My heavy silver clasps joined to meet behind Helen’s neck and lock together. Like generations of women before her, Helen carried me as we climbed the majestic stairs beneath her regal feet. The crowd outside the enormous cathedral jostled and nudged each other to catch a glimpse of the beautiful heir to the throne. The King was declared dead when he didn’t return from the Great Northern War and the weight of glory was now Helen’s to bear. She sipped from the brew
of sorrow and anticipation, with each marbled step.
I was carried to greater heights and surveyed the Bishop from each shimmering eye that rested against Helen’s chest. The Bishop in golden, tapestried vestments waited for Helen to reach the altar where the crown sparkling with diamonds, rubies and emeralds awaited. The rumbling of the crowd hushed in awe as Helen reached the altar. Helen sat on the Throne and observed the crowd before her. Please God, I will be a worthy servant of the people, just like my father, she prayed silently. The bishop made the sign of the Cross over Helen’s head, then reached for the crown resting on the purple cushion nearby. He placed his two gloved hands on the side of the crown and lifted it carefully, positioning it above Helen’s head, ready to place on her cascading black locks.
A disturbance from outside caused the bishop to pause and turn towards the cathedral doors.
“Stop I say! In the name of God, stop!” shouted a tall knight, astride a mighty black stallion galloping at speed towards the crowd.
A woman in the crowd screamed and people in the crowd craned their necks to see the
culprit of the disturbance. The crowd parted rapidly as the horse charged directly at them. The
knight pulled on the reins, causing the stallion to come to an abrupt stop at the cathedral doors. He
dismounted and hurried down the nave towards the altar. He called out again, waving the King’s
“Halt my Lord, Halt!”
Helen looked up to face the knight who was removing his helmet. I had history on my side and remembered back to when something like this had last happened. It was during Queen Isabelle’s time as she was seated on her throne about to proclaim freedom for a prisoner when a herald burst into the Royal Palace to announce that an army of ten thousand men were approaching. That wasn’t good news then and I feared the knight’s message now.
“The King is alive!” he gasped, forcing the words from tired lungs.
The bishop placed the crown back on the purple cushion as the crowd - a sea of frowns and
open mouths, stretched their ears to hear.
“His Majesty is gravely wounded but his supporters are bringing him home as I speak!” the knight said, looking up from the bottom of the stairs.
“My father?” I heard Helen whisper.
We descended the stairs quickly to greet the young man who looked at Helen with the greatest tenderness.
“Your father wishes you to come to his side Your Highness” said the young knight.
“You are sure he is alive?” asked Princess Helen.
“Yes. You can see for yourself - come now, we haven’t a moment to lose.”
I tasted salty tears trickling down over me as Helen’s heart thudded beneath.
Helen and I took off with the knight on horseback, riding through the forest at a speed that made me jump and rattle all the way. We arrived in the last rays of day’s light at a clearing. Tucked under the cover of a canopy in the wood. Helen dismounted the horse without waiting for help and ran to the tent that flew the royal flag. She pushed aside one of the flaps and hurried inside. The King was lying on a makeshift bed, attendants kneeling by his side.
“Father!” Helen cried, “Oh Father!”
The King turned his head to face Helen, the corners of his lips turning up ever so briefly. His face was white and body still, but his eyes shone as she came closer.
“Helen” he whispered.
The king's eyes rested on me, his smile broadening. "You have brought with you, your mother and my mother before her, Dear Child."
Helen smiled through her tears.
"The breastplate of pearls," eyes twinkling. "Come closer, dear one."
Helen knelt beside the king, and embraced him, sobbing. As I nestled against the king's chest, I wished could also cry, as I too also loved this man.