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God Save Our Gracious King [CLOSED]

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

God Save Our Gracious King [CLOSED]

Postby Marimaia » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:17 pm

14 April 2021, 14:30hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

Standing on the banks of the River Thames, London had been a settlement of some importance for almost two thousand years. First established as a settlement in the 2nd century, London's fortunes waxed and waned over the following centuries until the 12th century when it finally secured its position as the capital city of the Kingdom of England. This then led to London becoming the capital city of a global empire as royal marriages and inheritance united the thrones of England, Francia, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland under the personage of King William III of the Royal House of Stuart-Normandie in 1706; in an attempt to create some form of united identity for his territories, his then-Prime Minister suggested the name 'United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne', combining the five kingdoms as a single nation. The name 'Grande Bretagne' was Francian for 'Great Britain', the term used to describe the united British Isles, and it was styled in Francian to reflect the continental influence within the new nation. In popular parlance, the name was usually shortened to 'Bretagne' or the 'United Kingdom' when describing the nation, with the two terms being interchangeable, while the national demonym was 'Britanique', frequently shortened to 'Brit'. The Britanique Empire held territories across the world as colonial ventures paid off and campaigns of conquest were waged against those who resisted, while the House of Stuart-Normandie successfully installed a junior branch of the family on the throne of the neighbouring Kingdom of Belgica, thus creating a solid bloc of affiliated territory in Northern Europe. Unfortunately for the extended royal family, modernity and nationalism clashed with their imperial dreams and it became necessary to begin the process of decolonisation, although the Belgican Prime Minister at that time came up with an interesting proposal that could potentially save some of the prestige and influence acquired over the years.

As territories were granted their independence from the Britanique Empire they were offered the opportunity to retain close ties with their former colonial master in the form of the Commonwealth of Sovereign Nations (CSN), founded by the United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne along with the Kingdom of Belgica on 28 April 1949. When the decolonisation process was completed by November 1971, the CSN counted ten nations as members. The United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne was joined by the Kingdom of Belgica, as well as the Dominion of Guiana, the Dominion of West Africa, the Dominion of South Africa, the Realm of Kenya, the Trucial Federation, the Madras Principality, the Dominion of Malaysia, and the Dominion of Liangguang. The United Kingdom still retained some overseas territories, however: these 'Crown Colonies' included Hong Kong, the Maldives, Singapore, Eylenda (Iceland), Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Saint Thomas and Prince Island, and Djibouti. The Commonwealth had then been opened up to membership applications from nations that had a weaker connection to the United Kingdom, although to date there had been no applications from this new demographic. A few former Britanique colonies and protectorates had veered away from Commonwealth membership upon gaining their independence but still maintained good relations with the United Kingdom, and it was hoped that one day they might change their minds and 'rejoin the family'. Throughout its existence, the Commonwealth had never suspended or expelled a member nation on any grounds, a fact which demonstrated the CSN's attitude towards rights and democracy: they were nice to have but not essential. This was justified by the viewpoint that every nation has skeletons in their closet and that if you refuse to do business with every nation which has flaws then you'll have nobody to do business with at all. As long as any coup or dictatorship in a Commonwealth country resulted in continued cooperation, such events were chalked up as 'internal politics' and left at that. The Commonwealth nations enjoyed free trade agreements with each other and worked to improve cooperation in other areas but it was an undisputed fact that some members were far wealthier and far more influential than others.

London had therefore emerged from the decolonisation period as the most influential city in the Commonwealth of Sovereign Nations. Home to almost nine million people, the Britanique capital was only the fifth-largest city in the Commonwealth but was renowned as the 'City of Empire'. London generated a considerable percentage of the United Kingdom's GDP due to the preponderance of financial services companies operating there, as well as a large number of media companies and the bustling tourism industry. The city was served by six international airports and the ever-busy Port of London, and many of the large corporations in the Commonwealth based their headquarters in London for convenient access to the existing corporate and financial infrastructure. The Britanique government was centralised within the city of London with the Palace of Westminster playing host to the bicameral Parliament, which was comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. While membership of the House of Lords was granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function, the House of Commons was an elected body of 936 MPs and the kingdom's government was drawn primarily from the members of the Commons. The first-past-the-post voting system meant that the United Kingdom often had a ruling political party that had not received the votes of the majority of the population, but as they had received more than any of the other parties then they had the right to form a government. The current ruling party was the centre-ground Liberal Party which had become a haven for disaffected MPs from other parties as politics in the nation had become ever more polarised over the years. Combined with voter apathy due to the often-exhausting task of listening to the rhetoric of the other two major parties, the Liberals won the 2019 general election with a healthy parliamentary majority of 104 MPs; the final tally being 520 MPs for the Liberals and 416 MPs shared between the other parties, with the left-wing Cooperative Party comprehensively pushed into third place and the right-wing Union Party finding themselves in opposition.

This victory had resulted in the Liberal leader, Kingsley Graham, ascending to the post of Prime Minister. Forty-one years old, married, and possessing an undeniable charisma that could put snake oil salesmen to shame, the six-foot-two Graham was a former pupil of Winchester College boarding school and a graduate of Oxford, with a First in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He had served as a junior minister under the 2009 Union Party government until he realised that he was unlikely to achieve his political ambitions due to the number of other potential party leaders within the Union ranks. He subsequently defected to the Liberals in 2012 and quickly rose to become the party leader in 2013; the 2014 general election saw the Liberals unexpectedly push the Cooperative Party into third place and become the Opposition as they siphoned off centre and centre-left voters who were becoming disenchanted with the Cooperative Party's increasingly radical policies. Invigorated by this success, Graham launched his 'Middle Way', firmly positioning the Liberals as a party intent on forging a new Bretagne by combining centre-right economics with centre-left social policies. Combined with defecting Cooperative and Union MPs who joined the Liberals either out of genuine belief in the policies or simply out of self-interest as they saw which way the wind was starting to blow, the Middle Way platform and Graham's dynamism had delivered the keys to government into the Liberal leader's hands after the 2019 election. One of the Prime Minister's various duties was the weekly Wednesday afternoon audience with the Britanique monarch, and this duty was the reason why Prime Minister Graham was currently en route from the Prime Ministerial residence at Number Ten Downing Street. His destination was Eybury Palace, the official London residence and headquarters of the monarchy. The United Kingdom possessed a constitutional monarchy, meaning that although the monarch had a wide array of powers, these powers were traditionally exercised via the democratically elected government. Technically the monarch had the power to dismiss and appoint Prime Ministers as they saw fit, but this power had only been used a handful of times over the past three hundred years.

