Monday, October 15, 2012



My son William has not ruled for very long, and I intend to ensure he stays in power. I know this is not an easy task, and it is not one from which I can remove my attention for an instant.

I never trusted myself to hide a diary perfectly, but I find myself forced to keep one for the first time in many years- there is so much going on in my life, I need some way to record it all and clear the burden from my mind. I shall have to conceal it as best I can, and leave traps for searchers. It will have to do.

Just last week someone poisoned William's nurse. I hardly have time to spend with him these says, though I make a point of putting him to bed every night. The old nurse liked me very much. Her assistant is watching the baby for now, with the help of a few guardsmen’s wives, but I'll have to find a new head nurse soon. So hard to find successors for a job so suddenly vacant. And an even harder search is coming in the future- I must remember to start the process of selecting a food tester well before he is weaned.

It is not easy to juggle my responsibilities- I prioritize daily. One, more important items; two, the less so; and three, the ones that despite being less important I must pretend they are more, simply to keep everyone from frothing at the mouth in indignation over all sorts of pointless things.

The most important example of a type three going on right now is the memorial. My husband's statue must be properly mounted with all pomp and splendor, and I do need him to be settled in proper dignity- a solid foundation of the old is important to build upon for the new.  I don't want William to ever have a reason to think there wasn't truth behind the public image of the royal wedded couple's perfect harmony.

Yes, all that symbolism rests on one little statue. I am aware of the value of such things from having the message drilled in my head all day by a succession of harpies foully dripping gowns and jewels. Who I shall not name even here, because each of them would descend on me if I offended them, claws unretracted.

It doesn't seem worth the trouble. Such women were born to be court fixtures, but I fancy if they were peasants without the accessories of wealth, perhaps they would be the babbling warty hedge-witch in the side garden, brewing turnip teas to pass around for a few tidbits of juicy information and whispering them to the village gossip.

Such thoughts are diverting, when I am stressed. But today there are more urgent matters to deal with than a gaggle of foolish court ladies and a solid, immovable statue who cannot help me anymore. There is a ream of stacked paper awaiting my careful review, a stamp here, a signature there, and always, I must keep my eyes open for clues to my enemies' intentions and threats.

Yes, enemies and threats, that is all I spend my time on these days. I want to do the right thing for the crown's subjects, and yet it is so hard to keep my focus on anything other than maintaining a balance within court politics, so it is within no one's best interest to grab the throne, not directly at least.

I play them off each other, letting them become their own worst enemies- they won't move against my son when they are afraid it will give more advantage to someone other than themselves. And the moment I slip up and let the plank tilt one way or another- I shudder to think of it- I must turn back to my desk instead.

The first paper that I have to deal with is not particularly intriguing- the Duke of Huntington has registered a private complaint against Lord Taineyson. Those two are even bitterer as enemies because they were once friends. He accuses him, let's see, of "gross abuses of his position" and hints that he possesses evidence for everything from embezzlement to tax evasion to fathering illegitimate children with maidservants on his estate in the North.

Dear me. Such scandal. I won't do anything about this one just yet- I expect a letter from Taineyson in the next few days accusing Huntington of similar crimes. There's nothing like old friendships.

Next up, a report from a minor baron in the South. A few of the peasants arrested for contemplating insurgency, arms stockpile confiscated and peasants executed in my name, how kind of him to inform me post-facto. He says he's quelled it, and if only I could trust my late husband's minister of information to tell me the whole truth about anything, I'd ask him to investigate the area and find out what actually happened.

Note to self- must work on proving trustworthiness in spies lower in the chain of command and forming them into my own network. I'll set Taney on it.

Taney, my right hand- I don't know what I'd do without him. I don't trust him with everything I'm thinking or doing, that would be dangerous for us both. In public I pretend to dislike him. His personality is perhaps grating but I do trust him. I've known him since childhood. And thus I also know his flaws, such as a desire for power but not the spotlight, so I make sure to offer him enough of the kind of hidden influence he craves that he will continue to serve me.

And I know he is loyal, fiercely so in his own gruff, coarse way. I needed a man like him to stand behind my regent's throne and carry out certain orders, especially those that truly need to be kept a secret, and those that require toughness instead of delicacy.

For delicacy and diplomacy, I mainly rely on two earls at the moment--the droopy-eyed Earl of Aimesbury for matters domestic. And well-traveled sophisticate, the Earl of Lotharigny for keeping an eye on the international.

My own lady's maid Aleidis takes care of the lighter issues that arise, such as palace gossip, when not helping me with my personal affairs. She is the only one I allow in my rooms when I am not there. I've helped her out of a scrape a time or two, and I believe she likes me and feels grateful to me. Of course, I know a few secrets about her too, which I've let her know I'm willing to use against her if necessary, just to make sure there are no weak links among my personal servants.

