“It’s too soon, Maurice! I’m not ready.” King Julien stood before the Royal Council in their Chamber, a horseshoe shaped room located at the base of the central building of Schloss Rubintal. Central heat had been added and the room remodeled decades ago, but the air was still cool and reeked of medieval tradition. Paneling dark with age graced the walls, echoed in the padded wooden benches that surrounded the carved wooden throne on three sides. The space between council and throne was small, on purpose. It kept the Crown close to the Council, and prevented the Council from growing any larger. The King was pacing the small space for all it was worth.
“Tell me, Sire — do you love her?” Maurice was the Royal Confidant, official interlocutor between the King and the Council. A position of power, to be sure, but definitely neither King nor Chief Councilor.
“Yes! No! I don’t know! It … it just doesn’t feel right.”
“But Sire, it’s been nearly three years. Little Genevieve has been without a mother long enough. This kingdom has been without a queen long enough. And as much as she needs a mother, and we need a queen, you need a wife even more.”
“I know, Maurice, I know. But I still mourn Rose. I think about her constantly.”
“And what of Lady Regan? You’ve been courting her for more than a year now. Surely you know her well enough to make up your mind.”
It had been a wonderful year, a glorious year, fit for song. After her initial brief visit they were next together for a month in the summer, yachting through the Greek Isles. Then again in autumn she came to the Kingdom to celebrate Oktoberfest and Genevieve’s second birthday. New Year’s found them back in New York for a week, then back in the Kingdom in February solely so Regan could experience what winter was like. It was now the beginning of another summer, and Regan was expected in the Kingdom once again, this time without any outside travel planned. Julien was eagerly awaiting her arrival.
“Yes, I do, and when I marry again she will be my choice to be my bride. I believe she loves me much as I love her, and she is excellent with Jenny, and yet … when I see the two of them together I only miss Rose even more. Much as I love Regan, how can she replace Rose?”
“And yet you’ve slept with Regan.” A statement that only the Royal Confidant could safely make.
“I know! At times it feels like a betrayal, yet other times I think it’s what Rose would want me to do — to get on with my life. I think I’m ready to go on living, and then Jenny does something, says something that reminds me of Rose, and that feeling of betrayal strikes once again!” King Julien’s head hung in shame, shame at his weakness, and showing that before these people, the true rulers of his kingdom.
“Sire,” interjected another Councilor, “while we feel sympathy for your situation, and mourn the loss of Queen Rosalinda along with you, we must put the needs of the kingdom ahead of all that. The constitution clearly states that you must marry, and soon. And while there is no longer a requirement for a male heir, if something should happen to Princess Genevieve the succession would be at issue, as would be the status of the kingdom.”
“I know, I know!” Julien resumed pacing in the small space. “For more than seven hundred years we’ve been able to keep our land free from outside influences only by the machinations of my ancestors and their relationships with the royal families of the surrounding countries. We were fortunate enough to formalize those relationships as treaties before those dynasties fell, but the key treaties clearly state that they are with my family, not with this kingdom as a political entity. Should the continuity of my family fall into question, so does our country’s existence. I understand that!”
“So what is the problem?” asked yet another Councilor. The Chief Councilor sat back in his seat and watched the proceedings. He preferred to let others do the interrogating while he sat back, watched and listened. He rarely spoke unless things were at a decision point or had gotten too far off track.
“The problem is,” said King Julien, “that the time doesn’t feel right. It feels too soon to me.”
“You have questions. Doubts,” said Maurice.
“Yes I do, but at this point I can’t put them into words. Things just … don’t feel right, yet.”
It was time. The Chief Councilor spoke. “I move we allow the King thirty more days. At the end of that time he either presents us with a wedding date or concrete reasons why another Queen should be sought. Any objections?” The room was silent. “So be it. Now on to other business.”