Has this plot ever been used?

I had a dream last night, about what was in the dream a Shakespearean play. Now, I’m almost certain that Shakespeare never actually used this plot, but has anyone?

The Queen has just given birth to a healthy, strong baby boy. Unfortunately, the kid is born with a head covered in dark hair, which proves him a bastard (the King and Queen are both blond). This would, of course, mean the Queen’s death. But the queen’s servant has an idea: The servant has also just had a baby, but who died at birth. And the servant’s baby was blond (and might or might not actually have been fathered by the King, because who doesn’t love a double standard?). So they’ll trade babies, and say that the Queen’s son was the one who died at birth, while the distraught servant gets to raise the dark-haired prince as her own.

I’m unsure where the story would go from this point, since there’s no obvious context for a dramatic revelation: In a society where infidelity would be a death sentence for the queen, being revealed as the queen’s son wouldn’t carry any particular status. And I’m also unsure at what time it would be known (or suspected, by a jealous husband) that a dark-haired child wouldn’t come from two light-haired parents. But it sure seems like there’s some sort of potential for a story, here. And there’s nothing new under the Sun, plot-wise.

Some switched at birth examples.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of examples of babies switched at birth, but none quite seem to match what I described. In particular, in my example both mothers know of and benefit from the switch, which I can’t find another example of.

I don’t recall that particular set of circumstances. There’s touches of the Moses story in there, the Prince and the Pauper, plenty of other switched at birth and illegitimate child stories, but the royal drama sounds new to me.

Hmm, still a different context, but isn’t there a Mark Twain story about the switching of a light skinned slave child with the master’s free child?

Here it is, Pudd’nhead Wilson. Not royalty, not a consensual switch, interesting twist at the end. I don’t recall much of the story, but the key points are about the way the children assume the roles they are raised in.

Google “warming pan baby” for another reference to this idea.

It wasn’t in play or book, but it was certainly fiction, and might have been a plot.

In George R. R. Martin’s books, in a plot point that didn’t make it into the television series, a pair of babies are switched. One’s mother is dead and very important; the other’s mother is alive and less important. The living mother isn’t happy about it, but she knows and agreed.

There’s apparently no reason for anyone to suspect the switch happened based on the babies’ appearances.

I would say I doubt that just hair color would have made pre-Mendelian-genetics people suspicious about a child’s parenthood, but facial similarities as the child grows up would.

Yeah, that part is a bit shaky, and waiting for the kid to grow up is too late. I suppose skin color might work, since everyone would have known that white people don’t have brown babies. Or maybe set it in a culture where all of the ruling class are pale.

Another possibility might be to put the story in modern times. This would mean that the Queen wouldn’t be facing a death sentence, but the scandal might be reason enough, especially if her marriage was known to be a political one. Make her a queen regnant, and it might even give a good context for the dramatic reveal.

And while the warming pan baby definitely isn’t the same thing (for one, the supposed switch there went the other way), it’s still an interesting bit of history. Thanks, jkirkman.

Or maybe set it in a culture where all of the ruling class are dark.

And other plot points from George R.R. Martin involve black haired children of the queen being raised in secret, black haired children from a *different *queen being smothered at birth because they did not have blond hair (and thus were from a different father than the queen wanted), and illegitimate black haired children of the king being hunted down and killed by the (blond-haired) king’s son (who, having blond hair himself, was not actually fathered by the king).

It’s not a fictional plot (nor proven to any standard of authenticity) but it has been suggested that Elizabeth I may have had a child out of wedlock in 1561, likely with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and had the child adopted by Robert Southern. The evidence for this largely lies on a purported letter from a British spy who claimed to have learned of it from an interrogation an Arthur Dudley by Spanish authorities, as well as some circumstantial evidence, but given that previous queen consorts had been killed for purported adultery, as well as the general simmering religious strife between Protestants and Catholics, and made a committment to being the “Virgin Queen” so she could focus on governance vice being distracted by personal responsibilities. (Never mind that her father Henry VIII basically spent fucking household women and lavishly spending money, nearly bankrupting England.)


I half-watched the 2017 movie ‘Tulip Fever’ last night. It had a somewhat similar plot to what you describe.