After a four-minute drive from Downing Street, Graham's armoured black Jaguar XJ vehicle passed through the tall wrought-iron North-Centre Gate which guarded the entrance to the grounds of Eybury Palace. Featuring a cream and gold exterior decor, Eybury Palace contained seven hundred and seventy-five rooms including staterooms, reception rooms, and private apartments, all of which were decorated in styles inspired by constituent parts of the former Empire. The Jaguar entered the palace's central courtyard and parked up, at which point an immaculately uniformed footman emerged and greeted the Prime Minister with traditional deference before escorting him inside. As the weekly audience always took place in the monarch's private apartments, Graham was handed over to the palace's chief butler upon arrival at the entrance to the apartments, a very dry and balding individual known only as Windsor who asked out of courtesy if he could carry the dossier that the immaculately-groomed Prime Minister had brought with him. After going through the custom of knocking three times before entering the private apartments, Windsor guided the Prime Minister through the opulent accommodations until they reached the lounge, which featured a predominantly duck egg-blue and white colour scheme. The palace butler then gestured towards two large white armchairs which faced each other with an oak coffee table positioned between them; the armchair facing the two men was occupied by the slim form of King Thomas III, who beamed gleefully at the sight of his Prime Minister before getting to his feet. One of the younger historical occupants of the throne at the age of twenty-five, Thomas III had also attended Winchester and Oxford, meaning that the pair had rather similar attitudes in many respects; the primary difference in their education was that Thomas had graduated from Oxford with an Upper Second in English and Modern Languages. The nation had completely embraced Thomas to their heart as he had only ascended to the throne fourteen months ago after the sudden death of his father, King Alexander I, and so he really couldn't do anything wrong in the eyes of the public; his marriage to Marianne Grey, now Queen Marianne, had only reinforced the positive public sentiment towards him. As King of Grande Bretagne, he was also the head of state for every Commonwealth member aside from the Kingdom of Belgica, and the citizens of the wider Commonwealth had similarly extended their best wishes towards him. The House of Stuart-Normandie had rallied around him following his father's death and so although he was inexperienced in affairs of state, Thomas had plenty of people willing to help. The young king was rather informally dressed in grey suit trousers and a white shirt with an open collar, his wavy brunette locks tucked behind his ears.

"Good afternoon, Prime Minister. How are you today?"

Graham bowed slightly and smiled politely. "As well as ever, Your Majesty. How are you, if I might ask?"

"Oh, being bombarded with details about my upcoming birthday. I'm sure you can imagine. Tea?"

The Prime Minister waited for King Thomas to sit before taking his own seat, placing the dossier on his lap as Windsor attended to the tea request with the use of the silver tea set on the coffee table. Once the Earl Grey tea had been poured into two finely decorated porcelain teacups which were positioned on their saucers, Windsor handed tea to the King before then doing the same for Graham; he then excused himself and left the two alone as the Prime Minister's weekly audience had always been a private matter between the monarch and the head of their government. While there was no official punishment to hand out to Prime Ministers who broke that convention, the Royal Household had always hinted at the reigning monarch's 'displeasure' in the rare cases of protocol breach.

"So how is Susannah? Keeping well?"

Graham nodded as he finished taking a sip from his tea. "She's doing very well, thank you for asking. She's currently in Singapore on business, she should be back on Sunday. How is Her Majesty, if I might enquire?"

"Undoubtedly scheming with the Queen Mother as we speak, I know that they're up to something. You know when you walk into a room and people stop talking? They did that to me last night." Thomas chuckled slightly before gesturing towards Graham's dossier with his cup. "Something for me to read or something for me to sign?"

The Prime Minister offered the dossier to the King, who set down his cup and saucer to accept it. "Just a case of requiring official royal approval for the new National Security Advisor and Director-General of the Joint Intelligence Service. We've selected Dame Patricia Humphries."

Thomas opened the dossier and made an approving sound. "Currently Director of Foreign Intelligence within the JIS, read Law at Oxford, she got a First. What's that word that the Civil Service uses for people like her?"

"Sound."

"That's it. A sound individual. Do you have a pen I can borrow, please?" Graham produced a black fountain pen with gold trim from his jacket's inside pocket and removed the cap before handing it to the King, who promptly signed the approval document at the end of the dossier. "There we are, royal assent granted."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Graham accepted the return of both the pen and the dossier, then sat back and returned to drinking his tea. "So did you see the reports about Angeline Tomas?"

Thomas tutted rather loudly and shook his head. "If I was to remember only one thing from my father's teachings, it's that if you're in a public position, you must keep your personal life as discreet and as appropriate as possible." He sighed slightly and appeared momentarily wistful before continuing in his usual brighter manner. "Having said that, Angeline has seen off scandals before and she'll probably make a movie about this latest one, so she'll end up profiting all the same. Our media will have forgotten about it by tomorrow, or at the latest Friday, because a nobody reality 'star' somewhere will sneeze and that will become the latest piffling exclusive."

