Previously, a ghostly rebellion.
Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria’s face was serene, and at peace. She sat in her very large queen chair, her throne if you will. She sat in the Queen’s Audience Chamber in one of her many long black mourning dresses with their white lace, her white hair done up in a large bun the way she liked. Across her lap lay the edge of a large fabric the size of the Bayeux. It was one the queen had been knitting since the first anniversary of her husband Albert’s death. It contained many scenes from his life.
At the center of the fabric was a portrait of a handsome vigorous Albert. Scenes from his life circled that portrait, scenes of Albert hunting, Albert teaching, Albert riding, Albert freeing slaves, Albert advising his queen and his wife in manners of state, Albert being as handsome as Albert could be. The section she was working on this day was Prince Albert and the Great Exhibition of 1851. Just looking at her soul mate, though only a portrait and not the real thing, still gave her goosebumplings.
The look on Her Majesty’s face was one of reliving those days some thirty-odd years earlier. Of late, she had been working very hard to finish the fabric that had required most of her life since. She wanted it completed before her death, and she had come to realize she did not have that many more years to spare.
The queen looked up at the door of her Audience Chamber. The Prime Minster stood waiting for her to recognize his presence.
“Prime Minister, why do you disturb us in our time of respite? We thought we were quite clear. We do not wish to see the Prime Minister again. You can confer with our Personal Adjutant if you desire to convey a matter to Her Majesty.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I understand. But your Personal Adjutant thought this should be a matter for Her Majesty’s ears. I have news of the gravest of matters. It is a matter that only Your Majesty can address. No one else.” The Prime Minister was making every effort to salve the queen’s ego and hoping his strategy worked.
“Dear Bertie is dead, and you have news. What news can be more disturbing than the death of our beloved husband?”
“None, Your Majesty, none. The thing is that I have good news and bad news.”
“Good news? Yes, we could use some good news. Autumn is always in need of good news. What is your good news, Prime Minister.”
“Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe is alive.”
“That is not what The Times has reported. And you must know that The Times never reports anything falsely. If The Times reports it, it is not fake news. It must be true.”
“I agree,” the Prime Minister said. “May I approach Your Majesty’s Person and relay the full details?”
“Well, if you must, you must,” the queen said impatiently. This was nothing new. She was always impatient with prime ministers. They were the bane of her existence, the sore tooth she never seemed able to pull. All but one that is. His name was Benjamin Disraeli. The worst of the bunch had been Gladstone.
This Argyle Mactavish was no better or worse than the rest of the lot. So, she supposed she could be patient. But he had better hurry. She had more important things to do, like knitting. And oh, she must do some gardening and possibly some riding. Yes, riding with the memory of John Brown at her side was always an enjoyable experience for the elderly queen, none more enjoyable. “But please do not push my patience. I have the work of state to do as you must know.” Her head pointed toward the fabric on her lap.
The Prime Minister stepped over to her side, careful not to step on the large fabric spread out on the floor in front of her person.
“I too thought the news of her ladyship was wrong. That I was being given hopeful news that would later turn into nothing but a rumor. But I have an eyewitness. One in our service in Spain.”
“What does Spain and those Spaniards have to do with Lady Marye Caterina?” Her Majesty wanted to know. Her curiosity was beginning to arise. She had started to listen to the Prime Minister’s news. She continued her knitting but her knitting had slowed to a snail’s pace.
The Prime Minister took a position, sitting down on the carpet beside his queen’s chair. “Your Majesty, it seems that when the S. S. Twit went down, her ladyship somehow escaped. Our investigations have revealed that she is a very good swimmer. A very good swimmer indeed. She was able to swim to the coast of Spain, just south of Barcelona. Evidently, she wandered into the district of Sant Monjuic. There she was taken in by a priest. She is resting comfortably in a convent. But my understanding is that she has amnesia, Your Majesty.”
