17th February

A True Likeness

It was the day of the great unveiling. The Princess had been sitting for her portrait, hours and hours over several sessions, but finally the artist had declared his work finished.

No one but he had seen it, not even the Princess. The artist was considered the finest in the land, and the Princess was of course the most beautiful woman, so the painting, if a true likeness, would be indisputably wonderful. The King therefore ordered its immediate public display.

The Princess was nervous. She instructed her most trusted servant to mingle in the crowds and report whatever he overheard.

First to view the portrait was the royal family. Next, the lords and ladies of court came to admire it. Finally, the common people were allowed into the gallery.

The Princess heard only positive remarks throughout these proceedings. She retired to her quarters as soon as she could, to await the servant’s report.

‘You need not flatter me,’ she said, when he arrived. ‘I want only the truth. What do the King and Queen really say?’

‘Your Highness,’ the servant replied, ‘they say that the portrait captures the beauty of your person, the dignity of your position and the strength of your heredity.’

‘I noticed, however,’ the Princess said, ‘that they hardly looked at the painting itself, and seemed more impressed by the richness of the frame. What of the lords and ladies?’

‘They,’ the servant continued, ‘think it shows you as the finest diamond in a necklace of fine diamonds.’

‘By which they mean themselves,’ the Princess said. ‘Their views are worthless. What did the common people say?’

‘Ah now,’ the servant said. ‘They looked at the portrait very closely. Some commented that you looked tired, others that you looked old. Several thought that you seemed to be an ordinary person, just like them.’

‘This is very bad,’ the Princess said. ‘I feared just such a response.’

‘Do not concern yourself,’ the servant said. ‘I have already organised an accident which will result in the painting’s total destruction. As for the artist, he will never be heard of again.’

‘Thank you, loyal friend,’ the Princess said. ‘I knew I could rely on your honesty.’

Reader: Hannah Visocchi
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium and Piano: Kit Downes
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