Editor’s Note: Unlike my fellow senior editor’s, my team took this with great seriousness and a mindset of being “in it to win it” if you will. For all the Queen Elizabeth and the Crown fans out there… this one’s for you.
When I was nine years old, I was given a castle.
To really explain the story fully, we have to go back to a night in April years before either of us entered this world.
My father, a former member of the British Parliament, had just had a falling-out with the Queen of England. Tension hung in the air that night, as impenetrable and pervasive as the ubiquitous London fog that my mother, Cecily, had come to hate. For my father, being a “yes man” simply did not work, and thus they often found themselves in many a precarious position. Dad had once been quite an esteemed man before his “exceptionally witty joke” about the Queen — which she had apparently considered a “hideously abhorrent farce”. Since then, my dad had been given many threats, and the one he received on this particular night caused him to wander aimlessly out the door with a dazed countenance, barely noticing the gloom of the fog.
From the highest window of their towering estate, my mother watched him depart, a slumped figure in the clinging mist. Neither of them had any grasp of just how significantly their lives were about to change. My father disappeared that lonely night, never to be heard from again, and my mother, forced into poverty, worked on the palace staff; that is, until the Duke of Winchester came along and offered her a gift (Borland). While working in the palace, the Duke of Winchester noticed my mother who was pregnant and tired; so he offered her a room in the palace and a home once the baby was born. Of course, my mother was overjoyed at the exceptional benevolence of the Duke; however, the Queen herself still had objections, the main one being that a little girl might be disruptive of the Palace’s regality. She was quite right to expand that fear when I grew into a very uncooperative, wild little four-year-old, that is to say, if you call drumming on furniture, sliding on the slick, wooden floors, and singing at the top of your lungs to hear the echo contrary. Our kind benefactor the Duke availed all of the Queens fears, promising that I would grow in maturity with some work and time. As the years went on, the Duke took me under his wing and as he became the father I never had, I became the daughter he had always wished for.
Yet, the reputation of my father always followed me wherever I went. More fortunate children of reputable nobles would chase me around the Palace gardens, chanting, “Your father is dead! Your father is dead! Your family’s reputation is ruined!” I never believed them. Eventually, however, the incessant teasing began to vex me, and I did as any devoted daughter would — I fled to the Duke and sobbed out that I hated it here and couldn’t he take me far away, someplace where there weren’t any spoiled, stuck-up children; I must admit that I do not recall all of the terms I applied to my peers, but assuredly I laid on insulting description with an unsparing eight-year-old hand. The Duke, always calm, explained that to run away from our problems never solves them and that I should instead, build a new legacy for my family, making my father proud.
This idea perplexed for some time, for I did not know what I could accomplish that would raise my name above my critical playfellows. So, too young to realize what norms this violated, I went to the queen. “Dearest Queen,” I said, not knowing how to address her, “Would you be so kind as to give me something to accomplish that would remove the stain off my family’s reputation?”
The Queen looked up slowly from her desk where she sat writing and chuckled, partly admiring but also partly annoyed at my audacity. Seeing her expression, however, I knew she would never acquiesce, so I began to take a darker tact. I took a deep breath and drew my secret weapon from my pocket; an old, crumpled letter bearing the royal seal. For a brief moment, the Queen’s eyes flashed with surprise, before regaining her composure. She spoke quietly, “So, you are Arthur’s true heir?”. “Yes,” I replied, even though I had never read the letter before. Walking around the large mahogany desk, I peeped over the queen’s shoulder and read the letter. It traced my family’s lineage to King Arthur, the legendary hero of Britain!
As if making sure, the queen traced the family tree with her finger, her red ruby nail running along the direct lines from me to King Arthur, ruler of Camelot. “In that case, I have no recourse but to give you your proper inheritance.”
Now, you must remember that even if I had just sprung a trick on the Queen herself, I was only nine years old, and I knew very little concerning affairs of state. “Oooh! Do I get to be Queen now?”
“Hahahahaha…” The Queen’s chuckle waned off into a peculiar smile as she cautiously folded the brown document. “How did this document come into your hands, Evelyn? You see, your father too claimed King Arthur was his ancestor, and as you well know that got him into trouble at court.”
Shyly, but less timidly, I told her of the time I had discovered the paper in my father’s wastebasket in his office when I had come in to comfort him about his demotion from Parliament. The Queen appeared to ponder on what she had heard and after a few moments, a warm smile filled her face. She continued to explain how she had always admired my father’s boldness and determination and that back when he originally claimed his royal lineage– she had been one of the few to believe him. Despite her support of my father, many members of parliament had it out for him and that foggy night before my birth when he shared his witty joke was the last straw for them (apparently the Queen herself had found the joke itself quite amusing contrary to popular opinion).
“I spent many years wishing more could be done for you and your mother but thought it best to hide in the shadows as to not draw you to the attention of the men who were against your father,” the Queen explained, “but none of this matters now because you have the letter!”
Together the Queen and I brought the letter to all necessary members of the government. We cleared my father’s name and then I received my due inheritance– the castle at the edge of the forest. The Duke and the Queen only reigned for another ten years, but in that time they became family. We spent days and days exploring the country and they sacrificed hours of their time to teach me the ways of the royal family and educate me on my lineage and my place in England.
It’s been years since both of them passed, but I often wander around the castle reflecting on our time together. I will forever be thankful for the kindness and teaching of my Duke and Queen and only hope that I can someday return all of the love and support they gave to me.
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