be willing to compromise her own contentment for the benefit of her people. She should support her king if she has one and be treated equally to him even if he holds more power than her. A queen should be consulted on important issues so that the qualities of both Man and Woman have an effect on decisions. At least... that is what I believe.”
“Well, what you believe intrigues me,” said the High Queen, sounding quite sincere. “Tell me, can you think of an example that demonstrates the importance of both Man and Woman’s qualities?”
Emerald took a few moments to think before she answered.
“Let’s say..., Your Majesty, that another kingdom launched an attack on a part of one. The king of the latter wanted to wage war with the former but the queen might suggest an attempt to negotiate with the other ruler. There would still need to be active defence of people under threat, of course, and the man would be right in suggesting fighting for this. But there may not be need for an all-out war. In this circumstance, the decision would be affected by the woman’s desire to find peace without violence and the man’s lack of fear in the face of foes.”
Emerald hoped that she sounded logical and reasonable to the High Queen, naturally not wanting to make a fool out of herself.
Fortunately, she was rewarded by a smile from Queen Anita.
“You are rather intelligent, Emerald. My final question for you is what do you believe to be the role of the High Princess Consort?”
Emerald was surprised by this question and curious as to the motivation behind it.
“I must confess to never having considered that, Your Majesty,” she said.
“Take your time,” said the Queen kindly.
Emerald considered. After a few minutes, she spoke, albeit hesitantly.
“As with all Princess Consorts and Queens, the High Princess Consort should love her husband faithfully, supporting him when he feels uncertain about something or low in spirits. I believe that in private she should have the right to give him advice on decisions he must make. When she is not standing beside the High King, however, I believe she could take the opportunity to visit her subjects, grow acquainted with them and also perform small acts of service to show them that she cares - that she has not merely become the High Princess Consort for the privilege of residing in the Palace of Light. Any ruler’s role is to be dutiful to the kingdom - that is what I think, Your Majesty.”
The High Queen smiled and Emerald almost sighed with relief, while feeling happy as though she had passed a sort of test.
“Thank you very much for this conversation, Emerald,” said the High Queen.
“You are welcome, Your Majesty,” murmured Emerald in response.
“If I could talk to your mother now, I would be most grateful.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
Emerald rose to her feet and led the High Queen to the Throne Room, where her parents were sitting, probably engaged in light-hearted conversation.
She knocked on the right one of the two wooden doors, inset with jewels of each colour of the rainbow.
“Come in,” called her father, King Marcasite.
Emerald opened the door and entered the room, shyly announcing “Her Majesty, the High Queen of Emriqa. Here to speak with Mother.”
Her parents smiled from their thrones at the other end of the chamber.
“Thank you, Emerald,” her mother said. “She may enter.”
Emerald nodded and turned to Queen Anita, who had stepped inside the room.
“Thank you for the honour of conversing with you,” she said.
She dropped a curtsey before walking out of and away from the room to puzzle the talk over in the privacy of her bedchamber.