“The King’s Costliest Jewel”
King Franco, the king of Copperoma, thus far, has been unable to find a woman to wed because all the eligible woman in his kingdom he deems to be unsuitable to be his life-long companion because they don’t have strong and good characters. Moreover, they’re charming to, or submissive to him simply because of his wealth and power. After over a year of earnest searching Franco is now desperate and reaching the end of his hope for a romantically happy life with an amazing woman.
While King Franco looks out the window at the grand view around his castle, his lieutenant approaches him to remind him of a chronic problem that the king’s been putting off while he’s been seeking a bride. Lieutenant Priva informs King Franco that Samantha Martini has just posted her latest attacks on the church doors and that the peasants are listening to her critiques of his kingdom. King Franco says stridently: “No Priva, I won’t deal with her now, I don’t have the strength.” “But your highness, she’s wreaking havoc in your kingdom: she’s causing the peasants to be demanding and dissatisfied.” Priva hands Franco a document which contains Samantha’s charges and without looking at it King Franco asks: “Who is this awful creature anyway? Have I ever met her?” “No sire, she lives in seclusion and has never been to court. Her aunt is a portrait artist and has just painted her portrait which is on display in the library.” “Bring it to me, I want to see what this crazy woman looks like.” “Yes, sire.” Priva leaves to retrieve the portrait of Samantha.
Whenever Samantha is in public, while the king is her primary verbal target for moral condemnation, because she has found almost all the men in Copperoma severely lacking, she tells anyone in earshot of her negative judgments of them, as well as of the king. Seeking moral heroes and finding none, Samantha lives alone in seclusion on the outskirts of Copperoma in a small cottage, facing squarely the fact that her standards are high and she wants only someone as good as her, or no one.
King Franco, now wearing an exquisite red robe with his coat of arms on it, walks into a grand room where eight large portraits of women line one wall. As he walks past the portraits he gives a brief summary of the character of each of the women portrayed. These are the portraits of the women he’s been considering making his bride. Using the document of Samantha’s charges as a pointer, he gestures at each portrait as he talks to it: “You’re critical, cold and emotionally repressed, yet you pretend to approve of me;” as he stops before the next portrait he says: “You talk incessantly and say nothing while feigning utter approval;” walking to the next portrait: “All image and show, there’s no self there;” and to the next: “A femme-fetal seeking nothing more than drama and tragedy;” the next: “utterly indifferent and antisocial;” to the next: you are kind but “constantly afraid, nervous and high-strung;” he stops and smiles at the next portrait as he says “Oh my dear, you’re charming, fun, active, intelligent, but you’re unable to commit to any person, place or thing for longer than a day;” and to the last portrait he says: “Cordial and friendly to all in equal amounts thus treating all as if they were the same.”
As King Franco arrives at the end of the line of portraits, Priva arrives and brings in the portrait of Samantha Martini and places it on as easel in front of Franco then Priva removes the cloth covering it. As Franco gasps at the spectacularly beautiful face he feels something he’s never felt before – love. “Who is this woman Priva, you must bring her to me at once! I’ve never seen such beauty and intelligence, she’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Franco moves away from the portrait to call for more attendants. “Bring her to me at once so we can begin making plans for the wedding. Who is she and why did you not tell me about her sooner?” “Sire, I did tell you about her.” “No, I recall no such discussion. When did it take place, perhaps some weeks or months ago?” “No sire, I told you about her an hour ago.” “No Priva an hour ago you told me about some shrew named Samantha Martini.” “Exactly sire, this is Samantha Martini.” Franco stops in his tracks horrified. He rushes back to the portrait. “This is Samantha Martini?” “Yes sire.” Franco stands looking at her a long time studying her features. “I simply can’t believe it.” Franco folds the document of Samantha’s charges tighter and uses it to as a pointer to examine various parts of her face for some time then says: “Priva, I want to observe her at a distance. Set up some place for her to be in public so I can observe her. I simply can’t believe your report about her demeanor – I must see her for myself.” “Yes, sire.” Priva leaves to set up the rendezvous. Franco stares at Samantha and talks to her portrait: “What an expensive jewel you would be, my dear. You are the only woman in this kingdom who does not want to be my queen. He strokes the portrait with his hand touching the mouth gently and says to the portrait “I must take my time, this won’t be quick or easy. You’re a prickly little flower needing constant attention and so you shall have it.” As he walks away down the hall with the portraits of women on the wall he says out-loud: “This will be my greatest achievement: turning my greatest enemy into the love of my life.” He tosses Samantha’s charges onto the floor and exits the room walking with great purpose.
