There was once upon a time a King who was tremendously rich both in money and lands. His wife, the Queen, died, and left him inconsolable. He shut himself up for eight days in a little room, and banged his head against the wall so much that it was believed he would kill himself, so grieved was he at his loss.

All his subjects resolved between themselves to go and see him, and they did. Some said that he could show his grief in a less painful manner. Others made speeches grave and serious, but not one of them made any impression on the widowed King. Eventually there was presented to him a woman dressed in the deepest mourning, and she cried and moaned so long and so loud that she caused no little surprise.

She said to the King that she did not like the others coming to ask him to stay his crying, for nothing was more just than that he should cry over the loss of a good wife; and that as for her, who once had the very best of husbands, and had lost him, she would cry for him as long as she had eyes in her head to cry with; and immediately she let out and redoubled her sobs, and the King, following her example, did the same.

Each one recounted to the other the good qualities of their dear dead ones; so much so that at last there was nothing more could be found to say about their losses and their great sorrow. In the end the widow lifted her deep veil, and the poor afflicted King gazed at the afflicted one, who kept turning and turning her great blue eyes with long black lashes. The King watched her with deep attention; and little by little he talked less of his lost Queen, until at last he forgot to talk of her at all.

The widow then said that for ever she would cry and mourn for her husband, but the King begged her not to go to that limit and immortalise her sorrow. In the end he astonished her by saying that he would marry her, and that the black would be changed into green and pink, the colour of roses. It suffices to say that the King did as the stories tell: did all that was possible and all that she wished.

Now the King had but one daughter of his first marriage, and she was considered one of the eight wonders of the world; her name was Florine, because she resembled a beautiful flower: she was fresh, young and lovely. She was always dressed in the most beautiful transparent clothes, and with garlands of flowers in her hair, which made a beautiful effect. She was only fifteen years old when the King married again.

The new Queen also had, by her first husband, a daughter, who had been brought up by her godmother, the fairy Soussio; but she was neither beautiful nor gracious. The girl's name was Truitonne, because her face was so like the face of a trout, and her hair was so full of grease that it was impossible to touch it; and her skin simply ran with oil. But the Queen did not love her any the less. All she could do was to talk of the charming Truitonne, and how Florine had all sorts of advantages over her; and the Queen became desperate, and sought every possible way to make the King see faults in Florine.

One day the King said to the Queen that Florine and Truitonne were big enough to marry now, and that the first Prince who came to the court should have one of the two Princesses in marriage.

'I maintain,' said the Queen, 'that my daughter shall be the one to get the trousseau; she is the elder, and she is a million times more amiable, and those are the points that matter, after all.'

The King, who hated disputes, said that it was well, and that she was her own mistress.

Some time afterwards, news came that Prince Charming had arrived. Never did a Prince display such gallantry and magnificence; his manner and looks were in keeping with the name he bore.

When the Queen heard of this handsome Prince she employed all the dressmakers and tailors to dress Truitonne, and make her presentable, and she begged the King that Florine should have nothing at all new. Her one thought was to have all the beautiful clothes ready before the arrival of Prince Charming at court.

When he came the Queen received him in all pomp and splendour, and presented to him her daughter more brilliant than the sun, and more ugly than she was usually, because of all the jewels she had on.

Prince Charming turned away his eyes; the Queen tried to persuade him that the Princess pleased him very much. But he demanded to know if there was not another Princess called Florine? 'Yes,' said Truitonne, pointing with her finger; 'see, there she is, hidden away, because she is not good.'

Florine reddened, and looked so beautiful, so beautiful, that Prince Charming forgot himself. He bowed the knee and made a low curtsy to the Princess. 'Madam,' said he, 'your incomparable beauty is too much; but for you I should have sought help in a strange land.'

'Seigneur,' replied the Princess, 'I am sorry that I am not dressed in a proper manner, but I have only my old clothes; yet I thank you for asking to see me.'

'It would be impossible,' said Prince Charming, 'that any one once seeing you could have eyes for anything else than so beautiful a Princess.'

'Ah!' said the Queen, irritated, 'I do well wasting my time listening to you. Believe me, seigneur, Florine is also a coquette; she does not deserve that you should be so gallant to her.'

Prince Charming understood the motives of the Queen in speaking of Florine in this way. He was not in a position to prove the truth, but he let it be seen that all his admiration was for Florine.

The Queen and Truitonne were very upset to see that he preferred Princess Florine. So, when Princess Florine left the company of Prince Charming, the Queen with impatience waited for her to return to her room. There were hidden four men with masks over their faces, and they had orders to take the Princess Florine away on a journey, to await the pleasure of Prince Charming, so that she would please him better and would make him a better spouse.