Once Upon a Time
Danielle's story begins with the sentence, "Once upon a time there lived a young girl who loved her father very much." I think it's a perfect opening, as it can be argued the core of Danielle's personality is a result of her relationship with her father, Auguste. I certainly think so.
Danielle's father was her only parent, something extremely important for her story. Ever After is a Cinderella story, and a huge part of Cinderella is the relationship between Cinderella and her wicked stepmother. The relationship between Danielle and her stepmother is huge in the film, but for that to have existed, Danielle's mother would have had to not been around.
It's not said how Danielle's mother died, or when, but Danielle never knew her mother. She even said she wished she knew what her mother looked like, and that Rodmilla was the only mother she ever knew. That leads me to think her mother either died when she was very young, or perhaps while giving birth to Danielle.
Danielle was the most important thing in Auguste's life. When he brought Rodmilla, his new wife, and her daughters Marguerite and Jacqueline home to meet Danielle, Rodmilla said Danielle's father spoke of nothing else. I could see the pride in his eyes as he held his little girl even though she was covered in mud. Marguerite and Jacqueline were elegant and perfect, yet it was obvious Auguste preferred Danielle despite her tomboyish faults.
As her only parent, her father was huge in Danielle's life as well. He travelled for work, and when he returned home, he brought her books that he'd read to her at night. Danielle said he read her all kinds of books, from science to philosophy. He is the reason she loved the written word. The last book he brought her was Utopia by Thomas More. The book obviously interested him, as he brought it home and shared it with his daughter, and I think her father believed in a utopian society and wanted to share that view with his daughter. The servants in his home really respected Auguste, and he treated them like friends, like family, and not like slaves. He raised Danielle to do the same, and the servants in her home really were like family to her. They even shared traditions with the family like waving her father off at the gate when he left for trips.
When Danielle was just eight, her father died of a stroke while leaving for a business trip. He fell off his horse, and Danielle and Rodmilla ran to him. While dying, he looked at Rodmilla and then Danielle. He said, "I love you," to his daughter, his world, before he drew his last breath.
Danielle was made an orphan. Left in the care of her new stepmother and stepsisters, Danielle became a servant in her own home.