Friday, July 5, 2013
Sample: Queen Victoria Passes Quietly
Here's another sample of historical fiction writing by Edwin Hanks. I'll get to the science-fiction soon. This is primarily a dramatization of a historical event, character and emotion added. What I found most poignant about this is the bond of family between these several great figures of state who had their own countries to run, and widely varied interests.
Later that evening, Victoria took a turn for the worse. Her closest family were assembled, including the Kaiser and Bertie, the Prince of Wales. They both knealt there, the Prince her Son on the Queen’s right, and Willy, the Emperor and Grandson, on her left. Alexandra, Princess of Wales, stood nearby, or sometimes sat. She, the Danish expatriate, had placed her animosity toward anything Prussian aside for the time being, but still seemed unhappy for reasons unconnected to her mother-in-law’s ailment.
Other than the Queen, whose majesty was unfairly diminished by her condition, the gravity of the room tended toward the Kaiser, whose strength of character and utter devotion to his Grandmother stood out from the rest.
Victoria made a gesture to her ladyservant – an unspoken language driven by long intimacy. She said aloud that she would help the Queen sit up, who then nodded, approvingly. The Kaiser helped hold her up in bed as she rose.
Victoria took a few ragged breaths, and seemed somewhat relieved, but then became suddenly anxious. Her hand worked, as if to say that she wanted someone to hold her – a certain connection to this world.
Willy grasped her cold hand firmly, and enclosed it as if to lend his warmth. The Queen’s breathing eased. But she still seemed vaguely uncomfortable.
“Allow me, Grandmama,” Willy said as he reached for a plumped pillow and placed it behind her.
Victoria settled back onto the cushion, and seemed glad for it. “I… Some air,” she rasped, with what seemed the last of her own.
“Of course,” Willy said. Bertie seemed as if to start awake when the Kaiser turned from his place and proceeded toward the window. Alexandra creased her brow, wondering what he was up to.
Sir Thomas Barlow panicked and forestalled the Kaiser by rushing toward the window, gently gesturing the Kaiser away. “Please, Your Majesty. Allow me to raise it for you.”
Willy seemed taken aback, and he blinked. He chuckled, good naturedly. “I am perfectly capable of opening a window myself,” he said. “But thank you, my kind sir.” At that, he returned to his chair beside the Queen while Sir Thomas wrestled with the aged window to admit a measured portion of the cool evening breeze. It seemed to improve her temperament, and her strength seemed to rally a bit.
“Willy, Dear,” Queen Victoria said very softly, tipping her head a bit toward his. “Your Mother?”
He smiled a touching, but bittersweet smile. “She is doing slightly better, Grandmother.” The Dowager Empress Viktoria, Willy’s mother and Victoria’s daughter, had been suffering from a cancer of the spine. She, too, was dying. “She has begun taking drives around the city, and into the country again, and it lifts her spirits. She sends you her love.”
Victoria smiled weakly, and nodded her head almost imperceptibly. Wilhelm leant back, again, watching her, caressing her hand, waiting to meet any further needs she might have.
Late on the evening of the 23rd of January, 1901, Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India and all the Realms of the Empire, quietly passed away, bringing to a close the era which quite naturally bears her name.
Her funeral was scheduled a few days later. The Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II rode side by side with the Prince of Wales behind the Queen’s casket.
* It should be noted that a great deal of the story here recounted is actual history, including the behavior of the Kaiser, as recorded by those who were present when the Queen died. I am grateful for The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes, edited by Elizabeth Longford, for many of the verbatim quotes and accounts. I did try to remain as close to the actual history as possible, though surely in the interpretation I have strayed somewhat.