NATION

PASSWORD

Viribus Unitis (Earth II)

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Viribus Unitis (Earth II)

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:37 am

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
The Hofburg, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Friday 10th February 2017, 1100hrs Local Time




It was a cold, bitter day in Vienna, the perfect weather for the occasion. The normally bustling streets of the city had ground to a halt as the funeral procession made its way through the city towards the Hofburg, Vienna’s majestic palace, to lay the late Archduke of Austria to rest in the family crypt beneath the expansive building. Thousands and thousands of men, women, and children had turned out onto the streets of the Capital pay their final respects to Nikolaus Robert Thomas George von Habsburg, the latest in a long and venerable line, a dynasty with a history woven across Europe. Although the fortunes of the Habsburgs had deteriorated over the years, leaving it in control of the Archduchy of Austria alone, it was nevertheless a name and a line that commanded respect. As such, in addition to the late Archduke’s own citizens, dignitaries from all over the world had descended upon Vienna to pay their respects as well, historic grievances were put aside, at least for the moment, as a long-term fixture of European politics was laid to rest. The modern Archduchy was a small but wealthy state, nestled between the various great states of Europe; the last remnant of the once-great Habsburg Empire.

For all its prosperity, Sophia Alexandra Stephanie Elizabeth von Hapsburg, the new Archduchess of Austria, faced many challenges, beyond the fact that technically speaking, the line of Habsburgs, would end with her.

From a geopolitical perspective, the Archduchy of Austria (which continued the territories of Austria proper, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein), was in an unenviable situation. Despite its wealth, and the associated high standard of living, the Archduchy was a geographically small nation with a relatively small population, at least compared to its neighbors. As such, despite a strong military for their size, and a martial tradition that would allow a rapid mobilization of national reserves, the Austrian General Staff were under no illusions that they would be able to hold off an outside assault indefinitely. They could make it an incredibly bloody prospect for a potential invader, particularly in the mountains of western Austria and Switzerland, but a determined enough invader would wear them down eventually. As such, the Archduchy had to dance a delicate game of neutrality and leveraging its wealth to its advantage.

Away from the quagmire of European politics, the Archduchy had formed one close relationship over the years, with the Kingdom of Apilonia. Some generations ago, over a century by this point, an Apilonian Prince, the younger son of a younger son of the King, had married into the Habsburgs and, although there had been no marriages since, Apilonia and Austria had maintained a close friendship ever since. Of course, much in the same way as the Habsburg had experienced a decline in the intervening years, so too had Apilonia; losing key overseas territories in the mid-century and wallowing in self-pity for decades thereafter, before experiencing the trauma of terrorism during the Terror. Nevertheless, Austria had stood by Apilonia during its hardest years and Apilonia had stood by Austria all the same. It was, therefore, no surprise that, upon the death of the Archduke, the Kingdom had sent as high-ranking a Royal as was possible. The King, approaching his seventy-first birthday, was recovering from an illness and unable to fly, whilst the Prince of Cascadia was filling in for his father and the next in line, Prince Alexander, was otherwise engaged with his duties in the Royal Apilonian Navy.

As such, the Kingdom had sent the King's second grandchild, His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia, recently passed out from the Royal Military Academy, Kingston, and available on a period of leave before reporting to his Phase Two training. As such, Prince George was dressed in the uniform of the 1st (Royal) Life Guards of the Apilonian Army, stood with His Majesty’s Ambassador and other senior officials from the Embassy, easily one of the most prominent delegations present. It had been a beautiful funeral at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with a heavy emphasis on the life and achievements of the late Archduke and a moving eulogy by the Archduke’s longest-standing chancellor. Now, the procession winded its way into the Hofburg and disappeared from view for a private burial ceremony for just close family, followed by a reception in one of the Palace’s vast reception rooms.

It was maybe an hour before the young Archduchess, a relatively late result of the Archduke’s second marriage after the untimely death of his first wife, appeared with her aunts, uncles, and cousins, looking sad and distant, clearly wishing she was anywhere else yet knowing her duty was to be here, to thank all of the attendees. It was not a situation that George envied, so he held back for the moment; the relationship between Austria and Apilonia was close enough that he did not need his, or the Kingdom’s ego stroked, taking at least one burden from the shoulders of the young Archduchess who was no older than he was. It was only once the Archduchess had completed her duties, and stepped away and had a few minutes to herself, that George approached her as she stood looking sadly out an expansive window.

“You have my sincerest condolences, Your Grace,” George said softly.

“Thank You, Your Royal Highness,” The Archduchess replied, before smiling, small, but genuine, as she stepped forward and closed the gap between them and embraced the Apilonian Prince, who returned it easily. “It is good to see you, George, I am glad your father sent you.”

“I insisted, when they were debating whether to send me or my uncle,” George replied as he gave her a squeeze before stepping back and holding her at arm’s length whilst he examined her face. “I wasn’t going to not be by your side during all this, Sophia.”

Sophia nodded and smiled again. The Prince and the Archduchess had met several years previously, when they had both enrolled at the University of Washington (UW); it was common for Austrian scions to attend university in the Kingdom, and Sophia had been no different. It was a diplomatic move aside from anything else, as it allowed a high-ranking Austrian to be present at the majority of major social events in the Kingdom, which helped to develop and maintain social, economic, and political links between Apilonia and Austria. It had been fortuitous that an Apilonian Prince had been attending UW at the same time, as it had resulted in the two young nobles becoming fast friends. There had always been a certain attraction between the two, however, neither of them had acted upon the urge, largely in fear of ruining their friendship that the pair valued greatly. Moreover, given that Sophia would one day be the Archduke there was also a question of what would become of the Archduchy if the two were to marry. Ultimately, nothing had happened, much to the mutual regret of both the young scions, whether they knew it or not.

“I’m glad you were able to get leave from your Army,” Sophia commented as they turned to look out the window again. “My father would have liked that you were here.”

“I’m sure I would have been able to wrangle something one way or another, but as it happened, I’m waiting for my next phase of training,” George agreed. “Six months, learning the ins and out of Military Intelligence, then I’ll be off to my first posting… there is a position at the Embassy here, working with your General Staff, I could ask… I’m sure the Foreign Officer would see the advantages.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t mind having a friend close by,” Sophia admitted. “My courtiers and advisors are already getting their claws into me, it would be good to have someone to vent to.”

“Then I’ll put in the request,” George said decisively, prompting another genuine (and relieved) smile. “It’ll keep me out of trouble!”

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
The Hofburg, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Sunday 24th December 2017, 2100hrs Local Time




Given how far back the House of Habsburg could trace it’s glorious line and given that they had been and remained an integral part of the social scene, it was perhaps hardly surprising that they could throw one hell of a party. The Habsburg Christmas Ball, held every Christmas Eve, was a must-attend event for nobility, the rich and the famous from all over Europe, and beyond; and filled the Hall of Ceremonies in the Montoyer Wing of the vast palace to capacity. Amongst the crowds was Prince George, or Second Lieutenant George Hawkins as he was known within the Royal Apilonian Military, recently posted to His Majesty’s Embassy to the Archduchy of Austria. Given the formality and prestige of the event, George had broken out his best full mess dress uniform for the occasion. It had been an incredible event so far, and the first time that the Apilonian Prince had seen Archduchess Sophia since his arrival to his new duty-station, earlier in the week, although they had not yet had a chance to speak properly. Of course, given that they had corresponded almost every day for the past few years, and spoken on the phone at least once a week, it was not like it was a true reunion. In any event, the Archduchess had extended an exclusive invitation for him to join her for Christmas Dinner the following day.

Truth be told, as had been the case earlier in the year, George had no desire to put undue pressure on his friend, as she was assailed on all sides by the almost countless guests and was doing her best to play the gracious host. Of course, as a good friend he was keeping a close eye on her; knowing from their conversations that she had absolutely no trust in her courtiers, all of whom had been employed initially by her father and were dinosaurs to say the least, allowing her barely any freedom or agency, despite her status as the ultimate power within the Archduchy. As such, as Sophia worked her way through another group of guests, George had more than a few misgivings that her courtiers would now allow their young Archduchess to call it a night whilst the going was still good. Although by no means a heavy drinker himself, George knew full well that Sophia was a lightweight and at the rate, she was going through glasses of champagne she would be in no state to conduct diplomacy.

