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This article focuses on the Enchanted Forest character Cora, also known as the Queen of Hearts.
For the Season Two episode, see Queen of Hearts (episode).

Love is weakness.

—Cora's iconic phrase

Princess Cora Mills,[1] also known as the Queen of Hearts, is a character on ABC's Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. She débuts in the seventeenth episode of the first season of Once Upon a Time and is portrayed by guest stars Barbara Hershey and Rose McGowan, and by co-star Jennifer Koenig.

Cora is based on the miller's daughter from the fairytale, "Rumpelstiltskin", the Queen of Hearts from the novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts from the animated Disney film Alice in Wonderland, and the Red Queen from the live-action Disney film Alice in Wonderland.


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Reason: Regina Rising recap

Before First Curse

As a child, Cora, a miller's daughter, works in the mill all day, wearing nothing but rags. Despite this hardship, the experience teaches her that the only person she can rely on is herself. ("Sisters")

At some point, Cora begins working in a tavern, where she fends off the flirtatious advances of patrons. After pushing away one man, she accidentally falls into Jonathan's lap. He, who has been coming to the pub for a week, offers her a seat since she has been working past the end of her shift. Jonathan compliments her for behaving with the grace of a lady, and Cora talks about doing so because of her wish to be better than what she is. He mentions having to depart soon, and drops a handkerchief, which is embroidered with the royal crest. Citing that he had hoped for her to know him as a normal man rather than a prince, Jonathan proposes to her with a straw ring and promises, in two weeks' time, to return with a gold ring. Prior to his leaving, they consummate the marriage. After two weeks, Cora doesn't hear from Jonathan and finds him, two months later, at the royal estate, where she learns he is not a prince, but a gardener. When Cora admits being pregnant, she asks him to provide her with money for herself and the child to get by, and if not, she will tell the actual prince what he did to her. Jonathan doesn't care, so she calls for help, but he knocks her away and flees. She is found by Prince Leopold and later shows him how to build a campfire. As they bond, he tells her about his engagement to a princess, Eva, but decides to marry Cora instead. Two days before the wedding, Jonathan threatens to reveal their past and her pregnancy unless she provides him with riches. Before she can fulfill the deal, Eva, having overheard the conversation, exposes the truth to Leopold. With her lie exposed, Cora is taken away by guards, and she later gives birth to a daughter. Clinging to her dream to being more than a miller's daughter, Cora abandons her child in the woods, where a passing cyclone whisks the baby to Oz. ("Bleeding Through", "It's Not Easy Being Green")

One morning, Cora sees her drunken father collapsed outside their flour mill, although he is supposed to be making supply deliveries. Fed up, she hauls the flour bags to King Xavier's castle herself, where her presence catches the attention of a familiar face, Princess Eva, who trips her. Cora, carrying the bags, spills flour everywhere, and she is then blamed for ruining the princess's shoes. On King Xavier's command, a humiliated Cora kneels and apologizes to Eva. That night, she sneaks into a castle ball for the king's son, Prince Henry, who must find a bride. Briefly, Cora waltzes with Henry before King Xavier cuts in. Once they are alone, he warns her against trying to reach above her station. Insulted, Cora boasts of her ability to spin straw into gold and how she could have made his kingdom rich with gold had he not affronted her. As proof, the king asks her to spin straw into gold and gain Prince Henry's hand in marriage. If not, she will die for her failure. Trapped in the tower, Cora finds an unlikely ally in Rumplestiltskin, a wizard who wants her first-born child in exchange for assisting her. Intrigued, she requests, as part of their deal, that he teach her to spin straw into gold. Rumplestiltskin, recalling his own humiliation and desire for vengeance, instructs Cora into channeling anger into magic. As she envisions harming those who scorned her, the straw turns into gold. Later, in front of an audience, Cora demonstrates her talent and earns Henry's proposal. The day before her wedding, Cora realizes she wants to be with Rumplestiltskin more than having wealth and power. The couple plan to run away together, with Rumplestiltskin changing the deal so any child she has will be his, but before going, she asks to learn how to rip out King Xavier's heart. After he teaches her this, Cora speaks with the king, who makes her choose between her lover or her husband. When he asserts that "love is weakness", she recognizes that having a heart will keep her from gaining power. Cora, ripping out her own heart, later confesses to Rumplestiltskin that she had to in order to reach the top. Months after this, Cora gives birth to a daughter, Regina, and proclaims she will be queen one day. ("The Miller's Daughter")

