Leaving his apartment, John made his way down the Queen’s Corridor toward Mum’s office, passing through swaths of June sunlight and under portraits of his ancestors—monarchs who’d walked where he now trod. Literally and figuratively, mind you.
He paused under the twenty-foot painting of King Louis V—the royal Blue who inspired the famous—or was it infamous?—marriage writ by which all crown heirs of the House of Blue were bound.
You see, Louis enjoyed his bachelor life and found no need for a wife and child. He preferred his independence, his friendships, his dalliances, his sports, and books. No pleading with him to settle down, marry, and produce an heir came to fruition. So his father, King Louis IV, gave way to drastic measures and manufactured a way to march his son down the aisle.
John always suspected he gleaned his idea from the Family fairy tale, The Swan’s Feather.
And so, it was decreed that if Crown Prince Louis desired to take his place as future king—thus taking the oath of office via the investiture ceremony—then he must marry.
However—and there’s always a however—if he chose to carry on as a freewheeling bachelor, there would be no oath, no crown, no throne, no kingdom. He’d risk the monarchy and a constitutional crisis. And no Blue royal had ever risked either.
Marriage also, ole Louis IV claimed, ensured the posterity of the House of Blue throne. One of the oldest in Europe, fought for and won by the sweat and blood of their Blue ancestors and the men and women of the kingdom, the Family and legacy must continue.
This was all fine and dandy for the nineteenth century, but John lived in the twenty-first, for crying out loud. The writ was archaic and oppressive. As far as he was concerned, the time had arrived to nullify the old ways and methods and live in the new.
Some traditions were worthy of a modern nod, and others were not. Include the writ in the latter.
Besides, he’d found love. Once. He’d fulfilled his duty. Should he be punished because it was so cruelly taken away?
Surely the old writ didn’t apply to him now. Though he’d not yet taken his sworn oath to serve and protect the people of Lauchtenland and be their king. Ah, it was a conundrum.
Meanwhile, as he mulled over the past and present in the red-carpeted hallway, the queen waited. He must get on.
Down the way, John greeted her secretary, Mason, who escorted him into her office.
“What’s Hamish Fickle’s scheme? Do you know?” Mum stood in front of the telly, sipping a cup of tea. “Ever since he was elected to parliament, he’s a regular on the talk shows. You’d think he’d prefer to be a presenter instead of an MP.”
John glanced at the large screen suspended above the fireplace. When Mum wasn’t watching, she’d press a button and the telly would disappear magically into the ceiling.
“What’s he going on about?” Hamish sat on the set of LTV-1’s new mid-morning hit, Tuppence Corbyn & Friends.
“Your investiture and the plight of the Midlands clothing business.”
“What?” John fixed a cup of tea and stirred in a drop of cream. “Turn it up.”
Mum aimed the remote and Hamish Fickle’s voice boomed into the room.
“One can’t help but wonder why the crown prince hasn’t taken his oath. Why hasn’t the queen changed the writ? It’s insane to expect a modern man to marry on demand. Is he unfit in some way? Has his wife’s death taken the gusto from him?”
Tuppence, with her long dark hair and vivid blue eyes, gasped. “I think the prince is just fine. He’s recovering. He was devastated when Princess Holland died.”
“Of course, but he’s more than an ordinary man,” Hamish said, smiling as if he were choosing a word or number on a game show. “He lives not only for himself but for us. Should, and God forbid, anything happen to the queen and our crown prince has not sworn his oath, we could face political disaster.”
“Goodness, you sound like a conspiracy theorist, Hamish.”
The man chuckled and leaned toward his host. What a fraud. “I’m saying our monarchy, our very constitution and government, exists through the crown. Should misfortune happen to our beloved sovereign”—he lifted his palm as if to prevent any dastardly scheme from the gods—“and the crown prince has not been invested as our next king, we would literally be without a government, thus ensuring panic and chaos.”
This bit of news appeared to rattle Tuppence, who flipped through her blue notecards, stammering, trying to move on. “Um, well, goodness, we, we… Clothes. Yes, we wanted to talk about the, the…the new clothing…manufacturer that has come into the Midlands. Hamish, as an MP, what do you think of our lovely boutique garment district? Will this large international company destroy our small businesses?”
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