The Legend of Prince Charming
Have you ever wondered why so many stories about beautiful women and handsome princes inevitably have Prince Charming as the handsome prince? Either he was a Dark Ages version of Hugh Hefner or quite possibly he was more than one man. I believe the latter could be true. Here’s how the story about the legendary Prince Charming and his exploits may have come into existence.
During the second century A.D., a patrician named Marcus Andromidus had a slave named Philip whom he had trained to fight in the arena as a gladiator. The man was strong, intelligent, and extremely handsome. He became quite proficient with all the weapons used in the arena and was pitted against some of the best gladiators to ever fight in the region we know as France today. His master became wealthy wagering on his slave, and promised him that if he won enough matches to make him independently wealthy, he would be given the most beautiful slave girl in his possession.
For nearly a decade, Philip fought all comers. But nearly every time it looked like his master was going to become wealthy, he would waste his money foolishly on banquets and gambling. But the brave gladiator had his eye on the drop-dead gorgeous Helena, from Greece. She also loved Philip and became his companion who shared his meals and bed, which his master believed would give him the incentive to win his matches.
At long last, the day of his marriage arrived. His master gave him enough gold to purchase not only his freedom and that of his wife but also of a plot of land near present-day village of Chambre, in France. When Marcus Andromidus died a few years later, Philip was presented with half of his slaves and half of his wealth. This inheritance was enough to make Philip a wealthy and powerful man in the region.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the descendants of Philip and his wife became known as the Princes of Chambre. Over the centuries, the name was corrupted into Prince Charming. But it wasn’t until the 12th century that the legendary exploits of the first man known as Prince Charming took place.
Philip and his brother Charles traveled to China after fighting in one of the crusades and dealt with merchants, doctors, scientists, and royalty in order to enrich themselves in knowledge as well as material goods. Philip studied Chinese medicine and collected the various ingredients for herbal medicines as well as medical instruments like acupuncture needles and a tube that allowed a person to hear the human heart beating when it was placed against the chest.
One day at a banquet, Charles committed an unforgivable breach of etiquette which cost him his head and forced his brother to flee for his life back to France. He managed to bring back medicines, instruments, and some gems which made him a wealthy man. But the ties he had established with China were broken. It wasn’t until the Polos traveled to China that Europe was able to re-establish trade with the Far East.
The first woman the Prince of Chambre met who is included in the Prince Charming legend was Mariam of Orleans. She was suffering from anemia, which caused people to refer to her as Sleeping Beauty. Philip administered some herbs in a tea and brought her out of her constant slumber. Within a few weeks, she only needed the normal amount of sleep each night and married the man who made it possible.
Years later, Henri, the Prince of Chambre, met a young woman named Louise who lived in Germany with seven dwarves that had once been household dwarves of various nobles. They had adopted her when she had been abandoned by her parents on the doorstep of their home in the woods. She is now known as Snow White because of her pale complexion and pure heart.
A local woman who was jealous of her gave her a poisoned apple which didn’t kill her but left her in a coma. It was fate that brought the Prince and Louise together. He happened to be in the area and heard about her plight. He traveled to her home and administered an antidote to the poison. But instead of awakening, her heart stopped and she stopped breathing.
The Prince had read in the Bible how God had breathed the breath of life into Adam, so he attempted to revive her by placing his mouth over hers and forcing air into her lungs. He also pressed upon her chest as an early form of CPR and eventually brought her back to life. The story about the incident only records that Henri kissed her and brought her back to consciousness. Later, the incident about Sleeping Beauty also included a kiss, even though it was the tea that brought her around.
One of the incidents which had the Prince meet a beautiful woman happened in Romania. A woman named Mara Repunzel was the youngest of three sisters. Her oldest sister ran away with a fisherman, which infuriated her mother. The woman chose a rich merchant to be the second sister’s spouse, but he often would get drunk and beat his wife.
The mother decided her last daughter would be "reserved" for the best man who could be found. She placed Mara in a tower that overlooked the Black Sea for twenty years from the time she was 15 until the day she was freed from her captivity by Karl.