Some years after, Cora seals her wand in a box with a blood magic, and when she enters into the study to lock it in a drawer, she finds a young Regina playing with her doll. Regina wants to play with her mother, but Cora declines, stating she has too much work. When Regina notes that she never has free time, Cora speaks of working in the mill as a child and learning to depend only on herself, and this ultimately bettered her life. Cora promises to see Regina at supper, and then, she leaves the room, forgetting to take the drawer key with her. After unsealing the box, Regina plays with the wand, knocking herself unconscious with a magic blast. Cora, with Henry, rush in to check on Regina. Since her magic is the cause of her daughter's pain, Cora deducts that only someone close to Regina who hasn't harmed her can heal her. Traveling to Oz, she tracks down her first-born, Zelena, whom she witnesses using strong magic. Zelena's adoptive father prepares to beat her as punishment for using magic, but Cora intervenes by freezing him in place. She praises Zelena for having the gift of magic, and she offers her a way to prove to her adoptive father that her magic is good. Once Zelena agrees, Cora brings her home to Regina. She begins pulling out a complex spell that Zelena must perform to save Regina, but instead, the red-haired girl channels her magic into Regina to cure her, explaining that she has always wanted to use her powers for good. Regina becomes fast friends with Zelena, and while the girls are playing in the study, Zelena unlocks the blood magic seal on the box. Cora, standing outside, overhears Regina suggest that she and Zelena could be related. Cora later admits the truth, that Regina and Zelena are sisters, when questioned by the girls. Regina wants to be a family with Zelena, but Cora snuffs out these hopes, chiding her daughter for not learning to depend on herself only. Cora believes that once people find out about Zelena, everything she's worked towards for Regina's sake will be undone. On her orders, guards take Zelena away. Regina vows to Zelena that they will always be sisters no matter what and that she will find her again, but Cora ensures this never happens, by having both girls take a potion to forget each other. ("Sisters")

When Regina blossoms into a young woman of marriageable age, Cora resolves to set into motion a series of events that will lead her daughter to being crowned queen. She poisons the current queen, Eva, to make the Queen's seat vacant. Eva's only daughter, Snow White, desperately seeks the Blue Fairy to cure her mother. Cloaked as the Blue Fairy, Cora tries to tempt her into using dark magic in the form of an enchanted candle, in which she must sacrifice another person's life to save Eva. Snow White refuses to go through with it, and Eva eventually succumbs to her illness. After Eva's mourning ceremony, Cora approaches to have a look at her nemesis' body. She speaks to Eva's corpse, promising that she will destroy her legacy and make Snow White's heart as black as coal. ("The Queen Is Dead")

On their home estate, Cora watches Regina ride her horse as a demonstration for her father Henry. While Henry approves, Cora criticizes Regina is riding without a saddle, and the fact she is still unmarried. The stable boy, Daniel, approaches to offer Regina a saddle, but she is too upset over Cora's words and snaps at him. As she tries to walk away, Cora traps her in place with magic while Henry is helpless to do anything. Regina pleads that she will be good, and only then, Cora releases her grip. One day, she sets up a riding lesson for Regina at the stables. Then, she tracks down King Leopold's party, including Snow White, while they are passing through the kingdom. Cora agitates the horse Snow White is saddled on, which sends the animal running onto the estate, where Regina rescues the young girl. Regina's feat attracts the attention of King Leopold, as Cora predicted, and he proposes to her. While Regina is too surprised to respond, Cora accepts on her behalf. Snow White begins spending time with Cora, who relates her desire to do what is best for Regina. Cora wishes to do anything to make Regina happy, and doesn't want to lose her. Snow White, believing Cora means well, reveals Regina doesn't wish to marry her father, as she is already in love with someone else. Cora learns from the girl that Regina loves Daniel and intends to run away with him. The night the lovers prepare to depart, she confronts Regina, furious that she is giving everything up for a stable boy. After a small struggle, Cora seems to accept that Regina is truly in love, and the two reconcile with a hug. She also embraces Daniel, admitting a parent always wants what is best for their child, and then rips out his heart. As a grief-stricken Regina cradles Daniel's body, Cora crushes the heart, killing him. She consoles her daughter by stating that love is an illusion, and though it may feel real now, the only thing Regina needs in the end is power, which can get her anything without having to rely on anyone. During Regina's wedding dress fitting, Snow White admits what she told Cora. After the girl is gone, Regina asks her mother if she spooked Snow White's horse so King Leopold would notice her, but Cora denies any involvement. As Regina walks off, she murmurs that she should have let Snow White die on that horse, since it cost her Daniel. ("The Queen Is Dead", "The Stable Boy")

As the wedding looms nearer, Regina attempts to escape with her horse Rocinante, but Cora's magic pulls her back. Cora warns Regina against trying to leave prior to the wedding, and that there is a barrier spell keeping her from escaping. Regina insists she does not wish to marry King Leopold and favors freedom above anything else. Cora says power is freedom, and tries to assure her that she will be there to guide Regina down the right path. During one night, Regina steals Cora's spell book from right underneath a pillow as her mother is fast asleep and accidentally summons Rumplestiltskin. The Dark One gives Regina a looking glass to get rid of Cora. On the wedding day, Cora notices the clothed mirror and pulls it off. While Cora excitedly talks about her daughter's future role as Queen, Regina once again voices that she doesn't wish for any of that. As Regina attempts to push her mother into the looking glass, Cora restrains her with magic. She knows Regina's intentions of getting rid of her, and is not having any of it, but remains unaware that Rumplestiltskin appears in the mirror to urge the latter to do what must be done. Gathering strength in anger, Regina breaks free and uses magic for the first time, causing Cora to fly towards the looking glass. She manages to hang on for a brief moment with a look of surprise and sadness on her face before slipping through the mirror, which shatters into pieces. ("We Are Both")

Through the looking glass, Cora lands in the realm of Wonderland and rises to power as the Queen of Hearts. ("Heart of the Matter")

At some point, she receives a letter from Rumplestiltskin, who reveals knowledge about finding her actual first-born, Zelena, who he believes is even more powerful than her. ("It's Not Easy Being Green")

