Publication: 5 January 1980 – 1 March 1980
Artist: Trini Tinturé
Reprint: Girl Picture Library #13 as “Princess Wanted!”
Orphan Sally Smith has been brought up in a succession of foster homes, none of which are good enough for her. She dreams of being princess, and is so obsessed with it that her bedroom is filled with posters of princesses and fairy tale castles, and even her reading is nothing but fairy tales. Her obsession is also reflected in her snobby behaviour, as she believes she must stay aloof from common people – even the ones she serves in the café run by her latest foster parents, the Grubbs.
Meanwhile, in the tiny kingdom of Burmania (so tiny it only has one town and one royal castle), a real princess named Victoria is anything but Sally’s idea of a princess. Victoria is a horror who constantly misbehaves, shows no respect for her royal heritage, her room is filled with pop idols and disco music, and she is the despair of her parents. When Victoria brings her favourite pop group, The Baddies, to perform at the ceremony to appoint her heir to the throne, this is the last straw for them. The king disinherits her and advertises in Britain for an heir.
Sally sees the ad and naturally seizes the chance. But she has no pedigree, so she makes one up, stealing the name and portfolio of one Lady Sally Hunter-Smith. She is shortlisted with three other girls. But in Burmania, Victoria is not pleased about being disinherited, and is determined to get rid of them.
On the way to Burmania, Sally nearly comes unstuck when another candidate, Lucinda, realises she is an imposter. But Victoria pulls a trick that has the plane landing in the marshes and the candidates arrive looking like walking mud pies. Lucinda is so outraged at the indignation that she leaves in a huff, forgetting to report Sally.
Sally’s secret is safe, but Victoria decides to get rid of her next. So at a masked ball, Victoria has Sally tied up while she takes her place, planning to cause trouble that Sally will be blamed for. But Victoria comes unstuck thanks to a dirty trick pulled by another candidate – who is then eliminated when it ends up in a catfight – and Sally is discovered tied up. Victoria manages to pass it off as a joke, but Sally finds her out and is watching out for her now.
Victoria pulls more tricks, but they backfire and have the king choose another candidate, Isabella, as the princess. Then Victoria pulls an itching powder trick that gets Isabella sent packing. Victoria plants the itching powder box on Sally that almost gets her sent home. But the king gives her another chance once he is reminded what a horror Victoria is. He has Victoria put out of the way by locking her in a tower. But then Sally gets a telegram that the Grubbs are coming for a visit, which threatens her secret.
Meanwhile, Victoria uses a cannon to break out of the tower, but it goes wrong and the tower collapses. Now everyone thinks Victoria is dead.
At the feast in honour of the Grubbs, Sally is surprised to see them cover up for her. Afterwards they explain that they have realised what she is trying to do, but won’t get in her way. They pack up and get out of her life. The same feast exposes Victoria as very much alive. She gets a scolding from her parents, but butters them up by claiming she has changed. To prove it, she is arranging a gymkhana for Sally, as Lady Sally Hunter-Smith is a top rider.
But in fact Victoria has now discovered Sally’s secret and has called in the real Lady Sally Hunter-Smith. They plan to expose Sally at a gymkhana, guessing she is no rider like the girl she is impersonating. But it goes too far and Sally ends up in hospital, while Victoria is in trouble with her father again.
Still, Victoria thinks she has won and gets ready for her coronation – where she will wear shorts and roller skates. She gets word from the hospital that Sally has lost her memory and takes advantage to fob Sally off with a cruel couple, the Grimes, saying they are her true parents.
But Sally regains her memory and makes her way to the coronation to be crowned – notwithstanding that she is dirty and dishevelled from her stay with the Grimes. Victoria’s cronies lock Sally up, but she escapes and makes her way to the coronation through the sewer just as Victoria is about to be crowned. Sally and Victoria start fighting over the crown, causing it to snap in half. The king decides the answer is to crown both Victoria and Sally with the two halves of the crown, and they will both rule happily ever after – well, for a short period at least.
Occasionally I come across a serial where I don’t know whether it’s just plain stupid or if it’s meant to be a take on something that is conducted in an oddball manner.
Such is the case with “The Perfect Princess”. When I first came across it in its Girl Library reprint I thought it was ridiculous and agreed with other online comments that it was one of Jinty’s worst stories, right down there with “Angela Angel-Face”. But now I have studied the original print, I have wondered if it was meant to be one of those stories that is meant to be a take on something and should be treated as a satire or parody rather than a weak, silly story. I encountered two such stories in Tammy, “Town without Telly” and “Granny’s Town” where I thought the premise was stupid, but then I began to wonder if they were meant to be satires, parodying TV addiction in the former and ageism in the latter.
When examining “The Perfect Princess”, it does appear to turn the concept of the fairytale right on its head and inside out. It starts right off with a girl who dreams of being a princess – the dream of so many young girls – but the girl is more like the haughty princess than Princess Aurora. She’s a snob – nobody and nothing is good enough for her, because all she cares about is being a princess. It’s an obsession that has been plastered over every corner of her room, much to the derision of other girls who see it. Worse, she’s dishonest – she lies about her credentials to make her way into the shortlist. Yet she knows how a princess should behave, unlike the real princess in the story.
Although Victoria is a real princess, she is the complete opposite of Sally or how a princess should be, both in her behaviour and what she puts up on her bedroom walls. Victoria doesn’t even mind her cronies calling her “Vicky”. Disinheriting a badly-behaved princess is not unusual in a fairy tale, but Victoria is not going down the road of trials filled with suffering and humbling to turn her into a reformed character. No, she’s going down the road of dirty tricks to get rid of rivals. The road that has been so frequent trodden in so many serials, except that it’s got such a distasteful flavour with a royal who is behaving like a spoilt little horror instead of a proper princess.
Victoria being locked in a tower as a punishment also seems to be a dig at the classic fairytale; there are many stories about princesses being locked in towers. But rather than waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her, Victoria resorts to ingenuity and a cannon to make her own breakout. But she shows no disregard to her crony’s warning that this could be dangerous, further showing how thoughtless she is.
The ending also turns the fairy tale on its head – rather than happily ever after being really happily ever after, it’s for a short while, because neither Victoria nor Sally have improved, and they glare at each other as they sit on the throne they are obliged to share. One could say that they both end up punished, because in a sense they have both got what they wanted, but they don’t like it.
So is “The Perfect Princess” one of Jinty’s weakest stories or is it meant to be a satire? It’s all up to how you look at it. In any case, it is difficult to totally dislike a story that was drawn by the popular Trini Tinturé.