Sure enough, shortly after one of the young Austrian nobles had taken her to the dancefloor to dance, something apparently untoward occurred and Sophia’s hand flashed up and the slap she laid upon the man echoed around the suddenly quiet Hall of Ceremonies. After a few moments of silence as everyone took in what had just happened, including the Austrian noble who, too his credit, looked shocked and ashamed at whatever had happened, the Archduchess fled the Hall and, rather than going after her, the courtiers descended upon the shocked guests to placate them. Shaking his head angrily, George slipped through the crowds and out the same door that Sophia had left through and entered the winding corridors of the Hofburg. However, after spending two summers here during their University years, George knew his way through these corridors and, more importantly, he knew the kind of places that Sophia would withdraw to if she wanted to avoid her courtiers. Sure enough, George found Sophia in a small reading room off the Hofburg’s private library, sat on a bay window, sobbing quietly as she looked out over the city, her back to the door so she was not yet aware that George had found her.

It was only when George placed a gentle hand on her shoulder that her head shot round with wild eyes.

“George!” Sophia gasped breathlessly, reaching up to his neck and pulling him into a fierce hug. “I’m so glad you came after me.”

George sat down on the bay window beside her, allowing a far more comfortable embrace.

“What happened?” He asked softly.

“Count Heller,” Sophia sighed heavily. “He put his hand a little too low on my back for my liking during that waltz.”

George squeezed her shoulder gently but frowned.

“I’m not condoning his behavior, Soph, but that was a pretty dramatic reaction,” George said gently, to which Sophia scowled and pulled away from him and angrily stepped away to the other window. “You know what I’m saying, you're usually more diplomatic with asses.”

Sophia sighed heavily again, her shoulders sagging as she turned back to him.

“It’s not entirely his fault for being an ass… the Grand Chamberlain has made it known that I am ‘seeking suiters’; as he is of the belief that I really ought to marry sooner rather than later, in order to pop out an heir to the Habsburg line and the throne of Austria,” Sophia said bitterly. “So I’ve spent the last three months fending off subtle advances from every lord from here to Zurich, and plenty from beyond; normally I let them down gently… Heller just got the short end of my temper… you know what I’m like when I’ve had a drink or two.”

“I do,” George smiled as he stood and walked over to her. “I remember that time we went to Vegas, incognito, and that guy tried it on with you.”

Sophia smiled sadly as she stepped towards him and hugged him again.

“I remember I almost broke my hand before those squaddies from your Household Division tracked us down and waded in,” Sophia replied, placing her hand on his chest and looking up at him. “To tell you the truth, George, you’re the only men I’ve ever felt safe with.”

George didn’t have another moment to absorb this confession before Sophia stepped up on her tiptoes to kiss him gently on the lips, snaking her arms around his neck as she pulled her down to him. After a few moments of utter surprise, George found himself kissing her back, tasting the champagne on her lips. After a few moments, and regretting it immediately, he broke the kiss and pulled back.

“That was the champagne talking,” George said quietly.

Sophia looked up at him searchingly.

“No… it wasn’t,” Sophia said softly, but firmly, as she reached up to kiss him again. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do that.”

“I could make a guess,” George replied honestly, leaning down to kiss her himself. “You know this will be complicated, in the extreme?”

“Yes, but we don’t have to worry about that for now,” Sophia smiled slightly, leading him over to one of the antique sofas at the center of the reading room and sitting him down before sitting next to him. “Sit with me tonight? I can’t bear another lecture tonight.”

George simply nodded and lifted up an arm as she snuggled up against him, as they had on more than one late night of studying, except this time there were no textbooks or essays to hide the intimacy of their positions. Within a few minutes, however, the young Archduchess was asleep, her head resting on his chest. The equally young Apilonian Prince would not get any sleep this night, as he considered the implications of what had happened in the last few minutes; suffice it to say, the normally quiet life of the ‘spare’ in the Apilonian Royal Family, that is the second born child of an heir to the throne, seemed somewhat less likely than it had a few hours previously.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:58 am

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
Stadtpark, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Friday 16th March 2018, 1900hrs Local Time




There was a certain anonymity afforded by a military uniform; civilians tended to just see the uniform and not the face beside it, whilst military personnel tended to faces on the rank insignia. As such to most observers, all they would see was two military officers walking arm-in-arm through the expansive Stadtpark; the most remarkable thing being that one of them, the male officer, was wearing the uniform of the Apilonian Army although this wasn’t tremendously unusual as the Apilonian Embassy maintained a sizable military staff given the close relationship between Apilonia and Austria. The female officer wore the uniform of the Austrian Army, with the only notable thing being a surprising high rank for her age, that of an Oberst, although even that was difficult to spot given the twilight and the slowly falling snow. As for the couple themselves, they were very much in their own world today, in the way that only new lovers could be; the woman’s arm looped through his and her head on his shoulder as they walked slowly through the snow.

The only thing that hinted at there being more than met the eye was the two other uniformed individuals hanging respectfully back, but clearly close enough to intervene if there was an issue, wearing Apilonian Army uniforms and the regimental insignia of the Cascade Guards. Afterall, the protection of the Apilonian Royal Family was the concern of Household Division of the Apilonian Army, particularly overseas. As awkward as the two Guardsmen likely felt, following their Prince around like voyeurs on his secret romance (for which they were required to keep their mouths shut), they likely felt significantly better than their Austrian counterparts would if they knew that their Archduchess had secreted herself from the Hofsburg without a security detail. Given that the two young lovers had actually wanted some time alone, they had agreed that two Apilonian Guardsmen was far more preferable to the song and dance that the Austrian Grand Chamberlain would have insisted upon if he had known that the Archduchess was going out in public. So, she had pulled on her uniform, as Regimental Oberst of a number of Austrian regiments she had that privilege, and relied upon its anonymity to allow her to walk the streets unseen on several occasions now.

Although the Archduchess of Austria had a great deal of power and influence over the civilian government, there had not been enough time for her father to train her sufficiently, or for her to establish her own relationships within the Archducal Household, and as such, her courtiers retained sufficient influence. Whilst no one would call her meek, Sophia was not one for confrontation and was loath to challenge her senior courtiers, the domineering personality that was the Grand Chamberlain in particular. It was a situation that Prince George found difficult to simply sit idly by and allow to happen; god knew that if he had his way he would have put a stop to it by now as he was more than happy to have a confrontation over Sophia. Indeed, if their relationship developed to the point of marriage then, as her husband he would be able to, but for now he was her secret lover; a shoulder to cry on where possible, a reassuring phone call every night, but not in a position where he could assert true influence. As far as the Archducal Household was concerned, he was a close friend of the Archduchess from her University days, but a ‘mere’ foreign Prince none the less and as such could largely be ignored as far as the internal affairs of the Household.

It pained the Apilonian Prince greatly; Sophia was smart, funny, and would make one hell of a compassionate ruler, but she was no fighter (which was perhaps why they made such a good pair) and would not stand up for herself; her people, absolutely, but for herself, not so much. As they reached a bench George gently guided Sophia towards it and they sat comfortably on it as the snow continued to fall slowly around them. It was the kind of walk they had taken every week back in Apilonia, during their shared time at UW, however where they had previously been merely friends, they were now something more and Sophia clung to him for both affection and reassurance. George knew that Sophia had always been intimidated by the Archducal Household and it’s courtiers, but during her years in Apilonia she had become far more comfortable expressing her independence that he had hoped that she would fare better back in the Hofsburg. Alas, it seemed that this wasn’t the case.

George suspected that what she needed was a gentle push and encouragement and she would do the rest, but it was far easier for him to simply say that than for her to actually have to go back there, alone, and try and do it. It was for that reason, after all, that they were having to meet in secret like a pair of teenagers. He had no desire to become an overbearing influence upon her, to be the ‘power behind the throne’, rather he simply wanted to support and encourage her, as he had done (and seen her succeed) at UW.

“We need to talk about the Grand Chamberlain, love,” George said gently, and immediately felt her tense in his arms.