After receiving an invitation to the upcoming wedding of the Red King, she shows up at the royal castle to greet the soon-to-be Red Queen, Anastasia. As they casually talk, Cora teleports a vase of roses from one table to another, despite that she knows the Red King dislikes magic since he believes it separates them from their subjects. Seeing Anastasia's likeness to herself, as Cora came from humble beginnings as well, she offers to teach her magic without the Red King's knowledge. Anastasia declines, not wishing to start a marriage with a secret, to which Cora departs, or so it appears. She eavesdrops on a conversation the future Queen has with a former beau, Will, who pleads for Anastasia to meet him at their old wagon and run away together. The next morning, Cora sabotages any reconciliation between the two lovers by telling Will that Anastasia decided to marry the Red King. As he expresses a longing hope that his beloved, in time, would've changed her mind and returned to him, she gently pushes him to give up. Cora consoles him, stating that he helped Anastasia realize her calling as a Queen, and now is the time to move on. When prompted with a request to take out his heart, she warns him of the consequences, but he insists. Once the task is done, she sends him off from the wagon and pockets the heart in a bag. Later, Cora stops Anastasia from leaving the castle for her sweetheart by giving the girl a glimpse at the wagon where Will is nowhere in sight. She manipulates a heartbroken Anastasia into believing all hope of regaining Will's trust and love is forever lost, and that her place is as a Queen. Eventually, Cora teaches her how to conjure fire by channeling all the unworthiness she feels as a person into power, to which Anastasia successfully uses magic. ("Heart of the Matter")

After catching Alice attempting to steal a weeping willow from her garden, Cora has her branded as a murderess. Controlling Will with his heart, she sends him and other guards to apprehend the girl. When Alice discovers Will's situation, she steals his heart from Cora's vault and later returns it to him. ("To Catch a Thief")

With help from the White Rabbit, Cora returns to the Enchanted Forest to make amends with Regina. After sharing her regrets about killing Daniel, she expresses a desire to help Regina find love again, especially after hearing a fairy located her soul mate, who bears a lion tattoo. Heading into a tavern, Cora gathers intel from the Sheriff of Nottingham about Regina's soulmate, and he states the man is not only a thief, but he is already married to another. Coming to believe the Sheriff would be a good candidate for her daughter, Cora gives him a fake lion tattoo and sets him up with Regina. Later that night, she returns to check up on Regina, who has already discovered the deception. Having learned from the Sheriff that Cora wanted her to have a child, Regina accuses her mother of trying to seize her power through an heir. To eliminate this possibility, she threatens to take a potion to become barren. Cora insists no good will come out of hurting herself, but Regina drinks it, believing it's worth the trouble if the result will hurt her mother instead. As Regina feels pain from the potion's effects, Cora admits she wanted her to have a child for her own sake. Before leaving, she advises Regina that the only one standing in the way of her own happiness is herself. ("Mother")

From Wonderland, Cora is summoned by her husband, Henry, who wants her to convince Regina to give up on revenge against Snow White. She declines because she believes, if anything, they should be helping Regina finish her off. Getting nowhere with Cora, Henry begins walking away, but Cora manifests in the nearby looking glass to stop him. Henry insists he doesn't need her help anymore, and that he's going to talk to Snow White. Once he is gone, Cora steps through the looking glass into Regina's bedroom, having gained the ability to return because Henry summoned her. Disguising herself as Henry, Cora arrives to talk with Snow White about ending the war against Regina. When the real Henry shows up, Snow White becomes distracted, allowing Cora to steal her heart. Ordering the girl to forget this ever happened, Cora then makes plans to deliver the heart in a box to Regina during her birthday party. In the hour before this, Henry returns the heart to Snow White and puts a Black Knight's heart in as a decoy. Unaware of this change, Cora presents the heart to Regina, who begins crushing it, as she watches through a mirror as Snow White suffers. Regina pulverizes the heart to ash, but when a Black Knight drops dead instead of Snow White, Cora realizes Henry switched it. After trapping her father in a box, Regina shows him to her mother, who is impressed by the feat. Despite her father meddling with her revenge, Regina tells her mother that he was right about Cora and how she wants to control her. Cora boasts that everything she does is for Regina, and she criticizes Regina's repeated failure in getting Snow White's heart. Regina, wanting none of Cora's "help", allows the Magic Mirror to begin pulling her mother back to Wonderland. As Cora struggles against the attack, Regina explains she cast a non-reversible spell on the looking glass, one that seals the portal forever. When Regina attests she'd rather be alone than with her mother, Cora steals the box containing Henry, taking him with her through the looking glass. ("Souls of the Departed")

With the help of a portal-jumper Jefferson, who uses a magic hat to travel between worlds, Regina comes to Wonderland to rescue her father. They retrieve Henry, but Regina forces Jefferson to stay behind, while she and her father return to the Enchanted Forest. After being captured by guards, Jefferson is brought before the audience of the Queen of Hearts. With her face completely obscured, she chooses to not speak to him directly, and instead, talks into a tube for the Knave of Hearts to communicate her messages. The Knave questions, on Cora's behalf, what he is doing in Wonderland. Jefferson refers to Regina as "the Queen", but Cora cuts him off with a stomp, angered at the term. Speaking again in place of Cora, Knave of Hearts asks Jefferson to not call that woman by such a name, because there is only one Queen in Wonderland. When questioned about how he came to Wonderland, Jefferson doesn't answer, and instead asks if it's possible for him to go home to his daughter after he tells them. Annoyed at his response, she orders for his head to be taken off. Only after losing his body, yet still being alive, Jefferson confesses that his hat brought him to Wonderland, but Regina took it away. On behalf of Cora, the Knave of Hearts commands him to make another portal hat so he can leave this world for his homeland. ("Hat Trick")

