Queen Matilda needed a new hat. She often attended parades and festivals and speeches and so many, many things. They were nearly always outdoors and lasted for hours.
It was her job to smile and nod and listen closely so that she could answer questions later. Her whole life was a pop quiz. Everyone was always watching her. She couldn’t scratch her nose when it itched, because that wasn’t ladylike. Neither was frowning or slouching or rubbing her eyes.
Applying sunscreen after being outdoors for an hour wasn’t allowed either, even though it would be a good example for the citizens. So, she wore hats rather than burn an unladylike red. Because she would have to wear a hat for hours in all sorts of weather, she was rather picky about what she wanted.
However, no one really listened to her order. It used to be the same for her clothes until she’d found her current tailor. Everyone had wanted to dress her in big frothy things that weighed forty pounds and were armored in jewels and embroidery. So impractical.
The current milliner was yet another disappointment. However, now that she’d made an order, she couldn’t back out without seeming rude. “I do prefer something light and sophisticated. Something simple, really,” she said again.
“Oh yes, your majesty, I know just the thing. Something mauve maybe with a spray of ostrich feathers and a little jeweled button and some embroidery right there?” The milliner said.
“No, I’d like gray. It would match more of my wardrobe. And I’d like a wider brim on the hat and fewer decorations,” the queen said.
“I suppose,” the milliner said. She looked skeptical. “I’ll see what I can whip up. Come back in two days at the same time.”
“Very well,” the queen said. “Thank you.”
The very next day, the milliner’s website was advertising the queen’s new hat. The hat was buried in roses and hydrangeas. By noon, the milliner had added a fake nest and some cherries. That evening there was a plastic bird perched on top. It all looked like it was a centerpiece for a May Day celebration.
The queen sighed. It could be worse. Her assistant shut down the computer with a giggle. “I think you should wear it just like that,” the assistant said.
“Nonsense,” the queen said. “No one would take me seriously.”
“They’d be too busy staring at your hat,” the assistant agreed.
The next morning, the queen checked in on her hat. There were two fake kittens nestled in among the flowers. They looked like they were carved out of wood. That must be ridiculously heavy.
At noon, the hat had bunny ears poking up from the back. It had to be some sort of joke. There was also a large red bow front and center. The ends of the ribbon hung down from the brim, where they’d surely dangle in front of her eyes.
The queen was horrified. She would never put this hat on her head. It was out of the question. Her assistant was snorting in laughter. This was the worst hat yet.
The rest of the milliner’s hats seemed normal. Why had she gone crazy with this hat? Why did people think she wanted flashy hats and dresses? It’s not what she normally wore. It’s not what anyone she knew wore.
So, her assistant picked up the hat with a smile and paid the exorbitant price tag. When she’d brought it back to the palace, the queen unpacked it and sighed. Together, they carefully peeled off all the decorations. The basic hat underneath was actually quite nice.
They kept a rose and added a ribbon. Not bad. She wore it the next day to a charity luncheon and accepted many compliments on her new hat. The milliner’s website had a picture of her at the event by evening.
The website claimed that the other hat was of course a joke to keep the real hat a secret until the queen wore it for the first time. The milliner sent her two more hats in the same simple style as the hat she wore to the luncheon with the milliner’s compliments and an apology.
Perhaps she’d finally found a milliner she could work with? She’d find out with her next order.