The enchanted wanderings of three errant princes

Charles set his lance at all manner of monstrous carbuncles, and he found some magic vegetables
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THE STORY of Charles and Diana never quite lived up to its fairy tale billing, so let's hope that Edward and Sophie have better luck. In fact, let's make sure by bringing you right now the brand-new, age-old traditional folk tale known as "The Story of the Three Princes and Their Brides".

Once upon a time there was a queen who ruled over a far-off island, and she had a husband called Philip who was not actually the king of the island.

"I am afraid you cannot be king while I am queen," she told him, "as you are only Greek."

"If it comes to that, you are only German," said her husband. "In any case, I am not Greek at all but Danish..."

"Let us not argue about that," said the queen, who was very wise, and who also had magic powers, because when they put her face on the coins of the country, and also on the postage stamps, it stayed for ever young, while her face in real life grew older.

And in time she and her husband had three sons (and a daughter). The three sons were called Charles, Andrew and Edward. (The daughter, if you're interested, was called Anne.) And one day their father called them to him and said as follows:

"The time has come, my sons, when you must think about finding wives and getting married, for if you do not have children, our family will not be able to rule over this island for ever and ever. Go forth, each of you, and find a beautiful princess and we shall look after the rest of the arrangements."

And the first prince, Charles, went forth and had many adventures, for he set his lance at all manner of monstrous carbuncles, and he found some magic vegetables that talked to him, and he dwelt some time among the people known as the Goons, and after all this while he came back.

And his father said, "Have you found a lovely woman?"

And he said, "Yes, I have."

And his father said, "Well, marry her, for heaven's sake!"

And Charles said, "That will not be easy, as she is already married to a man called Parker-Bowles."

His father said, "I don't think you are taking this quest seriously. Off with you! And off with you, Andrew!"

And Charles went off again, and so did Andrew, and they both had more adventures, especially the one in which Prince Andrew captured the Falkland Islands single-handed, and they both came back, but when their father asked if they had found brides, Charles said, "No, but I have written a children's book," and Andrew said, "No, but I have learnt how to take photographs," and their father flew into a rage and kicked them out of the palace till they brought back wives.

And so it was that Charles came back with a princess called Diana, and Andrew came back with a princess called Fergie, and they were both married with great splendour, but alas, to cut a long tale short, a wicked witch had cast spells over both marriages and it all went very wrong, so they both had splendid divorces, and their father Philip turned to the youngest Prince, Edward, and said, "Well, young 'un, it's all down to you now, for if you do not find a lovely bride, we will be the laughing stock of European royalty. Why not take a spell in the Marines and show everyone you are a real man and not gay? I am sure they would take you, even if you are going a bit bald already."

And Prince Edward spent some time with the Marines, but soon saw he would never find a bride there, so he left the Marines. And the queen said, "Oh, are you back again so soon?" and asked him what he would do now.

"I shall become a teller of stories," said the Prince Edward. "I shall tell people all our wonderful family stories, of how Uncle Edward left the throne to follow the woman he loved, and so on..."

"Then I hope you do it better than Charles did it," said his father, "as he only told people stories of how miserable his school made him and what a bad father I was."

And Prince Edward did tell stories and they were very popular in overseas markets, and finally he got married to a lovely girl called Sophie, and on their wedding day their father said: "Well, I hope those two have finally got it right and that they stay happily married, because none of my other children managed it!"

And Princess Anne said, "Hold on! I got it right second time round."

And Prince Charles said, "Well, I got it right first time but nobody would let me marry Camilla."

And Philip flew into a temper and said, "Oh, for heaven's sake! Let's not have another family argument, especially just as Edward's coming down the aisle!"

And they all smiled, in case they were on camera.