“Why?” Sophia sighed after a few moments.

“Because we can’t go on like this, it’s just not sustainable, I know the amount of strain he’s putting upon you with all of this” George replied firmly. “I know how much you want to do, for the Archduchy, but you can’t get your agenda started if the Grand Chamberlain is such a domineering influence.”

Sophia looked like she wanted to argue, but she simply sighed and nodded her agreement. Although the Archduchy of Austria was a prospering economy, with a high standard of living, it faced a great deal of challenges and the ‘Old Guard’, so proud of their economic and domestic successes, seemed unwilling to truly face them. In addition to the obvious geopolitical challenges posed by being a small but prosperous nation, the Archduchy was facing demographic challenges, as well as increasingly challenging economic environment, not to mention the political and security threat posed by the increasingly rebellions Margraviate of Istria. If Istria broke away from the Archduchy, it would cut Austria off from the sea and the economic impact would be disastrous to say the least. Indeed, George feared, and was supported in this fear by the Station Chief from the Royal Intelligence Service in Vienna who was concerned that the perceived personal timidity of the Archduchess was likely to encourage the Margrave of Istria, whose ambitions were closely tied to his desire for Istrian independence, to try his luck sooner rather than later.

“What do you suggest?” Sophia asked after a few minutes.

“We need to build you a power base; between your education and your political views, you’re a progressive in an establishment that is very traditional; you need to start exercising your executive power to start putting people who share your view in key positions,” George said firmly. “Start small; put your friends, people you trust, into positions that no one can question your authority to appoint; one or more ladies-in-waiting; that way you’ll have companionship of other young women our age… and you want have to face all those crusty old bastards alone.”

Sophia nodded thoughtfully; for someone such as herself with an upbringing that had been so very lonely until she had gone to Apilonia, the prospect of having one or more close companions, typically unmarried young women of noble birth, was both an alien one and one that she suspected she would quite like. As it was, she was most happiest when she was with George; for the companionship as much as for the intimacy the pair now shared, the former having been true back at UW before their relationship had evolved into a much more romantic form. Even if she would still want to spend as much time with him as possible, it would be nice to have another companion for the times when that simply wasn’t possible. And, of course, it would be so much easier to stand up to such a domineering presence as the Grand Chamberlain if she wasn’t having to do so alone.

“I’ll start reaching out to my friends, I’m sure at least one of them will be up for the challenge,” Sophia affirmed with a nod, and a small smile. “So, we start slowly and then work out way up, putting our people in key positions to build up my power-base in court… then what?”

“Then we get to work with the democratic side of things; once you’re out from under the thumb of the Grand Chamberlain you can start pursuing your own agenda, which will gain you popular support in your own right, not just from your father,” George continued seriously, having thought about this at length. “Once you’ve got a solid support base amongst your people, the Grand Chamberlain wouldn’t dare try what he’s been pulling so far, and then you can replace him… you could do that now, of course, but I know that it’s not in your nature.”

Sophia nodded her understanding; she would feel a whole lot better going after the Grand Chamberlain if she knew that she had support behind her, both inside the Archducal Court and publicly. The simple fact of the matter was that she had never been prepared for any of this; her father had been old, there was no doubt about that, but both of them had expected him to last at least another decade or so, during which time he could have prepared her for all of this. As it was, all she could rely on was George’s experience within the Apilonian Court, which was very different in many respects to the Austrian one, given the differences between the prestige of their lines.

“You do know that we’re going to face a lot of opposition,” Sophia commented. “Most of what I believe… what you believe, is in stark contrast to many prominent nobles and figures here.”

George nodded his agreement. Within the Archduchy there were two main political blocks; the Traditionalists and the Progressives; of which Sophia was firmly a member. The Traditionalists were, in many ways, stuck in the past; in the memory of the glorious days of the Austrian Empire and the Habsburg Monarchy at its height; and argued strongly that Austria should exercise a firmer hand in settling the affairs of a tumultuous Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Ironically, one of the most prominent Traditionalists was the Margrave of Istria, whose desire for independence from Vienna was likely in order to establish his own powerbase before turning on the Habsburgs. The Istrian situation was concerning to say the least, as Margraviate enjoyed a great deal of autonomy from Vienna, for historic and administrative reasons, indeed the only true centre of true Austrian power in the region was the Free City of Trieste. However, the Istrian issue was not likely to become a pressing issue in the short-term, giving Sophia valuable time to build up her power base.

The Progressive movement was strongest, as was to be expected, amongst the commoners and the middle-class; and many democratic attempts at political reform had been attempted, only to fail at the desk of the Archduke. With a progressive Archduchess, these attempts were likely to be broad successful, which was an advantage as far as Sophia’s situation was concerned, although there was a very real risk that any major progressive advancements, particularly supported by the new Archduchess, would push the Traditionalists, particularly the Margrave of Istria, into rash action that would be a detriment to the Archduchy as a whole.

It was a very difficult, very delicate situation.

“Well, we’ll just have to deal with them when the situation demands it, until then we start doing what we need to do,” George said, simply but firmly, leaning down to kiss her gently. “If we want to achieve anything, we need to assert your authority over your own Court… then we can work on the rest.”

Sophia smiled warmly and kissed him back.

“Okay,” She said simply. “I trust you.”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
An Earth II Member

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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:18 am

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
Vienna Rowing Club, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Sunday 26th August 2018, 1230hrs Local Time




“On three… one…two…three.”

On the count of three George and Sophia lifted the double scull from the water, and in one smooth movement lifted it over their heads on the pontoon outside Vienna Rowing Club, on the Danube. With water dripping down from the upturned hull of the boat, a mercy when fell on their hot bodies, they carefully manoeuvred off the pontoon and started making their way towards the boat house. The pair had just enjoyed a bracing three-hour outing on the Danube in the glorious summer sun and were, as a result, drenched in sweat from both the sheer heat and the physical exertion that their chosen sport. The Danube was absolutely stunning at this time of year, and the citizens of Vienna took full advantage of the resource on their front doorstep during the summer months when the city that spent its winter covered in snow basked in glorious sunlight. It was, therefore, perhaps unsurprising that the Danube was a busy place, and rowers, by virtue of the fact that they faced away from their direction of travel, had to stay on their toes to avoid an incident. Of course, the three Austrian National Police RHIBs that had accompanied them had helped matters in that regards.

Setting the boat down on a pair of stands, George and Sophia quickly grabbed some sponges and clothes and began to wipe their boat down. If there was one thing that the pair liked about rowing it was the fact that their titles did not give them any particular power in this environment; they had to clean their boats, personally by hand, just like everyone else. Sure, it would be foolish to say that the Archduchess in particular would not have influence over the Club Captain, but in terms of actual, direct power it was a very different dynamic. Although there was a copious amount of Austrian police and security forces around the perimeter, but they largely kept a low profile and allowed their Archduchess to enjoy her escape from the hustle and bustle of official life. The fact that Vienna Rowing Club was physically separated from there rest of the city, on a small island just off the river bank, made it infinitely easier to secure without imposing too much on the Archduchess and her fellow Rowers.

None of this stopped dozens of well-wishers from lining the bank to catch a glimpse of her, nor did it stop the paparazzi from using telephoto lenses to catch ‘raunchy’ pictures of the attractive young Archduchess in figure-hugging rowing clothing… especially when accompanied by significant arm candy in the form of an similarly attired Apilonian Prince. Although they had not exactly tried to hide their relationship, it had only been in the last few weeks, as Austrian and Apilonian tabloid press had begun to print rumours of a relationship between the two, that they had publicly acknowledged the relationship in an effort to head-off rampart speculation. Although it had been unusual at first, lacking the anonymity that they had enjoyed they had to be far more restrained and dignified in public, it was at least refreshing to not have to hide it when they spent time together in public. Their close friendship had been a well-known fact, and although some outlets had speculated on their relationship it had only been recently, when they were photographed by a paparazzi in a loving embrace, that the rumours began to abound across both the Archduchy and the Kingdom.

