The Palace chapel—Eugene always thought that to be a very modest name for what was essentially a small cathedral—was full of people. No, he thought, it was packed wall-to-wall. In fact, there seemed to be more people than there'd been at his and Rapunzel's wedding, if that was at all possible.
At the front of the room sat the Royal thrones. Above them hung banners: the King's arms—Purpure, a sun Or; the Queen's—Argent, a sun azure; and Rapunzel's—Gules, a lily flower slipped and leaved enflamed between three suns Or. Eugene remembered how his wife had broken with tradition—something she'd done time without number over the intervening years--to take her own coat of arms, rather than use her parents' arms quartered.
Today was Rapunzel's coronation day. Maybe half an hour from now, she'd be Queen and Eugene was very nervous. He wasn't sure why. He'd been in plenty of nerve-fraying situations far more twitchy than this. There was that meeting with Rapunzel's father, the now-late King of Corona, back when Eugene had first returned the Princess to her parents—Eugene had been sure he was on a short trip back to the gallows, but instead he'd been given a full pardon...or what amounted to such...a job, a patent of nobility, and permission to court the King's daughter.
Each of the times he'd proposed to Rapunzel had been nerve-wracking to one degree or another. He'd been a nervous wreck on their wedding day. There'd been any number of harrowing situations they'd faced together during their five-month honeymoon. He'd been a complete basket-case they day their first child Sophia was born and to a lesser extent the days each of their other four children had entered this world. He'd completely lost track of how many times he'd been afraid over something dealing with one or the other of their progeny. Then there was the time he'd brought his own family home after accidentally finding them during what should have been an otherwise standard diplomatic trip to England.
Two of his children were married and each of those occasions would have been enough to give him several dozen grey hairs. Oddly enough, those threatening hairs had still had yet to appear and he had just turned fifty-four...not that he was complaining. Just as curiously, Rapunzel--only a few years younger than himself--still didn't have any grey hairs and Eugene was less inclined to complain about that.
A trumpet brought his mind back to the present.
“All rise for her Majesty, Liesel, Queen of Corona!” bellowed the Herald.
Everyone stood and bowed as Eugene's mother-in-law—a very kind and sweet woman by everyone's reckoning—processed to the front of the room. Eugene suddenly noticed how she looked all of her seventy-two years. She turned and seated herself upon the Queen's throne. The King's remained sadly empty, his crown resting upon it.
“You have her Majesty's leave to make yourselves comfortable.”
“Queen Liesel invites Elsa, Crown Princess of Corona, to come before her.”
Everyone again rose and bowed as Rapunzel processed to the front of the room. After all these years, she still insisted on going bare-footed all the time--a habit acquired by three of their children--and Eugene still found it absolutely adorable. She knelt before her mother, who'd also risen to her feet. She reached down and took her daughter's hands.
“Elsa,” began the Queen, “and no, I won't stop calling you that, even when we're walking the streets of gold. I wish I could say your whole life has been leading up to this moment. Perhaps that's still true in more ways than your father and I always thought. I also wish he could be here to see this, but such is the way of things. I have grown old and weary, just as you have grown beautiful and strong. I find it fitting that the Crown of Corona pass directly from my head to yours with my own hands.”
Liesel reached up and lifted the Queen's Crown from her head and held it over Rapunzel's.
“Do you, Elsa Syele Ages Clare, Crown Princess of Corona, swear, by hand and mouth, to serve and protect the Kingdom and populace of Corona to the utmost of your power, to govern its people according to Our laws and customs, to uphold the ideals of Chivalry, to cause Law and Justice, with Mercy, to be executed in all Your judgments, and to set an example of honor to all, so long as you remain Sovereign of Corona?”
“Until death take me, the world end, or the sun fall from the sky, so swear I, Elsa Fitzherbert, Crown Princess of Corona.”
“Then receive the Crown, being ever mindful that its weight reflects the weight of the responsibilities you have just sworn to undertake. It pleases me, Liesel, Queen of Corona, to crown you Queen...Rapunzel Firewalker, Sovereign of Corona!” Liesel lowered the crown onto Rapunzel's head as applause filled the room.
“Long live Queen Rapunzel!” shouted the Herald.
“Long live Queen Rapunzel!” echoed all those in attendance.
Eugene lost his fight to control his tears and just let a couple fall. He saw that Liesel had, too.
