The Lost Prince

Written in response to: Write a story about a character who’s secretly nobility.... view prompt


Fiction Drama Friendship

June 6th | 20:30

It’s like being stuck in a fairy tale. I can’t escape it. I feel like I’m permanently boxed in from the rest of the world. Everyone puts me on this pedestal, hanging onto my every word, but I don’t have anything remotely meaningful to say. At least, I don’t think I do. Maybe there is some rhyme or reason to the little comments here and there I’m allowed to make, but I honestly think the title has a lot to do with it. After all, people love the words of a prince, don’t they?

I go back to the fairy tale. I once watched Aladdin with my mum and dad, and over the years my mind drifts back to that story. Princess Jasmine, leaving the palace under the cover of a beautiful few feet of fabric, encasing her from the world outside the walls. She’s able to do that because her culture required women to be covered up… but I’m a man, and I live in Western society, where walking out in several feet of sparkly blue fabric would draw more attention than I’d like. At times, I do wish I was a woman. My famous girlfriends never get recognised because they go out for official stuff in full glam makeup, and then for normal stuff, they drop it all and dress averagely. By girlfriends, I mean friends who are girls, by the way – not girlfriends. I wish. I’m twenty-eight and I’m still as single as I was when I was fourteen. I’m also still a virgin. It got to the point where I met women who were only interested in the title. Another fucking cliché I have to handle. I’m princess Jasmine, stuck in my palace, and I have to hide myself away to be happy.

I sound more miserable than I actually am. I do dress so normally when I go out that the press has a hard time finding me. They haven’t to date, touch wood, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. I usually choose a tracksuit and leave some stubble, make my hair messy, and my battered old Nikes. It’s not several feet of sparkly blue fabric, but it does the job as well. I also have a group of friends I see regularly. The funny thing is, they all laugh at joke about how I look like Prince Joaquin of Austria, and I laugh with them about it. Austria’s lost prince is not lost. I am the lost prince. I am not lost. I’m just hiding.

Alright, I suppose now is the right time to come clean. I ran away from home a few years back. I had to. I spent a lot of time sneaking out of the palace, but I’m almost thirty and my family are doing all they can to secure the lineage. I have a younger sister, but she’s only just sixteen and she can’t do anything right – not by my parents’ standards, anyway. She’s a little bit… not slow, but she’s not altogether there. She’s sweet, though. Leaving her was the hardest part. She actually wants to be a princess, though – she wants to do the royal engagements and all of that. I don’t. Oh, look. The third cliché of all of this.

There’s a reason I’m writing all of this down, honestly. It’s because a car has been following me around for the last couple of weeks, and I’m afraid the palace has finally found me. Either that, or Interpol know I travelled through to the UK. I don’t know. I don’t really want to find out, either. I tried to cover my tracks, but the Austrian government isn’t stupid. I think they know I left… I did apply for a normal civilian passport, using my full name… I don’t know. I guess I just want someone to read my story somewhere and know what happened to me and who I am… I guess it’s more for my sister than anything else. Elsie, if you read this… I love you, and I’m sorry I left without saying goodbye.


Joseph left his house again after half an hour of watching the street below. The same black car had been outside the house for a few days, but he hadn’t been out himself. He didn’t have any cause to go out; it was summer, sure, but he was sick. That car belonged to no-one on the street. He knew everyone there. It had followed him for a few weeks now, the two gentlemen inside unidentifiable thanks to a cliché pair of sunglasses and facemasks. The pandemic was over; that’s why Joseph had run. Joseph was his second name. Prince Joaquin was his official name he’d chosen when he’d accepted his official title at the age of eighteen. He’d run away at the age of twenty-three, seeing as the world seemed to want to know absolutely every facet about him. And the women they threw at him incessantly only wanted him for his title. Educated at Oxford, he was somewhat appalled by the way the rich treated people at times. But he couldn’t really complain about all that when he had riches and stability most people would kill to have. Still, he had more genuine kindness shown to him by the people in Costa coffee than he did by his other titled friends.

Maybe it was the short few months he’d spent doing a year in industry, too. Meeting genuine people undercover, trying to get to the root of actual problems faced by constituents of the local township. He’d been treated differently. The poor, it seemed, gave more of the little they had, whereas the rich gave as little as possible of the much they had. It had disgusted him enough that he’d looked at his own life and his own ‘friends’ in a different light. He’d applied for a civilian passport, and then he’d packed a camping backpack and he’d left in the night, via his window. Just like he used to.

He was grateful that he’d always dressed pin-neat for his public engagements, his hair immaculate, his expensive clothes free of creases and lint. It meant that the baggy sweatpants and battered trainers he’d worn through the airport had covered him nicely; people hadn’t looked twice at him as he’d passed through with stubble and messy hair. Landing in England, he’d paid six months’ rent on a small place in London, he’d transferred his allowance to a ‘charity’ account in the UK over a few months, and he’d sought out some meetups to make some friends. He already had a few friends in Oxford who knew him, but he planned to avoid them like the plague.