Cora meets another intruder garbed in pirate clothes who is brought to her for an interrogation. Once again, she does not show her face, hiding it with a mask, and uses the long tube to ask questions while the Knave of Hearts announces them for the pirate to answer. She wants to know why he is in Wonderland. He confirms to be looking for a woman by the name of Cora. Lowering her mask, Cora remarks that in this land, she goes by "Your Majesty", and then dismisses all her subjects so the two of them can be alone. After learning the pirate's name is Hook, she notices he has the corpse of a dead man with him. Based on the rules of the portal-jumping hat, he is obviously going to take someone else back. Hook moves to tear out her heart, but nothing happens. Cora scoffs at his failed attempt since the heart is not in her chest. She plunges her hand to grab hold of Hook's heart, threatening to pull it out, unless he tells her who sent him. As he gasps in pain, Hook admits the Evil Queen wants her dead. Momentarily, Cora is fazed by the news, but forces him to tell her everything. After he is done, she lets go and returns to sit upon her throne. Cora orders Hook to aid her in returning to the Enchanted Forest, but wants his full and willing cooperation as she can give him what he desires most—Rumplestiltskin's life. She informs him of the ramifications of her daughter's curse that will bring everyone to a new land, but everyone affected will lose their memories. Cora promises to allow Hook the opportunity to kill Rumplestiltskin and also keep his memories intact. Hook returns to the Enchanted Forest with Cora's body, leaving Anastasia to rule the entire realm. She feigns being dead; intending to get close enough to Regina to rip out her heart as payback for the attempted assassination. However, Cora has a change of heart when Regina sadly professes that there was no choice but to do away with her mother as she is one of her weaknesses. She recalls what Cora taught her, that love is weakness, and therefore, Regina wants to leave this emotion behind before going to the new land. She places a rose on Cora's chest and then leaves to cast the Dark Curse. Directly after, Cora recognizes her daughter still loves her, and instead she and Hook travel to an island as the curse is spreading. Once there, she casts a barrier to protect the inhabitants of the corner of the island, as well as themselves, from being affected by the curse. Cora informs Hook that they will both be frozen for the next twenty-eight years until the savior breaks the curse and frees them. When the time comes, she plans to go to Regina in her greatest moment of need. ("Queen of Hearts")

After First Curse

After Emma breaks the Dark Curse, Cora is held as a prisoner at a survivors' haven in a pit. Because she is the Evil Queen's mother, the survivors blame Cora for its casting and imprison her as punishment. Despite this, she secretly kills the haven's leader, Lancelot, and dons his mask from time to time. One of the haven's soldiers, Mulan, and a guest, Aurora, bring back two captives, Emma and Mary Margaret. Both are tossed into the pit while Mary Margaret is unconscious. Cora notices the newcomers and asks if they need help. Emma questions who she is, and Cora replies, stepping forward out of the shadows, "A friend". ("We Are Both")

Mary Margaret remains asleep as Cora reassures Emma that she will be fine. She admits to being Regina's mother and starts to ask about their home in another land just as Mary Margaret awakens to steer Emma away from conversing with her. Cora claims that she only wants to help while Emma wants to hear her out seeing as they have no other options to get back to Henry in Storybrooke. Perking up at the name, Cora asks about him as Emma lets it slip that Henry is her son, who she shares with Regina. Mary Margaret presses for Emma to not say another word to Cora when a rope is thrown down for the mother-daughter pair to come up and speak with Sir Lancelot. Cora, while disguised as him, learns they are searching for a portal to go home. "He" lends them his best soldier, Mulan, as a companion for their travels. Once the trio arrives at the old castle, Lancelot makes himself known to them. He admits to following them out of concern for their safety, but expresses a fixation on the magic wardrobe they plan on using to return home. Lancelot covers this up by stating he just wants Mary Margaret to get back safely to her husband and Henry, though no one in the Enchanted Forest has knowledge of this except Cora. Mary Margaret recognizes him as an impostor, to which Cora reveals herself and claims to have killed the real Lancelot, though that is a lie.[2] Cora uses magic to trap Emma and Mary Margaret while she makes clear her intentions to use the wardrobe to reunite with Regina and meet her grandson Henry. Suddenly, Emma sets the wardrobe on fire. Though Cora pulls it out and turns it into a fireball to throw at Emma, Mulan jumps in to block with her sword. It bounces off and burns the wardrobe to ash. Cora is forced to retreat in a puff of smoke, but materializes back into the room after everyone is gone to bottle the ashes of the wardrobe. ("Lady of the Lake")

Later, she meets up with Hook at the shoreline while he is observing the survivors' haven with a telescope. Cora shows him the ashes of the wardrobe, which can't bring them to another world, but will be useful as a start. ("The Crocodile")

