Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a princess. Her name was Alice, and she was just as you would imagine a princess to be: young, beautiful, always smiling, and full of hope. But Princess Alice has little reason to hope: she is locked in the castle tower. And how she ended up in the castle tower is sad. So sad, almost too sad to tell her story on Christmas Eve.
Princess Alice’s mother Queen Eliza had lived a spoiled life, indulged by her rich parents, the retired Queen and King of Buffalo. She never wanted for anything; her parents indulged her every whim. Ball gowns? She had hundreds! Cars? She had whichever one she wanted. But men: she had a problem with men. Her parents, the retired King and Queen of Buffalo, worried she might never marry – and they would have no heir to their throne and fortune.
Then not so many years ago, Queen Eliza met a handsome young man named Charles. He was known as the best hunter in the kingdom, but he was not of royal blood. He was poor, by the Queen’s standards, but handsome and quite talented with a rifle and bow. They fell in love immediately. Charles’ friends were surprised to hear his news: one day, he was happily hunting the plentiful deer roaming the kingdom. The next, he was talking about his newfound love.
Talk immediately turned to marriage. Charles’ friends were happy for him, but something seemed amiss.
Within weeks, the announcement rang around the kingdom: Queen Eliza and her husband, Charles the champion hunter, would soon have a baby! The King and Queen of Buffalo were ecstatic and the kingdom turned busily toward preparing for the arrival of the new heir to their throne.
But things were not so happy in the kingdom. Behind closed doors, the newlyweds could not get along. In fact, Queen Eliza had a frightening personality. Spoiled so completely by her parents, anything she wanted, she demanded. Charles, who was as talented at carpentry as he was at hunting, was put to work immediately. His duties around the castle were many, but one consumed Queen Eliza entirely: she wanted to build the largest horse breeding farm in the entire kingdom. To do this, she screamed at Charles every day and forced him to build a magnificent barn to hold all her horses.
And, as the barn grew, so did the baby in Queen Eliza’s womb. Soon, the kingdom learned of the birth of a beautiful and healthy baby girl. The King and Queen of Buffalo were delighted – finally, a grandchild! They thought they’d never have one, and now the remarkably bright-eyed Princess Alice came into their lives. The entire kingdom rejoiced, from the Buffalo Club to the East Aurora Country Club, the wine flowed and celebrations endured long into the night.
Soon after Alice’s birth, the magnificent barn came together and horses arrived on the farm. And more horses. And more, and more – until there were nearly 100, and the barn was bursting at its paddocks. “My dear Queen,” Charles said, “We cannot possibly buy more horses. We don’t have the space to board them and we don’t have the food to feed them!”
This mere suggestion set Queen Eliza into a rage. Within days, she had banished the great hunter from the kingdom. She refused to let him see Princess Alice and used her parents millions to pay for underhanded lawyers who blocked Charles from his daughter. The local police were called many times, and Charles was forced to leave the castle.
As he left, more horses arrived. And Princess Alice, still too young to know her father, was locked in the castle tower. She wasn’t permitted to go to school with all the kingdom’s boys and girls. She appeared to have no friends, except her mother and grandparents. But even these relationships were fragile; they bent and then broke. Soon, Queen Eliza had alienated her parents as well.
The marriage fell apart as the great hunter was banned from ever seeing his daughter again by a legal system manipulated by the royal family’s great wealth. Every year, for ten years, all year long, Charles was in court with his former wife. To assure he never again saw his child, Queen Eliza told terrible lies about Alice’s father. He’s insane, she said – but never proved it. He’s on drugs, she said – but never proved it. He’s dangerous, she said – but never proved it.
None of that mattered: the evil Queen sued the hunter so often he ran out of money and could no longer afford an attorney. And the Queen paid great piles of gold to one of the most cynical matrimonial attorneys in the region. He got beat in court every time.
With enough money, the evil Queen managed to keep Charles from being with the daughter he loved so much. Every time he thought he would be with his daughter again, the evil Queen’s lawyer convinced the judge to extend the ban on the hunter seeing his daughter. His concern for Princess Alice grew: she wasn’t going to school – could she even read or write? Was she healthy? Was she safe? He got no answers.
Every Christmas, he bought presents for Alice. Most Christmases, those presents were never delivered. Princess Alice grew older, playing by herself in the castle tower, until she forgot about her father, the great hunter. But he never forgot her.
And just to be sure she destroyed Charles completely, the evil Queen had the police confiscate all his hunting rifles. Never again could he hunt, and his life closed in around him. Worse: he got cancer and started a whole new fight for his life.
As the legal battles for access to Princess Alice continued, Queen Eliza ran afoul of the law herself: she had far too many horses on her farm and the animals were mistreated. They were left unfed, their stalls weren’t cleaned and they lived in their own filth. When local police came to visit, she demanded they leave the royal farm immediately. The ASPCA was called in, and the evil Queen’s manipulations came to an end: dozens and dozens of abused horses were taken from the royal farm, and Queen Eliza was taken into court for criminal negligence of the animals.
Just as she had with Charles and his daughter Princess Alice, the evil Queen paid hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – to tie up the court and keep her horses. Just as she did with Charles and his daughter Princess Alice, she delayed and lied and manipulated the court. She refused to back down, and even recorded a music video about it.
Until one day, the judge had had enough: he sent the evil Queen to jail. Defiant to the end, she continued her endless legal battle against the great hunter from her jail cell.
This Christmas, Princess Alice sits in castle tower, alone. Her mother in jail, her grandparents ill and separated. Sick about it, Charles the Hunter appealed to the court to just see her for a moment, to give her the Christmas presents she was never allowed to have – to remind her that she has a loving father who only wants to know her again.
This Christmas story doesn’t have a happy ending. Today, Charles is appealing for just a supervised visit – the first time he would see Princess Alice in a decade. But the evil Queen is pouring more of the royal wealth into the hands of the lawyer who has helped her manipulate the court proceedings. Even from her jail cell, far far away, Queen Eliza is keeping up her lies in court.
Despite years of credibility issues, where is the evil Queen Eliza’s word still good as gold? In the courtrooms of Erie County. And as the beautiful princess languishes in the castle tower, alone, her father the hunter awaits justice.
Merry Christmas to you, too, Buffalo.