Graham smirked at Thomas's apparent disdain for reality television. "Forgive the observation, Your Majesty, but don't you watch-"

"Ah, now that's different. Existing celebrities learning how to dance is light entertainment. So-called 'regular' people being locked in a house together or paired up on an island, that's just attention-seeking."
Last edited by Marimaia on Sun May 02, 2021 3:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Fri Apr 16, 2021 3:44 pm

15 April 2021, 07:30hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

Mornings at Eybury Palace were, for the most part, exceptionally organised. Breakfast was served at eight o'clock, and since taking the throne King Thomas had yet to be late for the first meal of the day. This was because he had become set in his morning routine: get up at half-past six, shower, get dressed, and leave the King's Apartments at half-past seven. This particular morning was no exception. Already awake by half-past six, Thomas pushed back the sheets of his king-size four-poster canopy bed and swung his legs so that he was sitting on the edge, then placed his feet on the plush carpeted floor, enjoying the sensation of the soft material on his soles. He let out a soft yawn as he crossed the royal bed-chamber to the ensuite bathroom, where he luxuriated in the warmth of the shower water as the spray helped him clear any remaining sleep from his head. After drying himself off with one of the fine West African cotton towels that were always to hand, Thomas returned to his bed-chamber and perused the contents of his walk-in closet while using a second fresh towel to dry his hair as much as possible. In a demonstration of his consideration for others, Thomas always waited until around ten-past-seven before he used a hairdryer to finish off his hair, even though very few in the palace would be able to hear the device. He then donned the clothing that he had selected and wrestled his hair into obedience without too much trouble; while some monarchs might have been attended to by a servant during these tasks, Thomas preferred to handle such things by himself because he was perfectly capable of doing so. Indeed, the only reason why he didn't make his own bed was that Windsor had insisted that the palace staff had to have something to do for their king. Crossing the room to his dresser to select a pair of cufflinks from his collection, Thomas picked out his favourite silver ones but felt a tinge of sadness as his eyes flickered over a specific golden pair that had remained unworn for quite some time. After picking them up and running a finger over the inscription, Thomas returned them to their usual place and closed the drawer.

After securing his cufflinks in place, Thomas smoothed down the front of his white shirt and tightened the belt on his black trousers before leaning closer to the full-length mirror that he was using to inspect himself, performing a final check of his face and hair before casting a deliberate smile at himself. You can do this, he thought to himself. It was a private reassurance that he had given himself every morning since becoming King, and it did seem to help. He then took a slow breath in and out before slipping on his black loafers, nodding to his reflection, and exiting his private rooms. While the King's Apartments contained a private dining room, Thomas preferred to use the dining room situated down the corridor. As he stepped out of the apartments, he was immediately greeted by Windsor, who had quickly internalised his young monarch's self-imposed schedule and was therefore awaiting his emergence in precisely the same manner every morning. The ever-immaculate butler had a small silver tray balanced on his right hand, bearing freshly-made Earl Grey tea in a porcelain teacup.

"Good morning, Your Majesty."

Thomas smiled warmly as he took the cup and saucer before sipping at the contents. "Good morning, Windsor. How are you today?"

Windsor bowed his head deferentially while deftly moving the tray so that it was now held behind his back with his left hand. "You don't need to ask me such questions, Your Majesty. Although if you insist upon knowing, I am very well this morning."

"Excellent. This place wouldn't be the same without you."

"You are too kind, Your Majesty."

The pair walked a short distance down the scarlet-carpeted corridor to the door of the apartments that were located next to the King's private rooms, at which point Windsor knocked politely while Thomas continued drinking from his cup. They waited a few moments before the door slowly opened and a handsome male face appeared, causing Thomas to smirk.

"Good morning, Louis. Everything okay in there?"

The thirty-one-year-old Louis Évreux smiled and nodded respectfully as he opened the door more widely, revealing that he had thus far managed to don his trousers but his shirt was yet to be buttoned, putting his defined torso on display. He idly ran a hand over his short brown hair as he replied with a clear Francian accent.

"Apologies for not being ready, Your Majesty. We-"

The sound of a female voice from within the room caused Louis to disappear back behind the door, leaving Thomas and Windsor to wait for a while longer; the young king exchanged an arched eyebrow with his butler before sipping more tea. Their wait was finally ended as the door opened more widely to reveal the personage of Queen Marianne, dressed in a stylish white blouse with a black skirt and her neck-length dark brown hair worn in a left-favouring side parting. The twenty-six-year-old exchanged a quick kiss with Louis before stepping out into the corridor, beaming as she laid eyes on her evidently amused husband.

"Good morning, Your Majesty."

"Good morning, Your Majesty."

Marianne gently placed her hands on Thomas's shoulders and leaned forward to exchange Francian-style cheek kisses with him, Thomas lowering his face slightly to account for their three-inch height difference. "Did you sleep well, Tom?"

"Not too bad. Did he keep you up late?"

Marianne lightly slapped Thomas on the arm in response to the question. "None of your business."

"Just making sure that my wife's valet is keeping her happy."

Thomas grinned playfully at her before waving to Louis, who responded with another respectful nod of the head as he emerged from the Queen's Apartments with his uniform now properly donned. While the scene that had just played out would undoubtedly raise numerous questions if it were observed by outsiders, for the primary members of the Royal Household it was just another daily occurrence. For you see, Thomas and Marianne had known each other since attending Oxford together; as her birthday was in January and his birthday was in May, they had been in the same year at the prestigious Britanique university. A scion of the aristocratic Grey family, Marianne had remained a close friend of Thomas following their graduation and had therefore been the obvious choice when his mother had orchestrated his marriage. Due to the nature of the Commonwealth, upon ascending to the throne a Britanque monarch became the head of state for member nations with far more conservative social beliefs than Bretagne, while their position also placed them as Supreme Governor of the Church of Bretagne, the Christian denomination created by the merger of the Anglican Church and the Huguenot Communion in the wake of the United Kingdom's creation. King Alexander had therefore always insisted that his son's sexuality remain behind closed doors despite Bretagne's enshrining of equal ages of consent and marriage equality, 'for the good of the Crown and the nation' in anticipation of his son's eventual coronation. Thomas had done his best to keep his private life as private as possible as a result, but his relationship with his father had become incredibly strained after Alexander intervened to break up one particular romance as it had potentially threatened his grand design for his son. Following Alexander's death, Queen Mother Christina had been understandably protective of her only child as he had become monarch far more quickly than anyone had ever expected, and so she had arranged the marriage of convenience between Thomas and Marianne, as the pair were known to be close and so it wouldn't seem quite as stage-managed as if Thomas married someone 'new'. Christina had organised the marriage in an attempt to save him from dealing with questions about both his private life and his father's attitude toward such matters, and he had accepted his fate 'for the good of the Crown and the nation' in yet another responsibility that was dropped onto his shoulders. In his mind, at least he was marrying a friend and not a total stranger.

