Chapter 1

One of the many perks of being a princess was being able to rise whenever one wanted. However, as dawn broke and streams of light began to gently touch the horizon, Evelyn knew today would not be one of those days.

Today signaled a months long celebration leading up to her 25th birthday. Normally this meant nothing, but Princess Evelyn Marie Douglas Van Der Burg-Grey III was to come into a rather large inheritance — her own kingdom.

She was so excited, yet, nervous at the same time. Her mother was supposed to be making the journey with her; however, there was now talk of her going alone. Evelyn wasn’t sure if she wanted her mother to go, or if she would rather face the unknown alone.

When her parents married 33 years ago, her father had been the heir to the throne of the Isle of Cobalt, while her mother had been heir to the throne of Astonia. After their marriage, father became King Reginald Henry Thaddeus Grey V.

Because his father died only a few weeks after the wedding, her parents had spent the time in mourning as well as getting to know each other. Their marriage had not been a love match, but rather an arrangement.

They fell deeply in love, but struggled to have children. She had been told by her lady’s maid her mother had miscarried three times before finally having Evelyn’s older brother, Thaddeus Maxwell Charles Grey, four years into their marriage.

It took another four miscarriages over the course of a few years before Evelyn came along. This was a disappointment to her mother, who had hoped for an heir and a spare. However, her father had been overjoyed by the news. Due to difficulties in labor with her, her mother had been unable to have more children.

In a way, this had marked her in the eyes of her brother. However, as the only daughter of Queen Maria Lilian Elizabeth Van Der Burg VI, she was spoiled by her grandparents. When her grandfather had died, he had surprised everyone by naming Evelyn as the heir to the throne of Astonia.

The news had come about ten years earlier, but there had been a stipulation — she couldn’t take the throne until she was twenty-five. Now it was within her grasp, but her father and mother wanted her to be engaged before she left. Therefore, she was to be the grand prize of a tournament. It was all very medieval, but she was hoping there was a way around this game.

Her mother and father had been proud and supportive when the will was read. However, her brother had become jealous and distant, even more so over the years. They had never been close, but he would inherit their father’s kingdom, she didn’t understand why it mattered that she had been given a kingdom of her own too.

With a sigh, Evelyn got out of bed and rang for her maid before heading into the washroom adjacent to her bedroom. Evelyn was very thankful for indoor plumbing, which allowed her bathtub to be filled each day with hot water from the nearby springs. She only hoped her new home would have similar modern amenities and not be a throwback to the early 1700s.

“Good morning, Your Highness,” said Jessica as she entered the washroom. She began filling the tub before heading into the closet and grabbing a morning dress.

“Good morning. Are you putting me in the sky blue one?”

“That was my plan, but I can always grab another if it’s not to your liking,” Jessica responded.

“No, it’s fine. I’m just trying to figure out who I’m supposed to be meeting today. I know Father has a few suitors lined up and I’m just nervous, I guess,” Evelyn told Jessica as she helped her get undress.

“That’s understandable, Your Highness. I would be nervous too if I was to be married before I became a queen and moved to a new kingdom.”

Neither spoke for several minutes as Jessica helped Evelyn bathe.

Evelyn just kept thinking of the expectations being placed on her. She had trained her entire life for this, had even dreamt of this moment, and now it was here and she was terrified she would mess it up.

“What if no one in Astonia likes me? Or worse, Father marries me off and I never set foot in Astonia, but rather rule from a kingdom far away?”

“You’ll be fine, milady. Everyone will love you, and I’m sure you’re father isn’t so hasty as to marry you to the first man he sees fit.”

Evelyn had her doubts. At almost twenty-five, she was close to being considered a spinster, the only reason she wasn’t was because she was a princess and soon-to-be queen; however, even she knew she needed to marry soon or she would be firmly on the shelf.

Jessica finished getting Evelyn ready for her day. The light blue walking dress, with its ivory lace accents around the sleeve and collar, with a navy blue ribbon at the waist looked good against her fair skin.

She was more curvaceous than anyone liked, but no one said anything because she was a princess. It wasn’t that she was horribly overweight, but she wasn’t slender like her mother. Men often stared at her ample bosom, and she had overheard a few conversations from men about how she was built for endurance. It had taken her a few years to convince Jessica to tell her what that meant.

As she looked at herself in the mirror, she had to admire Jessica’s ability to make her curly strawberry blonde hair into something beautiful and sophisticated. The tiara was the final touch. It was made out of gold with lots of diamonds lining the filigree pattern. In the center was a large emerald that brought out the green in her eyes.

“You look beautiful, milady. The suitors will be begging for your hand in marriage,” Jessica stated as she stood back to admire her work.

“Thanks Jessica, but I’m not sure if I want men groveling at my feet.”

“Either way, you look beautiful.”

Jessica slipped out of the room while Evelyn gave herself one last glance in the mirror. She looked pretty she supposed, but deep down she knew she wasn’t the type of woman men went for. She wasn’t small and dainty. She let out a long sigh before getting up and heading down to breakfast.

As she entered the family’s dining room, she walked to the sideboard and grabbed a plate. Her father was sitting in his usual place at the head of the table. He was currently pouring over some correspondence.

Her mother wasn’t down yet, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary. Evelyn added eggs, sausage, potatoes, and toast to her plate. She then sat down and made herself a cup of tea before she began to eat.

“You know how your mother disapproves of your eating sausage,” King Reginald said without lifting his gaze.

“Life is too short to not eat sausage. Besides, this is the last breakfast this entire month I’ll get to splurge and eat what I want.”

“True.” Her father went back to reading, while Evelyn continued to eat. Her mother entered the room a few moments later. She always looked so graceful and moved with such fluidity, Evelyn had never mastered it and was always slightly jealous.

“Good morning, my dear. Is it too much to hope you avoided the sausage?” Queen Maria asked before sitting down with her plate of eggs and fruit with a single piece of toast. Her mother also made herself a cup of tea.

“I only had one piece today if it makes you feel better,” Evelyn supplied. Her father hid a smile behind the paper he was reading. She had had a few more than one, but he would never rat her out to her mother.

Queen Maria sighed. “Princesses don’t eat sausage when trying to attract a man. But it doesn’t matter, there are other things to discuss.”

“Like what?” Evelyn asked, pushing her empty plate away before sipping her tea.

“Well, for starters, you’ll be meeting the ‘Queen’s Men’ before we visit Lisette to make sure your birthday gown and coronation dress are in order. She was unable to come to us.”

“I’m sure Lisette has everything under control. She’s very capable,” Evelyn replied as she finished her tea.

“Nonetheless, I still want to make sure everything is perfect. Your final fitting will be later this week. We’ll be bringing the men along as protection, as well as for you to get to know them. Are you ready?”

Without waiting for a response, Queen Maria stalked from the table and swept out of the room.

“She’s on a mission this morning, so I’d hurry if I were you,” King Reginald said with an amused twinkle in his eye.

Evelyn gave her father a quick peck on the cheek before racing out of the room to catch up to her mother, who was almost to the Morning Room, which led to the gardens and where the Queen’s Men waited to greet them both.

Evelyn just hoped she didn’t disappoint them. She quickly put on her gloves before taking a deep breath and exiting onto the veranda.

Copyright © Meg’s Chronicles 2018 All Rights Reserved

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