“Not so much makeup,” I complain, knowing full well that my complains will be ignored. It is of the utmost importance that I look impeccable, it’s part of the job description.
“I’m sorry Sir. I was given very specific instructions,” the girl answers before brushing over my face with the brush once more.
“Off course you have,” I mumble.
I hate being in front of the camera, but it is yet another one of those irritating parts of the job. The type of responsibility that comes with a title. But then again, I didn’t choose this. I don’t think there is a person in the world that would choose this if they knew what in entailed. Everything comes at a price, and sometimes it feels like being born into a family like mine is a price that is much too high.
“They’re ready for you Sir,” a young man says as he steps into the dressing room. He looks like he might faint being in my presence.
I get up from the chair in the makeshift bedroom/dressing room as the girl with the brush tries to go over my face with her brush once more, but I try to dodge her as best I can. I ignore the fact that the guy is doing an awkward bow as I walk past him as I enter the next room where two camera’s from different angles point to the wing back chair I am supposed to be sitting in for the first interview since my life has changed completely and spiralled out of control.
“Leonard,” I greet with a nod of the head as a man in his forties who clearly must have had a full set of hair once upon a time jumps up and gives a small bow before I sit down.
“Sir,” he says before he lowers himself into the chair across from me. “Are you ready to begin?”
“As always Leonard. You know the drill. Let’s get this over with,” I answer as I turn towards the camera, not needing to be told what to do. I’ve done this my entire life, so if I don’t know how to by now I will probably never know.
The person behind the camera turns on the camera, a red light flashing. He holds up three fingers and begins a countdown.
“And… Action,” he says as he lowers the last finger.
“Today, on location from the Maximillian Hotel in Great Susax, His Royal Majesty Prince Nicolas has agreed to sit down for the first time after he has become first in line to the throne. Your Majesty, how does it feel to know you are next in line for the throne, and that soon you might actually ascend to being King of our wonderful nation?”
I look over to the screen next to the camera, the words that I am supposed to say rolling slowly so that I only have to read. Everything I am supposed to say has been carefully drafted by a publicist, one that has been appointed by parliament to ensure that I keep the name of the monarchy high at all times. In their eyes there is no space for being human when you are leading the nation.
“The first thing that comes to mind is honour. Being honoured to be given the chance to lead the people of Great Susax to a new and better tomorrow, although we hope that’s not something that will be happening soon. The Queen still has quite a bit of hop in her step,” I read and then smile graciously to the camera as the screen instructs me to do. I struggle a little bit with the smile today. I’m used to being a bit of a fraud, but today seems especially difficult to keep up the fake façade I am required to uphold.
“Yes, off course. The Queen. We have spoken about your relationship with her before, but I know all of our viewers would like to hear about your relationship with the Queen. Is she able to be a normal grandmother as well? I mean, she is probably the busiest woman in the country.”
Leonard gives a little chuckle, but I know that’s fake as well. He probably rehearsed this entire interview ten times by now. Royalty won’t do two takes, and if the program is streaming live there is even less chance of making a mistake. Everything needs to be perfect. Every smile is pre-planned. Every facial expression has been practiced to no end. Every word he utters, like mine, has been written and approved for him.
I look over to the screen, scanning over the many compliments I am supposed to be giving my grandmother on national television, but for the first time in my life I don’t read them.
“Ask me the first question again,” I tell Leonard.
Even though the room was quiet before, an almost touchable silence falls over everything. Leonard’s face goes blank and then white, like he has seen a ghost. What I have just done goes against every single protocol I have been learned, and I am pretty sure that not a single member of the royal family has ever gone against the little screen that puts the words in their mouths.
“Sorry?” Leonard asks. He even forgets to address me by my title.
“I asked to be asked the first question you asked me again,” I repeat myself.
“How do you feel now that you are next in line for the throne?” Leonard asks with a weary sound in his voice. He sounds nervous, but he tries his best to keep his pose. I know he is probably worried about how he is going to have to steer me back on track on live television. I am pretty sure he is wishing that a commercial break would happen right this second.
“To be really honest. It’s not a very nice feeling at all. Ascending to the throne, or being bumped up a space on the ladder of ascension usually means someone close to you has to die, in my case, either a parent or grandparent. Maybe even a sibling in some cases in history. There is no honour in that. It is a great sadness. You are literally moving up the ladder by stepping over the corpse of someone you love. And even though it is the way it has always been, and even though it is truly an honour to know I will one day serve my country, it is also horrible to know that the new title or position you are celebrating is because of the pain and heartache you feel inside because of someone dying,” I answer the most truthful answer I possibly can.