“Amnesia?” The queen’s interest was indeed perked up. “Is she in good health? We do hope she is in good health.”
“She is. But, Your Majesty, her life is in great danger. From two sources.”
“No, Prime Minister, tell me it isn’t so. The death of Little Nell and now this. I don’t think my heart can take it.”
“But it is, Your Majesty. I am afraid it is. The church and the convent she is staying at is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League. There are those in our government who want to take her out. Otherwise she will become a bargaining chip for that dastardly piece of barbarism that the League is.”
“Can you save her ladyship. Oh, I do hope so.”
“We do have a plan.”
“Oh, goody two shoes.”
“There is a second problem,” the Prime Minister continued. “It is The Times. Even if we save her, The Times will deny her existence and try to make her disappear. They cannot allow their reputation to be burnished that way. They have infiltrated my government at every level and are out to destroy any effort I might make to save her ladyship. And Lords is back at its old tricks, trying to take her title and her lands should she return. Of course, when it comes to Lords, there is hope.”
“Hope, Prime Minister?” Her Majesty asked. What hope could there be? For years, the queen had allowed Lords to run the show. Until now, they had never asserted their power over the queen’s desire. The queen had sent down messages to the Lords that she was interested in the welfare of Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe. American-born or not, her ladyship was still one of her subjects. And she, the queen, was the Mother of All Her People. How dare Lords challenge her prerogative. They would regret this.
“Westminster is surrounded by the Gathering of Ghosts. The lords of Lords can neither leave nor enter. They are trapped, and they don’t have a quorum to do their business. All sorts of mischief has broken out down there. The ghosts throughout the realm have gathered in favor of her ladyship. But you know how stubborn Lords can be. Ghosts or no ghosts, they will not give in easily.”
“So, what do you intend to do?”
“I need your help, Your Majesty.”
“How can a weak old woman such as ourself help?” Her Imperial Highness desired to know.
“You can dissolve Commons and call for new elections.”
“But it isn’t done, Prime Minister. You know that. The House of Commons would be wailing about interference from the throne. You know yourself that Commons is very protective of its prerogatives.”
“I do indeed, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister interjected. “I do indeed. But, when Your Majesty acts in concert with my government, it will not be thought of as interference. It will be thought of as support against the overthrow of Commons by the Lords. Lords plans to install its own government with Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants at its head. Thank God, I have Sir Myles at my side. Lords thought they had him in the palm of their hands. After all, he comes from one of the oldest families in the realm. But he is a very independent thinker. Nothing could gladden him more than the defeat of this plan of Lords.”
“Why does Sir Myles support you, Prime Minister?” the queen wanted to know.
“He finds all this conspiracy against her ladyship distasteful. As you know, he has an American wife, the former EmmiliaLouise Muddytenstein-in-the-Alps. And he is allied with a number of aristocracy with foreign wives. If Lords pulls this off, that will be the end of aristocratic marriages to wealth. No wealthy American worth her salt will marry an English aristocrat without access to his title. Sir Myles will be supporting the new elections.”
“I certainly don’t understand why Lords has gone down this suicidal path,” the queen commented.
“It does seem like suicide, Your Majesty. That is for sure. But they are doing it in the name of Tradition. They don’t want to see the country sold off to foreigners.”
“I see, Prime Minister. I do see. Yes, you have our support. I will have the Lord Chamberlain draw up the papers immediately.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister said.
“No, Prime Minister,” the queen said. “Thank you.”
Then Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, Queen Victoria did something extraordinary. She stood up. She never stood up for a prime minister. With one exception, of course. That exception being Benjamin Disraeli whom she loved as she loved one of her children. The queen stood up for Argyle Mactavish. She gave him her hand to kiss. He kissed it and rose at her insistence.
“Now, Your Majesty, I must return to Number 10. I have some firings that are in order.” He bowed and backed out of the Audience Chamber.
Next Week, the Prime Minister does his thing.