The Sweetest Princess Competition

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The Pondlife agree that Princess Beatrice is the sweetest princess who ever lived in the entire history of the universe (Only Colin the Grumpy Carp disputes this fact). She is so kind to children and fluffy bunny rabbits that she makes her wicked stepmother feel quite sick just thinking about her. But did you know, that when Beatrice was just a teenage princess in training, she entered a sweetest princess competition? Up until now, the inside story has been kept secret, but Sadie the Swan has persuaded Bertie to reveal all.

Read by Natasha. Duration 19.20 minutes.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.

The other day, I was just sitting in the orchard watching the wind blow through the trees, when I caught sight of the lovely Princess Beatrice. She had come down to the palace to feed bread to the greedy little ducklings who live in the pond. (quack) Sadie, the beautiful black swan didn't join in the unseemly rush for soggy food. Instead, she sat elegantly on the water, watching Princess Beatrice. Everyone who lives on the pond knows that there is no greater admirer of royalty than Sadie the Swan.

"Oh my!" She sighed. "Isn't Princess Beatrice just the sweetest creature who ever lived?"

Now apart from me, the only person to hear Sadie say this, was Colin the grumpy carp, and he lost no time in answering her question. "Rubbish," he said, sticking his not too pretty face out of the water. "That Beatrice is just putting on a show. She only pretends to be sweet to fool the masses and the dumb pond life."

Now there are times when Sadie would have turned and hissed at Colin so fiercely that he would have dived straight for the bottom of the pond, but she had to keep up appearances in the presence of somebody as lovely and royal as Princess Beatrice, and so she held her elegant neck aloft and ignored him, until Bertie the frog came hopping along from lily pad to lily pad.

As you most probably know, before he was a frog, Bertie used to be a handsome prince, and was engaged to be married to Princess Beatrice. Bertie is therefore considered to be something of an expert on all matters royal.

"Bertie," said Sadie, "Tell this ignorant fish that Princess Beatrice is the loveliest and sweetest princess in the entire universe."

"Well of course," boomed Bertie. "Everybody knows that."

"How do they know? Grumped Colin. "She's most probably just pretending to be sweet, because her Public Relations manager told to act that way. In my view, this royal thing is all just a sham. Royalty are no better than the rest of us. No better than the silliest tadpoles in the pond."

"I know because she told me," answered Bertie. "And besides, I heard all about the Sweetest Princess Contest she took part in when she was just a teenage trainee princess."

"Oh, do tell us about it Bertie," said Sadie.

"Well," he hesitated, "The inside story is supposed to be a secret."

Sadie huffed, "Dear frog. There are no secrets on this pond."

"What about your age?" Grumped Colin the Carp, a question which Sadie ignored.

So Bertie started to tell the story of the Sweetest Princess. I pricked up my ears, because I thought it might be very interesting.

Some years ago, when Princess Beatrice was still just a teenager, she lived in the palace with her father, the king, who was nice but very busy in the office, what with being king and everything, and also with her stepmother, who wasn't so nice.

Princess Beatrice was the sweetest little princess who ever lived. She spent her entire day combing her collection of pink and white fluffy bunnies, and raising money to help look after small animals.

Now, one day Beatrice's stepmother read in the newspaper that a television company was organising a competition called "Who is the Sweetest Princess?"

The prize was to be a free holiday on the most luxurious ten star beach resort in the entire world. Beatrice's stepmother really, really wanted to go on that holiday.

The stepmother said to herself, "Beatrice is so sweet that she makes my back tooth ache just looking at her. Every time she smiles with those dimply little cheeks, I want to throw up. She couldn't fail to win that competition."

And so turning to young Beatrice she said, "Beatrice, enter that competition right away, and make sure you don't lose."

Beatrice, who was not at all sure that she wanted to appear on television, especially as she thought the king would say that the programme was rather cheap and nasty, and not at all royal, said, "Dearest stepmother. Please excuse me. I would rather not."

The stepmother who was secretly furious, put on her sweetest smile, which actually wasn't very sweet at all, and said to Beatrice, "Please please, Beatrice. Pretty Please, with pink bows, and fluffy knots on it."

Beatrice was rather surprised to hear her stepmother speak to her so nicely, as it wasn't her usual way at all, and she and looked up from the pair of pink earmuffs that she was knitting for her favourite bunny. "Well, maybe."

The stepmother smiled again, so that Beatrice could see her gold-capped teeth, and she said, "Oh go on Beatrice, please please, pretty please, with pink bows, and fluffy knots, and strawberries and cream on it."

"Oh well, alright then," said Beatrice, still not quite sure that it was a good idea.

The stepmother was very pleased with this result, and said to herself, "And when she wins the holiday, as she most certainly will, I will put a spell on Beatrice so she gets a tummy ache and has to stay behind. It will be just wonderful to get away from the horrid children for a whole month."

But as the day of the contest drew nearer, the stepmother began to have doubts. She saw a picture of the two other contestants, Princess Daisy and Princess Theodora, and if anything they looked even more curly, dimply and revoltingly sweet than Beatrice.

"Now listen," she said to Beatrice, as the maid combed her long golden hair, "Just remember one thing. If in doubt, cheat. Here's a mobile phone. If you need anything, just send me a text and I'll put a spell on those other two nasty little princesses and make them come out in pulsating warts."

