The Red Queen

A letter from the desk of Her Majesty to a dear old friend in Romania.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II                                                                                                   Buckingham Palace                                                                                                                 London                                                                                                                                         United Kingdom                                                                                                                           SW1A 1AA                                                                                                                                         12th June 2013

To My Dearest V.,

You cannot know the depth of my surprise and joy when I opened your letter. I had thought you gone for good, but I have never been more happy to be proved wrong. I know we did not part on the best of terms and, although the tone of your letter conveyed all too well your understandable confusion and anger, I do hope that we can put our little altercation on the docks behind us that you can learn to look upon it as I have these past years – as a lovers’ quarrel, best forgotten. I know too that you had your heart set on England and in particular on London with its ‘teeming millions’, where I now find myself safely ensconced, and perhaps you wonder whether you yourself might sit where I do now, upon this throne with a crown on my head, but please do not dwell on ‘what might have been’, my darling. Perhaps you think me ambitious, or even that I have betrayed you, but please understand that nothing could be further from the truth and though I said many hurtful and cruel things during our ‘spat’ (as I think of it now), the simple truth is that I was motivated solely by compassion. Not just for you – for, despite your stated goals, I knew England would be the death of one so strong and wilful as you – but also for the Englishman who was your guest a few months prior. I was near nauseous with regret for the beastly way that the girls and I treated him, and I wished first and foremost to make amends. Had I known at the time he was convalescing in Budapest, things may have been different.

But this is the past, my dear. You have been gone for so long and, as your letter intimated so forcefully, I am certain you are filled with burning curiosity about the world you have awoken into. Much has changed, and I fear I am the cause of a great deal of it. So let me relate to you, in as much detail as this limited space will allow, what befell me after we parted ways in Varna. First, the journey aboard the Demeter was not a pleasant one. The crew was quite a barbarous mob, as I find is the way with Russians (especially sailors &c.) and there were many occasions where it became necessary for me to restore order through force of will alone. Once the brutes were cowed it was agreeable enough and the voyage itself was fair except for a squall that beset us off the north-east coast of England. For a time, it seemed we might be about to run aground in some remote town, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed and with the crew now acting calmly under my direction, we rode out the tempest and landed in Newcastle without further incident. Having now reached England, I set about tracking down the gentleman I felt I had wronged, as well as attempting to establish myself in my new homeland. It was after making a few discreet inquiries that I found he was still in Hungary and, cursing my ill-fortune, I instead resolved to meet with his relatives, the better to ingratiate myself and receive him upon his return. This was how I met his charming fiancée, a young woman named Mina. Naturally, she and I became fast friends, and she introduced me into her ‘set’ as it was known in those days. Amongst these fashionable debutantes, who spent much of their time in London, where I now based myself in the very property you had attempted to procure – the grand house next to the lunatic asylum, if you recall. One of Mina’s friends was a particularly beautiful creature by the name of Lucy who, on the very day I arrived, was proposed to by three suitors. Such an amusing farce, as you can imagine! These young gentlemen – a physician, a brash American and the son of a wealthy lord – all feigned to be fast friends, united by their love for the simpering belle, although of course in the time we spent together there was a terrible seething undercurrent of jealousy and they came to blows on more than one occasion! (Needless to say, my love, the girl chose the lordling over the others!).

Well, I shall not dwell on these individuals for too long. I only mention them here as they were my constant companions in my early days in London, despite the attempts by a cantankerous Dutchman (the mentor of the jilted physician who had courted darling Lucy, no less) to warn the group as to my ‘true nature’. How we laughed at the doddering old fool! (Once these children were under my sway of course!) It was thanks to the connexions I forged with these ladies and gentlemen that I was able to work my way into the social circles that would eventually elevate me to my lofty position. The lord’s heir – who would soon become Lord Godalming himself – introduced me to the Prince of Wales, my darling Eddie. Of course he was already married by then to some bore named Alexandra, but it was a simple matter for me to join their ‘set’ and then dispose of her. It was fortunate that rumours had already begun to spread amongst the English aristocracy of a weakness in the blood of the Royal Family and, knowing so little as they did even of their own physiology, it was quite easy to convince them the dear princess had contracted some manner of contagion and for me to ‘do away’ with her. With Eddie weeping over his lost love, I had only to plant the suggestion of a more (if I may say so!) interesting match in the ears of his advisors and, in a short time, we were wed in the full regal panoply of this celebrant nation!

You can imagine, my dearest V., how things proceeded thereafter. Eddie was doomed from the beginning, succumbing to the same ‘disease’ as his bride, but by then I was well-established as Queen of England and her dominions. The people of this realm loved me, and I in turn learned to rely upon them. I picked a husband more suitable for my purposes, a strange fellow I found who had a mind far too weak to resist me. He looks rather dashing in his formal dress when a comb is run through his hair, even if he has developed a rather strange habit of eating vermin in recent years. Life as Queen has been most agreeable, and England has prospered under me. I have no shortage of fawning courtiers to satisfy my appetites and in return I have been this nation’s shield and its sword. You will no doubt have heard already about the troubles that have plagued this past tumultuous century. The incident in Sarajevo that threatened to plunge the entire continent into war, and that repulsive little Austrian who caused so much bother. Thankfully I was able to dispose of him without shedding too much blood (except his own!). On the whole, it has been a peaceful time for the world under my stewardship.

This is not to say there have not been changes during your exile! Much will seem strange to you, dear V., but you must be patient. I know my fussing secretaries will think me quite the luddite, committing this missive to paper with a pen, when such marvelous means of communication are now possible. I confess I do not understand it all, but I am learning quickly! And so will you, for this is the advantage that we have over them, my darling. Here in London they have ceased to question my long life. I am simply a constant for the people of England, and the world beyond these verdant shores, and they would fight to the death anyone who threatened to depose me I am certain. So, in taking your place on that ship, in fact I have paved the way for all that you once desired: London, your long-awaited prize, is now ready for you, my love. I would have you come here and take your rightful place as my consort. My husband grows very old now, and I cannot prolong his life for much longer. Would you not make a fine lord of England? Not a King, no, for that would not do, but perhaps a Duke? I might appoint you a city of your own within my kingdom – do you know of Edinburgh? A fine old city with a climate that I think would suit you. It is not so different from home there. I think the people of England would accept a Balkan consort for their Queen too, in time.

There are times when I wonder how things might have transpired had your boarded the Demeter as you planned and I had stayed behind in the castle with the girls. Would you have dominated in this land as easily as I have? Maybe so, but in a different manner I fancy. I think that, when your anger subsides, you will understand that this way is better though. Come to London, dearest V., as soon as you are able.

Yours, for eternity,

Elizabeth B.

PS. Since you left no forwarding address, I have entrusted this to the Romanian Embassy. I am certain they will be able to track you down. You always were a fierce presence in our homeland!

PPS. Forgive the bloodstains! I was bathing as I wrote this!


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