Following several public appearances alongside each other, Thomas and Marianne had become engaged seven months after Alexander's death. Their extravagant wedding had eventually taken place five months later, giving the family, the nation, and the Commonwealth a joyous royal occasion to celebrate. Thomas and Marianne had now been married for just over two months, with just about every possible eventuality having been planned for by the Queen Mother and the royal couple. There was no issue when it came to Marianne sleeping with her valet as they were both using protection, and it had been decided that once it was deemed to be time for Marianne to become pregnant, she would undergo artificial insemination. That way, any future heir would definitely be Thomas's offspring, and there would be no possible wrangling between cousins and other family members to decide upon the next in line for the throne. Unnecessarily complicated in all honesty, but that was how the House of Stuart-Normandie operated. However, there was one aspect of the marriage that was still troubling the young Queen. While Marianne had found herself a lover, Thomas had had no such fortune thus far and Marianne was beginning to wonder if it was simply misfortune or a case of Thomas deliberately avoiding such attachments. Either way, she was becoming increasingly eager to resolve the situation somehow.

As the royal couple sauntered down the corridor with the two servants in tow towards the Lingnan Dining Room, given that name because the room's decor was inspired by the cultural aesthetic styles of the Dominion of Liangguang, Marianne leaned in towards Thomas. "We do need to find you someone, it's not fair for me to have him otherwise."

"It's okay, seriously." Thomas offered a simple smile in her direction. "These things take time, and it's not like we can hold interviews. It'll happen one day." In a demonstration of just how experienced a butler Windsor was, he noticed Thomas draining the last of the tea from his cup and so stepped forward slightly, holding out the tray so that Thomas could divest himself of the empty drinking vessel and earning an appreciative nod from his monarch.

"Any handsome lords, or sons of lords, who have caught your eye and might be interested?" Marianne considered some possible options before continuing. "What about-"

"I know you're trying to help but seriously, it's okay."

Almost a year and a half later and you're still not over him, are you?, wondered Marianne. As Thomas's closest friend, she had heard about the circumstances of his father's interference and just how badly the whole situation had ended for all parties. "Okay." Marianne jokingly raised her hands in a sign of submission and tactfully changed the subject. "So what are you having for breakfast?"

Thomas had to think about that for a few moments because decisions about meals were usually made three days in advance so that the kitchen staff had plenty of time to ensure that they had all of the necessary fresh food items. "Bacon, eggs, and toast. Just as well, I'm really in the mood for that. What are you having?"

"The usual. Oh, before I forget, I'm going to pop over to Clarence House later to see your mother."

"Let me guess, birthday preparations?" Thomas chuckled and shook his head. "I'm only turning twenty-six, it's not a major milestone."

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 18, 2021 10:53 am

18 April 2021, 21:30hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

As there were no pressing duties or social requirements upon him on this particular Sunday evening, Thomas had retired to the King's Apartments intending to have a relaxing night. He had discarded his day clothing and neatly placed it into the provided hamper for collection the next day, and had now finished getting changed into a pair of black-and-white checkered silk pyjamas. As he closed the door to his walk-in closet, Thomas's attention was captured by a knocking on the door of the King's Apartments. Two knocks, followed by one knock, followed by two knocks, the signature of Queen Marianne.

"Come in, Annie!"

He smiled mischievously as his wife entered the room, dressed in a fashion somewhat similar to his own. "Don't tell me, Louis has a headache and so you're going to see if you can turn me."

She rolled her eyes and laughed as his smile grew. "Don't worry, I know an impossible task when I see one." She then turned more serious as she continued. "This is to do with your love life, though."

Thomas threw up his hands and groaned loudly. "Now, really? I've told you that I'm okay, just because-"

Marianne folded her arms and raised her eyebrows as she prepared to venture into a potentially uncomfortable subject. "You still miss him, don't you?"

The line hit Thomas like a bullet, bringing about an almost immediate change in his demeanour as he held up an index finger in an attempt to end the conversation before it even started. "No. We're not doing this. Please, just drop it."

"Tom-"

"I said, drop it!"

Marianne took a step back in reaction to Thomas raising his voice, something that she had not heard him do for an extremely long time. He trembled slightly in anger, closing his eyes and taking in a few deep breaths before he regarded her with an expression heavy with regret and apology. "Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I just...I haven't talked about him for so long." He idly began to fumble with the bottom of his pyjama shirt and cast his gaze downwards at the floor. "Annie, I don't want to do this. You already know what happened."

Having committed to her course of action, Marianne decided to push on despite the deep sympathy that she felt for her closest friend at this time. "You sacrificed your happiness to protect him, exactly the sort of thing that you would do. You had to break up with him to stop your father from destroying his dream." She paused and sighed before continuing. "You blame yourself for what happened."

He raised his head to look at her once again, swallowing as he endeavoured to maintain his composure and fight back a building tide of tears. "If I...if I hadn't-"

"Tom, it wasn't your fault." Marianne stepped forward and gripped him in a tight hug as he began to gently sob, his body shuddering slightly as his emotions finally broke through and overflowed.

---------------------------------------------------------

The Royal Couple sat on the side of Thomas's bed, Marianne's arm gently draped around Thomas's shoulders as he sat with his face buried in his hands, taking slow deep breaths as his tears finally began to subside. The Queen wiped away a tear of her own as she hated seeing him like this, particularly as she had been the one to push him to it, but at the same time, she felt that it had been the right thing to do. A low sorrowful groan sounded as he lifted his head, tearful streaks visible on his cheeks as he sniffed.