Although they had been immensely irritated at first, both George and Sophia had come to quite like the candid picture. It had been taken several months previously, on a late spring evening as they had enjoyed a walk together, in their respective uniforms in an attempt to hide their identities. George had his arms around Sophia, her hands flat across his chest as she looked up adoringly at him as he looked back at her. It was just a shame that it had been plastered over several dozen tabloid newspapers, eager to take a shot at anything approaching a scandal (which arguably this didn’t, as both George and Sophia were single and eligible) when it involved royalty or nobility. Fortunately, it was romantic, intimate in its own way but not in the way that the tabloids tended to care about, so the fallout had been limited. Indeed, they had been talking about going public about their relationship for a few weeks by that point, so it was as good a chance as any and allowed them to get ahead of the story. It helped that the public had taken to the news in the way that the two lovers would have liked, with approval and affection.

Of course, going public about their relationship had resulted in more than a small political impact, on a number of fronts. Domestically, in both Apilonia and Austria, the news had been greeted mostly positively; the close friendship between the two was well known and as such they had a comparatively high profile in both, meaning that they were already a known entity and what both set’s of citizens had already seen so far they liked. Within the Archduchy, the news provided the Margrave of Istria plenty of political capital to moan about ‘foreign influence’ on the Archduchess, and to add it to the list of grievances that he held against Vienna. Ultimately however, the Free City of Trieste remained a stalwart supporter of the Archduchess, even as the countryside became increasingly riled up by the Margrave’s rhetoric against Vienna. Although matters had not yet come to a head as a result, going public about the relationship had also had a very real impact on the Archduchess’s quality of life within her own Household.

The situation had been dramatically helped by the Archduchess appointing herself several ladies-in-waiting, and refusing to be parted from them, meaning that whenever the Grand Chamberlain had tried to browbeat her into going along with whatever his idea was, he found himself up against not just his relatively meek Archduchess but three other young women, all chosen for their personalities and their independence. The Grand Chamberlain had been furious, of course, and tried to block the appointments however the right of the Archduchess to appoint her own companions was indisputable and he had been forced to give ground and slink away with his tail between his legs. Since then, the Grand Chamberlain had been far less invasive in his meddling, rather constraining his actions to those areas that were indisputably in his bailiwick in order to re-assert some of his authority. It had resulted in something approaching a cold war within the Hofburg. Both the Grand Chamberlain and the Archduchess knew that, as much as she would like, she could not simply dismiss him before his term of office expired, as he had been handpicked by her father and to sack him early would invite rampant speculation on the inner workings of the Archducal Household.

So, for now, an uneasy truce had settled over the Hofburg; the Archduchess increasingly exercised her personal prerogatives whilst the Grand Chamberlain contented himself with his own responsibilities and had substantially backed off. It did not hurt, of course, that given that their relationship was now public knowledge, George could now visit the Hofburg without need for a cover story and, as such, had quickly become a rapid fixture at Sophia’s request. Although he had no formal position within the Archducal Household, his status and his relationship with the Archduchess leant itself to a great deal of influence, and the young Prince was very careful not to push too hard against what he called the ‘crusty old courtiers’. Nevertheless, a happier home life had allowed Sophia to really start coming out of her shell again, as George knew she could be from their time at UW but had come as something of a surprise within the Archduchy. Prior to succeeding her father she had maintained a very low profile, and had been quiet and reserved in public since his death… so the chance in her personality, to a bubbly, outgoing young woman who could talk to anyone had come as a surprise to many… but had endeared her to almost all of her subjects.

As George and Sophia left the boathouse after placing their double scull back onto the racks, the young Prince put his arm around his lover’s shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze; much to the delight of the crowd on the riverbank. Their moment was broken prematurely when they spotted a somewhat older man walking towards them, one they recognized immediately. The man, whose black hair was starting to give way to streaks of grey which did, it must be said, look rather distinguished, was wearing a light bodywarmer, typical of those worn by rowers as, even in the height of summer, it could be cold on the water early in the day. Given that the bodywarmer had an emblem on it’s left breast, that of the Salzburg Rowing Club, which rowed on the River Salzach, it was perhaps hardly surprising.

“If I my intrude, Your Grace,” The Newcomer said politely as he bowed to Sophia, then nodded to George. “Your Royal Highness.”

“My Lord Duke of Salzburg,” Sophia replied with practised ease, offering her hand which he kissed respectfully. “Of course… how can I help you?”

“Thank you, Your Grace, and I do apologise for disturbing you during your leisure time, but I was already visiting the VRC,” Stephen, Duke of Salzburg, nodded his gratitude. “I spoke to the Duke of Zurich, when I was in Zurich yesterday, he told me about an interesting conversation you and he had last week.”

“I’m sure he did,” Sophia replied with a smile. “What do you think?”

“I think your plan to transfer power from the House of Lords to the House of Deputies is a good one, you and I both know that I throw my hat into the progressive ring these days, but I also think you’re going to come up against a lot of resistance from the traditionalists,” The Duke said honestly. “Aside from anything else, our esteemed Margrave of Istria is going to scream bloody murder, we both know he has next to no support amongst the Deputies from his domain, but almost total control over the Dukes and Counts, meaning his power base is the Upper House.”

“Which is, of course, precisely why I want to do it,” Sophia agreed easily. “Even if the elected representatives aren’t with him, his position gives him a lot of power over the regional police and the militia, and that is cause for concern.”

Sophia’s shook her head.

“Unlike your own title, the position of Margrave was originally an Archducal appointee, unfortunately, tradition and loyal service from the current Margrave’s predecessors resulted in it becoming effectively hereditary, indeed as you know it became enshrined in law,” Sophia shook her head, but then smiled with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Which means that to de-fang the Margrave of Istria I need to go after all of the titles of nobility and decrease the power nobles such as yourself wield due to some bad actors… unless, of course, I can get a supermajority in the Lords to remove the Margraviate’s hereditary status.”

The Duke of Salzburg’s face broke into a broad smile as he understood her meaning.

“You’re banking on the rest of the Lords selling out the Margrave in order to save their own rights and privileges,” The Duke commented, stating rather than asking. “That way you put yourself in a legal power to strip the Margrave of his position, by force if you need to.”

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, I’m hoping that we can pile enough political leverage on the Margrave to step down voluntarily,” Sophia shook her head. “But yes, ultimately, I would much prefer to have a supermajority in the Lords to back up whatever play I call.”

“You’ve spent far too long in Apilonia, picking up those sports metaphors,” The Duke smiled fondly. “You do realise that building such a coalition will take some time… possibly years.”

“I know,” Sophia nodded. “And I’m fully prepared to put the time and effort in.”

“Very well, you have my support… but I suspect you probably had me in your column from the starting, given my known political leanings,” The Duke replied. “I ought to be able to bring over my own Counts, and I’ll get working on those Dukes that might be more intransigent.”

“I appreciate that, my Lord Duke,” Sophia smiled, in a tone that was understood to be the end of the conversation, a polite but firm reminder of the power dynamic; the Duke kissed her hand again before departing towards the boathouse. “Well, that was better than I expected.”

“He was right though, we had him in our column from the get-go, but it is still very encouraging to hear it from the horses mouth,” George agreed as they watched the Duke depart. “Well, the cat is out of the bag now, and it’s a long road ahead of us… you ready?”

“With you by my side?” Sophia nodded. “Always.”
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu Sep 03, 2020 7:06 am

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
Fort Ward, Royal Bainbridge
The Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Monday 10th June 2019, 0930hrs Local Time




Prince George, newly promoted Captain George Hawkins within the Royal Apilonian Military, wearily returned the salute of the pair of soldiers on either side of the entrance to the central complex of Fort Ward, the spiritual home of the Apilonian Army, at the southern edge of Royal Bainbridge Island; the sprawling government district across Puget Sound from the Capital, Seattle. Although he had flown from Vienna, arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport an hour prior, on a Royal Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner in First Class, regularly reviewed as one of the most luxurious and comfortable such offerings anywhere in the world, the jet lag was nevertheless having an impact. It was a standing policy of the Apilonian Royal Family to only use make use of taxpayer funded aircraft for personal travel, and as such almost all Royals, except for the King or those on official business, travelled commercially using the private funds available to the Royal Family from it’s own properties, investments, and income sources. Of course, this was still more than sufficient to fly First Class on Royals, which George was grateful for as he dreaded to think what the jet lag would have been like flying in economy.

