The Queen had sunk still further into death’s downy duvet. Her breathing had become slow and laboured and her eyes seemed to fail.
Queen Harriet Eloise Pascal Amelia Grace Emerald Eve was dying. She lay panting in her huge bed surrounded by her maids-in-waiting, who fanned her and sprayed lilac water into the air to keep her cool. The doctor, Lord Surgeon attended to the Queen’s medical needs while the rest of the court stood around the bed watching nervously. The Queen was a very petit lady, and the birth of her first child was always going to be a difficult delivery. Sadly, the birth had been more difficult than expected. The child, a healthy boy, had been taken from his mother’s arms, and placed in a large gilded cot in the adjacent nursery, while Lord Surgeon attended to her health and wellbeing with all his skill.
“Fetch me my child,” panted the failing Queen, who was clearly not destined long for this earth. Immediately the King motioned to Lord Butler to fetch the boy, and Lord Butler strode purposefully off into the nursery.
Lord Butler entered into the nursery, and a look of mixed anger and concern crossed his features. Upon the pristine white carpet of the nursery, Lord Butler observed grubby sooty footprints, leading away from the ornate marble mantelpiece to the cot where the infant prince lay. It was as if someone had taken the child from the cot, and walked over to the fireplace and back. There was also a grubby sooty smear on the babies pure white linen covers, as if a grubby sooty hand had pulled them aside for a moment and then replaced them, but no baby prince lay in the cot. Surprisingly Lord Butler neither looked concerned nor raised any alarm. Instead, Lord Butler looked around and when certain that he was not being observed as the rest of the court, who were currently with the Queen; he rubbed the sooty marks from the carpet with his delicate blue satin silver buckled shoe, thus erasing any evidence of the ingress and exit of the sooty intruder. He then opened the bottom draw of a large dresser and there quite remarkably lay an infant child sleeping comfortably. Had you been present at the time and had you exceptionally acute hearing, you might have heard Lord Butler muttering angrily under his breath a mixture of oaths and curses not normally expressed in the presence of young children or ladies. Never the less, with his customary grace and elegance, Lord Butler retrieved the young and as yet unnamed prince and deported him into the next room, to the unfortunate majesty Queen Harriet Eloise Pascal Amelia Grace Emerald Eve, his dying mother.
Distracted as he had been by his light housekeeping duties, Lord Butler Almost arrived too late to unite mother and child for one last time. The Queen had sunk still further into death’s downy duvet. Her breathing had become slow and laboured and her eyes seemed to fail. Yet when her majesty observed the return of her only and immediate offspring, she seemed to re-gather her strength and rally for a few final moments.
“Bring him to me,” she requested (and a queen’s request is almost always granted). Lord Butler handed the child to Lord Surgeon, who handed him to Lord Chambers, who handed him to Lord Beau, who handed him to Lady Stocking, who handed him to Lady Childs, who handed him to the Queen, or more precisely laid him on the bed next to her as the Queen was too weak to hold the child. The Queen looked at young prince with an expression of mixed love and dismay.
“How big he is,” declared the Queen, and indeed the young royal did look exceptionally large for a new born child, although of course royalty is exceptional in many ways. “What shall become of him, the poor unfortunate orphan, all alone in the wide wicked world” Technically the prince would not be poor quite wealthy in fact, nor technically with his father still alive would he be an orphan, but no one felt the need to correct the Queen’s error at this point of time. That would be both unnecessary and unwise.
“Now my dear,” interjected the King, quite forgetting the proper term for address in the emotional intensity of the moment, which by the way should have been your highness, but was perhaps excusable in the circumstances. “My dear,” he continued “the prince shall have me to look after him and all the court in attendance. He shall want for nothing.”
The Queen looked over at the King with tired fading eyes, filled with genuine affection. “Yes your Majesty is quite correct,” she agreed, after all one must always agree with a king. “But he shall have no mother to love him the poor moppet.” (Moppet is the correct term by which a Queen may refer to a prince familiarly, poppet is the term used when a Queen is addressing a princess in a familiar way). “He shall want for nothing except a mother’s love.”
“Nonsense Your Grace,” declared the King, “he shall have love in abundance,”
“As you Say Your Majesty,” agreed the Queen, and promptly expired.