Later that night in his bedroom, pacing next to his canopy bed, Franco talks out-loud to himself: “Every woman in this kingdom is attracted to my office, my power, my fortune, my fame and none of them wants me. I should consider myself lucky that there’s such a rare and precious judgmental jewel as Samantha in this entire kingdom: she’s not motivated by love of wealth, approval of the crowd, or fear of me. If all that existed in the world were the feminine manifestations I’ve encountered so far, I’d resign myself to marry only to issue an heir and then disabuse myself of this lifelong romantic hope of mine for a great love. Alright, first I need to charm her by…” the king writes notes in a book sketching out his plan to court and woo Samantha staying up into the wee hours strategizing his plan of attack. He decides the first thing he must do is wear out his opponent as her guard is up and her armor thick and he must find a way to penetrate them. He concludes he must get her back in public, back dealing with people, out of her seclusion in order to give him opportunities to communicate with her – even if at a distance.
The following morning Samantha opens her front door to find a summons attached to it which is from the local tax assessor requesting her presence at his office to discuss the back taxes she owes on her cottage. After reading it she angrily curses: “As if King Franco doesn’t have enough money! How am I going to come up with what I need to pay this appalling tax?… As if I have nothing better to do with my time than go to town and chat with the tax assessor!… Indeed…” She paces then throws up her arms in resignation and starts getting ready to go to town.
That afternoon at the tax assessors office she starts to explain the reason for the delay, but before she can explain the tax assessor tells her: “Miss Martini, an anonymous admirer has already paid your taxes.” Shocked, she demands: “who is the anonymous admirer?!” “I’m sorry but he swore me to secrecy.” She gets up and storms out and when she arrives in her carriage she finds a single red rose and a note on the seat. Franco and Priva are disguised and stand nearby watching her. She opens the note and reads: “Dear mademoiselle, please don’t be concerned that you are now obligated to me, in any way, for paying your taxes. Ensuring your material care and comfort is paramount to me. Signed, your sincere admirer.” Samantha crumples up the note and tosses it out the carriage window. Fuming she notices the rose and picks it up and smells it an feels admired for a moment. We see Franco smiling as he watches her and he’s delighted, but then she quickly returns to herself and tosses the rose out the window too. Then she loudly knocks to get the carriage driver to drive on. As she rides off, the king smiles pleased with his first salvo.
We see a series of shots of Franco watching Samantha react to her secret admirer doing things for her to make her life comfortable and secure: a roofer fixing holes in her roof and Samantha tosses a note and a red tulip out her window; on another day, a plumber fixing her well-pump and she tosses a note and a red lily out her window; a horseman shoes her 2 horses and she tosses a note and a red hydrangea out her window; a painter painting the outside of her cottage and she tosses a note and red gladiola out her window. We see a disguised Priva laying a giant red hibiscus and a note down on Samantha’s front porch. Next we see a carriage maker fixing her carriage as Samantha awkwardly carries a very long, red hibiscus flower out to the street in front of her house where she makes a scene as she throws it and the note into the muddy street where it’s trampled on by horses and carriages as she yells “I hate RED!!!” The passersby stare at her as if she’s crazy but she pays no attention as she’s used to their disapproval. In disguise, Franco watches from across the street delighted by her fury. Samantha returns to her cottage to find a servant waiting inside who says: “Good day, I’ve come to give you my services.” “I can’t afford your services, please leave.” “My salary’s already been paid for the year.” “By whom?” “By the agency I work for.” “But who paid them for your services?” “I don’t know.” Frustrated: “Arrrgggghhhh.” Samantha storms into her room to smolder as the servant starts tidying up her cottage.
Priva, disguised, now stands next to Franco (who’s also disguised) and gently draws Franco’s attention to Samantha’s seeming hatred: “Sire, I know you feel this experiment of yours is well… going… um… I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it seems like she hates her benefactor, er… that is… YOU sire. Are you sure this is the proper course of action?” “I’ve never been more certain in all my life! You just have no imagination Priva. You’ll see, she’s going to become the woman I’ve always dreamed of – trust me.” “Um…ah…yes, sire.” They start walking toward Franco’s castle. “Priva, I want you to set up a small dinner party at my aunt’s estate and invite Samantha and about a dozen other guests. I’m going to attend disguised and so make sure none of the guests knows what I look like.” “Yes, sire.”
