Ever Disney fan blog has a theory about how Belle from Beauty and the Beast would have fared in the French Revolution. Whether that means yeeting off to England and becoming Jane’s grandmother or facing her grim end, theories abound. The time after the Happily Ever After is ripe for spinning off ideas — and the Queen’s Council, a new young adult series, posits a new answer to what comes after the happy ending not just for Belle, but for other Disney princesses, like Mulan and Jasmine.
The first book, Rebel Rose, will follow Belle as she faces growing class tensions in Revolutionary France. From debut author Emma Theriault, Rebel Rose not only puts Belle in the midst of the French Revolution, but also touches on magic and the clash she feels as a commoner in this new role. Basically, it sounds like someone looked at my adolescent Disney dreams, gently took my hand, and said “I’m listening.”
Rebel Rose hits shelves on Nov. 11. Check out an exclusive excerpt below:
A weight lifted from Belle’s shoulders as soon as she walked through Bastien’s gate. It was like stepping into another world. His courtyard was so insulated that the noises of Paris didn’t reach it, lending it a false sense of tranquility amid the chaos of the city. She hoped Lumière was enjoying his time to himself. She had a feeling he had more than a few past paramours to visit.
Despite the filth of the streets ruining her boots and hem, Belle felt more like herself than she had in weeks. Back home, she had become something larger than Belle. Whether they knew she broke the curse or not, the people of Aveyon viewed Belle as their savior. Some thought she had rescued them from an inattentive, reclusive prince; far fewer knew she had broken the curse that had been drowning the kingdom for a decade. But everyone wanted her to be their princess, to embrace her new role to the fullest extent.
But she couldn’t bring herself to do that, not yet at least.
This trip was to be a reprieve. Here she was anonymous, just someone going about their day. Her plain dress made her invisible. She could enjoy Paris the way she’d always imagined, before returning to her new life and hoping it fit her better after some time away from it.
She turned onto the Rue de l’Université and spotted the Seine in 39 between buildings. She was heading to the Palais-Royal, armed with the piecemeal knowledge she had collected from travelers through Aveyon who told her Philippe, the duc d’Orléans, had opened the gardens to the public some years before. Belle had heard tell of the exchange of ideas that occurred there, and of the bookshops and caféstucked into the covered arcades that surrounded the gardens. She had spent long nights imagining herself there, attending salons and taking part in lively debates with a more open-minded crowd than she could find in Aveyon. Each step she took was like walking through both a memory and a dream.
“Madame.” A woman stepped in her path,reaching a hand out in front of her. “Could you spare a sou? My children are hungry.” Her skin was a sickly pallor, and the dark circles of exhaustion under her eyes were deep. Two children hid among her skirts, hunger shrinking their forms. Belle couldn’t prevent the memories of her childhood from flooding into her mind. She had once known the ceaseless gnawing of an empty belly. When her mother was sick, Maurice had used every bit of money they had paying for physicians and tonics to no avail,since her illness took her anyway. Belle and her father went through a season of lean nights—sometimes sharing only a heel of bread and some watered-down broth—both feeling the pain of losing Belle’s mother more acutely than their hunger pangs. Spring came, and at last Maurice was able to bring one of his inventions to a nearby fair and sell it for half of what it was worth in order to fill their bellies.
She reached for her coin purse without hesitation and handed the woman a twelve-livre coin, enough for her to feed herself and her children for the days to come.
The woman’s eyes widened in disbelief, but she accepted the coin quickly. “Mon dieu, thank you, Madame, thank you.”
Belle wanted to say something, but the woman and her children vanished into the crowd like wisps of smoke, and she stood still for the first time since leaving Bastien’s home. The chaos of Paris continued to swirl around her, but beneath it, on the edges, she saw poverty unlike any she had seen before. Exhausted mothers and wailing babies, emaciated men, orphaned children, all collected on the seams and in the alleys of the city. Each of them wore their starvation plainly—in the number of ribs poking through thin tunics, in the shadowed clefts of skin pulled too tightly across collarbones, in the cheeks sunk deep into their skulls.
Without thinking, Belle wandered into the closest alley and began passing out the coins from her purse. She tried to talk to each person she met, but she was soon swarmed by children with outstretched hands. She was happy to press a coin into them, but she wished she could do more. Money Was a temporary solution; these people needed long-term aid, work, shelter—things she couldn’t readily give to them. Guilt ate away at her. She was married to a prince and yet she had no power to end their suffering.
A shout echoed down the alley, scattering the children. Belle turned to see a group of soldiers armed with muskets nearly as long as they were tall. Their blue coats and red collars and cuffs with embroidered white braids marked them as Gardes françaises.
