Age guide: baby to 8 year old
Princess Beatrice understands her privileges – she’s the daughter of a King and Queen who love their daughter and give her free range of all the castle jewels – and there are many!
But one day, when a rotten robber charges into the castle and spots Beatrice decked out from head to foot in extravagant jewels, it all goes wrong. Being an opportunist, the robber grabs Beatrice and steals the jewels, Princess and all.
However, Beatrice has her head screwed on right and resourcefully tricks the robber into tying himself up in the jewels and Beatrice is free.
She loads the robber up on his own horse and hauls him home to her now distraught parents. The robber is punished by being put to work polishing the castle jewels and Beatrice and her parents settle down to a sumptuous supper.
This is one cute princess – and even though she is decked out from head to toe in jewels through most of the book, there’s nothing Disney-esque about her. She’s bright eyed, chubby cheeked and has a wild head of hair.
The most important part of this story is that it shows a girl who knows how to use jewels – to dress up and then use utilitarian pieces to get a job done. There is no angst from Beatrice about the jewels and how precious they are.
Princess Beatrice is a little girl who doesn’t need rescuing by a prince – but unlike many ‘independent princess’ stories, the handsome prince doesn’t even make an appearance. Which is nice because it means this story is just as accessible for little boys as it is for little girls. There’s no handsome prince to be treated as superfluous or ridiculous. Beatrice is just a little kid who does what has to be done.
There’s a strong theme of being true to oneself – Beatrice knows who she is and knows that the trappings of her play are just that.
There’s also a subtle reminder of forgiveness and moving beyond past mistakes; the back page shows Beatrice sharing strawberries with a sheepish looking robber. And there’s a happy family for whom their wealth is just a circumstance rather than a defining factor – not a bad reminder for modern western families.
I remember my oldest daughter Jesse playing Princess Beatrice when she was little – it was always the taking off the jewels that was the most fun for her – and one of her older brothers usually had to oblige by being the robber.
(I do love the metaphor of taking off the jewels being the key to saving Beatrice and reuniting the family.)
Recently my little granddaughter Savannah sat in Jesse’s room trying on all of Jesse’s jewellery. So naturally, Jesse pulled out Princess Beatrice to read to her. Savannah loved it and ‘read’ it to herself a few times too.
PRINCESS BEATRICE AND THE ROTTEN ROBBER is by Elizabeth Honey