"Sorry about all this."

He gestured to his face and red eyes, causing Marianne to shake her head and tut loudly. "Damn it, stop apologising for once in your life." She moved closer and gently kissed his forehead. "I'm the one who made you cry."

"Yeah, thanks for that by the way." The pair exchanged a slight murmur of amusement before Thomas let out a loud sigh, pushing his hair back with one hand. "I guess that you want me to talk more now, don't you?"

She nodded and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I think it'll help. So even though I know it all, tell me about him again."

"Okay." He sat more upright and took another deep breath. "I was attending a Christmas concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018 on behalf of the family. Before the performance, there was the usual meet and greet where people stand in a line and you shake hands with them, exchange a few words. Towards the end of the line-up, the managing director introduced me to the newest member of the Orchestra, a violinist who had been recruited from Hong Kong. Min-shen Leung. One of the youngest recruits that the Philharmonic had ever had at twenty-one years old. He was so damn handsome in his tuxedo, slightly taller than me. His smile just about killed me on the spot.

"I got to go backstage after the performance and had a chance to chat with him a bit more, and he gave me this look as if to say 'I know'. We exchanged numbers and we face-timed later that night. We chatted like that for about a week before I snuck him into the Palace for the first time."

Thomas smiled as he recalled that night. "He managed to trip on the stairs on the way up to the floor of the Prince's Suite and then bumped into a table as we were heading along the corridor, I thought for certain he was going to get us caught. The rest of that night...well, that was a performance well worth the trouble. Although the next morning, we had a shower and my body wash wound up irritating his skin, so I had to spend a few minutes afterwards rubbing moisturiser on him. Windsor covered for me and helped me smuggle him out, he's always been awesome. I changed my body wash after that, although I wouldn't have objected to moisturising him again. After a couple more weeks of meeting up whenever we had the chance, I introduced him to Mum and she helped to ease Dad into the idea."

Marianne nodded and removed her arm from his shoulders, instead gently taking his hand. "You really liked him, I remember when you first told me about him."

"At first I liked him, but eventually I realised that I loved him, and he loved me. He was just so sweet and funny, he could always make me laugh without really trying. He never did truly master the staircase so we'd take the lift up to the suite instead. He always thanked the staff for anything they did, I think Windsor used to get a little irritated because he'd have both of us thanking him for the most minor thing. Every so often he'd bring his violin with him and play for me. He bought me a pair of golden cufflinks, inscribed with the Cantonese for 'I love you'. When I was with him, I wasn't 'Prince Thomas', I was just 'Tommy'. No obligations, no pressures, just me and him. Then I messed up.

"I wanted to give him something really special to show him how much I loved him, and so I did. A Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin from 1864, 'La Belle', to be precise. One hundred and sixty thousand pounds, acquired from Sotheby's via an auction agent so that no-one would know that it was me that had bought it for him. He cried when I gave it to him, he was so shocked by it. We came up with a story about it being bought for him by someone from Hong Kong and so he started using it at the Philharmonic. Then Dad realised what I'd done. He was furious. He told me that I was getting careless, that we'd get found out, that I was risking the reputation of the Crown and the nation for a replaceable musician who wasn't even truly Britanique. I yelled at him, screamed at him, told him that he didn't have any idea what he was talking about. Then he told me that I'd become too attached to Min-shen and that I had to make a choice. End the relationship myself, or Dad would talk to people in the Civil Service and have Min-shen's employment visa revoked, costing him his spot in the Philharmonic and forcing him to return to Hong Kong. Min-shen had always dreamed of performing in the Royal Philharmonic, and if he lost his place then that sort of thing would get around other orchestras; having his visa revoked would make it look like he'd done something wrong."

Thomas began blinking more deliberately and bit his bottom lip as he felt another wave of sadness welling up. "I didn't want to tell Min-shen about the threat but I couldn't bring myself to say anything unkind to him, so I told him the truth. I told him that I loved him and that I wanted him to keep his dream even if it meant never seeing him again. He suggested running off together but we both knew that doing that would just make things even worse. I came back to the Palace, told Dad that it was done, then locked myself in my suite for two days. We'd been together for just over eleven months, and it was all gone because of my stupidity. All because I wanted to get him something to show him how much I loved him. All because I dared to think about my happiness."

Marianne smiled sadly and squeezed his hand. "You've never stopped blaming yourself, and you're not interested in anyone new because you're punishing yourself."

Thomas shook his head. "I don't want to end up hurting someone that I care about, not again. I'm also not sure that there'll ever be anyone else quite like him."

"Have you tried getting in contact with him again?"

"What would I say? 'Now that my father is dead and I'm the King, do you want to give it another shot? Don't worry about my wife, she'll be banging her valet in the apartments next door.' He's probably moved on by now anyway, something that I should probably try to do myself but...these things aren't easy." He turned to face her with an appreciative yet melancholy smile. "Thanks for being here for me, Annie. Even if your love is a bit rough."

"Any time." The pair exchanged another hug, Marianne beginning to brew a plan as they did so. Someone should find out for definite if he's moved on...

