Cora Mills, 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 is portrayed by Barbara Hershey, and her younger self is portrayed by Rose McGowan.
Cora's gallery is here.
A poor miller's daughter, Cora makes an honest living of bringing flour to her kingdom's castle, instead of her drunk and lazy father. However, she is treated badly by the aristocrats, one of the visiting princesses trips her over, causing her to drop all the bags of flour which burst. However, Cora is forced to apologise for getting flour on Princess Eva's slippers. One night, she sneaks into the royal masquerade ball, but is caught by the king. However, when told to leave, Cora boasts that she has the ability to spin straw into gold, a talent she does not actually possess. The king locks her in a room and tells her that if she can spin all the straw in the room to gold, she can have the prince's hand in marriage. But if Cora fails, she will die. However, she is visited by a strange man named Rumplestiltskin. He proves to her that he can spin straw into gold, and offers to do the work for her in exchange for her first-born child. However, Cora explains that she doesn't just want him to do it, she wants him to teach her. Rumplestiltskin does this, and the next morning, Cora spins straw into gold in front of the kingdom. Amazed, the king stands by his word and Cora is engaged to Prince Henry. However, Cora is having an affair with Rumplestiltskin and the two plan to run away together and have another child, so the deal is changed so that Cora will only owe Rumplestiltskin his child. That night, Cora plans on ripping the king's heart out, but he gives her a lecture on how love is weakness, and power overrules every aspect. Instead, Cora rips out her own heart so she can stop loving Rumplestiltskin, saying that any child she has won't be his.
Henry and Cora have a child who they call Regina, because one day she will be queen. However, they somehow land themselves in poverty. Over time, Cora grows more cold and merciless as she becomes adept at magic and doesn't put her heart back in her body, instead hiding it away somewhere. Regina grows up with a passion for horse-riding, but Cora dismisses this and wants Regina to marry someone wealthy and powerful. Unknown to Cora, Regina is in a secret relationship with the stable boy, Daniel. One day, a young girl named Snow White is riding her horse nearby, when Cora bewitches her horse and makes it run through the fields at a fast pace. Regina saves her, then realises that Snow White is the daughter of King Leopold, who asks for her hand in marriage. With no choice in the matter, Regina is engaged to Leopold. She plans on running away with Daniel instead, but Cora finds out and slaughters Daniel, ripping his heart out and crushing it to dust. While Regina breaks down into tears, Cora tells her that love is weakness. Regina later finds out that Snow White told Cora about the relationship after seeing Regina and Daniel together one night, and vows revenge against Snow White for ruining her chance at love. After stealing Cora's spellbook, Regina summons Rumplestiltskin, who gives her a looking-glass. The next morning, the day of the wedding between Regina and Leopold, Regina pushes Cora through the looking-glass, banishing Cora to Wonderland, where Cora becomes the Queen of Hearts until she returns to cast a protection spell over a part of the Enchanted Forest when the Dark Curse hits.
It is revealed that Cora is responsible for the scar on Jefferson's neck, having ordered his execution in Wonderland. Jefferson is decapitated, but then his head is reattached to his body and in return he must find a way to create a magic hat, which is how he becomes the Mad Hatter. Cora was also behind the entirety of Regina's revenge against Snow White, due to Snow telling Cora about Regina and Daniel.
When Snow and her daughter, Emma return to the Enchanted Forest after the Dark Curse is broken, they meet Cora, who initally presents herself as an ally but it is later discovered that Cora wants to find a way to Storybrooke to reunite with Regina. Although Snow and Emma manage to use the portal at Lake Nostos, Cora and Hook manage to travel to Storybrooke using a magic bean. Cora plans on killing Rumplestiltskin and becoming the new Dark One, but this time Snow is intent on fighting back after she discovers that Cora was the one who poisoned Snow's mother and after Cora murders Snow's old maid, Johanna. Using a cursed candle, Snow curses Cora's disembodied heart before manipulating Regina into putting the heart back inside Cora. Just as Cora is about to kill Rumplestiltskin, Regina does this. Cora instantly becomes a lot happier and kinder, but moments later, she collapses to the floor. While Regina holds Cora in her arms, Cora tells Regina that she would have been enough, before passing away. After Cora's death, Regina goes through her mother's things.
Season 3Regina and everyone else eventually discovers that Cora and an unknown man had a daughter before Regina, but Cora abandoned her as a baby. This baby eventually ended up in Oz, where she grew up to be Zelena. After Zelena steals Regina's heart, Regina, Hook and the Charmings use the cursed candle to contact Cora. Although at first it does not work, after Emma, Hook and David leave, Regina and Snow are confronted with Cora's ghost, who has crossed over from the afterlife and has taken the appearance of her younger self. Cora possesses Snow, sharing her memories with her and revealing that after a man named Jonathon tricked Cora into thinking he was a prince, she became pregnant with his child. Cora then met Prince Leopold and nearly married him, but Snow's mother Eva found out and told Leopold, causing him to call the marriage off and have Cora removed from the palace, in which Eva marries Leopold instead. Regina manages to remove Cora's ghost from Snow's body, and banishes her back to the Underworld. Snow still has Cora's memories, and reveals them to Regina.
Zelena compares Regina's willingness to use The Author's magic to write Zelena out of existence to Cora.