Nevertheless, the few hours of sleep he had managed on the plane, combined with a sense nervous anticipation at the appointment that had brought him halfway around the world, kept him moving into the building.

Fort Ward had initially been constructed shortly after the foundation of the Kingdom, when Apilonian settlers at long last chose the site that would become Seattle as the place from which they would build their new home. As the early settlers had continued to explore the surrounding land, the site had been considered a good location for a forward base on the Kitsap Peninsula, a decision vindicated several years later when the Royal Navy was founded and HM Naval Station Bremerton, further up the Sinclair Inlet, established as the home port of the fleet’s first four frigates. In due course, Fort Ward had been equipped with cannon, and later coastal artillery, and tasked with commanding the entrance to the Sinclair Inlet and the approaches to Bremerton. Although the coastal artillery role had receded in recent years, the prominence of the site in the early history of the Apilonian Army, being the first fort established, had ensured that when Bainbridge Island was chosen as the site for the construction of the Evergreen Palace, and a dedicated royal district separate from the bustling metropolis of Seattle, that the Fort would remain a highly importance installation.

As such, as its direct military role had faded in the last century it had been chosen as the site for a vast complex of buildings that would hold Army Headquarters; the beating heart of the Apilonian Army, as well as Headquarters of the Field Army, the primary offensive formation. The Blakely Building, as the sprawling central complex was known, was the building that housed Army Headquarters, and it was into this labyrinth that George was now entering. Fortunately, it was not his first time at Army Headquarters, and no sooner had he entered the atrium did a young Lance Corporal from the Adjutant-General’s Corps appear to guide him on his way regardless. It was with only a modicum of surprise, given his family name, that he was show to the Office of the Adjutant-General to the Forces, General Sir Thomas Webber. It was unusual for the Adjutant-General himself to get involved in a single personnel matter regarding a relatively junior officer… but then not every junior officer was also a Prince.

“Captain George Hawkins, reporting as ordered, Sir,” George said formally, standing at attention in front of the Adjutant-General’s desk.

“At ease, Captain, have a seat,” General Webber replied, sticking to the protocol surrounding how Royals were treated in the military, before smiling slightly. “How have you found your posting to Vienna?”

“Professionally, it has been both an invaluable opportunity to get practical intelligence experience in a volatile part of the world, and an incredibly insight into the geopolitics of a close ally,” George nodded, then smiled as well. “Personally… well we both know that you know far more about my personal life than would normally be the case for an officer of my rank, but it has obviously been a hell of a two years.”

“Indeed, and I assure you, Captain, I am about as uncomfortable knowing as much about your personal life as I’m sure you are about millions of people knowing about it,” General Webber replied bluntly, which George appreciated. “That being said, and the reason you’re seeing me, rather than AAG Personnel, as much as the Army tries to give Royals as normal a career as possible, we can’t overlook the…”

“My relationship with the Archduchess,” George stated.

“Just so, now normally we’d try to accommodate you and encourage you to try and make it work, but ultimately to suck it up,” General Webber commented with a smile. “However, the diplomatic consequences of your relationship with the Archduchess… especially if it leads to marriage, can’t be ignored.”

“Which I’m sure the Palace has made very clear,” George rolled his eyes.

“To the Chief of the General Staff, no less,” General Webber replied wryly. “Fortunately, we’ve got an idea.”

“Intriguing,” George smiled wryly. “Go on then, Sir, what do you have in mind?”

“As it happens, the 17th Infantry Division on Malta is in need of a new General Staff Officer, Intelligence… your experience in Austria will stand you in very good stead in the wider Mediterranean theatre as you won’t need to be brought up to speed on regional issues,” General Webber replied. “It also keeps you within a short flight of Vienna, a little over two hours I believe, which ought to be more than close enough for the purposes of your relationship with the Archduchess… at least at weekends when the division isn’t on exercises.”

“That sounds like a very good option, Sir,” George nodded, then frowned. “I want to be very clear, I want to have earned this position.”

“Don’t worry on that count, your next posting within the Intelligence Corps would have been on a divisional staff in any event, or a similar role elsewhere, so it is by no means out of the ordinary career stream for an officer of your age and experience,” General Webber said reassuringly. “We wouldn’t put you anywhere you weren’t qualified for, and as I said your experience in Vienna makes you a very attractive option for the position in any event… you know as well as I do that those King’s Officers in the service on the back of patronage tend to get shunted into quiet slots where they can do as little damage as possible… that is distinctly not the case here.”

George nodded his understanding, and agreement, with the Adjutant-General’s statement. All branches of the Royal Apilonian Military had gone to great lengths over the past century to ensure that all appointments and promotions, particularly to plum command slots, were based on merit rather than patronage of a wealthy or influential family member, particular the scion of a noble or landed family. Of course, patronage still existed to the extent that the sons and daughters of wealth and influence were typically able to attend the Military Foundation Colleges, and indeed University and officer training, far more easily than a commoner, but within the service merit was the primary consideration. For those officers whose performance was sub-par, but whose removal from the King’s service would be… politically difficult, the solution was typically to assign them to positions of little relevance or authority and allow them to enjoy the perks of military service without causing too much trouble. It was not, perhaps, the most efficient way possible but it did keep the influence of patronage to an absolute minimum and generally resulted in a professional, dedicated, and uncorrupted officer corps. Moreover, those bad apples were not immune from military discipline, up to and including a dishonourable dismissal, if they stepped out of line, and no amount of political influence would save their careers in the event of certain offences.

“That is reassuring, Sir,” George smiled.

“As it should be, of course I would be lying if the Army, and the Palace, were not cognizant of the political benefits of a senior member of the Royal Family serving on Malta, the Crown Colony has been our most loyal overseas holding but it does no harm to visibly favour them,”

“I assume the Palace has a number of initiatives and events they would like me to attend,” George replied dryly.

“I can’t speak for the Palace,” General Webber said with a smirk that answered George’s question well enough. “But I can say that the Army will keep you busy over there, on and off duty.”

“I’m sure,” George chuckled. “Nevertheless, Sir, I do appreciate the effort that you and your office have put into this.”

“Truth be told, Captain, we’re happy to do it; the RAM as a whole is proud of the tradition of the Royal Family for it’s young Princes, and recently it’s Princesses, opting to serve in uniform, not to mention well aware of the value of the links between us and the Crown,” General Webber replied honestly. “We’re also aware the challenges that often prevent young Royals from enjoying a full career, particularly given the value your family regularly brings to the service, so we’re eager to accommodate where possible, for both your benefit and ours.”

“Nevertheless, it is appreciated,” George repeated simply, before changing the subject. “Will you be attending Trooping the Colour on Saturday, Sir?”

General Webber nodded and smiled; the King’s Birthday Parade was the pinnacle of the Army’s ceremonial calendar and was attended by as many senior officers as possible, as the event and the reception at the Evergreen Palace afterwards were excellent opportunities for valuable networking. Indeed, it was not for nothing that the tickets available for junior officers and senior non-commissioned officers were fiercely sought after when they became available and were typically used as one of many rewards for distinguished service.

“Indeed, I will,” General Webber replied. “You’ll be on parade, I take it?”

“Given that I’m pretty confident the Palace co-ordinated the exact date of this meeting with your office to ensure that I am in the Kingdom, I’m sure you know the to that already, Sir,” George replied with a smirk. “But yes, I’ll be joining my father and brother in the procession as a Royal Colonel… given that my grandfather saw fit to bestow upon me the lofty title of Colonel of the Cascade Guards.”

“A great honour indeed… you know as well as I do that the Cascade Guards have a long and glorious history of service to the Kingdom,” General Webber nodded sagely. “It’s their turn to troop their colour this year, I believe?”

“Indeed, it is… doubtless why the King decided this was the year to make me Royal Colonel, so I’ll be watching ‘my’ regiment very closely,” George agreed with another chuckle. “I’m proud of my own service and having earned my place, but I’m very aware of the tradition I’ll be representing when I wear that uniform.”