Enchanting two of her bracelets, Cora ensures whoever wears them can climb up the beanstalk, which is where she and Hook intend to steal a compass from a giant. With the compass and the wardrobe ashes, a portal can be created to Storybrooke. Before Emma and her party return, Cora rips out the hearts of all the Safe Haven survivors. In the ruins of one hut, she stores the hearts in cabinet slots. Rather than wait for Cora, Hook decides to align himself with Emma's group as a means to let them get the compass and then snatch it for himself. Instead, Hook descends from the beanstalk long after Emma, who trapped him and left him with the compass. At ground level, Cora confronts him about taking her bracelets and climbing up the beanstalk without her. The pirate claims he intended to take the compass for the both of them. Noting his failure, she asks who had beaten him to it, to which he admits Emma did. Deciding Hook is no longer trustworthy, since he used the bracelets without her consultation, Cora severs ties with him. As he moves to attack her, she teleports back to the Safe Haven hut. Pulling out a heart, she blows on it as the cabinet slots open and the other hearts glow in sync. Cora, with the lone heart, walks out and commands all of the deceased survivors to rise and attack Emma and her allies. The reanimated dead manage to capture Aurora, who is imprisoned in the haven's cell, where Cora offers her stew. Aurora is wary of poison, but Cora assures that she is more valuable while alive since Emma and Mary Margaret will trade the compass for her. Hoping to gain Aurora's trust, Cora admits Prince Phillip's soul was sent to another realm, and if the princess helps her, she will reveal how he can be revived. Aurora indignantly rejects her proposal; leading Cora to magically throw her at a wall. While the girl is unconscious, Cora sends a raven to barter for the compass. Later on, she returns to the cell, discovering Hook let her prisoner escape, and prepares to kill him for it. However, all is forgiven when the pirate gifts her Aurora's heart, which he ripped out earlier. With it, the pair hear Aurora's party members speak of their next destination to find squid ink in Rumplestiltskin's old cell with the intention of paralyzing Cora with it. ("Tallahassee", "Into the Deep")

Cora entraps the foursome in the cell by using Aurora's heart to control her movements and seal them inside. She uses magic to snag the compass from Emma, and then thanks Aurora for the help, revealing the beating heart clutched within her hand. Cora then squeezes it as Aurora cries out in pain. Shortly after, she and Hook head out to Lake Nostos to begin making the trip to Storybrooke. Though the lake is completely dry, Cora generates an erupting geyser, which soon fills up the lake bed. She lets Hook do the honors of pouring the wardrobe ashes in. A portal swirls open as Cora holds out the compass in her palm; asking Hook to hold onto it with her when they jump or they won't end up in the correct world. Mary Margaret knocks the compass into the sand with an arrow as she, Emma, and Mulan begin a battle with the pair. While Mary Margaret tries to catch Cora with her arrows, Mulan parries the woman's magic with her blade. Cora vanishes in a puff of smoke after nearly getting hit, and the satchel carrying Aurora's heart is knocked off her person. Hook saves it from falling into the portal and tosses the satchel to Mulan, who leaves the battle early to return the heart to Aurora. Then, Hook is knocked out by Emma. In turn, Emma is flung aside by Cora as she stalks forward to remove Mary Margaret's heart. As she reaches in, Emma shoves Mary Margaret aside, causing Cora to reach into her chest instead. However, when Cora pulls, she can't rip out the heart, and is thrown back and knocked unconscious by a light emitting from Emma's chest. When she and Hook finally come to, Emma and Mary Margaret are long gone. Nonetheless, Hook still possesses the withered magic bean he stole from the giant earlier on. He restores it with the waters of Lake Nostos and creates another portal. Cora shrinks the giant down to human size and traps him aboard Hook's ship, which they use to sail through the portal into Storybrooke. ("Queen of Hearts")

Cora disembarks the Jolly Roger and stands on the dock with Hook. As they discuss his desire for vengeance against Rumplestiltskin, a fisherman begins admiring the ship. Quickly, Cora cloaks the vehicle with magic and turns the bewildered man into a fish. Sometime later, the pair observe Regina leaving the diner after a heated talk with Emma. Since she wishes for her daughter to be broken and vulnerable, Cora aims to turn the townspeople against Regina. To do this, she disguises herself as Regina, entering the office of her daughter's therapist, Dr. Archie Hopper, and seemingly kills him in front of the man's dog, Pongo. Instead of committing murder, however, Cora switches the real Dr. Hopper's body with another deceased person, who is magicked to be his doppelganger. Kidnapping Dr. Hopper aboard the ship, she later presents him as a gift for Hook for easy access to information about Storybrooke and Rumplestiltskin. ("The Cricket Game")