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Marimaia
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Founded: Antiquity
Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:06 am

19 April 2021, 08:30hrs [UTC+0]
Number Ten Downing Street
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

Known more popularly throughout the United Kingdom simply as 'Number Ten', Number Ten Downing Street was the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of Grand Bretagne. Number Ten was over three hundred years old and contained over one hundred rooms, including a private apartment for the Prime Minister on the third floor and a kitchen in the basement, while the rest of the rooms were dedicated to various functions of government. One of the most important of these rooms was the Cabinet Room, the official meeting place for the United Kingdom's Cabinet of Ministers. Reached by passing through a small reception office, the Cabinet Room was a rectangular space with an off-white decor; large floor-to-ceiling windows ran along one of the long walls, while three brass chandeliers descended from the ceiling. The room was dominated by the massive oak Cabinet table, surrounded by carved solid mahogany chairs; the table featured a boat-shaped top and was usually covered by a baize-green tablecloth. The only chair with arms was the Prime Minister's chair, which was positioned midway along one side of the table, in front of the room's marble fireplace and facing the floor-to-ceiling windows. While the Prime Minister possessed their own private office within Number Ten, some holders of the office preferred to work in the Cabinet Room instead, due to its larger size and greater amount of natural light. Prime Minister Graham was one of these individuals as he found it easier to hold meetings in the Cabinet Room than in his actual office, as he could have several individuals sat across from him at the Cabinet table, compared to one or two at most at the desk in his office. So this morning, as with most mornings, he was sat in the Prime Minister's chair with a cup of tea positioned to his right while several dossiers and documents were spread out before him. The only other person in the room with him was Estienne Fouché CMG, his Principal Private Secretary. Aged forty-six with a head of short greying hair, Estienne's role was to run the Prime Minister's private office, placing him in charge of the diary and essentially acting as the gatekeeper to the Prime Minister. Estienne was best described as quiet and unassuming, seemingly content to simply get on with his duties and serve the Prime Minister.

The telephone at Estienne's right hand buzzed, eliciting an immediate response from the Francian. "Yes? Yes, of course. Please come straight through." He replaced the receiver and looked up to meet Graham's inquisitive gaze. "Sir Michael is coming through to see you, Prime Minister."

Graham nodded approvingly and checked his wristwatch. "Half-past eight on the dot. He's nothing if not punctual."

As if on cue, the door to the Cabinet Room opened and the distinguished form of Sir Michael Hamilton-Smythe GCB KBE MOV entered the room, clutching a dossier under his arm. The fifty-nine-year-old stood six-foot-two and was often referred to as the 'archetypal civil servant', as he was always dressed in an immaculate grey suit with short-styled light brown hair and a pair of tortoiseshell acetate square-rimmed spectacles. Sir Michael held the vaunted position of Cabinet Secretary, making him the most senior civil servant in Bretagne, especially when combined with his additional posts as Head of the Home Civil Service and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary. Sir Michael was therefore responsible for ensuring that the Civil Service received all of the resources and amenities deemed necessary for them to complete their work, but the post of Cabinet Secretary also gave him influence beyond the realms of the Civil Service. The Cabinet Secretary was responsible for administering the Ministerial Code which governs the conduct of ministers, meaning that Sir Michael could be asked to investigate leaks within government and enforce Cabinet discipline. This gave him some authority over the elected ministers despite being unelected himself, although it was rare for him to exercise that authority. The Cabinet Secretary also acted as the senior policy advisor to the Prime Minister, an interesting aspect to the role as it was not unusual for a Cabinet Secretary to serve more than one Prime Minister, sometimes of different political persuasions. Sir Michael confidently strode across the room until he was stood directly opposite Prime Minister Graham, then offered a polite nod.

"Good morning, Prime Minister."

"Good Morning, Sir Michael." Graham gestured for Sir Michael to take a seat before leaning forward, clasping his hands together on the table. The two men had developed an excellent working relationship during Graham's tenure thus far, with the younger Prime Minister always interested in the advice offered by the older civil servant. The relationship was helped by the fact that both men had attended Winchester and Oxford, so the ever-present 'old school network' played a part in the United Kingdom's government. Sir Michael placed his dossier on the table before taking the offered seat, then opened it to the first page.

"Just a few things to discuss this morning, Prime Minister. First, we have to discuss your planned visit to the Kingdom of Belgica in two weeks' time. King Adelbert is very much looking forward to hosting you and discussing a wide variety of topics, as you are aware. We've now received confirmation from the Palace that Queen Mother Christina will be accompanying you as a show of the unbreakable ties between the House of Stuart-Normandie and their cousins in the House of Belgica."

"Ah, excellent. I've always found Her Majesty to be quite easy to get along with, and her presence will only help to make the occasion even more prestigious."

Sir Michael nodded agreeably. "Very well put, Prime Minister." The Cabinet Secretary had long ago earned himself the nickname of 'The King's Man' for his unapologetic monarchism, and he had no problem demonstrating his loyalty to the Crown during the course of his duties.

"What's next?"

"Amelia Zhang CMG has been successfully re-elected as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth by unanimous decision, admittedly helped by the fact that no-one ran against her but then there was not thought to be anyone in a position to challenge her. This is now her second term, thankfully we eliminated term limits for the Secretary-General so barring any unforeseen issues, she should be in place for a good long while. Just as well, since she's being made a Dame in the Birthday Honours."

Graham nodded. "Good to hear. I've always found her to be very professional, she's...oh, what do you call it?"

Sir Michael slightly raised an eyebrow. "Sound?"

"Precisely."

"She is indeed a sound individual, Prime Minister. She has demonstrated a clear ability to engage with Commonwealth leaders who possess a predilection for the centralisation of authority and security-based administration...and she earned a First in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford, so she's 'one of us'."

Graham chuckled and sat back in his chair. "Did you mean authoritarians, by any chance?"

Sir Michael slowly wagged his finger. "The term 'authoritarian' conjures up a rather negative image, Prime Minister. That is why we only ever apply it to nations that are against us. Do not misunderstand me, of course democracy and freedom of the press are wonderful things to have, provided that they do not impede the necessary administration of the country, but unfortunately not all nations in our world are as suited to such things as we are. Should they be somehow penalised for that, particularly if they are friendly nations?"

"Of course not. That is precisely why this government's policy is to constructively engage with all nations, to focus on the common ground that we share with others whenever possible."

That earned a nod of approval from the Cabinet Secretary. "A policy that demonstrates genuine enlightenment, Prime Minister. Now, somewhat related to the matter of foreign relations, I understand that you're meeting the new South African High Commissioner this afternoon."

