Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale which he called The Princess and the Pea, or Prinsessen pa Aerten. The story is simple: once upon a time there was a rich and handsome prince, who needed to find a wife. Being a true blueblood, he refused to marry anyone but a true princess. So setting off, he visited all the kingdoms of the world, searching for his bride-to-be. All the princesses were found wanting in one regard or another, and he returned home alone and disappointed.
One night, right in the middle of a great rain storm, a knock was heard at the front gate of the castle. When the king, the prince’s father, opened the gate there stood a young woman, wet and bedraggled. She claimed she was a real princess and asked for shelter for the night.
The king let her enter the palace in spite of the fact that anyone could plainly see that she was not a princess. For princesses don’t go wandering through rain storms in the middle of the night.The queen, the prince’s mother, doesn’t bother to argue over the woman’s royal status. Instead, being eminently practical, she determined to test it. Scurrying off to the guest bedroom, the queen placed a single pea on the bed. Then she had twenty mattresses stacked on top of the pea. After that, she placed twenty down quilts on top of the twenty mattresses.
The princess had to climb a ladder to reach her bed.
The next morning at breakfast, the queen asked the princess if she slept well. The princess said, “No. I scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, and now I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”
This response settled the question: forensic evidence that she was indeed a princess. And of course, the prince married her right away, having found a true princess, one who was not arrogant and insensitive.
The moral of the story is this: true princesses are delicate and discriminating creatures, and thus hard to come by. The sub-moral of the story is this: talk is cheap. Anyone can claim to be anything. So a sure-fire test should be used to find out.