Soon, Regina goes into hiding since being accused of murdering Archie while Cora searches for her. To learn of her daughter's whereabouts, she approaches Mr. Gold, otherwise known to her as Rumplestiltskin, in his pawnshop. Cora offers him a magic globe for tracking down his son, asking for a truce, but also for his help to find Regina. Mr. Gold, despondent since Belle became amnesiac, asks Cora for a way to restore one's memories, but she only knows what he once taught her. After examining the globe, he agrees to the deal with Cora. As they shake hands, Cora seals the agreement by kissing him; much to Mr. Gold's shock. She explains that they should do things like they did in the old days; alluding to their past romance. Cora heads to Regina's house to sleuth for clues and discovers the room of her grandson, Henry. There, she finds a ceramic hand print painted in red with the words "For Mommy" on it. Assuming Henry's form, she goes to the vault holding her dead husband's tomb and goes downstairs calling out for Regina. Believing this is her son, Regina reveals her secret shelter to him and insists she did not kill Archie, which he surprisingly agrees with. Only then, Cora shows herself, admitting she planned Archie's fake death, and she apologizes for previously forcing Regina to marry King Leopold. Though she wishes to start afresh with her daughter, Regina is more interested in clearing her name in the townspeople's eyes. Cora agrees to help her do so, and Regina drives them into town. On the ride, she deliberately pulls out Henry's handmade ceramic, which causes Regina to stop the car as she breaks down at the mention of her son. Cora reasons that Regina's name being cleared won't give her Henry since she still has to deal with Emma and her parents. Furthermore, Cora proclaims she will help Regina gain Henry if it means repairing their own broken mother-daughter relationship. Convinced, a tearful Regina collapses in her mother's arms and asks how they can retrieve Henry. Grinning wickedly, Cora remarks that she has a few ideas. ("In the Name of the Brother")

At Regina's house, Cora has since changed into more modern clothes. Sitting on a bed with her daughter, she listens to Regina's concerns about Henry, who recently left Storybrooke with Emma and Mr. Gold. Cora reassures her that once Mr. Gold's business is finished, he and Emma will come back with Henry. Interrupting the tender moment, Hook inquiries if Mr. Gold is truly not in Storybrooke anymore, which means his nemesis is powerless without magic outside of town. After the two women confirm this, Hook eagerly wants to seize the chance to kill him, but Cora persuades the pirate into teaming up with them to find a special dagger for controlling Mr. Gold. Knowing Mr. Gold only trusts Belle, Regina retrieves a library book call number from the girl's purse. At the library, they search for the book indicated on the index card, but instead find a treasure map. Confident in his map reading skills, Hook outlines the area where the dagger is located. Despite his usefulness, Cora does not want the dagger falling into Hook's hands and she proceeds to magically fling him into a bookcase; knocking him out. Leaving with her daughter, Cora explains that once the dagger is theirs, they will force Mr. Gold to kill David, Emma and Mary Margaret so Regina will be blameless in Henry's eyes. ("Manhattan")

Arriving at the wooded destination on the map, Regina begins digging for the dagger while Cora suspiciously wonders if Mr. Gold provided them with a false lead. Reiterating their intended goal, Cora promises that once they get the dagger, she will make Mr. Gold do whatever Regina desires; even kill. Unknown to them, a startled Mary Margaret has overheard the conversation. Hoping to find the dagger before Cora and Regina, David and Mary Margaret are directed by Emma via a phone call that the weapon is hidden behind one of the hands of the clock face in the tower. However, after they successfully nab it, Cora and Regina manifest in purple smoke. Demand for the dagger is met with staunch refusal, so Cora summons a distraught Johanna and Regina rips her heart out. While Mary Margaret looks stunned, Cora asks for the dagger in exchange for Johanna's life. During the conversation, Mary Margaret finally realizes it was Cora, not the Blue Fairy, who advised her years ago to use a candle to save her mother, Eva, though the magic would cost someone else's life. Recalling that Mary Margaret could not go through with it, Cora suggests saving Johanna's life as she has so few ties to Eva anymore. Unable to see her friend in pain, Mary Margaret forfeits the dagger. Regina returns Johanna's heart, leaving the woman to run towards Mary Margaret, but before they can reunite, Cora flings her out the tower to her death. Vanishing in smoke, mother and daughter regroup at the mayoral office. Still recovering from learning a truth she did not know of, Regina confronts her mother about the events that led up to her becoming King Leopld's consort, but Cora believes the matter is irrelevant now. All Regina wants is to be with Henry; a wish Cora knows will be possible now that they possess the dagger. ("The Queen Is Dead")

Listening through a phone tap of a conversation between David and Mary Margaret, Cora and Regina learn Mr. Gold has been injured while in New York. Upon hearing Mary Margaret reference her as a "wicked woman", Cora angrily knocks the wire tap box off the desk. As Regina reassembles the fallen box, Cora notices Rumplestiltskin's name is disappearing from the dagger blade; indicating that Mr. Gold is actually dying. Out loud, she ponders how his powers will vaporize into the air if Mr. Gold, as the Dark One, is not stabbed by the dagger. She then decides to kill him herself and become the next Dark One. Shocked, Regina disagrees with the idea and wonders if her mother truly cares more about gaining power. Cora reassures that she needs power to protect their family; an answer Regina accepts. Preparing for attack, the two combine powers to break through Emma's protection spell on the pawnshop. Inside, David, Emma, Mary Margaret and Mr. Gold's son Neal wield weapons. As the battle goes on, an unnoticed Mary Margaret slips away to the vault to curse Cora's heart with the candle and restore Mr. Gold's life. Cora easily throws David out the door and knocks Emma aside, but she drops the dagger. In that instant, Emma grabs Regina into a choke-hold; forcing Cora to choose between the weapon or her daughter. As Cora summons the dagger into her hands, Emma pushes Regina into her mother. They smash into nearby glass cases; leaving Emma enough time to seal herself, Neal and Mr. Gold in the backroom with another spell. Cora moves to stop it, but suddenly, she senses something amiss with her heart and that someone is in the vault, so Regina goes to check. Left alone, Cora quickly breaks into the backroom, banishing Emma and Neal to a forested portion of Storybrooke, and then advances upon an expiring Mr. Gold. With little time left, he asks her if she ever truly loved him. Sitting down beside him, Cora strokes his face and fully admits her love for him was true, but he was her weakness, and the reason why she ripped out her own heart all those years ago. After this confession, she re-assumes a cold exterior, rising to stand, and raises the dagger before him. Before she can give him the killing blow, Regina, previously persuaded by Mary Margaret that her mother cannot truly love without a heart, rushes in to return it into Cora's chest. Momentarily stunned at the return of her own heart, Cora drops the dagger. For a moment, she smiles lovingly at Regina, who smiles back. Abruptly, Gold's wound manifests onto Cora's chest and she collapses as Regina rushes to her side. Seconds before dying, Cora mutters that Regina would have been enough, and then passes away in her daughter's arms. Horrified, a grief-stricken Regina berates a now healthy Mr. Gold for stealing her mother's life, but he claims it was not his doing. Before Regina can process his words, a panicked Mary Margaret bursts in, shouting for Regina not to place the heart in Cora's chest, but her warning comes too late. With rage, Regina recognizes Mary Margaret is responsible for Cora's death. ("The Miller's Daughter")