What he hadn’t banked on was the reaction of his parents. The over-reaction of them, the press coverage of the Missing Prince, the tears from young women across the world who thought they actually had a shot with him. Perhaps they would have done, but they wanted Prince Joaquin, not regular old Joseph. And certainly not Joseph Smith, which is what he’d become when he finally got the British Nationality and changed his name properly by deed-poll. He hadn’t banked on a global search for him. Obviously, his note had pissed the king and queen off enough…

“That’s him, no?” Agent Andrews murmured, referencing a sharp photo of Prince Joaquin at a party in Oxford, where he was a little less clean-shaven and a little more unkempt from joy and freedom.

“I think so. Shall we tail him on foot?” Agent Carrow said quietly, watching the young man retreat down the street quickly. “I think he suspects us.”

“We have his home address now, anyway. Shall we try to get in there first?”


Both men left the car they’d practically lived in for days. They made their way over to the house and tried some windows at the front. Nothing. But the back… that gave them an open window, through which Andrews could reach the latch of a larger window. He was six-foot-five, and his partner was five-seven – between them, a legal entry was almost always viable. Carrow stepped through the open window and opened the door for Andrews. Then, they started looking around the place. Photographs from the last five years littered the walls and surfaces, friends that Joaquin had made. Letters and bills addressed to Joseph Holstadt piled up in the corner, opened. ‘Paid’ was written on several of them. Payslips were there too – the little bastard had set himself up with a national insurance number and everything. It was all above board. He paid income tax, he had a neat little nine-to-five job that paid him handsomely… he was a smart kid. Andrews thumbed through the last of them. This was definitely him. Although none of the photos they looked at had him clean shaven, or neat. He looked like a perpetual student, or a backpacker. Carrow thought bitterly of his younger brother, the one who had been permitted to do as he pleased, smoking weed and touring the world with a single bag on his back and a passport in his pocket. Parents who gave him the world while Carrow himself had to work hard and get the grades. For what? A shit position at InterPol hunting down rich runaways?! Sure.

“Alright, it’s definitely him. Shall we call it in?” Andrews broke Carrow’s train of thought.

“Sure. What proof are we offering them?”

“Well, we’ve the photos, bills…” Andrews rooted through another kitchen drawer. “And… gold!” he produced a passport. “I think this ought to do it.”

“That’s a civilian passport. That doesn’t prove it’s him.” Carrow took the passport from him.

“No, but this does.” Andrews produced another document – a folded A4 sheet of paper, dog-eared, but a little thicker than regular paper. “Birth certificate.”

“And it has his official title on it?”

“It does. Little bastard took advantage of the data protection act, didn’t he?” Andrews shook his head and took a photo of the birth certificate and the passport, alongside a water bill for proof.

“He tried to. Our tip came from someone working in the government apparently.” Carrow gave a shrug and took some more photos of the house. “Call it in. We’ll wait in the car and then approach him when he’s home.”

“Alright. You make the call then. I’ll put this stuff back.”


“They’ve found him!” Queen Eugenia burst into her husband’s office, where he was busy preparing for an engagement. He stopped editing his speech and looked up.

“Joaquin? They’ve found him?!”

“Yes – he’s living in Barking, in London! It’s him, Alexander!” Eugenia practically threw the photos at the King, who took them.

“Good. He’ll be brought back to us and punished adequately for this.” Alexander wasn’t as happy at the news of his alive and well son as Eugenia was. For Alexander, a prince did not leave his post. A title like that was a duty to the people of Austria – to leave it was to abandon the people it served. And they had no right to abandon their people.

“Alex, we cannot punish him for running away. There’s a reason he ran away… we must be kind to him…”

“You feel that way, Genie, because you are his mother and you are blinded by love. I am his father. It is my duty to be a more objective parent.” Alexander returned to his speech. “When will he return?”

“They’re going to approach him and try to fly him in shortly. They’ve asked that we be ready to go there to bring him back.”

“Unacceptable. I won’t be going. You may go.”

“Alexander –“

“You may go, and that is the end of it.” Alexander dismissed her with a wave of his hand. Eugenia scowled at him.

“You are no father.”

“He is no son.”


Joseph returned home under the cover of night. The black car had gone, and with it the stress of being chased. Maybe they’d given up? Assumed it’s not him? He didn’t know. He let himself in, and as soon as he went into the kitchen, a wave of anxiety hit him hard. Someone had been in there. A faint scent of cologne that wasn’t his lingered in the air. He hadn’t left the door unlocked, though… he never did. But it was unlocked now…

“Shit!” he gasped, hunting through his documents in the kitchen drawer. His passport and birth certificate had been touched. They’d been in here. As he fretted about his next move, his phone rang and he screamed. He checked it. His friend Daniel’s name and face flashed up at him. “Hello?!”

“Hey, Joe – are you alright?”

“Er… no, no I’m not – are you free right now?”

“That’s why I’m ringing you. Fancy a pint –“

“I need a place to stay, and fast. I’ll explain when I’m with you.”

