During a visit to Italy in 1854, William Makepeace Thackeray’s daughters persuaded him to draw the traditional characters for a Twelfth Night party held for the children in the English colony in Rome. Thackeray used the drawings as the basis for a fantastic story he told to Edith Story, who, like himself, was convalescing from malaria. In March he returned to the story, which became the last of his Christmas books.
All events in the story are influenced by a magic rose and ring, gifts from the Fairy Blackstick. The person in possession of either the rose or the ring becomes instantly attractive and irresistible to all around them.
The story opens at the court of Valoroso XXIV, the king of Paflagonia. The king, his queen, and their daughter, Angelica, are awaiting the visit of Prince Bulbo, heir to Padella, the reigning king of Crim Tartary. Valoroso had usurped the place of his nephew, Prince Giglio, when his brother, Savio, died. He hopes for an alliance between his Angelica and Prince Bulbo. It turns out that Duke Padella had defeated King Cavolfiore of Crim Tartary and taken the crown. Cavolfiore’s death orphaned his daughter, Princess Rosalba, who wandered out into the wilderness. Some time later, Princess Angelica discovered a “funny little girl” and took her as a maid, naming her Betsinda.
Giglio, an empty-headed fool, had given his magic ring to his cousin Angelica, whom he loves and who is adored by all the court....
(The entire section is 569 words.)