Early evening at the grand country estate owned by King Franco’s aunt Esmarelda and the dimming light of dusk shines on a dozen local, well-to-do citizens of Copperoma who sit around a large dinner table chatting and drinking wine. Samantha is seated between Franco and Fernando who is the son of a wealthy architect — Juan Menendez — who grew rich by being King Franco’s official court architect. As the night progresses it becomes painfully clear to Franco that Samantha is being charmed and seduced by Fernando. Franco watches Samantha laughing and having a wonderful time flirting with Fernando which irritates him immensely as he had intended to charm and seduce Samantha himself. Esmarelda is watching the three of them and realizes that Franco is jealous so she calls the head servant and tells him to cut the meal very short. Esmarelda then asks her guests to adjourn into the music room where a performance is to take place. Esmarelda ushers Franco and Samantha into the room and seats them next to each other. Being well disguised, Samantha does not recognize him as the king. She’s concerned that she’s being taken away from Fernando who has been collared by one of the other guests. Samantha and Fernando’s eyes catch each other from across the room as Franco now starts trying to talk to her but she’s preoccupied with Fernando’s absence. Finally, interrupting the king as he’s talking to her, Samantha gestures for Fernando to come and sit beside her and he does. She then proceeds to ignore Franco preferring instead to be charmed and seduced by Fernando. Franco hides the fact that he is furious and jealous as he tries to come up with a solution to this problem.
As the guests leave, one by one, Fernando and Samantha exit the estate agreeing to get together again on the following day for an early dinner at her cottage and to then attend a musical performance in town. Franco can hear them arrange their date and then watches them part and ride away in their carriages. Priva stands next to Franco as Franco says: “I’m the one who changed her from being that raging, loathsome hell-cat into a fun-loving, angelic, pleasant pearl, and if he thinks he’s going to steal my jewel…” Priva askes: “Are you still sure your plan is going to work sire, she seems to be completely enamored with Fernando?” “Yes, of course, Priva, I have absolute confidence in my plan, it cannot fail! She will fall in love with ME not some silly architect’s son. I want you to go see Fernando’s father Count Menendez and tell him this for me…” Priva starts writing down what Franco dictates.
The next day at the arranged time a messenger delivers a note to Samantha. We read: “Dearest Samantha, I so enjoyed meeting you last night and I was looking forward to our date tonight but at the last moment my father — Count Menendez – has sent me on an urgent assignment to the kingdom of Soltania. Unfortunately, I expect to be away for some time as my father has need of me there at a quarry where he gets marble and granite for the king’s projects. It may be some months before I return. However, I would be delighted if upon my return you will allow me to escort you to a fine play. With warm regards, Fernando.” Samantha frowns disappointed and folds Fernando’s note and carefully places it in a special box on her desk.
The next day, disguised as he was at the party, Franco comes courting and Samantha, who still does not realize that he’s the king, is not too interested in him but she’s civil to him.
We see a series of shots showing their daily dates and outings and she starts to like him more and more.
Eventually, Samantha realizes that her suitor is King Franco. At first, she decides to tease him by pretending that she still does not know who he is and further that she’s still interested in Fernando (even though she is not). Eventually, she realizes that Franco had Fernando shipped off so he could court her instead. So, to tease Franco, she gets her driver to take her to Soltania, the town that Fernando’s in, and she stays at an inn and invites Fernando to begin courting her again. Samantha believes that Franco will follow her – and indeed he does as he has to in order to ensure that nothing serious happens between her and Fernando – emotionally or physically. In response to Samantha inviting Fernando to court her, Franco says to Priva: “I’m just going to kidnap Samantha.” “Sire, she may find that too brutal and cruel and it might be hard for you to recover in her esteem.” “Yes, you’re right Priva, let’s just watch and see what unfolds.”
Despite her best efforts to keep up the pretense, eventually, Franco realizes that she knows he’s the king. Franco decides to turn the tables on her by arriving at the same restaurant where she and Fernando are dinning escorted by a very beautiful woman, thus basically saying to her ‘is this the standard you want to set up as the way we engage with each other, my dear – trying to make each other jealous?’ When Samantha sees this woman with King Franco she becomes jealous, at first, not realizing that he’s just doing to her what she’s doing to him, but then she realizes what he’s up to and it causes her to smile in response to his cleverness. When she returns home, Samantha must decide if it’s possible that she could actually love the man who, mere months ago, she all but hated. She decides she could love him, but she also thinks it’s possible that this is all just a ploy to get her to shut-up and stop attacking him and his kingdom publicly.