“Oh… sure, yeah, come over…”

“Thanks!” Joseph said, cutting the call. He stuffed a few things into a bag, grabbed his passport and birth certificate, his wallet, and ran for it. There was still no sign of the car, but he knew there wouldn’t be much point coming back here for a while yet. At least from Daniel’s place, he could work and travel. He ran along the streets, hopping onto a bus rather than the tube. He wasn’t followed.


“What the hell’s happening?!” Daniel asked when Joseph arrived. “What’s the big secret?!”

“Alright. First things first, sit down. Second…” Joseph hunted through his bag and pulled out his birth certificate. “You know how you lot all joke about me looking like the Lost Prince of Austria?!”

“…Yeah?” Daniel looked at him like he’d finally snapped.

“Well… you’re all right.” There was a pause, and then Daniel burst out laughing.

“Jesus, Joe! You had me going for a moment there!” He wheezed laughing, curling up. “The lost prince! Ha! You?! You’re about as princely as my deadbeat cousin!”

“Yeah…” Joseph held out his birth certificate. Daniel took it. He scanned it. He stopped laughing. He looked at Joseph, and then back to the certificate. He swallowed.

“You… you’re really…” Joseph nodded. “Fuck me…”

“I’d rather not, mate.”

“But – but I’ve known you for five years!”

“I know! I know. And I wouldn’t have told you otherwise. I didn’t want any of that shit, but I didn’t have any other choice. It was run and be someone else, or tell you and risk that someone else would find out. Not that I think you’d tell anyone, but when people have only wanted you for the title…” Daniel nodded.

“No, no, I get it… and honestly, mate, I appreciate that you’ve come to me with this… like… I’ll do what I can to help.”

“Can I stay with you? I think they’ve found me.”


Joseph explained everything over pizza and beers, and in the end Daniel’s reaction was reassuring. He said he would help.

Obviously, that didn’t stop Agents Carrow and Andrews finding him again. They were waiting for him outside his office, which Joseph knew he couldn’t avoid.

“Mr Holstadt? I’m Agent David Andrews. This is my colleague, Agent Martin Carrow. Can we have a word?” Joseph swallowed.

“Sure. But I’m needed in the office shortly.”

“We’re aware. We’re with InterPol. We’ve been leading the search for you for five years. Your family have been extremely worried about you. We’d like to set up an official meeting.”

“Look… I don’t want to go back.”

“The king has requested we serve you this letter.” Carrow stepped forward and offered an envelope.

“Alright. Thanks. When shall we meet?” Joseph fingered the corner of the envelope.

“Contact us on this number, and we’ll be there.” Andrews handed him a card. “We’ll leave you alone until you do.”

“Thanks.” Joseph turned and entered the office. Once he was at his desk, he opened the letter. It was handwritten (he expected nothing less from his father), and detailed the requirement that, if he wished to renounce his title officially, he’d have to do so publicly, otherwise his sister couldn’t take over. And his sister was fast approaching eighteen. There was no request to come home. No love. No informality… nothing. Just a request to come home to sort the paperwork. Joseph rolled his eyes. Doing that would blow his cover. It would also mean a lack of security. It was all a mess… still, he picked up the phone and called the InterPol agents to set up a meeting with them.

In the end, Joseph returned to Austria and renounced his title, citing that he would travel to Denmark to live there as a civilian. His friends outside of Daniel didn’t know who he really was, but the news that the Lost Prince was simply hiding was juicy news, and Joseph spent a long time looking over his shoulder. Especially since the tip InterPol had received had come from someone in the Department of Pensions at the government. 

August 09, 2021 09:12

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Gip Roberts
20:55 Aug 10, 2021

There's always at least one sentence in all your stories that gives me a belly laugh. "I'd rather not, mate." I think the line that came before that was supposed to be an expression of surprise, which made the response hilarious to me. I notice your stories tend to have all the elements of a full novel, complete with action sequences and a variety of settings told through a short amount of words, and you make every one of them work. I always feel like I've watched something rather than read something. And there's a good lesson in this one ...


Amy Jayne Conley
10:12 Aug 11, 2021

I... honestly have no response to this, Gip - such a compliment has left me speechless! Thank you so much! To hear this from an amazing author as yourself is a true, true compliment. I'm sat here literally doing the star eye emoji!! xD Thank you!!! I'm so glad I found a fellow friend in you. Even though we're basically anonymous strangers, it really is nice to have found a supportive mutual fan! :D It's people like you who keep me writing. Honestly.


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Moon Lion
05:49 Aug 10, 2021

Really well written, and another one of the responses to this prompt that blew my mind! It is a really well written piece and the secret nobility as well as the narrative is dealt with really nicely. All the best in the contest (if you're submitting) :)


Amy Jayne Conley
13:02 Aug 10, 2021

Thanks so much! I really appreciate your kind words! :D This was an airport 'waiting for my flight' story, so for sure not a lot of thought went into it! No contest for me - for sure the new rules are really making me think about what I submit! But all the best to you too! :D xx


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