"Yes, that's correct." One of the organisational quirks of the Commonwealth of Sovereign Nations was their use of 'high commissioners' instead of ambassadors between Commonwealth member-nations. The term was derived from Britanique colonial history when a high commissioner was an envoy of the imperial government who managed protectorates or groups of territories; it was now used to describe the senior diplomat appointed by one Commonwealth nation to represent them in a fellow Commonwealth nation. Likewise, the embassy of one Commonwealth nation to a fellow Commonwealth nation was known as a 'high commission'.

"Well, I thought you might appreciate a little prior warning about him. While he did attend public school over here, I'm afraid to say that he went to Eton. So he may carry himself with rather more entitlement than he should, not like those of us who attended Winchester."

"I'll keep that in mind, Sir Michael. I do appreciate you looking out for me in situations like this."

Sir Michael noted the amusement in the Prime Minister's voice but elected not to draw any attention to it, instead offering a respectful nod of the head. "It is what I am here for, Prime Minister."

(OOC: The three-letter acronyms are part of the Britanique Honours system: CMG = Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, GCB = Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, KBE = Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the Britanique Empire, MOV = Member of the Royal Order of Victory)
Last edited by Marimaia on Sun May 02, 2021 3:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Fri Apr 23, 2021 12:44 pm

20 April 2021, 18:50hrs [UTC+0]
Min-shen Leung's Flat
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

While the twenty-three-year-old Hong Konger was incredibly proud of his position as one of the Second Violins of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, sometimes the commute back and forth from his residence could be harassing, to say the least. The home of the Royal Philharmonic was Cadogan Hall, a concert hall with a capacity of nine-hundred-and-fifty, located in the affluent Chelsea area of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. The borough was home to the world-renowned Harrods department store as well as a wide variety of museums, other tourist attractions, high commissions, and embassies, placing the housing in the borough well out of the price range of many individuals. This meant that Min-shen had to reside in a one-bedroom flat in the town of Belvedere which lay within the London borough of Bexley, one of the less expensive areas that formed the outer limits of the Britanique capital and much more within his means; it had been his home ever since arriving in the United Kingdom back in 2018. His daily commute to work involved a ten-minute walk to Belvedere train station, then a thirty-seven-minute train journey to Cannon Street station, followed by a three-minute walk to the connected Cannon Street station for the London Underground, then a fifteen-minute journey on the Underground to Sloane Square station, finally finishing with a two-minute walk to Cadogan Hall; the journey was then reversed for his return home. On paper, the commute did not sound too bad at all, but that was because the route on paper did not account for delays, the weather, or the potential to encounter unpleasant individuals. Today had been one of those days where unpleasant individuals had played a significant role in his journey home. The surprisingly warm weather had put more than a few commuters in a poor mood as they packed onto train services in an attempt to get home as soon as possible, leading to jostling, pushing, and oftentimes an almost impressive amount of profanity. Min-shen had spent almost the entirety of the journey between Sloane Square and Cannon Street pushed into a corner, clutching his violin case to his chest while fighting the urge to use it as a weapon to clear his personal space, while the journey from Cannon Street station to Belvedere station had seen him having to avoid making eye contact with a group of four loud teenagers who appeared to be looking to cause trouble for others in the pursuit of entertainment. After stopping at the local supermarket on his walk home to grab some essentials, Min-shen finally arrived back at the block of flats with his violin case in one hand, two reusable shopping bags in the other, his rucksack strapped over his shoulders, and his black coat somewhat precariously tucked under his left arm.

After taking a minute or so to unceremoniously stuff his coat into one of the shopping bags, Min-shen then placed the bags on the ground so that he could open the front door, hooking his right foot around the bottom of the door to keep it open as he collected up the shopping and just about managed to make it inside. Successfully catching the lift improved his mood, and it was not long before he arrived at the door of his flat. After placing the shopping bags down once again to fish his key out of his wallet, Min-shen opened the door and stepped through into the relative peace of his small home, managing to avoid walking over his mail and remembering to bring in the shopping that he had left just outside. He returned his coat to the hook on the inside of the door and placed his violin case on a nearby table before taking the shopping into his small kitchen and putting it away, then scrunched up the shopping bags and placed them back in their usual drawer. He yawned loudly as he exited the kitchen and stepped across the small hallway to the bathroom, shucking off his dark blue shirt, black trousers, and underwear before getting into the shower, eager to feel refreshed after the heat of the day and the train journeys had left him feeling rather, well, unwashed. A few minutes under the spray certainly helped in this regard, and Min-shen emerged from the shower in a far more positive mood than when he had entered it. After gently drying himself off with a cotton towel, he collected up his clothing from the floor and placed it in the nearby hamper before crossing to his bedroom where he changed into a simple white t-shirt with black sweatpants. A brief blast from a hairdryer finished drying his short dyed white-blond hair, and he gave it a tousle to get his fringe back into place before returning to the kitchen once again to get some food.

Min-shen's slim six-foot frame soon dropped onto the couch in front of the television, the young violinist clutching a plastic pot of 'sticky rib'-flavoured instant noodles that he began to eagerly devour. Hardly the most nutritious or delicious option, but he was in the mood for something quick and simple. After perusing the on-screen television guide, Min-shen settled for an episode of one of Bretagne's most popular television shows, involving two teams of contestants buying antiques with the help of experts and then trying to sell them at auction for a profit. After watching for a few minutes and continuing to wolf down his food, Min-shen paused with a mouthful of noodles as he remembered that his mail was still scattered across the mat just behind his front door, so he clambered up and retrieved the collection of letters and leaflets, bringing his violin case with him as he settled back down again.

Don't need more insurance, don't need another credit card, he thought to himself as he organised the mail on his flat-pack coffee table, menu for...oh, I haven't tried them yet. He took a few moments to inspect the pricing on the menu for the advertised takeaway business before setting it aside and turning over the last piece of mail in his hand, frowning at the incredibly neat penmanship used to write his name and address. He ran his finger underneath the glued flap to open the envelope and his puzzlement was heightened as he unfolded the handwritten letter contained within; he took another look at the envelope to try and find a clue as to the sender but was unsuccessful, so he sat back and began to read.