During Second Curse
In a seance, Cora is summoned from the land of the dead by David, Emma, Hook, Mary Margaret and Regina. They hope to ask for an explanation of the true circumstances of Zelena's abandonment, but Cora refuses to show herself. Assuming the attempt failed, everyone but Mary Margaret and Regina leave the house. Only then, the spirit of a youthful Cora crosses realms to confront her killer—Mary Margaret. When Regina demands answers from her mother, Cora temporarily possesses Mary Margaret's body to allow the woman to see her past. Shortly after, Cora is forced out by Regina and sent back to the land of the dead. ("Bleeding Through")

After Third Curse

Stuck in the Underworld because of her unfinished business, Cora assumes a seat at the mayor's office. After Regina comes to find Hook, Cora agrees, on Hades' behalf, to persuade her daughter into returning home, for an unnamed price. Blacktooth, an associate of Cora's, brings Regina to the mayor's office, where mother and daughter reunite. Cora mentions her unfinished business is ensure Regina's happiness, and to ensure this, she insists Regina must go home, because helping her friends save Hook will be her downfall. As further persuasion, Cora shows her what will happen if she doesn't leave. She magically pulls Blacktooth into a fiery abyss, damning him to a worse fate, and she warns Regina to take the boat, or her father Henry will suffer the same end. Cora later brings Henry to the cave, prepared to send him into the abyss, when Regina and her Henry arrive to stop her. Regina refuses to turn her back on her loved ones, like her father, but Cora advises that even if it seems like the right choice, life doesn't always work out that way. Again, Cora pushes Regina to leave, and she argues that her unfinished business can end if Regina listens to her. When Regina continues to defy her, Cora begs her not to force her hand, but Regina refuses to relent, so Cora draws Henry into a ring of flames. Before teleporting away, Cora reasons that someday Regina will understand why she did this. Henry, instead of falling into the abyss, ascends to Mount Olympus, after his unfinished business with Regina ends. Shortly after this, Cora travels to the library's lower floor to visit Hades. Despite her failed mission, she asks to be given what she was promised, something that has to do with Regina. Hades criticizes her for caring so much about Regina, yet she treated her other daughter so poorly, all for the sake of shedding her peasant roots and becoming royalty. As punishment for her failure, Hades reverts Cora to her role as a miller's daughter, damned to spend all of eternity delivering mill flour bags. ("Souls of the Departed")

After being forced to vacate her position as mayor of Underbrooke, she passes the job to Cruella. ("Devil's Due")

In addition to endlessly stacking mill flour day after day, Cora is unable to use magic, after having her wrist clasped with an enchanted cuff. During one day, she finds Killian's hook on a bale of mill wheat, using it to tear away the cuff. She quickly takes out the guards with magic and flees through the tunnel, where she runs into Hook, who helps her escape. Reunited with her mother, Regina apologizes for not coming for her sooner, though Cora reassures her that she can take care of herself. Cora learns Hades has plans of going to Storybrooke, and to ensure the remaining heroes can't stop him, he's put all their names, including Regina's, on tombstones. Though it's not possible for Hades to leave the Underworld permanently, Regina insists he can, if a kiss of true love from Zelena restarts his heart. In a plan with Regina to erase Hades from Zelena's mind, Cora shows up at Zelena's home to reconcile with her, while Regina sneaks in from the back. Cora believes Zelena has real feelings for Hades, but in truth, she's trying to fill the hole of being abandoned at birth. Zelena receives the answers to what she's always wondered, in which Cora admits she regrets abandoning her and apologizes to her. Afterwards, Cora gets a glass of water for her, that Regina put the potion in. Zelena figures out what Cora and Regina are up to, and when she picks a fight with Regina, Cora restores the sisters' lost memories of each other. Cora expresses remorse towards her daughters for not believing in love because she thought any kind of love was weakness. She praises Regina for being stronger than she ever was, and that she earned that strength from her loved ones. To Zelena, Cora shares her regrets about not being there for her, and she encourages her not to make the same mistakes as her. After helping her daughters reconcile, Cora says goodbye to them, asking that they hold onto each other. Cora steps up to the cavern's cliff, where a swirl of fire sprays up to surround her, which melts away as a ray of light opens up in front of her, beckoning her to Mount Olympus. She looks back at her daughters, smiling at them happily, before walking into the light. ("Sisters")