I know parliament will have their mouths full about what I am doing now. The Queen, and off course the Princess of Serendipity, my mother, will probably blow up at me later where there is nobody that can see what is happening, but I really don’t care. It is time that the monarchy changes. That we become real people. I don’t want to be like my grandmother. I don’t want to be without any emotion. And if it costs me the crown it will probably be a blessing as well.
I can see sweat drops forming on Leonard’s brow as he tries to keep with the rehearsed questions.
“We need to at this point ask about His Majesty, The Prince of Serendipity’s untimely death. That must have been a shock for the entire royal family?”
I know exactly what I am supposed to answer now. I am supposed to honour my father for the good leader he was. Tell the nation how much he will be missed, not just here but in every country where he tried to make a difference with his humanitarian work. I should list the various charities that he supported and were the ambassador of. That’s what I should be saying, but again I am done being some fake.
“A shock, off course. But nothing compares to the sadness. My mother isn’t taking it very well,” I answer, knowing fully that tears are forming in my eyes. Tears I am not allowed to cry on national television. I was even instructed not to cry at the funeral. Royals are not allowed to show any form of weakness according to some stupid ancient tradition.
“My father was still young. Not even fifty years old yet. There was no reason for him to die, and I can’t help feeling bitter towards the car that sped off after they hit his car, leaving him to die.”
I know I have done it now. I have mentioned my own feelings. A personal opinion. As Henderson, my publicist walks into the room and cues for a commercial break, I know I have done it. His phone must have already rung, parliament already on his case.
“Well, there we have it,” Leonard says into the camera. “We will be right back after this commercial break.”
The lights on the camera’s around me switch off, and before I even know what is going on I am being pulled out of my chair.
“Run the memorial footage after the break,” Henderson barks at Leonard. “His Majesty isn’t feeling very well today, but he will be back in five minutes to resume the interview. Get rid of any farther questions about Prince Henry.”
Hearing my father’s name spoken in such a hard tone makes me want to cry even more. I want to be human. I want to have my breakdown. Why is it so hard to understand that I can’t just move on from this and celebrate that I have moved up a space closer to the crown, while it feels like I am dying inside.
Henderson pushes me back into the dressing room, orders the makeup artists out of the room and closes the door behind us.
“What on earth was that?” he asks.
Sure, I like the fact that he treats me like a normal person behind closed doors, but it also gets to me that he is being this hard on me. I’m not used to anybody standing up against me in any way or form.
“I spoke the truth,” I answer.
“Well, parliament is on the phone. They don’t like it. It makes the country look weak. The person who is supposed to be leading our country is supposed to be strong. You can’t just have a breakdown and a good cry whenever you want to. Save it for when the cameras aren’t on you. Duty comes first. The crown comes first,” Henderson says, but then his harsh face softens as he sits down on the chair I occupied only a few minutes ago for hair and makeup.
“The crown always comes first,” I mumble, feeling sorry for Henderson. He will be the one getting the most flax for what I had just done.
“I get it Nicolas. I fully get it. If my father died today I would be devastated. Expecting you to keep your head high and look like you don’t have any emotion less than a week after the burial is wrong. But there’s protocol. There’s duty. I don’t like it any more than you do, but this is your job,” he sighs.
“It’s not a job I signed up for. I was born into this. I never had a choice,” I answer. I don’t mean to be rude. I don’t have a problem with Henderson saying this, but I have heard it all before. I have heard it a million times growing up. I have probably heard the “duty” speech more in the last two weeks than what most royals hear in a lifetime.
“I’m not saying you did. I’m just asking that we try and get through the rest of the day before the Prime Minister decides to barge in here. Can we maybe get the emotions under wraps before you go out again?” Henderson asks. I get what he is saying and I agree. It would be better to put on the mask. Get this over with in the most painless and quickest way possible.
“Agreed,” I answer, knowing that I will walk out and take my seat in front of the camera once more. This time not going against protocol, but rather just putting on a mask and leaving Nico, the boy who should be living a normal teenage life behind to become Nicolas, future king of Great Susax.