Cover image by TaijaVigilia whose artwork is amazing. You can find her on DeviantArt and Tumblr.
Disclaimer: I do not own Disney's Beauty and the Beast, obviously.
In storybooks, princes are dashing, romantic, thoughtful creatures who slay dragons and sweep beautiful princesses off their feet. Handsome, charming, heroic, and selfless to a fault, they represent the perfect romantic partner for idealistic young girls everywhere. It is important to note that the fairy tale prince rarely transcends the royal shackles to become a king. The storybook king is a stuffy old man who forces his poor daughters to wed evil foreign lords, and enslaves their peasant lovers into a life of servitude. Hardly an appropriate hero for a romantic fable.
This is, of course, a complete falsification. In real life, princes suffer the same shortcomings and failures as the rest of society. They can be as rude and as obnoxious as even the lowliest peasant. That is not to say that all princes are completely distasteful. Of course not! To propose such a thing would be preposterous. There are princes, rare though they may be, who are just as charming and romantic as the fables make them out to be. Unfortunately, none of them have slayed any dragons. One of them had a rather fierce encounter with an exceptionally large lizard though.
No. On the whole, princes tend to be rather unpleasant. Due to a childhood of constant attention and meaningless gifts, they grow up to be selfish, callous, insufferable, and power-hungry.
Case in point, Prince Adam of France. In fact, there had never been a prince more selfish and unpleasant than Prince Adam.
Prince Adam had never known his parents. They had both died when he was a baby. His mother had passed away just moments after his birth, and his grieving father followed her several months later. This had left the little prince in the care of a group of frivolous young servants, many of whom were not ideal for childrearing. They spoiled him rotten and gave in to his every desire. With no one around to discipline or chastise him, he grew cruel and conceited. By the time he was eleven years old, he was positively unbearable.
Our story begins one cold December night in the secluded castle where Prince Adam lived. As a snowstorm raged unrepentantly outside, the Prince sat down to the evening meal. He gazed greedily at the table laden with food. Roast lamb, pumpkin soup, chocolate pudding! A meal fit for a prince!
Licking his lips, the Prince lifted his spoon. He allowed the delightful scents to fill his nostrils. He looked around at all the dishes. He could not wait to get all this delicious food into his stomach. His eyes widened suddenly. Wait a minute! Something was missing.
"Lumiere!" barked the Prince. "Lumiere, get in here!"
Lumiere, the castle's maître d'hôtel, strolled into the dining room. At thirty-four years old he had two great loves in his life: women and food. With his long nose and unusual lack of chin, he was not the epitome of masculine beauty. Nevertheless, he made up for his less favourable physical attributes with his great charm, wit, and enthusiasm. With just a wink of an eye, a humorous observation, and a well-crafted compliment or two, he could effortlessly charm beautiful women into his bedchambers. He had begun working as a chef's assistant for a wealthy family in Paris when he was fifteen. He had jumped at the chance to work for the royal family of a poor little province just south of Paris, and had left immediately, leaving dozens of broken-hearted women behind him. His new master and mistress had died soon after he arrived, leaving him and the rest of the servants as the guardians of the orphaned little prince.
"Yes, Master Adam?" Lumiere bowed and flashed the Prince his most dashing smile. Unlike most women(not to mention several men) the Prince was immune to Lumiere's charms, and thus the boyish grin that had caused women to tear off their dresses and hurl themselves at him in the middle of a room full of nobles and important dignitaries had no effect.
"Where's my cheese souffle?" demanded the Prince.
"I apologise, Master, but-"
"I asked for cheese souffle!" shouted the Prince. "Why is there no souffle on my table right now?"
"I'm sorry. We ran out of eggs before we could ma-"
"When I ask for cheese souffle, I expect cheese souffle! I don't want any more of your excuses, Lumiere."
"Enough! Where's Cogsworth?"
At the mention of his name, Cogsworth, the majordomo of the castle, walked sheepishly into the room and bowed to the prince. He was in his mid-thirties. That's what he claimed, at least. Lumiere hadn't helped noticing that Cogsworth had been in his mid-thirties for the past decade. He was short, fat, and more than made up for Lumiere's lack of chin. Unlike Lumiere, he was not at all popular with the opposite sex. He was unbothered by this, however, as he was too busy with his job to devote any time to wooing any "silly young girls".
"Ah, Cogsworth," said the Prince uncharacteristically calmly.
Cogsworth gulped. That didn't sound good!
"Cogsworth, Lumiere tells me that we have run out of eggs. Why is this?"
"W-well, Master," he stammered. "It has been awfully stormy as of late. As such, we have not been able to go to the village to buy more food. The roads are muddy and wet, and it would be dangerous for us to travel. We could be killed."
Adam fumed quietly. Cogsworth and Lumiere closed their eyes and flinched. They knew what was coming. Finally the Prince exploded.
"Do you think I care if you die, you blundering fools?" screamed the Prince, picking up his plate from the table and hurling it at the pair. "You have one job. One! And you failed miserably. You make sick! Honestly, you deserve to die."
