The Prince She Never Knew

By: Kate Hewitt

She didn’t know why everything felt so much harder now. She’d been living this life for six years, after all. She’d come to enjoy her interactions with the public and had learned to live with the media’s attention.

Yet today, on her wedding day, with nearly the last words she’d spoken having been vows before the world, before God...

She felt the falseness of their masquerade more than ever. They’d only been married a few minutes and already she felt how difficult, how draining, this life of play-acting was going to be. She’d been moving towards that realisation for months as the weight had dropped off and her stomach had churned with nerves, as everything had steamrolled ahead with such frightening implacability that she had known she couldn’t call a halt to the proceedings even if she’d wanted to. The pretending.

And the terrible truth was, she still didn’t want to. She’d still rather hope.


She turned from the window where she’d been blindly staring at the crowds, her hand rising and falling in a fluttering wave without even realising she was doing so. ‘Yes?’

‘You don’t look well,’ Leo said and he sounded concerned. ‘Do you need a few moments to rest before we go into the reception?’

Alyse knew what the reception would entail: hours of chatting, laughing and pretending to be in love. Of kissing Leo, squeezing his hand and laying her head on his shoulder. She’d done it all before, of course, but now it hurt more. It felt, absurdly perhaps, more fake.

‘I’m fine.’ She smiled and turned back to the window so he wouldn’t see how her smile trembled and almost slid right off her face. ‘I’m fine,’ she said again, this time for herself, because she needed to believe it. She was stronger than this. She had to be stronger, because she’d chosen this life, knowing how hard it would be.

At times it might have felt as if she had no choice, with the pressure of both the media and the monarchy urging her to agree, but if she’d really wanted to break off the engagement she surely could have. She would have found the strength to.

No, she’d chosen this life, and chosen Leo; she’d believed in the duty she was performing and she’d held out for love.

She still did. Today was a beginning, she reminded herself. Today was the start of her and Leo’s life together, days and nights spent with each other in a way neither of them had ever experienced before. Maybe, finally, Leo would fall in love with her.

* * *

Leo just wanted this day to be over. Although of course with its end would come a whole new, and rather interesting, complication: the night. Their wedding night.

He glanced again at Alyse; her face was turned away from him but he could still see how pale and wan she looked. And thin. The dress clung to her figure, which had already been slender but now looked rather waif-like. Clearly the strain of the heightened media attention had got to her over these last few months.

Just as it had got to him. He’d lived his life in the spotlight and he certainly should be used to it now. As a child, the play-acting for the media had confused him, but as he’d grown older he’d accepted it as the price he had to pay for the sake of his duty to the crown. At least this time, with Alyse, he’d chosen it. He’d entered this loveless marriage willingly, even happily.

Because wasn’t it better to know love was a sham from the beginning, than to live in desperate yearning for it—just as he had done for the whole of his confused and unhappy childhood?

At least he and Alyse agreed on that. She’d always known he didn’t love her, and he knew she didn’t love him. Really, it was the perfect foundation for a marriage: agreed and emotionless expectations.

Yet he’d found the last few months of intense media speculation and interest wearying. The charade of acting as if they were in love had started to wear thin. And he’d wondered, not for the first time, just why Alyse had agreed to this marriage.

He’d never asked her, had never wanted to know. It was enough that she’d agreed, and she’d gone along with it ever since. Just as he had.

Only, unlike him, she had no incentive to please the press, no duty to repair a badly damaged monarchy and increase the tourist revenue for a small and struggling country. No need to pretend to be wildly in love. So why had she agreed all those years ago? Why had she continued to agree?

He had to assume it was because, like him, she wanted this kind of marriage. Or maybe she just wanted this kind of life—the life of a princess and one day a queen. He didn’t fault her for it. She wouldn’t be the first person to have her head turned by wealth and fame. In any case, she’d approached their union         with a practical acceptance he admired, and she’d embraced the public as much as they’d embraced her.

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