“That is very good to hear, Captain,” General Webber said simply. “Well, as much as it is a pleasure to talk to you, as always, Captain, I must turf you out as I’m due in a meeting with the CGS.”

“Of course, Sir, I don’t envy your job,” George laughed, shaking the Adjutant-General’s hand once again. “Perhaps we could talk further after Trooping the Colour… I’d appreciate your eye on the regiment’s drill.”

“I’d like that,” General Webber smiled. “Enjoy your leave in the Kingdom, Captain, I do hope your father and grandfather don’t bombard you with questions about the Archduchess overly much.”

“So, do I!” George replied with a grin, knowing that was pretty much unavoidable. “Good day, Sir.”
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Tue Sep 08, 2020 3:58 pm

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
The Hofburg, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Tuesday 24th December 2019, 2100hrs Local Time




Regulars at the Habsburg Christmas Ball, which typically included all Austrian nobles, members of the diplomatic corps, and the rest of the great and the good of Europe and beyond, had been amazed over the past few hours at the transformation of the Archduchess compared to previous years. In 2017, and to a lesser extent in 2018, the Archduchess had been polite and doing the rounds as was expected of her but had been visibly going through the motions, doing her duty and little more. The same could not be said this year; the Archduchess was bright, outgoing, fully engaged, and thoroughly enjoying herself. Over the past few hours, since the start of the Ball, she had been tirelessly circulating throughout the vast Hall of Ceremonies, doing invaluable political and diplomatic work that would stand her agenda in very good stead for the coming year. It was a reassuring sight, particularly for many of the Austrian nobles regardless of what side of the political spectrum they were on; the Archduke (or in this case the Archduchess) was the heart and soul of the Archduchy, and what many of them had seen in previous years had been concerning to say the least.

As far as most observers could tell, much of the transformation was due to the presence of the handsome Apilonian Prince on whose arm she was as she circulated through the hall, only letting go when interacting with the other guests. Although this was only half the story; it was true that Prince George had certainly had an impact on the young Archduchess, but there was more to it than that. Rather than directly influencing her, which was perhaps fortunate given that it would have given the traditionalist nobles a coronary, but rather in the advice and support that he had proved to her over the course of their relationship. It had been this love and support that had allowed Sophia to come out of her shell again, as she had back at UW, which she had withdrawn back into after coming back under the thumb of the overbearing Grand Chamberlain. Once George had helped her regain her confidence, and to stand up for herself again, she had gone from strength to strength and had proven all her critics wrong.

Indeed, politically speaking Sophia was turning out to be a pretty savvy operator, particularly when she put her head together with George, and was working steadily towards the majority she was seeking in the House of Lords, albeit very quietly to avoid tipping off her opponents, particularly the Margrave of Istria who was the ultimate target of the entire scheme. It was, after all, a delicate situation. If the Margrave caught wind of the Archduchess’ plan before it came to fruition god only knew what he would do, and there were half a dozen other concerns that would decide the timing. And that was without considering the news that the Archduchess was planning to break this evening, which would doubtless cause a great deal of consternation for some… hell, if they were lucky it would give the Margrave a coronary and remove him from the equation. Not that George, or indeed, Sophia, believed that they would get anywhere close to being that lucky. Nevertheless, as much as George hated politics, and had been thrilled to be sufficiently unlikely to inherit the Evergreen Throne that he would not have to involve himself overly much in politics of the Kingdom, after being engulfed in complex politics of the Archduchy he found himself enjoying it more than he had expected.

But tonight, was not, truly, for politics.

After that night two years ago, Christmas Eve had become a special night for the two young lovers, and this would prove to be no different. Although their relationship had changed and evolved over the past few months, given George’s posting to the 17th Infantry Division on Malta, but it had defiantly gotten stronger and deeper as a result. Instead of being able to see each other every day, and getting comfortable, they had had to work for it; phone calls at the end of the day, text message and spending the weekend together whenever the division was not on exercise. This meant that that the two had come to value communication, as well as the importance of the time they were able to spend together. Moreover, it had also emphasised to both of them the depth of their feelings for each other and their determination to make it work; as the saying went, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Indeed, it had largely been the proof of the last six months that had prompted their decision.

The Archduchess had, quietly, visited George on Malta and the pair had spent a low-key weekend together exploring the beautiful city of Valetta and its neighbours, taking full advantage of the lull before Christmas to spend some time together. It had been late on the Sunday, after a meal at one of Valetta’s top restaurants, looking out over the Grand Harbour, that George had privately proposed to Sophia; a proposal that she had gleefully accepted. There were some that would say that it was a quick engagement, after only a year and a half of ‘official’ courtship, but that didn’t count the first six months nor did it consider that they had known each other and been close for four years previously. In any case, neither George nor Sophia were particularly inclined to hear objections to their decision, and the only man who could have caused an impediment, the King of Apilonia due to the fact that all marriages of Apilonian Princes or Princesses required approval from the Crown, had been supportive of the match. King William V had, however, warned them of the consequences of their decision, given that some thought would have to be given to how the marriage impacted the relationship between Apilonia and Austria.

Fortunately, they reassured the King that they had in fact discussed the consequences at length. Strictly speaking, given that George was only a Prince and one that was unlikely to ever ascend to the Evergreen Throne, their marriage would not constitute a personal union between the Kingdom and the Archduchy, even if George took up the title of Archduke and ruled alongside Sophia. Indeed, Sophia was adamant on that point that if she was going to ask him to give up his military career for her then he would be no mere consort but a co-ruler, even if they had agreed that she had primacy. Which made the situation somewhat more complicated, as although it did not create a personal union it certainly introduced a very real personal and political connection, one that could not be ignored. As it was Sophia, and she suspected many of her people, were ambivalent towards the potential consequences. On the one hand, they were a proud people with a proud history and did not want to lose that by becoming part of a distant Kingdom; on the other hand there were many cultural and political links over the last three hundred years that made the Apilonians and Austrians feel more like cousins to each other, rather than strangers.

Moreover, the simple fact of the matter was that the Austrians knew that their geopolitical situation was precarious and that joining forces with the Apilonians would significantly improve their strategic position. It would take some negotiating of course, as Sophia had correctly stated that the Austrian nobility and people would only accept a highly autonomous position within the Kingdom if they went down that route, but fortunately the King had signalled his favour of such an arrangement. Afterall, it was a purely pragmatic consideration given that although there were many similarities, not to mention major ex-pat communities in both the Kingdom and the Archduchy, there were sufficient cultural differences that trying to force the Apilonian way of doing things onto them would cause resentment, as such a large degree of autonomy would be beneficial. It was perhaps fortunate, in that respect, that Austria was an Archduchy, and its Archduchess from a long and distinguished line, and as such it would be relatively easy, politically, to justify a special status for the Archduchy within the Kingdom, if it came down to that. However, both the King and the Archduchess had agreed that it would not be solely their decision, it would have to go to the Austrian people.

As such, in the weeks prior to the actual wedding, which it had already been agreed would take place in Austria rather than in the Kingdom, there would be a plebiscite that went before the Austrian people to determine whether the Archduchy should seek to become part of the Kingdom of Apilonia. The exact nature of the relationship would be explained in full prior to the vote, to ensure that it was a properly informed choice rather than an abstract question that would be expanded upon after the fact. It had been a long time since there had been an addition to the Kingdom, certainly not in the modern age in which an enforced annexation wasn’t exactly the order of day, so everyone from the King downwards was eager to ensure that any addition was voluntary. The Kingdom had, in the years since the decline of its colonial empire, prided itself on being a stalwart defender of the rule of law and it wasn’t about to was not about to squander that reputation now.

Of course, the domestic considerations within the Archduchy also had to be considered; and was one of the primary factors that they would have to take into account when considering the timing of Sophia’s political scheme.

“Time for the announcement,” Sophia said softly to George as they made their way towards the raised dais. “Wish me luck.”

George smiled and accompanied her to the foot of the dais, before releasing her hand and allowing her to ascend a few steps above him, staying carefully below her in recognition of her precedence in this setting.