Those who encountered the Prince and witnessed his poor treatment of those who served him often wondered what compelled his servants to stay working for their cruel master. It was, admittedly, rather puzzling, but the servants all had their reasons. Many had nowhere else to go. Some of them had been born in the castle and could not fathom living and working in some other place, and thus stayed out of fear. Others, like Lumiere and Cogsworth, enjoyed their jobs immensely, constant abuse aside, and stayed due to the sheer joy they got out of working. Besides, they optimistically thought that the Prince would surely become more agreeable as he grew up.
"Adam dear. I do think you are being too harsh on poor Lumiere and Cogsworth," said Mrs Potts, who had been watching quietly from the sidelines.
The widowed Mrs Potts was Adam's favourite member of the staff, though he would never admit it. The housekeeper had migrated with her late husband from England to France twenty years previously. After the Prince's parents had died, she had become the boy's adoptive mother, providing all of the cuddles and comfort that she thought was necessary. She had mothered seven children herself and had grown to see the young orphan as one of her own. It broke her heart to see him acting like this.
Adam looked at Mrs Potts sharply. For a few brief seconds, the woman could have sworn she saw a smile beginning to creep onto the Prince's face. He looked down at Cogsworth and Lumiere, who were cowering together on the floor. He pointed to the smashed plate on the floor.
"Clean it up, Cogsworth. And Lumiere, bring me another plate." Adam sat back down. Mrs Potts smiled at him.
"Now dear, that wasn't so hard was it?"
Adam only grunted in response. He took the plate that Lumiere gave to him, and allowed the servant to pile food onto it. He sighed.
A sudden loud ominous knock on the door front door caused Adam to jump out his seat in fear.
"I wonder who that could be at this hour," wondered Mrs Potts,
"I don't know and I don't care," said the Prince. "I want to enjoy my dinner alone. Cogsworth, answer the door and get rid of this person."
"I am rather busy at the moment, Master," said Cogsworth from the floor where he was still cleaning up the broken plate.
Prince Adam stood up and glared at the older man.
"I told you to answer the door, Cogsworth," he said curtly.
"Master, he's busy. Why don't you ask one of the other servants to do it?" pleaded Lumiere hopelessly. The Prince ignored him.
"Useless!" he screamed. "You're all useless! I don't even know why I have servants. I will have to get rid of this person myself. It seems the both of you are too incompetent to do so."
He glared at them, and strode into the entrance hall. Chip, Mrs Potts' five year old son, was playing near the stairs. The Prince intentionally stepped on the small boy's fingers as he walked past. Chip cried out in intense pain and rushed into the arms of his mother who began to comfort him.
"Little runt. Children should be kept inside their cages," muttered the Prince, conveniently forgetting that he himself was only eleven years old.
The visitor banged on the door again.
"Peasants are so entitled and impatient," the Prince said to himself. "They ought to be happy that they have such a kind and generous prince."
He threw open the door. A huge gust of wind burst into the castle, almost knocking the Prince off his feet. A repulsive old crone stood on the doorstep, clutching an emerald green cloak around herself for warmth. The Prince had to resist the urge to vomit when he saw her.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
The old woman smiled weakly and held up a red rose.
"Prince Adam, I have travelled for many miles today, but I am afraid that I cannot go on for much longer. Please allow me to seek shelter in your castle for just one night. I am very poor, so I am afraid that I do not have much to offer you except for this rose."
Adam stared from the woman's decrepit face to the rose, and then back to the woman. Was this old lady being serious? He resisted the urge to laugh.
"What?" he asked curtly.
"I have travelled for many miles-"
"I heard what you said, old hag," said the Prince, scowling. "And no, you may not spend the night in my castle. People like you make me sick. All you do is mooch. Get out of my sight."
"Are you sure?" asked the old woman, her mouth twisting into a disturbing smile. "Do not be fooled by my appearance. True beauty is found within. I am very old and tired. Just one night?"
"No. Get out!"
The Prince began to close the door, when he was suddenly blinded by a flash of green light. When he looked again, the old hag had been replaced with a tall, beautiful, glowing blonde woman who was staring down at him.
"You are a very selfish, shallow, and cruel boy, Prince Adam," said the Enchantress calmly. "You have no love in your heart. You are a danger to yourself and to your people. You deserve to be punished."
The Prince fell to his knees.
"P-please don't hurt me," he whimpered. "I-I'm just a little boy."
"If I allow you to grow up while you remain exactly as you are there is no telling what kind of damage you could do."
"I-I can change, really. I promise. Please let me go!"
The Enchantress stared at the boy for a few moments, before her expression softened. She smiled slightly.
"You really are just a pathetic little child aren't you? Alright, Prince Adam, I'll make you a deal. I will leave you alone as long as you promise to change your ways."
Prince Adam grinned. That was easier than he thought it would be. He should have known. He had always been good at manipulating people.
"Good," said the Enchantress. "Just remember, if you fail to change your ways in the near future, something awful will happen. And you wouldn't want that, would you?"
"Of course not."
"I thought so. Farewell, Prince Adam. I will be watching you."
She was gone in another flash of green. Adam closed the door. A crowd of servants had gathered in the entrance hall to watch the exchange. Adam glared at them.
"What are you looking at? Get back to work, all of you! I'm not paying you to stand around."
And with that, he stalked off back to the dining room, clearing his mind completely of the conversation he had with the Enchantress.