We pick up our story of Alice and her princely husband-to be (formerly known as the Red Knight of the Looking Glass Kingdom) on the day of their nuptials, which we left them at the end of Part 1 looking forward to and making plans for.
As expected by her (now) mother-in-law the Red Queen, not many of Alice’s invitees had turned up. Those that did seemed to keep themselves very much to themselves and didn’t seem to be much interested in the sumptuous food and wine which were on offer, all of which fuelled the suspicion that most of them were actually holograms.
‘Oh look at her over there,’ said Alice to the prince, pointing out a lady at the other side of the marquee wearing a rather exotic multi-coloured African costume. ‘I wonder where she’s from.’
‘Oh, she’s the Black Queen,’ confided the Prince. ‘She has lived at f8 ever since the bishop moved out, which was before my time.’
‘But before that I mean.’
‘Well, that no one really knows because it is generally not considered appropriate to…’ But before he knew it, Alice was on her way over to engage the Black Queen in conversation. Well, he didn’t hear exactly what she asked, but there was no doubt as to the response she got as a flute of best champagne and a side-plate of canapés flew up in the air accompanied by a shriek of ‘You want to know WHAT?’
Fortunately the waiting staff were on hand to tidy up the mess and the band quickly struck up a tune and encouraged the guests to take the floor for a quadrille, with the Red King and Queen enthusiastically leading the way and Alice and her prince following dutifully in their footsteps.
When a rather tired Alice came down to breakfast the next morning, she found the Prince was already at table reading the morning paper, or at least the back page thereof where the sports news was to be found. She looked to enquire of him how he was that morning, but received only a grunt in reply. Annoyingly the newspaper was blocking her field of view and she was unable even to read the headline on the exposed front page as everything was, she had discovered, printed backwards in this Kingdom. However, she was able to see that, somewhat disconcertingly, the accompanying picture was not of her but of a disconsolate-looking Black Queen at the wedding. Extracting a mirror from her handbag and holding it up enabled her to read the headline reflected: “Malice of Alice at the Palace Ball.”
“What!! Have you seen this?” she exploded grabbing hold of the newspaper and directing the Prince’s attention to the headline.
“You mean that photo of the Black Queen? It is not very complimentary, is it? I should think she will not be well pleased.” On seeing Alice’s countenance darken further, he quickly realised this was probably not the matter she was asking him to comment on. Looking to extricate himself from the hole he perceived to be swallowing him up, he ventured: “But jolly poor show that none of the pictures of us got onto the front page.” This was an improvement but still well off the mark.
“I mean the headline!” Alice fumed. “Isn’t it just infuriating?” The Prince was not it seemed in the habit of reading headlines, which rarely related to anything of interest to him, other than if they were on the sports page. He made a mental note to himself: in the future, be sure to read the headlines before breakfast; oh, and adopt a suitable attitude of indignation about them. He set about practising the appropriate facial expression immediately. His judgement having rather let him down thus far, he decided it would be wisest to ask his good wife to propose what redress he might furnish.
“Well, I don’t know what use you might be, but if you can arrange an interview for me with your mother the Red Queen this afternoon, we could get her to initiate some reprisals.” The Prince was not convinced that such an approach was likely to have the desired result, but was relieved to have an excuse to make his exit at that point and headed off to d8, where the Red Queen was usually to be found at that time of day. Meanwhile Princess Alice retired to her private quarters to contemplate the possibility that something might yet occur in her new life at the palace which did not induce a feeling of exasperation.
As it was, they met up that afternoon at h4 where the queen had headed off on a fool’s errand. For that reason she was not in the best frame of mind, or so Alice reasoned. For, rather than offering her sympathy over the mistreatment she, Alice, had experienced at the hands of the press, the Red Queen was proposing to have an apology drafted over her “inappropriate” behaviour the previous day to be published in the Evening Chronicle. “With that, we can hopefully draw a line under the matter.”
Alice, verging on apoplectic with rage, turned to her husband. “Will you explain to her what we discussed this morning?”
The Prince appeared very sheepish and it took him some time to find his tongue. “Alice feels… ehm, that as a princess she should not seek to apologise for or… ehm, explain her behaviour.”