Magical Abilities

  • Blood Magic - Use of one's own or another's blood for various and more advanced spells that can only be broken by someone of the same bloodline.
  • Protection Spells - Ability to cast a magical seal that can only be broken by someone of the same bloodline.
  • Potioncraft - Ability to create liquid substances for various purposes by combining a set of ingredients.
  • Protection Spells - Ability to magically protect a location, an item or a person through various ways.
  • Heart-ripping - Ability to rip someone's heart out in order to control/kill them, among other purposes.
  • Shapeshifting - Ability to alter the appearance of oneself or others.
  • Telekinesis - Ability to control the movement of the environment.
  • Teleportation - Ability to magically teleport oneself and/or others from one location to another.
  • Transformation - Ability to magically transform an object into a different one.


Unknown mother
The miller
Robin Hood
Kelly West
Evil Queen
Regina Mills
King Leopold
Robin Hood
Henry Mills
Jacinda Vidrio


  • Solid lines denote parent-child blood relationships
  • Dashed lines denote marriages, adoptions and relationships that result in offspring
  • denotes the deceased
  • The name of Cora's mother is not known
  • Cora and Jonathan were never married
  • Zelena and Robin Hood were never married
  • Henry Mills is the adoptive son of Regina Mills



Character Notes

  • Before Rumplestiltskin was imprisoned, he fought Cora and won. It is implied that she came close to winning. ("Into the Deep")
  • The origin of Cora's catchphrase, "Love is weakness" actually comes from King Xavier who once advised Cora to pursue power instead of love and set her on the path of power at all cost. ("The Miller's Daughter")

Production Notes

  • The casting call describes her as "late 40s to early 60s, the Evil Queen's elegant yet manipulative and imposing mother. She gives truth to saying like mother, like daughter, and we realize that this is the woman who taught Regina her dark ways."[6]
    • The casting call also described the role as a "Large guest star with a 3 ep arc next season", however, Cora's story arc for Season Two ended up lasting for fifteen episodes, not three.
  • Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz revealed in the podcast for "Queen of Hearts" that it was actually Barbara Hershey who voiced the Queen of Hearts in the episode "Hat Trick", in which Jennifer Koenig portrayed the character.[7] This is also confirmed in the Blu-ray/DVD Audio Commentary for "Queen of Hearts".


Popular Culture

Set Dressing

Prop Notes

Costume Notes


  • In "It's Not Easy Being Green", in the mirror scene where Cora abandons her child, after she puts her daughter down, she immediately walks out of there and goes. However, this scene is not matched with the one in "Bleeding Through", where after Cora puts her daughter down, first she tells her about why she's leaving her and slowly walks out of there which makes it impossible to do that all in a couple of seconds.


Note: "Archive" denotes archive footage.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 File:209AfterYouKilledDaniel.png (in the Enchanted Forest, her casket is engraved "Cora Mills" in the Evil Queen's vault)
    TwitterLogo.svg @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (October 8, 2012). "Their last name is Mills, and Cora didn't start out as royalty."
  2. Abrams, Natalie (October 16, 2015). The Hot Seat: 'Once Upon a Time' bosses answer your burning questions. Entertainment Weekly. “Did Cora (Barbara Hershey) lie about killing Lancelot (Sinqua Walls)? KITSIS: Yes.”
  3. Once Upon a Time - Behind the Magic, London: Titan Books, October 2013, p. 165
  4. File:318SpecialTea.png
  5. Surname MILLS. Behind the Name. Retrieved on August 25, 2020.
  6. Once Upon a Time - Episode 1.18 - Stable Boy - Casting Call. SpoilerTV (January 26, 2012). “[CORA] Late 40s to Early 60s, the Evil Queen's elegant yet manipulative and imposing mother. She gives truth to saying like mother, like daughter, and we realize that this is the woman who taught Regina her dark ways. Large guest star with a 3 ep arc next season.”
  7. The Official ABC Once Upon a Time Podcast: "Queen of Hearts". ABC (2012). (At 04:04)
  8. File:209InThisLand.png
  9. Jane Espenson on the Season Two Blu-Ray exclusive Audio Commentary for "The Miller's Daughter"
  10. File:104ShoeOff.png
  11. File:310BedTime.png
  12. File:202LookWhatI.png
  13. FlickrIconTemplate.png Lawrence Andreutti. P1100918 (October 15, 2012).  (archive copy)
  14. File:209ThisNewLand.png
  15. File:405TrustMe.png
  16. File:318MenLaughing.png
  17. File:213Today.png
  18. File:118ILoveHim.png
  19. 19.0 19.1 File:202Uncertain.png
  20. Silver Grey Gardens Petal Necklace By Alexis Bittar. Polyvore. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016.
  21. File:203AshesGlow.png
  22. File:204ItsAStart.png
  23. File:208AllWeNeed.png
  24. File:209TheLake.png
  25. File:212Master.png
  26. File:209EverySingleMoment.png
  27. File:216FifthInLine.png
  28. File:414WeddingDress.png
  29. File:709YouAreAmazing.png
  30. File:W111ColdFeet.png
  31. File:519HidingCora.png