“Good Evening, my Lords and Ladies; friends from distant lands, honoured guests; let me firstly thank you all for coming, as always; my family’s Christmas Ball has long been the highlight of many a social calendar, and I take great pleasure from continuing that tradition,” Sophia began with a smile. “It has been a personal favourite of mine for as long as I can remember… even if it took me a couple of years to get used to being the centre of attention, rather than a young girl merely grateful to be here… I’m sure this year’s debutantes can relate.”

A wry sound of amusement rippled around the ballroom as the debutantes, eighteen year-old young women of aristocratic and upper-class families making their first appearance on the social stage, collectively turned bright red as the attention of the entire room was suddenly on them for a few brief moments.

"It is perhaps not surprising that the size and scale of this event has leant itself well to making important family announcements, given that the affairs of the Habsburgs are the affairs of Austria, and that the affairs of Austria are the concern of our friends and neighbours,” Sophia continued. “Most of you will know my companion this evening; Prince George of Cascadia, grandson of King William V of Apilonia, one of this Archduchy’s closest friends and stalwart supporters… and the love of my life, my rock and my constant encouragement.”

George felt himself blush a little as the eyes of the crowd fixed on him briefly before returning to the Archduchess.

“It is therefore with great pleasure that I announce our engagement.”

On cue, George ascended the steps to stand on the dais himself alongside Sophia; looking out over the surprised crowed as a flurry of surprised and excited conversation swept across the ballroom before breaking into celebratory applause. As he looked around the ballroom, George could largely seen smiling, happy faces; the love the two shared was obvious to all and the vast majority of those present, from home and abroad, were pleased for the young couple. The Apilonian Prince’s sharp eyes did not, however, miss, the small crowd of particularly conservative nobles gathered around the Margrave of Istria, whose cold attitude had been the one damper on the ball’s atmosphere. The Margrave and his supporters looked absolutely furious; clearly, they had not missed the symbolism of George joining Sophia on the dais rather than her descending to him and entering the crowd again to be congratulated. It was a subtle indicator that Sophia intended George to take a position directly by her side; an indicator that would be confirmed in the coming days. It went unnoticed by most in the crowd, even as the Margrave and his faction left the ballroom several hours early, apparently in protest, but it did not go unnoticed by either George or Sophia herself.

“Ignore them,” George said softly in her ear, in a gesture that the rest of the crowd found intimately adorable. “This is our night.”

Sophia smiled and nodded.

“It is,” She affirmed, then smirked. “I hope you’re ready to shake a lot of hands, George, you’re about to be congratulated a lot… I’m quite a catch.”

“That you are,” George agreed, kissing her (relatively chastely, by their standards) on the lips, to the delight of the guests. “Shall we be about it?”
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Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Sat Sep 12, 2020 3:29 am

His Royal Highness The Prince George of Cascadia
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna
The Archduchy of Austria
Wednesday 29th July 2020, 1100hrs Local Time




The majestic form of St. Stephen’s Cathedral basked in the glorious summer sun as the Stephansplatz, the ceremonial square that surrounded it in the centre of Vienna, heaved with bodies, save for a wide corridor in and out of the square to the Cathedral’s main entrance. The corridor was manned by soldiers of the Gardebataillon, the Archduchy’s elite foot guards and personal troops of the Archduchess, in full dress uniform and this corridor had been the centre of attention as a variety of high-ranking and important dignitaries had arrived. Unlike as was normal in the Kingdom, and many other western countries, the bride and groom had arrived together, following the Austrian tradition. As the practice went, the Archduchess had been picked up from the Hofburg by George and his groomsmen, made up of his brother and best man, the Prince Alexander of Cascadia, along with several of his classmates and close friends from the Royal Military Academy, Kingston, before proceeding to the Cathedral as a large group.

They had made quite a smart-looking collection when they had arrived; Prince Alexander in naval dress uniform whilst the rest of the groomsmen, and George himself, who was decked out in his distinctive red Apilonian Army full dress uniform, with the Prince himself bearing the rank of Colonel of the Cascade Guards. George had made his way into the Cathedral after waving to the crowds, having worked hard over the last seven months to further develop his popularity amongst the Austrians and was by now well-liked in his own right not just as the fiancé of the Archduchess. Sophia herself looked stunning; her dress was as much a work of art as it was a garment and those of her bridesmaids weren’t exactly lacking either. The group had gathered to allow the press to take their photographs, and to wave to the cheering crowds, before heading into the Cathedral itself, passing a joint honour guard provided by the Austrian Gardebataillon and a detachment of soldiers from the Apilonian Cascade Guards, representing their Regimental Colonel on the occasion of his wedding. Once they were inside, the couple took a few moments to collect themselves, and to consider the seven hectic months that had passed since they had announced their engagement.

In many respects, the world was a quite different place from how it had been.

Within Austria, the political situation had developed rapidly as both the Archduchess’ scheming and the realities of her marriage to an Apilonian Prince became apparent. The lengthy process of gathering support for her constitutional reform bill, which would transfer powers from the House of Lords to the Chamber of Deputies, had proceeded apace, ironically mirroring a similar process taking place in the Kingdom. Matters had come to ahead a month previously where the plebiscite on whether the Archducal Marriage should constitute a merging with the Kingdom of Apilonia passed with a solid majority, underlining Sophia’s personal popularity as she had led the charge for such an outcome. In light of this, and given that although the Kingdom had agreed that the Archduchy would remain highly autonomous, there would have to be some changes, the decision of many, even traditionalist, nobles had been to admit that the writing was on the wall. As both George and Sophia had hoped the majority of the Austrian House of Lords had swung their weight behind a slightly amended version of the bill that reserved many of their historical rights and privileges, broadly in line with the state of affairs in Apilonia after the Constitutional Reform Act of 2020, whilst granting the Archduchess the authority to revoke ‘certain traditionally hereditary peerages and titles’, such as the Margraviate of Istria.

As it was, Sophia now technically had the authority to revoke the Margrave of Istria’s title and position but had not yet taken that particular action in the hopes that the Margrave could be persuaded to relinquish his power voluntarily. They were, however, on a timetable, given that the Archduchy would formally join the Kingdom on the 31st August and for all the autonomy that Austria had assured the Apilonian Crown was not going to accept a regional paramilitary commander outside of the proper chain of command. In short, either the Austrians could handle their own affairs in the first instance, or Apilonia would, and the other nobles knew that all too well when they had decided to save their own power at the expense of the Margrave that many of them had been stalwart supporters of for years. It was ruthless pragmatism and whilst there were rumours that the Margrave was intending to make a fight of it, which was part of the reason why Sophia was trying to negotiate a peaceful transition of power, the decision of the majority of nobles to abandon the Margrave broadly ensured peace for Austria, save for the potential for a small rebellion of the Margrave didn’t play ball.

Maintaining a sense of unity within the Archduchy, particularly as it prepared to become a highly autonomous region within the larger Kingdom of Apilonia, was even more essential now given the geopolitical changes that had occurred over recent months.

The Kingdom of Apilonia itself had thrown off the last shackles of the decades long decline that it had wallowed in since the loss of much of its colonial empire; finally wading into the deteriorating situation in the former East African Republic. It had been particularly notable because the Kingdom had, as a result of successive governments formed by the Liberal Party whose triumphs in domestic affairs had been at the expense of a catastrophically negligent foreign policy, largely abandoned its former colonies with undue haste. Now, with the Kingdom apparently prepared and willing to clean up its own mess, and even to reverse the de-colonization policy that had in many cases been disastrous for the newly-independent former colonies, it’s own geopolitical footing was shifting dramatically. In many respects, the Kingdom was simply doing what it really ought to have done in the first place, resolving longstanding issues and developing a new framework for administration and governance, whether inside the Kingdom or independently, rather than simply abandoning former colonies who were seen as far too much hassle for a government concentrating on domestic affairs. The Duchy of East Africa, as it was now known, was a prime example as there had been, and remained, a strong loyalist sentiment and an arrangement similar to the one put in place by the Treaty of Asmara would likely have been acceptable.

Instead, East Africa had been relegated to a small, newly independent former colony and had not flourished as many of the hard-line supporters of independence had believed. Had the Apilonian Government of the day demonstrated more leadership, the entire history of the region might have been different. Nevertheless, the Kingdom was finally making amends and moving to stabilise the situation in many former colonies that were struggling, but it had certainly altered Apilonia’s geopolitical stance. Not that many within Austria minded, if anything a more proactive Apilonia was more appealing to them.