Karl had heard about the woman and her supposed long golden hair. In reality it was a rope ladder. From a distance it appeared to be ultra-long locks of hair. Karl attempted to climb the ladder, but Mara’s mother’s servant whipped the Prince’s back a few feet from the window at the top of the tower. Fortunately, he didn’t break anything when he landed on the ground; some bushes cushioned his fall.
Instead of trying to climb the golden ladder again, Karl decided to tunnel up through the sandstone cliff upon which the tower was built. It took him nearly a week to bore through the rock with a shovel and knives and break through inside the base of the tower.
He then climbed the stairs, which hadn’t been used since Repunzel was committed to the tower when she was a girl. It was evening, and Mara was about to drift off to sleep when the Prince forced his way into her room. The Prince was as filthy as a pig, but that didn’t matter to Mara, who gladly escaped with him.
By morning when her mother’s servant came to the tower with breakfast, the Prince and Mara were miles away. They named their first daughter after Mara’s mother. But until the day she died, the old woman resented Karl and considered her daughter a kidnap victim.
Romeo and Juliet are also a part of the Prince Charming legend. The ball that was held in Verona was in honor of the Prince of Chambre, Andre, who was supposed to be in the area. He had been detained by a young woman in Torino, who held him captive for a week until he managed to escape. But by then, the ball had been held and Romeo had intercepted Juliet.
Both the woman who was infatuated with the Prince and Juliet committed suicide in dramatic ways. Juliet died in the way Shakespere wrote, while the other woman threw herself from the tower in which she had imprisoned the Prince.
The last woman who was a part of the Prince Charming legend was Cinderella Angnelli. Her father had built up a trading operation that had connections with merchants in the Far East and the New World during the early 1600’s. Her father had no son. So he taught his daughter about the art of business. His first wife died, so he married a woman who had two plain-looking daughters. It was more for companionship than for love that caused him to marry the woman. It was a mistake that he regretted up to the day of his untimely death.
Cinderella was treated like dirt. She should have run the trading operations. Instead, her step-mother hired an inept man who slowly bled the women’s finances dry. When the ball was announced in which the Prince was to be in attendance, the stepmother bought gowns and satin slippers for her daughters, but nothing for Cinderella.
If it hadn’t been for Deborah, a good friend of Cinderella’s father who was a part of a Jewish benevolence organization we now know as fairie godmothers and godfathers, the deserving young woman would have never been able to attend the ball.
The group had been formed to try and balance the bad image Jews had of being witches. The people were overly generous. Everything was either to disappear or change into common objects at midnight was because most of the things were borrowed, and midnight started the next day of rental fees.
The Prince fell in love with Cinderella and was about to propose marriage when the clock began to strike midnight. Cinderella fled the ball. But one of her crystal slippers fell from her foot as she climbed aboard the carriage which whisked her away from the palace where the ball was being held.
After trying out the slipper on scores of women, the Prince finally found Cinderella again and married her in Rome. But the story doesn’t end there. Since the Prince wanted to establish his own trading operations with the Far East and the New World, he traveled with his bride to various locations. During the day he would deal with merchants. But at night, he would confer with Cinderella who was more of an advisor than a mere wife who happened to look gorgeous. She became the brains of the operation while her husband took the credit for the success of the business.
The couple had two daughters which they loved dearly. But without a son to carry on the lineage of the Prince of Chambre, which by then was known as Prince Charming, the last "Prince Charming" was Louis, who died during the mid-1600’s. Cinderella married a French merchant named Paul, who lived in Brest. She accompanied him to Canada a few times before she died some time after 1680.
One of Cinderella’s daughters, Anna Maria, married a merchant while her sister, Carla Julianna, married a general. It was through Carla’s grandson that a French soldier was born who fought on the American colonists’ side during the Revolution. Instead of returning to France, he decided to remain in his adopted homeland and begin a family which produced descendants that live in America today.
So when you see a male model on the catwalk or a hunk in the movies or on TV, he just might be a descendant of the men known as Prince Charming. Thank goodness that slave turned gladiator won all of his matches in France or else Prince Charming would have never existed and some of our favorite bedtime stories wouldn’t have ended happily ever after but tragically.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author