A room in Windsor Castle, October 1900

Queen Victoria was in a snit; which is to say, she was quite put out; which is to say, she was royally pissed. It was more than the usual back-room (and front-room) rancor of the Royal Attendants and even her son regarding the status of her beloved Munshi. No, it was trying to come to terms with the complex family relationships, not only here in Britain, but with the Royal and Nobles Houses of most of Europe. It didn’t help that she was already 81.

“Oh, fiddlesticks! How in the world did it come to this?” the Queen despaired. “Somebody looking at the family tree would think this is the bloody Hapsburg Dynasty, what with all of the cross-marrying going on. Perish forbid that anybody even tries to explain this! To think that my grand-daughter Alix is married to that jackanapes Czar, of all people. And then there is that pompous ass, Wilhelm. Not that my son, Bertie, is a prize. Maybe I should have left Prince Albert in his can to begin with. "

The Queen pulled on a long, green sash suspended from the ceiling. In a moment, the double-doors of her private study opened to reveal one of her attendants. “Oh, Smithereens, have my Secretary come in. Thank you.” After a few minutes her son, Bertie (Albert Edward), grudgingly entered the room, hunched over, and sat down at the writing table positioned against the wall. He took up a pen, dipped it in ink, and looked at the Queen. “Okay, Bertie, we have a lot of correspondence to send out today. I hope you took the opportunity to get your tinkle-winkle business done already. It might be a long day stuck at that desk!” Edward Albert’s face reddened. “Okay, Mum, I’m 58 years old. I think I’ve got my bladder under control. You’re just still pissed about that Irish tart, aren’t you! Well, Papa died from typhoid, Mum, not apoplexy. IT WAS NOT BECAUSE OF ME, OKAY?! AND IT WAS ALMOST 40 YEARS AGO!

Queen Victoria looked down on him with a mixture of horror and scorn. She shook herself and stood for a minute. Then she continued, “Very well, let’s get to business...

a telegram to the Italian Foreign Minister: ‘Signore, in response to your inquiry, We are not amused. In fact, We are rarely amused. It could be constipation, of course. Otherwise, what you said makes sense, and we may accept your offer. Arrivederci, V.’
“Got that, Edward? Next, a cable to Wilhelm…yes, HIM. ‘Liebschen Wilhelm, so nice to hear from you, as always. Next time, it would be more amusing if you actually had something to say.’ Sign it with my usual official signature, along with all of the honors and titles. Wilhelm likes titles and fancy uniforms. Did you know, Edward, that he and Nicholas once wore fancified uniforms from each other’s military service as a lark? You know, I don’t think they’d be in charge of their countries if they didn’t get to wear their uniforms and make the armies march around for them. Just like boys playing soldiers in the back yard! What’s that, Edward? YOU like wearing uniforms, too? Remind me to order a cap pistol for your birthday, Edward. Yes…you can wear your summer uniform, too

Now, let’s not forget Mssr President Loubet, who is vacationing in Brest. Start a new cable: ‘Dear Émile. Did so enjoy our last visit…10 years ago. The entire staff still speaks of you. Of course, I don’t allow that kind of language in front of the grand children. Seriously, though, it is difficult to conduct diplomatic affairs with your mistress. I’m afraid you just need to get back to work and handle your country’s affairs. I don’t mean your personal affairs, Émile! Now, be un bon garçon and send me those plans! Au revoir, Queenie V.’

Well, wasn’t that a long cable. Hold it until 10 PM when the rates go down, dear boy. Now, here is a stack of additional letters. I need you to proofread them, make fair copies, and then mail them. In the mean time, I will be at lunch.” Poor Albert Edward knew it was going to be a long, torturous day. Indeed!


The Queen is dead. Long Live the King! Bertie now reigns as Edward VII. “About damned time, too”, he thought to himself, but careful to keep his thoughts (and dancing) private. Victoria was still very popular and it would not do to be caught disparaging his mother, who happened to have been the Queen. Edward had given the Royal Boot to that Sikh charlatan she spent so much time with. It just felt good.

Edward popped out of his reverie and looked up to see Nickelbutt, his Secretary of State, standing beside him. “Nickelbutt, it is the 20th century now, and time for a new approach to world affairs. It isn’t just about kings and queens shoving insults and armies against each other any more.

So, how is my new Foreign Minister doing? I hope he is not out trumpeting that old ‘The sun never sets on the British Empire’ hogwash to our friends and hopeful allies. It’s all well and good as a private credo, but parading it around in public just pisses everybody else off. Including me! You know, my wife suggested a more friendly motto: ‘The British Empire is everywhere, ready to assist you’. What do you think, Nickelbutt? Doesn’t it sound less threatening, more warm and cuddly?