Closer to home, although not approaching the borders of the Archduchy directly, north-eastern Europe had erupted into the flames of war as the Realm Cotland found itself under attack by the Confederacy of the Urals earlier in the year, starting as terrorist attacks which had rapidly escalated into a full-blown military conflict. Although the conflict had not spread behind the borders of the Realm and the Confederacy, it was a stark reminder that not only was there a very real risk of conflict in Europe but also that there were threats out there that were prepared to breach both international law and international peace; the attacks by the Confederacy on the Realm of Cotland being atrocious to say the least. It had underlined to many within the Archduchy that the geopolitical position was even more precarious than had been previously thought, and for many that had only increased their support for joining forces with Apilonia. Of course, from the Apilonian perspective the presence of Austria would be a significant enhancement of it’s own geopolitical situation in the Mediterranean as Malta would not be quite as isolated as it had been previously, indeed closer cultural and economic ties were already being fostered between Austria and the Crown Colony.

“Ready, Your Grace, Your Royal Highness?” The Master of Ceremonies asked, in his ornate ceremonial uniform.

George glanced at Sophia who smiled and they both turned back to the Master of Ceremonies and nodded. After a series of nods, music began to play as they began to make their way down the aisle, together in the Austrian tradition. As they walked, George’s sharp eyes spotted a few of their most distinguished guests. In addition to the King of Apilonia, there was also King Sverre of Cotland, on his first foreign visit since the end of the war with the Confederacy, which had been fortuitous as his youngest daughter, Princess Tyra, was fiancé of Prince Alexander and was naturally accompanying him and had been able to reunite with her father after some months. From the Empire of Britannia, which shared a border with the Archduchy, there was Princess Evelyn, the Duke of Saxony, the Duchess Catherina Sophia, and the Duke of Luxembourg. Given the long historic ties between the Empire and Austria, as well as the obvious economic ties and political considerations, it was perhaps unsurprising that they had sent such a large delegation, especially given that the various monarchies of the world tended to ensure that they were appropriately represented at such events.

In addition to the various Kings, Princes and Dukes, George could also see the Ambassadors from the Empire of Layarteb and the Nanfang Republic, the latter by extension representing the Shenzhen Pact, along with the Ambassadors from Zapadoslavia and Portugal. Indeed, had it not been for the fact that President Yang of Nanfang was already in Lisbon meeting with the Prime Ministers of the same it was likely that they would all have been here themselves, both as fellow Europeans and key international partners. All told, it was perhaps a rather prestigious group of dignitaries for a relatively small state like the Archduchy, however given both Austria (and the Habsburgs) historic prominence, and the fact that the Archduchy was joining up with the Kingdom of Apilonia, with whom all the dignitaries had a close relationship, or geopolitical involvement, it was perhaps not surprising. After all, in one swoop the Archduchess of Austria (and her soon-to-be Archduke) would become the single most powerful ‘vassal’ of the Apilonian Crown, fundamentally shifting the Kingdom’s geopolitical view on Europe, with wide-reaching consequences.

After reaching the alter, standing before the Archbishop of Vienna, the ceremony itself began. The first part was a traditional Catholic service, with prayers and readings, until they reached the Rite of Marriage itself.

“Dearly beloved, you have come together in the House of the Church, so that in the presence of your God and your community tour intention to enter into Marriage may be strengthened by the Lord with a sacred seal of this special Sacrament,” The Archbishop of Vienna began formally. “Your love will be enriched with his blessing, so that you may have strength to be faithful to each other for ever and assume all the responsibilities of married life, and so in the presence of the Church, I ask you to state your intentions.”

The Archbishop paused.

“Sophia and George, have you come here to enter into Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”

“I have,” Sophia and George both replied.

“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage, to love and honour each other for as long as you both shall live.

“I am.”

“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God, and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

“I am.”

“Since it is your intention to enter the covenant of Holy Matrimony, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and his Church.”

George and Sophia joined hands.

“I, George, take you, Sophia, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part,” George said first, smiling fondly at her.

Sophia returned the smile before speaking herself.

“I, Sophia, take you, George, for my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part.”

“May the Lord, in his kindness, strengthen the consent you have declared before the Church and graciously bring to fulfilment his blessings within you, what God has joined, let no one put asunder,” The Archbishop continued onto the next section of the Rite, now that the couple had declared their commitment to each other. “May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God who joined together our first parents in paradise, strength and bless in Christ the consent you have declared before the Church.”

After a short prayer and an acclamation, the rings were brought up to the alter.

“Bless and sanctify your servants in their love, O Lord, and let these rings, a sign of their faithfulness, remind them of their love for one another, through Christ our Lord.”

The Archbishop blessed the rings and sprinkled them with holy water, before presenting them to George and Sophia.

“Sophia, receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity,” George said as he placed the ring onto Sophia’s finger. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Sophia smiled broadly before taking the other ring.

“George, receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity,” Sophia echoed, placing the ring onto George’s finger. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“Then by the holy power vested in me by the Lord our God, I declare you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride.”

George smiled and, gently cupping her cheek, leant down to plant a chaste kiss upon Sophia’s lips, to applause from the congregation.

With the Rite of Marriage completed, the Mass was resumed. Before long, the Mass was over and the congregation would begin to make their way back to the Hofburg for a uniquely Austrian tradition; the Agape. Hosted in one of the smaller rooms within the Hofburg, the Agape was a more informal part of the celebrations, typically held to allow the couple to speak with those guests who were not invited, or not able, to attend the evening’s entertainment. In this case, pretty much all of the congregation (and then some) were invited to the Wedding Feast at the Hofburg, but the Agape still provided the couple a chance to breath and to accept a variety of wedding gifts. As was tradition, and in stark contrast to the opulent surroundings of the Hofburg, only bread, salt, and wine were served at the Agape.

Before the Agape could continue in earnest, however, there was one last order of business that needed to be completed; for upon marrying there had been a question of the title that George in particular would hold. Sophia had been adamant that she wanted him to rule alongside her, as Archduke, even if there was the unspoken agreement that she would take the lead in Austria for obvious reasons, and the House of Lords, at the same time as passing her amended constitutional reform bill, had approved such an arrangement. It would not be written into law, as it would potentially hamstring potential Archdukes, but it was not too much of a concern for those responsible for the agreement as no one with an ounce of intelligence, or who had interacted with the Apilonian Prince for more than a few minutes, had any concerns that he would overstep his bounds. This agreement had been acceptable to the Evergreen Palace as well, as normally the son (or grandson) of a monarch was granted a title of nobility upon his marriage, so George becoming Archduke handled that nicely as it would create a real political link between Apilonia and Austria, especially given that all children of the marriage would continue the line in Austria, effectively creating a cadet branch of the Apilonian Royal Family.

As the guests gathered around the raised dais at the far end of the room, George sank to one knee before Sophia as the Archbishop of Austria approached with an Archducal Hat, a very ornate form of coronet just one step down from a true crown.

“Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the Archduchy of Austria, according to their respective laws and customs?” Sophia asked, clearly and loudly.

“I solemnly promise so to do,” George replied formally.

“Will you, to your power, cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements.”

“I will.”

“Then by the sacred law vested in me, I name you George,” Sophia began, lowering the coronet onto her husband’s head. “Archduke of Austria.”

Applause ringed around the room as George stood and bowed formally to Sophia; his first act as the new Archduke of Austria was an act of submission to the Archduchess Regnant; a gesture that the Austrians in the room greatly appreciated. The new Archduke and Archduchess of Austria turned to the crowed to be announced by the Herald.

“Their Royal Highnesses, the Archduke and Archduchess of Austria.”

In recognition both of George’s own social rank and Royal blood, it had been decided that in return for his Archducal title that Sophia be afforded the dignity of Royal Highness as a result of her marriage to George. It would only remain so for them, however, their offspring and eventual successors would revert to being merely ‘His/Her Highness’. After another applause, George and Sophia settled onto their Archducal Chairs, and would begin to receive their guests, each of whom would be announced by the herald.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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