You know those stories about kings and queens going incognito and walking among the simple peasant folk to find out what said simple peasant folk really think? Yeah, they’re bullshit. Every one of them.
It just doesn’t work. A royal without a single callus, whose clothes are all un-patched and whose hair has been washed this year, not being noticed? A person without a single practical skill – most monarchs wouldn’t know which way up to hold a broom, for example, and you’d be risking your life to stand next to one holding any sort of gardening implement – managing to fit in among a class of people whose very livelihoods depend on knowing these things and knowing them well? It is to laugh.
The best that such a fairy-tale-believing royal twit can hope for is to be humiliated, because the other options are all worse. They are, in ascending order of badness, injury, death and being taken hostage. You might think that death would worse than being taken hostage, but that’s because you’re one of those simple peasant folk who doesn’t understand the complex realities of the international geo-political system. Or at least, that’s what they’d tell you. In truth, princesses are not exactly in short supply, are only really useful for forging dynastic alliances, and are, let’s face it, easy enough to replace should you lose one. The real bad news about having your royal daughter taken hostage is one that anyone would understand: it costs money. Lots of money. And then it costs more again, because a kidnapped daughter will need a bigger dowry than usual to bribe some poor idiot into marrying her.
So naturally, when the Princess Amelia decided that she was going to walk among the common people of the realm all unknown, she got maybe five feet from the castle gate without being recognised. Not that anyone said anything to her, of course – one of the practical skills peasants tend to possess is a keen awareness of when their masters need to be indulged – but she was marked. In some ways, this worked out well for her – it meant that she had a certain degree of protection as she walked through the streets. But in the long run, gossip was her undoing. It doesn’t take long for a tasty rumour to circulate, and before long, it reached precisely the wrong pair of ears.
Two nights later, a man came up behind her and placed a hood over her head. A few days of being gagged and blindfolded in the back of some carriage later, and the next thing she knew, she was three kingdoms over and didn’t speak the language. Oh, there was a translator, but the man was an obvious lech who she was fairly sure was reinterpreting all the communications passed through him for his own benefit. The attempt to ransom her fell through when a plague wiped out her family and the new royals found it easier to pretend that she’d died with them. (The translator was beheaded after Amelia learned enough of the language to communicate without him and it was discovered that he had been less than trustworthy.)
That was two years ago.