“And who exactly are you supposed to be, the Queen of England?"
The tone, a patrician blend of haughty and distantly respectful wasn’t at all dissimilar to the many other voices I’d heard in the past few weeks.
The query was intended to not only question my existence, but also my right to the throne. I knew Victoria—God rest her and Albert’s poor souls— did not have to suffer such impoliteness.
“Yes. And Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, if we’re being specific.
Actually, if you include the rest of the various colonies and protectorates, my domain is quite extensive,” I answered, then nodded in what I hoped was a regal manner and moved on,
not particularly caring whether or not I left another open-mouthed subject in my wake.
Of course, there was always a remote chance he did not know who I was. Therefore, the gentleman was not ultimately at fault for his query.
My reign as Queen was barely a month old and my kingdom was still reeling from the deaths of the former monarch and Prince Consort,
along with a significant percentage of the peerage and senior leadership.
After the shock of the May Massacre had worn off, in one of my first acts as monarch, I had formally established a year of mourning for the United Kingdom, ushering in a trend of blacks, grays,
and somber colors in the world of fashion. I knew these colors would not bring anyone back from the realm of death, but I thought it was appropriate as a nation that we bore our memory in unison.
I was born Her Grace, Juliette Rosamund Collingwood, seventh Duchess of Battle, suo jore, heiress to one of England’s oldest fortunes, with a direct line back to the time of the Magna Carta.
The title of queen regnant was only recently bestowed upon my person, and although I considered adopting Rosamund for my regnal name (in honor of my deceased mother), in the end,
I simply couldn’t be bothered with a new moniker to reign under and therefore ascended the title as Juliette (whether or not those who confirmed me had any opinion on the matter,
they made no mention). Shortly after I turned eighteen, the royal family and many other prestigious members of the realm were invited to test out the latest in airship technology.
As a mere debutante only introduced to society in the recent past, I barely made the invitation list. At the last minute, I claimed feminine issues and stayed home.
The reality was I wanted some time alone to work on my experiments—a most un-royal activity and furthermore,
I’d already had a private tour of the new conveyance and saw no reason to get dressed up and spend the day not being allowed to speak with the aether mechanics.
Over the Thames, on an unseasonably warm day in May, the royal dirigible exploded in a horrible rain of flame and debris.
Newspapers and telegraphs around the world ran with news of the May Massacre.
When it became apparent there were no survivors,
important men got together and their unanimous decision left me next in line for the throne—a title and station I’d never expected and had no idea what to do with.
I did hear rumors of the monarchy being abandoned altogether, but those were quickly shut down by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the newly minted Lord Chamberlain,
who showed up at my Mayfair townhouse the morning following the tragedy. They presented me with a certificate of the queen’s death and prayed that God would guide my way in these troubling times.
Trust me, I was never meant to be this person.