"Oh no, dear stepmother," replied Beatrice. "I couldn't take a mobile phone with me. It's against the rules of the competition."

"Hopeless, just hopeless," said the wicked stepmother under her breath.

The idea of the competition was that three princesses would be placed inside a huge palace - and the audience at home would decide which of them was the sweetest, kindest princess in the whole wide world. Except it wasn't really a palace at all - more like a lot of cardboard painted pink.

Inside the cardboard palace, there were bright lights and remote TV cameras that followed the three contestants' every move. It was very strange, and Beatrice didn't feel comfortable. She was a bit afraid. She'd never been on television before, and when she thought hard about it, she really wasn't so sure she was the sweetest princess after all. Fortunately, she had brought her softest, cuddliest toy with her to cheer herself up.

She waved faintly at the camera that had a little red light shining on it and said, "Hello everybody. My only wish is that the sweetest princess should win fair and square."

"Thank you dearest Beatrice," said Princess Daisy, who had two great red ribbons in her hair, "It is very gracious of you to wish me luck."

Neither Daisy or Theodora seemed very friendly, and Beatrice wasn't sure they were sweet at all, but she didn't like to say anything. Before the first test, they were given juice and biscuits, but when the camera wasn't looking Theodora poured salt into Beatrice's juice, so that when she took a sip she spluttered and grimaced most unsweetly.

"Oh dear dear dear, dearest Beatrice, let me pat you gently on the back," said Theodora, smiling sweetly to the camera.

Back home in the real palace, the wicked queen was watching all this on television, and cursing the sweet stupidity of her stepdaughter.

Now the competition began for real. The first task was to find a small animal to help.

The three princesses stood at the beginning of the garden path.

"Nobody is sweeter than me," wailed Daisy. "Not, not, not…"

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, no one is as sweet, as sweet as me," cried Theodora.

Daisy ran down the path - and came back with a floppy little bunny rabbit, and started feeding it scraps of lettuce.

Theodora ran down to the pond, and came back with a yellow fluffy duckling - and fed it little pieces of freshly baked French bread.

When Beatrice went out to the garden she couldn't find any animals to help - and she came back with nothing at all.

Back home, in the living room of the palace, the stepmother screeched, "Curses! Drat! "My magic won't work with all those bright lights and electric cables around the place, or I would soon turn those two little princesses into slithering worms or slimy snails."

On the second day, the princesses had to raise some money for charity.

Daisy went out to the street and set up a collection point - and by the end of the day had raised loads of money.

Theodora set up a donation hotline - and by the end of the day had raised even more.

But Beatrice couldn't find anyone to raise money from - and so at the end of the day she had nothing.

"You're just useless, useless, useless," cried Daisy.

"You're not sweet, you're sour," laughed Theodora.

And they both went away giggling. Beatrice lay awake half the night. She didn't mind about the stupid competition, but she was worried about leaving the real animal rescue home that she kept at the palace. She just wished that the Television Director would throw her out of the competition early so that she could go back home.

Then, on the third and final day of the contest, the princesses had to open a very important building.

Daisy was whisked away in a carriage to open a new hospital - and then toured the building, talking very sweetly to the sick children.

Theodora was whisked off in a big car to open a new school - and spent the day very sweetly helping all the little children with their homework.

But Beatrice couldn't find anything to open except for a new rubbish dump, and she wasn't sure that was going to look very good at all.

Still, she started walking towards the dump, even though it was a bit smelly. But just as she was approaching, she heard a tiny squeaking sound. She looked down and there was a small rat. And she could see that he had broken his foot.

"Oh dear," said Beatrice, picking up the rat. "You're in terrible pain. I'd better take you back and get that fixed."

"But you're supposed to open the rubbish dump," said the rat.

"I can't just leave you." So she took the rat back to the palace, and bandaged his leg, and gave it a piece of cheese to make him feel better.

When Theodora and Daisy came back they looked at the rat, and screamed.

"Get that horrid horrid creature out of here," shouted Daisy.

"But he's hurt," said Beatrice.

"I don't care," interrupted Theodora, stamping her foot. "I don't, I don't, I don't…"

Just then, the the presenter of the television show came running into the palace clutching a microphone.

"You can relax Your Royal Highness's. It's all over. The viewers at home have voted and chosen the sweetest princess."

"I'm the sweetest," said Daisy.

"No, no, I'm the sweetest," said Theodora.

Beatrice just remained silent, because it seemed to her she hadn't done very well in the competition at all.

The TV presenter looked at Theodora and she said, "Our secret camera filmed how you arranged for that animal to be placed in the garden, just so you would look good in the competition."

And she looked at Daisy, and said, "And all the viewers saw how you arranged for lots of people to donate to your charity, just so you would look good in the competition."

Then she looked at Beatrice, and said, "The only person here who has done a kind, unselfish thing, and thought of others before themselves is you. The entire world loves you. Who could help but love such a sweet princess? You are the winner, Beatrice."

She was so happy, she even gave the rat a hug. She looked across at Daisy and Theodora, and even though she knew it was a bit naughty, and not very sweet at all, stuck out her tongue and said, "Nah, nah, na-na-nah." And do you know what? Even the wicked stepmother cheered and thought, just for a moment, what a clever daughter she had.