“Very good,” replied the Queen. “Then we are in agreement that the less the good Princess is involved in this the better. We shall deal with the media as we see fit and manage the damage as best we can, while you two run along to your quarters and get on with your job of being the stuff of fairy tales.”
There were many things that Alice might have said at this point, but her husband, in a fit of uncharacteristic decisiveness took her firmly by the hand and escorted her rapidly from the room before she had the chance to formulate her response. In this way he was able to preserve the peace with his mother the Queen, but a veritable tsunami was about to come down on his head when they got back to the privacy of their own quarters.
Anyhow, the upshot of it all was that this was the last straw for Princess Alice: if she was to be thrown to the wolves to protect the media image of the Royal House, she had no desire to continue as a resident in that house. So would the good Prince notify Her Majesty to that effect? Well, notify he reluctantly did: the reader will be spared the details of the further tsunami which descended upon him forthwith.
Instead we move the story forward three weeks. Relations between the newlyweds and the Royal Court have soured to the point of irreparable breakdown. Alice (now no longer Princess since her so recently acquired royal title has been rescinded) and the Red Knight (a title her prince has been allowed to hold onto) are living in a castle at the prestigious a1 address which he has recently acquired through a successful pincer movement involving the White Queen. He and Alice and are in animated conversation. Well, that is probably not an altogether accurate portrayal of the situation. Rather Alice is engaged in an animated monologue punctuated by occasional murmurs of agreement and grunts of approval from the Red Knight.
“I really don’t think I can stand much more of living in this tedious Looking Glass Kingdom with all its ridiculous idiosyncrasies” she opined. “It is driving me to distraction. And why did you not tell me that there were two red knights and that it is your older brother who is set to inherit the Kingdom, not you?” This last riposte was a tad unfair because, if anything, her husband’s resentment about this fact was considerably greater and longer-standing than her own. But, as he had come to realise, his frustrations were not a particularly important part of her truth so he kept his own counsel.
“I say we have no alternative but to go back through the Looking Glass to my world. We will get so much more sympathy and respect there.”
“But how shall we live and what shall we do there?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. We can live off the proceeds of the Duchy of Cornucopia which is your inheritance by right and we can spend our days making TV appearances and writing blogs about how ridiculous all your family and their way of life are. We shall doubtless both become very famous. And once they hear our story they will probably want to make a movie about us in which we can play the starring roles.”
Well, the Red Knight wasn’t altogether convinced and had no idea what a blog was, but starring in a movie and becoming famous sounded like a more attractive option than being half of the “Awkward Couple,” as they had come to be known throughout the Kingdom. So plans were made to sell up their prestigious pied à terre at a1 and move back to Alice’s house on the other side of the Looking Glass.
So what you are probably burning to know at this point is whether they all lived happily ever after? Well, those of you whose sympathies are with Alice will be sorry to hear that things didn’t quite go according to her plan, since it turned out that the funds from the Duchy of Cornucopia could only be disbursed for purchases made within the Looking Glass Kingdom. Nonetheless the other parts of her plan worked out rather well. In particular, it turned out that there was a huge market for sordid tales about mistreatment experienced by normal decent human beings, i.e. Alice, at the hands of a privileged, out-of-touch and (literally) backward élite on the other side of the Looking Glass who based their lives around the principles of a board game involving medieval Anglo-Saxon concepts such as knights, bishops, monarchs and castles.
As she had envisaged, they ended up starring in a movie, a series of movies in fact, which won great acclaim, in particular for the contributions they were deemed to make to the cause of Social Justice by speaking her truth to “their” power. The great and the good, especially from the movie world, were regularly seen attending lavish parties thrown at her home. The usual rumours resurfaced that the attendees were in the main holograms and indeed that a number of them had been dead for several years, but as none of these claims were ever backed up by anyone who had actually been in attendance, it was concluded that such stories were likely driven by churlishness on the part of those who had not received invitations.
So the story ends well for our happy couple with only the one niggling frustration on the Red Knight’s part that he could never quite overcome his sadness that the family he had left behind were unable to repent of the unreasonable way they had behaved and the unhappiness they had caused him and Alice. But this was ultimately evidence of their hard-heartedness and of the justice of the Awkward Couple’s cause so on that basis he had no real reason to regret their estrangement. Or so said Alice; and who would dare to doubt her truth?