The Queen by Caitlin Smith


“Your sister cannot go,” they said. “She’s not fit with that pox-scarred face, so you must take her place. You’ll be queen.” So she gave up her childhood dreams and prepared to go.

“Queens do not cry,” her mother said at her parting. “They sit, back straight, shoulders squared. They are as iron, unyielding and resolute.” So she climbed the steps to her carriage and never looked back.

“A French Queen must not show her roots,” they said at the border. “She must be only French, or the people will not love her. She must leave all traces of Austria behind her.” So she stripped away her favorite dress and donned the tight corset and sweltering silk of the French court.

Her Austrian puppy cried out for her as she crossed the border alone.

“If the little Dauphine will be Queen she must look the part,” the women whispered. “She must dress like a Queen to be seen as one.” So she ordered new dresses, always striving to lessen their disdain.

“The Queen is the example to her people,” her advisers said. “She must show them how to act, how to dress, what to aspire to be.” So she wore the latest fashions, played the newest games, and donned the most popular wigs.

“You must produce an heir,” her mother wrote, “Or die of shame. Without an heir a Queen is worth nothing.” So she called her new husband to her chambers once again.

“A daughter is useless, you must have a son. You are Queen.” Her mother’s letters mocked her. “Have you lost your charms?” So she put her last three miscarriages from her mind, and tried for a son once more.

“The Queen is lesbian, adulteress, l’autruchienne. She is not to be trusted.” The libelle proclaimed for all to see. And so she built a hamlet to hide away; a farm like those she had once read about as a child, a simple place of peace.

The people are revolting. They want blood,” he said, as the city burned around them. “We must go, as Queen and mother you must do your duty. You must preserve the royal line.” So in the dead of night they snuck away from their home, hoping to find safety from the mob rule around them.

“The Queen must never cry,” she told herself. “I must be as iron, unyielding and resolute.” So she sat through trial, still and silent.

“The Queen is a monster,” they forced her only surviving son to say. “She touched me in secret and told me not to tell.” So though the tears poured down her cheeks, she knew there was nothing she could say – no defense against such heinous accusations.

“The King is dead,” the minister told her, “And you will be next. They are calling for your blood to cover Place de la Révoultion.” So she prayed, not for her own life, but for her son and daughter, soon to be orphaned.

“The Queen must be an example to her people,” she thought, as she climbed those final steps. “She must teach them what to aspire to be.” She stumbled on the foot of the executioner.

“Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it,” she murmured as she knelt before him, still and silent to the end.

The Queen must never cry.

The blade was raised.

The Queen was silent.

The blade dropped.

The Queen went still.


This piece was originally written in Italy, for my Creative Writing class at The Umbra Institute, but it’s since undergone major edits, so I’m hoping anyone who might’ve read it in it’s first incarnation can still enjoy this fresher take.  

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