Upon discovering that Samantha’s not in love with Fernando, and optimistically believing that she possibly could fall in love with him, Franco follows Samantha back to her cottage. She desperately wants Franco’s motive to be love because if he truly loves her then she feels that she could be in love for the first time in her life. When she gets back home she has many talks with herself out-loud. They’re discussions about how she could love the king who she’s spent so much time attacking, the king who allows such injustices to happen in his kingdom. She also tries to make a model of him that explains how he could possibly love her – his kingdom’s public enemy number one.
Franco, now back in his castle paces while he says to Priva: “I’m aching with anticipation for her, Priva.”
Cut to Samantha in her cottage by a small blackboard going over the arguments again and tiring of her confusion about his motive: Samantha says (exhausted): “I’m punch-drunk with doubt about him.”
Cut back to Franco in his castle speaking to Samantha’s portrait: “My darling, you’re too good to be true.”
Cut back to Samantha at her blackboard: “Franco, you’re too bad to be true.”
She decides she needs to talk to him in person as she wants to look into his eyes to see if he’s lying about his true motive because she’s convinced this whole thing would be a very good deception to get her to stop attacking him and his kingdom. So, she comes out of the seclusion she’s been in for weeks and sends her driver with a note for Priva asking him to set up a time and place for her and Franco to meet.
We see a series of shots of Samantha and Franco together: horseback riding, picnicking, hiking, etc. Samantha’s always trying to devise a proof of his motive and she allows herself to get closer and closer to him and is just about to fall in love with him but she stops herself realizing that she does not have a PROOF and so, once again, she pulls away from him and goes back into seclusion refusing his invitations.
Despite her doubt, he keeps sending her gifts and things to stay connected to her which she happily accepts, but then scorns herself and reminds herself that these tokens he’s sending her are a tiny price for him to pay to shut her up to achieve harmony and peace in his kingdom. Endlessly, she tries to figure out a way to prove to herself what his true motive is. Meanwhile he waits patiently staying connected via his gifts and reports from Priva on how she’s doing.
They are both frustrated as they both want to be together, but she’s not convinced of his motive. Once again she writes down and reviews her charges on her blackboard. Then suddenly a plan comes to her to get the proof she needs of his true motive.
She has her driver tell Priva she wants to meet Franco again and she asks that he come disguised. He arrives disguised at her cottage and they take her carriage after she tells him: “I want to show you something.” She tells her driver to go to an address. They arrive and get out and see many dirty, barefoot children lethargically sitting and standing in the street in a poor area of Copperoma. She takes Franco by the hand and leads him into a tiny cottage where a large, poverty stricken family lives. Then she speaks to the sick mother about her ailments and their lack of food and medical attention. After a friendly discussion, she and Franco leave and she takes him to another home and has the same types of discussions with the same types of people. They get back into her carriage and she can see that Franco is visibly upset. Surprised by his reaction, she asks “Did you ever read the charges that I pinned to the church door?” “No I’ve been too busy trying to find a bride.” “Most of my charges against you center around the lack of food and medical treatment that some of your subjects endure.” There’s a long pause as he realizes that she’s not a shrew in need of taming but actually a very kind-hearted, caring person who wanted to get him to fix these problems. Suddenly Franco is overwhelmed by her greatness of character and falls to his knees and holds her hands in his as he rests his head in her lap: “Samantha… Samantha… my darling…you’re my joy… my passion… my delight.” They stare into each other’s eyes. She is stunned by his reaction and is delighted that Franco now sees her true self as she thought no one could see through her warrior-like demeanor in pursuit of having a kind and benevolent kingdom.
Cut to Samantha walking alone in the same area of Copperoma, but now the homes are painted and the children have clean clothes and shoes and the sick women we saw before are healthy. Correcting the neglect of his subject’s suffering is the test she devised to discover Franco’s true motive and she’s delighted to see that he truly loves her.
On a bright sunny afternoon, Franco and Samantha’s walk down the isle in the biggest event in Copperoma since Franco’s father married his mother.
Now on their wedding night Franco kisses her hand and caresses her fingers and says: “Oh, your hands are so beautiful… not just your hands… of course… I mean the rest of you too… oh, you’re so lovely darling.” They kiss and Samantha takes a paper from beside her and places it in his lap as they are kissing. When they stop kissing he sees the paper and starts to read it and says: “I see, the sewers have collapsed in the South Village.” “Yes, darling it seems when the recent rains damaged a retaining wall and…” Interrupting and smiling he says: “I’ll have it fixed.” Franco stands up and walks over to a closet and says “Darling, I have a problem only you can fix.” He takes out a bright RED silk robe with Franco’s coat of arms on it, and he walks towards her. She smiles and kisses him and then he places the robe on her and they both smile delightedly as they’re both getting what they want.