Liesel stepped aside to allow Rapunzel to take her place before what was now her throne. Rapunzel turned and took a much smaller coronet from a cushion held out for her from behind the thrones.
She again faced Liesel. “Mama...and no, I won't stop calling you that, either...nor will I compel you to kneel. There's really no way I can thank you for...well, everything...except for this. As is tradition, and by my Royal pleasure, I hereby exercise my prerogative to name you, Liesel, Dowager Queen of Corona. It shall be your duty to continue to advise me until the Good Lord calls you home. Will you accept?”
Liesel nodded and Rapunzel placed the coronet upon her mother's head. Liesel took her seat.
“Long live Dowager Queen Liesel!” shouted the Herald.
“Long live Dowager Queen Liesel!” echoed the crowd.
“Her Majesty calls Princess Sophia to come before her!” said the Herald.
Sophia processed to the front of the room while everyone bowed. She knelt before her mother, who now held the Princess's coronet that she herself had worn until just hours before. She extended it over Sophia's head.
“Sophia, dear, I could go on about you...you know that...but it would take away from the revelry later. We all know how fond we all are of that, don't we?”
There were cheers of assent from the assembly.
“Sophia, do you swear, by hand and mouth, that as heir to the Throne of Corona, you will stand ready to act as Queen in my stead, fulfilling all those oaths as you have heard them spoken this day, and that you will, in the absence of my mother, never fail to set me straight when I need it?”
There were a few chuckles here and there.
“Until death take me, the world end, or the sun fall from the sky, so swear I, Sophia Montengard, Princess of Corona.”
“Then it pleases me to name you Crown Princess Sophia!” Rapunzel lowered the coronet onto her daughter's head amid more applause.
“Long live Crown Princess Sophia!” called the herald.
“Long live Crown Princess Sophia!” echoed the crowd.
Sophia took her place on the heir's throne. Rapunzel faced the crowd once more. Eugene was still nervous. Usually he would have been installed as Prince Consort before their daughter's elevation as Crown Princess...what was his wife doing this time?
“People of Corona,” Rapunzel began, “and honored guests...as you know, many of our laws are...a bit loose. We have for generations tried to avoid over-complicating things. There is one tradition, one custom, followed by most of our cousins. It is one pertaining to the claim to the throne.”
Wait, thought Eugene, she can't possibly be doing what it sounds like she's doing...can she?
“As you know,” continued Rapunzel, “my dear husband and I have been doing just about everything side-by-side, acting as co-equals even before I knew about my own identity as a royal of Corona. I see no reason why that should not continue in name as well as in deed.”
Oh, bugger, thought Eugene, she isn't....
“Prince Eugene Fitzherbert, come now and present yourself before her Majesty!” bellowed the Herald.
Eugene sat there, stunned.
Rapunzel tilted her head and raised her eyebrows at him in an unspoken, “That's you! Get your butt up here!”
Eugene stood to his feet amid more applause and approached his wife, who had picked up the King's crown from its place. “You're going to pay for this,” he said quietly. Rapunzel just grinned and held the crown over her husband's head.
“Do you, Eugene, Prince of Corona, swear, by hand and mouth, to serve and protect the Kingdom and populace of Corona to the utmost of your power, to govern its people according to Our laws and customs, to uphold the ideals of Chivalry, to cause Law and Justice, with Mercy, to be executed in all Your judgments, and to set an example of honor to all, so long as I remain you remain Co-sovereign of Corona?”
Eugene exhaled. “Until death take me, the world end, or the sun fall from the sky, so swear I, Eugene Fitzherbert, Prince of Corona.”
“Then receive the Crown, being ever mindful that its weight reflects the weight of the responsibilities you have just sworn to undertake. It pleases me, Rapunzel, Queen of Corona, to crown you King Eugene Fitzherbert, Co-sovereign of Corona!” Rapunzel lowered the crown onto Eugene's head as applause filled the room.
“Long live King Eugene!” bellowed the Herald.
“Long live King Eugene!” repeated the assembly.
The celebration lasted a couple of days. This time, Eugene did remember most of it. While he still occasionally sampled the best of the kingdom's beer, he'd long ago stopped drinking regularly. This had been mainly out of deference to his wife and children, all of whom had a rather unfortunate reaction to alcohol. Eugene found that he always felt much better himself since he'd taken up abstinence of drink. Otherwise, there was dancing, eating, drinking...the usual, including some horizontal celebration.