In Camelot, Regina uses a magic dreamcatcher to experience the memories of Cora crushing Daniel's heart, so that Regina can produce a tear caused by lost love to free Merlin from the tree. Regina eventually reunites with Cora while searching for Hook in the Underworld. Cora is glad to see her, but disapproves of her being in the Underworld and insists that she leaves, threatening Henry Sr. When Cora fails to persuade Regina, she goes and sees Hades, who she had been taking orders from. Hades punishes Cora by turning her into a peasant, although Hook later frees her from her punishment. However, after Cora finally visits Zelena, things turn awry once Regina arrives until Cora returns childhood memories to both her daughters that reveal Zelena and Regina knew each other as children until Cora tore them apart and used magic to wipe their memories of one another. Having brought them together, Cora says one final goodbye to her daughters before going to Olympus.
Cora abandoned Regina as a child, and presumably kept Zelena instead.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Cora is invited to the Red King's wedding and meets his fiancee, Anastasia, and tells her that she and the Red King have never seen eye to eye on anything. She offers to teach Anastasia magic, and says that Anastasia would be Cora's ideal daughter compared to Regina who is a disappointment to her, but Anastasia declines. Later that night, Cora overhears Anastasia talking to Will Scarlet and discovers that he wants Anastasia to meet her at their old wagon. The next morning, Cora shows up instead. She tells Will that she is a friend of Anastasia's, and tells Will that people come into other peoples' lives for different reasons, and says that Will took Anastasia to Wonderland where she realized that she was meant to be a queen, but now it is time for Will to move on. However, Will says he cannot move on as he is, and asks Cora to rip his heart out. Cora warns him of the consequences, but Will decides that this is what he wants, and so Cora rips his heart out and keeps it.
Anastasia is getting ready to meet Will at the wagon when Cora tells Anastasia that she is making a mistake and enchants a mirror to show the wagon, but Will is not there. Cora tells a heartbroken Anastasia that Will wanted to humiliate her. Anastasia wants Cora to teach her magic and how to be a real queen. After Anastasia marries the Red King, Cora teaches her how to control fire by making Anastasia focus all her emotions and all of those feelings that she is flawed or unworthy to power her magic. Anastasia succeeds, and although Anastasia is at first worried that the Red King will find out about her magical abilities, it is implied that Cora eventually manages to murder the Red King. Since Cora had obtained Will's heart, Will becomes her Knave, controlled by Cora. She sends him and some other soldiers, to find a girl named Alice. Alice succeeds in obtaining the White Rabbit from Cora's royal guards, which is the proof she needs. Alice had also collected Will's heart and returns it to him.
The Queen of Hearts is a formidable sorceress with a variety of magical skills she learned from Rumplestiltskin.
- Heart-Ripping: Cora's most iconic ability is to rip out peoples' hearts to either kill them or control them.
- Glamour: Aside from ripping out hearts, Cora is well-known for disguising herself as other people.
- Blood Magic: Cora uses blood magic to protect things of value to her, such as her magic wand.
- Elemental Control: She can conjure and control fire and wind, as well as control plants, stone and water.
- Telekinesis: Cora can move objects - and people - without touching them, relying solely on magic.
- Transformation: This ability is demonstrated when Cora turns a fisherman into a fish.
- Teleportation: Cora can teleport herself and/or other people or objects elsewhere.
- Zelena Mills (older daughter)
- Robin (granddaughter; via Zelena)
- Regina Mills (daughter)
- Snow White (step granddaughter)
- Henry Mills (adoptive grandson; via Regina)
- Ella "Cinderella" Mills (grandaughter-in-law; via Henry)
- Lucy Mills (great-grandaughter-in-law; via Henry and Cinderella)
- Rumplestiltskin (ex-lover)
- Jonathan (ex-fiancé)
- Leopold White (ex-fiancé / son-in-law)
- Henry Mills Sr. (husband)
- The Miller (father)
- Xavier (father-in-law)
- Robin of Locksley (Robin's father)
- Cora is based on the miller's daughter in the fairytale Rumplestiltskin and the Queen of Hearts from the story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
- It is unknown how she ascended to power in Wonderland, but her name presumably came from her iconic ability to rip out peoples' hearts and crush them into dust.
- The hedge maze surrounding her vault in Wonderland is alive and consumes anyone who touches it.
Behind the Scenes
- Cora is the main antagonist of Season 2. She is the first antagonist that is related to the main characters, the first antagonist to work alongside another antagonist, and the first main antagonist to die.
- S1, E17: "Hat Trick" (flashback)
- S1, E18: "The Stable Boy" (flashback)
- S2, E02: "We Are Both"
- S2, E03: "Lady of the Lake"
- S2, E04: "The Crocodile"
- S2, E05: "The Doctor" (flashback)
- S2, E08: "Into the Deep"
- S2, E09: "Queen of Hearts"
- S2, E10: "The Cricket Game"
- S2, E12: "In the Name of the Brother"
- S2, E14: "Manhattan"
- S2, E15: "The Queen is Dead"
- S2, E16: "The Miller's Daughter"
- S2, E17: "Welcome to Storybrooke" (photograph)
- S3, E16: "It's Not Easy Being Green" (flashback)
- S3, E18: "Bleeding Through" (ghost)
- S4, E20: "Mother" (flashback)
- S5, E05: "Dreamcatcher" (flashback)
- S5, E12: "Souls of the Departed"
- S5, E16: "Our Decay" (flashback)
- S5, E19: "Sisters"
- S7, E22: "Leaving Storybrooke" (flashback)
- W, E11: "Heart of the Matter"
- Bk 2: "Shadow Of The Queen"
- Bk 3: "Out Of The Past" - Ghosts
- Bk 5: "Regina Rising"