Royal Blood - By Rhys Bowen
Tuesday, November 8, 1932
Fog for days. Trapped alone in London house. Shall go mad
November in London is utterly bloody. Yes, I know a lady is not supposed to use such language but I can think of no other way to describe the damp, bone-chilling pea-souper fog that had descended upon Belgrave Square for the past week. Our London home, Rannoch House, is not exactly warm and jolly at the best of times, but at least it’s bearable when the family is in residence, servants abound, and fires are burning merrily in all the fireplaces. But with just me in the house and not a servant in sight, there was simply no way of keeping warm. I don’t want you to think that I am a weak and delicate sort of person who usually feels the cold. In fact at home at Castle Rannoch in Scotland I’m as hearty as the best of them. I go out for long rides on frosty mornings; I am used to sleeping with the windows open at all times. But this London cold was different from anything I had experienced. It cut one to the very bone. I was tempted to stay in bed all day.
Not that there was much reason for me to get out of bed at the moment, and it was only Nanny’s strict upbringing that did not allow bed rest for anything less than double pneumonia that made me get up in the mornings, put on three layers of jumpers and rush down to the comparative warmth of the kitchen.
This particular morning I was huddled in the kitchen, sipping a cup of tea, when I heard the sound of the morning post dropping onto the doormat in the upstairs hall. Since hardly anyone knew I was in London, this was a big event. I raced upstairs and retrieved not one but two letters from the front doormat. Two letters, how exciting, I thought, and then I recognized my sister-in-law’s spidery handwriting on one of them. Oh, crikey, what on earth did she want? Fig wasn’t the sort of person who wrote letters when not necessary. She begrudged wasting the postage stamp.
The second letter made my heart lurch even more. It bore the royal coat of arms and came from Buckingham Palace. I didn’t even wait to reach the warmth of the kitchen. I tore it open instantly. It was from Her Majesty the queen’s personal secretary.
Dear Lady Georgiana,
Her Majesty Queen Mary asks me to convey her warmest wishes and hopes you might be free to join her at the palace for luncheon on Thursday, November 8th. She requests that perhaps you could come a little early, say around eleven forty-five, as she has a matter of some importance she wishes to discuss with you.
“Oh, golly,” I muttered. I’d have to get out of the habit of such girlish expletives. I might even have to acquire some four-letter words for strictly personal use. You’d think that an invitation to Buckingham Palace for luncheon with the queen would be an honor. Actually it happened all too frequently for my liking. You see, King George is my second cousin and since I’d been living in London Queen Mary had come up with a succession of little tasks for me. Well, not-so-little tasks, actually. Things like spying on the Prince of Wales’s new American lady friend. And a few months ago she foisted a visiting German princess and her retinue on me—rather awkward when I had no servants and no money for food. But of course one does not say no to the queen.
You might also wonder why someone related to the royals came to be living alone with no servants and no money for food. The sad truth is that our branch of the family is quite penniless. My father gambled away most of his fortune and lost the rest in the great crash of ’29. My brother, Binky, the current duke, lives on the family estate in Scotland. I suppose I could live with him, but his dear wife, Fig, had made it clear that I wasn’t really wanted there.
I looked at Fig’s letter and sighed. What on earth could she want? It was too cold to stand in the front hall any longer. I carried it down to the kitchen and took up my position near the stove before opening it.
I hope you are well and that the London weather is more clement than the current gales we