Unfortunately, there are very few others I dare rely on in any significant way, as they are all too likely to twist my instructions around to harm me and raise their own prospects for power, in a way I can hardly afford. I may be leaning on these few too hard, but I have so little choice. Even if I do not trust their ultimate intentions or true feelings towards me, at least they have shown me a willingness to do what I ask. That may just be a strategy in itself to gain my trust, of course. Oh, but my head does go in circles sometimes. But I will not let it get me down, as I have duties to perform.

I focus again on the papers before me. My immediate goal is to expand this circle of reliable agents, so I look for signs that someone else has decided that my interests are truly theirs. First, though, more executions for various criminals I need to stamp off with the royal seal- I do it quickly and turn to the tax reports. I need to choose the best of the palace accountants to look for any inconsistencies and hope they are honest, although their jobs are unlikely to change regardless of who sits on the throne, so perhaps they are disinterested.

My George was far too soft a king, though I could never admit it to anyone aloud. He let the nobles get away with whatever they chose. I do not intend to let them off paying their taxes on time, no matter what pitiful excuses they give. The winters aren't that harsh, not as harsh as they claim. They aren't letting their peasants off the hook, they're keeping more for themselves, and my late husband refused to see it. When my William is grown, I shall have a full treasury and a biddable aristocracy to hand over to him. It will take much work.

I probably shouldn't write about it even in my private diary. But I just don't understand why George chose Alex over me. I'm obviously the best one to care for William- everyone remarks about how passionately I love and protect him. Truly, it is not an act, although it does work out well for my interests to create the impression of a doting mother. But I do love my little William- since the first day he looked up at me with his big eyes in his tiny face, I knew I loved someone for the first time, and he will be entirely mine.

But Alex! What did he have to recommend him? A scholar, a bookkeeper, forever spouting about his foolish ideas of reform and freeing the peasantry. Why, it's obvious that could never work- for such a scholar, he was remarkably ignorant about what people are like in the real world. Peasants are all very well, but it would take generations to develop them and civilize them to the point where they could be trusted with that level of freedom and responsibility. I am not an old-fashioned thinker at all- I don't believe they are incapable of it, but is it not obvious that they need to be gradually cultivated for a long time or we shall all suffer under the chaos that sudden reforms would unleash? Why would George have ever selected him as a successor? Even though it is unusual to choose a woman, I was his wife, and I was obviously the better choice!

Truly, I could not stand by and allow my country to be inflicted with the revolutionary misery and damage like our southern neighbors have suffered. I am the only one who could do it- my husband harbored a weak spot for Alex's ideas, I know he did, though he had never admitted it publicly. I don't think it was just his love for his brother- I think the Eliseni family had simply developed a sort of family weakness- the rulers were getting softer and softer over the generations. The entire country is simply lucky he married me.

I had to do something- I do not feel guilty for anything I did. Alex would have been a dreadful king- for the short time he would have lasted before he let the country go to the dogs. Now there is no chance he shall ever rule, or do anything to harm our country. And I shall raise William the right way. Everyone admires what a wonderful mother I am, and he is a good little child, as much as one can tell these things at such a young age.

There are reports on my desk from more than one direction of many peasant groups in the countryside gathering and plotting various little plots. I think there are those in the army that can be trusted to squelch them without much harshness- that only makes them angrier. It is like little children- one must show them a firm hand. But kind- I shall be a kind queen- I mean to say, a regent queen.

They are knocking on the door, calling my name.  How odd, usually it is only Aleidis who knocks, and only in an emergency. But there are many voices. "Highness", and "Queen Camila," such shouting.

Oh! God! I just remembered forgot to lock my desk drawer where I keep George's real will- I knew I should have burned it. But no one would dare invade my safe, and I have the only key, so no one would ever think of trying it. Or perhaps the butler saw something in the wine cellar, and they dug and found the bones?  No one could have told-- Taney is good at keeping things quiet. And he would never tell- he’d get himself in worse trouble than he’d get me.

No, no, I hear more of what they are saying, now- they are just arguing over what exactly I had ordered for the memorial ceremony. “The Queen said a red carpet!” “What do you think you are, knowing more of her highness’s orders that I do?” So pleasant to hear one’s orders being obeyed. But a moment ago, oh how my stomach jumped to my throat.

Oh god. I cannot live with this suspense. I must be strong. For all the years until William is grown. For his sake, my precious royal child. They cannot have discovered anything conclusive that points to me. And everyone at court tells me how good, how kind I am, how beloved. Nothing can happen to me now.

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