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"Princess Priscilla's Fortnight" by Elizabeth von Arnim

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Princess Priscilla's FortnightFirst published in 1905, Elizabeth von Arnim no doubt wrote Princess Priscilla's Fortnight as a fairy tale for her children's amusement. It tells the story of Priscilla, a popular and celebrated German princess, who grows tired of her lavish and pampered life. Through the instruction of her mentor, Herr Fritzing, she learns there is a wide and varied world outside the castle walls, and she yearns to escape. The marriage proposal of an eligible prince makes Priscilla realize that if she wants to escape the life she secretly detests, now is the time. So she runs away with Fritzing and a bribed chamber maid--possibly the last two people who have the street smarts to help the Princess on the "outside". Somehow they make it, undetected, to a small town in England where they intend to live a simple and peaceful life.

You can imagine that "simple" and "peaceful" is not what then ensues. The Princess, used to being obeyed and her every move observed by her entourage, now must live in anonymity and endure the condescension of the town ladies and pastors wives who presume to be above her in rank. Priscilla also must endure culture clashes many times brought on by the utter lack of common sense held by the runaways.

Several of the funniest moments arise from the fact that Pricilla and Fritzing forget to agree on their assumed names before meeting and greeting the new neighbors. Priscilla tells one group of people her name is Ethel Schultz while Fritzing tells another group that she is Maria-Theresa Neumann. Several scenes of confusion follow. In the end, they come to a compromise in the alias "Ethel Maria-Theresa Neumann-Schultz".

Being a fairy tale, the story of course has a moral which I would rather reproduce in Von Arnim's lovely words than in mine:

But Priscilla's story has taken such a hold on me, it seemed when I first heard it to be so full of lessons, that I felt bound to set it down from beginning to end for the use and warning of all persons, princesses and others, who think that by searching, by going far afield, they will find their happiness, and do not see that it is lying all the while at their feet.


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