Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Bad-Tempered Queen, The (La Regina Cattiva)


THEY say there was a queen who was so bad-tempered that no one who could help it would come near her. All the servants ran away when she came out of her apartment, for fear she should scold and maltreat them; all the people ran away when she drove out, for fear she should vex them with some tyrannical order.

               As she was rich and beautiful, and ruled over vast dominions, many princes--who in their distant kingdoms had heard nothing of her failing--came to sue for her hand, but she sent them all away and would have nothing to say to any of them. She used to say she did not want to have anyone to be her master; she had rather live and govern by herself, and have everything her own way.

               As time went on, however, the council of state grew dissatisfied with this resolution. They insisted that she must marry, that there might be a family of princes to carry on the succession to the throne without dispute. When the queen found that she could not help it she agreed she would marry; but she was determined she would not marry any of the princes who had come to court her, because, as they were equal to herself in birth and state, they would want to rule over her and expect obedience from her. She declared she would marry no one but a certain duke, who, as she had observed in the council and in the state banquets and balls, was always very quiet and hardly ever spoke at all. She thought he would make a nice quiet manageable sort of husband, and she would have him if she must have one at all.

               The duke was as silent as usual when he was spoken to about it; but as he made no objection he was reckoned to have consented, and the marriage was duly solemnised.

               As soon as the marriage was over the queen went on making her arrangements and ordering matters in the palace just as if nothing had happened, and she were still her own mistress. In particular she issued invitations for the grandest ball she had ever given, asking to it all the ministers and their families, and all the nobility of the kingdom.

               The husband said nothing to all this, only a few hours before the time appointed for the banquet he called to the queen, saying: 'Put on your travelling dress, and make haste; the carriage will be round directly.'

               'I'm not going to put on my travelling dress,' answered the queen scornfully; 'I am just seeing about my evening dress for the banquet this evening.'

               'If you are not ready in your travelling dress in five minutes, when the carriage comes round, it will be worse for you. Mind I have warned you.'

               And he looked so determined that she quailed before him.

               'How can we be going into the country, when I have invited half the kingdom to a banquet?' exclaimed the queen.

               'I have invited no one,' answered the husband quietly. 'Don't stand hesitating when I tell you to do a thing; go and get ready directly! we are going into the country!' he added in his most positive voice, and, though she shed many secret tears over the loss of the banquet, she ventured to oppose nothing more to his orders, but went up and dressed, and when the carriage came round she was nearly ready. In about five minutes she came down.

               'I won't say anything this time about your keeping me waiting,' he said when she appeared; 'but mind it does not happen again, or you will be sorry for it.'

               The queen had a favourite little dog, which she fondled and talked to all the way, to show she was offended with her husband and independent of his conversation.

               Watching an opportunity when she was silent, the husband said to the little dog, 'Jump on to my lap.'

               'He's not going to obey you,' said the queen contemptuously; 'he's my dog!'

               'I keep no one about me who does not obey me,' said her husband quietly; and he took out his pistol and shot the dog through the head.

               The queen began to understand that the husband she had chosen was not a person to be trifled with, nor did she venture even to utter a complaint.

               When they arrived at the villa, as the queen was going to her apartment to undress, her husband called her to him into his room and bade her pull off his boots.

               The queen's first impulse was to utter a haughty refusal; but by this time she had learnt that, as she would certainly have to give in to him in the end, it was better to do his bidding with a good grace at the first. So she said nothing, but knelt down and pulled off his boots.

               When she had done this he got up and said: 'Now sit down in this armchair and I will take off your shoes; for my way is that one should help the other. If you behave to me as a wife should, you need never fear but that I shall behave to you as a husband should.'

               By the time their visit to the country was at an end, and when they returned to the capital, everybody found their naughty queen had become the most angelic being imaginable.


After people's bad tempers, their follies form the most prolific subject of the Ciarpe.


[1] 'La Regina Cattiva.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Bad-Tempered Queen, The (La Regina Cattiva)
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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