One of them stepped closer to her. “Madame, are you all right?”
She scoffed. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
He gave her a pitying look. “One can never be too careful with needy peasants.”
And then she realized that he thought her separate from them. She lived her whole life as a commoner, but since she’d married Adam, something about her marked her as different. She didn’t know if it was the shine of her hair, or the fullness of her cheeks, but just as Bastien knew she wasn’t noble, others now knew she wasn’t common. It left her torn between two worlds, neither of which she truly belonged to.
A sudden swell of loud voices snapped the soldiers’ attention back to the road behind them. Belle craned her neck to see what was causing the commotion. A large group of men was marching through the street toward the Palais-Royal, armed with nothing but their voices. She couldn’t make out what they were shouting, but what they lacked in intelligibility they made up for in passion.
Curious, Belle followed the soldiers out of the alley and found herself swept up into the crowd. She looked from person to person and could find no commonality among them; they didn’t all share a type of clothing that would mark their trade or their class. From what she could tell, they came from every stratum of Parisian society.
The sea of people crossed PontRoyal and spilled into the palace gardens on the other side with startling efficiency. Any soldiers who had followed them were stopped at the gates by red-coated Gardes suisses who turned them away brusquely. Belle slipped in past them, as much a part of the crowd as anyone else, and found herself in a place she had spent years only imagining.
The garden was a throng of people.Groups large and small clustered around tables, shouting over one another to have their voices heard. To her left stood a man on a makeshift pulpit, surrounded by a host of eager listeners. He wore the short-skirted coat and long pantalon of a working man, but he commanded the attention of the hundreds of people gathered around him like someone with authority. Perhaps he was a bourgeois,she thought, one of the wealthier members of the Third Estate. Belle fought her way to the front of the crowd and strained to hear what the man was saying.
“And King Louis hides away in Versailles, caring very little about our starving children, and then he has the audacity to ask us for more. He calls the Estates of France to his palace and pretends the Third Estate will have an equal voice, but we have never been equal! Not even on the foreign battlefields where France’s poor- est sons fight and bleed and die for freedoms they themselves will never know.” He paused and waited for the crowd to settle once more. “We must be united in our opposition; we must not separate until France has a constitution!”
The crowd rippled to life around Belle, but a man next to her spat at the feet of the worker, stunning the people to silence. He looked out of place in his white wig and culottes.
“Canaille,” he hissed. Scum.
Only a few heartbeats elapsed before the crowd surged forward, united in anger. The man on the pulpit lifted his arms in the air.
“Calmez-vous,” he implored before looking directly at the man. “When France is washed clean of la noblesse, it is the Third Estate scum that will survive, Monsieur.”
Cheers drowned out the nobleman’s reply, but Belle caught bits of the threat spilling from his lips. The crowd was tipping toward chaos. All at once, the appeal of the Palais-Royal vanished.Belle wanted to be anywhere but there, trapped in a group of raucous, angry men. She pushed her way out of the center and hurried from the garden. A passing girl pressed a pamphlet in Belle’s hands before she reached the gate. Belle was back across the Seine when she glanced at the front page and realized it was a political pamphlet, not unlike the ones she had hoarded back in Aveyon, written by the likes ofJean-Jacques Rousseau, Émilie du Châtelet, Olympe de Gouges, and Nicolas de Condorcet. She hadn’t read this one before.
What is the Third Estate? Everything.
She recalled Bastien’s claims earlier that day, that the Third Estate were an annoyance to the king and nothing more. Merely rabble-rousers,he had assured them. She looked back to the pamphlet.
What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing.
What does it ask? To be something.
From what Belle understood of French politics, it was a deceptively simple desire. In France, the power was concentrated in the hands of the clergy and the nobility. Peasants had nothing. It had been that way for centuries. But what if they could take some for themselves? What if the Third Estate became something? It would change the world.
It was bold for so-called rabble-rousers,she thought. But Bastien had already told them that the Third Estate had transformed into something new: the National Assembly. And King Louis had thus far been unable to quash them. ToBelle, that sounded like power.
On her walk home, she realized she had been wrong. Paris was nothing like she remembered it. The city was a powder keg, and the peasants shouting for revolution in the gardens of the Palais-Royal held matches in their hands.
Belle may have grown up a peasant, and she may not have taken the title that was afforded to her, but she didn’t think either fact would be enough to convince the people of Paris that she was nothing like the nobles they reviled.
She was a girl married to a prince. She lived in a castle and wanted for nothing. In that moment, as she thought back to the woman who had begged for coin to feed her hungry children, Belle wasn’t sure she could convince herself of it either.