-------------------------------------------


Dear Min-shen,

I hope that this letter finds you well. We have only met twice in person so you may not remember me from our meetings, but I suspect that you will still recognise me as I am now known as Queen Marianne. You may now be thinking that this is some sort of hoax or prank, so allow me to prove my identity by providing a piece of information that only a handful of individuals would know: you used to regularly spend the night in the Prince's Suite. As you have kept silent about your past relationship with Thomas, I feel that I can trust you with information that you may find to be of interest. The marriage between Thomas and myself is one of convenience, we love one another as the close friends that we are but that is as far it goes.

I am writing to you at this time because Thomas still loves you and he has deliberately refrained from taking a lover since your relationship ended, as he blames himself for how your relationship ended and does not wish to hurt any potential future partner. He has been afraid to contact you since becoming King because he believes that you have moved on with your life, and he does not wish to cause you any further hurt or any awkwardness in any relationship that you may currently be involved in. As always, he thinks of you before himself. He has no idea that I have written to you, and I apologise if this letter causes you any trouble, but I believe that Thomas needs to know for definite if you have indeed moved on.

If you have, then I would ask you to contact me on the provided phone number. If you are in a settled relationship or have no interest in reconciliation with him, then I would ask you to call me so that I can inform him, help him to accept it and hopefully help him to move on as well. However, if you still love him and would wish an opportunity to reconcile with him, then please call me to inform me and we can arrange something between ourselves. I simply wish to see him happy and I hope that you are willing to help me in that endeavour, either by helping him to move on or by reuniting with him.

Yours sincerely,
Marianne


-------------------------------------------



Min-shen stared at the letter in his hand as he finished reading it, unable to believe the contents. He then re-read the letter to ensure that he hadn't misunderstood it, lowering it as he considered the implications.

She's his beard. Now that makes sense. I can't believe that he still hasn't moved on though, imagine all of the guys who'd kill for the chance to bed the King...

Min-shen put the letter down and reached over for his violin case, setting it on his lap and unlatching it. He gently danced his fingers over the strings of La Belle, the violin that was worth more than everything else in his flat combined, a smile forming as he once again recalled the day that Thomas had presented it to him.

Not that I can talk. Connor and Laurence were decent guys but they both had the same massive unsolvable problem. They weren't you, Tommy.

Minutes passed as he lost himself in recollection, before finally returning to the present with a loud sigh. He then reached out towards the coffee table and picked up his phone, breathing slowly as he tapped in the provided phone number. It rang for a couple of moments before a female voice answered.

"Hello?"

He hesitated before finally speaking, his voice cracking slightly with nervousness. "Queen Marianne?"

The response was an obvious attempt to deceive the other person in the room with her. "Hi, Mum! Tom, I'm going to take this outside, okay?"

Min-shen bit his lip as he heard Thomas's voice in the background, then realised that he was listening to Marianne leaving the room that she was currently in. He remained on the line and waited patiently until she spoke once again, evidently now in a more private location.

"Min-shen, is that you?"

"Yeah, it's me. How's he doing?"

There was an undercurrent of excitement in her voice as she continued. "He's doing okay, he's watching tv at the moment. How are you?"

"I'm okay. Look, I got your letter and there didn't seem to be any point in hanging about before responding." He paused and swallowed, taking a deep breath. "I've tried moving on but it always felt like something was missing. I guess at the end of the day, what I'm saying is...I want him back."

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 25, 2021 1:01 pm

21 April 2021, 08:30hrs [UTC+0]
Number Ten Downing Street
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

"Good morning, Prime Minister."

Prime Minister Graham made a show of checking his wristwatch as Sir Michael entered the Cabinet Room, clutching the dossier that contained the daily issues of note. "Are you ever late for anything, Sir Michael? Half-past eight, every weekday morning. We could set Number Ten's clocks by you."

"Simply a demonstration of discipline and efficiency, the hallmarks of every good Britanique civil servant."

Graham smirked as Sir Michael took his usual seat opposite him at the Cabinet table. "Does that mean that there are bad Britanique civil servants?"

"Of course not, Prime Minister. Merely differing levels of ability, with the ablest and most competent rising to the top as it should be. Now then, you have Prime Minister's Questions at noon so I'm certain that we have yet another masterly performance to look forward to. Then the weekly audience with His Majesty at half-past-two. The reason I mention these two engagements is because we've received information regarding a matter that is unlikely to be raised at the former but should certainly be raised at the latter."

"Well, now you have me intrigued, Sir Michael. Are we talking about good news or bad news?"

The Cabinet Secretary opened his dossier and tapped the top page with his index finger. "Potentially excellent news, although some of your political opponents may attempt to sour it once they get a hold of it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office received an urgent message this morning from our ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it will be included in the morning delivery of FCO messages but I felt that this is important enough to provide you with advance information. According to our information, the government in Abuja is going to be applying for membership of the Commonwealth."

Sir Michael produced a copy of the message that he was referencing and handed it to Prime Minister Graham, who sipped at his tea as he read through it. Upon finishing his perusal, Graham looked back up at Sir Michael with a great deal of interest. "Is this reliable?"

"Indeed it is, Prime Minister. Ambassador Ramsden has been in his post since 2017, so he knows a great many individuals in the upper echelons of Nigerian politics. This particular piece of information came from President Makinde himself, completely off-the-record and unattributed of course. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office believe that this is the President's way of sounding us out on the idea."

"I assume that the FCO are in favour?"

"Indeed they are, Prime Minister." The Federal Republic of Nigeria was one of the largest nations on the continent of Africa, boasting a population of approximately 206 million; the neighbouring Dominion of West Africa had a population of just over 99 million while the Dominion of South Africa boasted a population of just under 82 million, meaning that Nigeria on its own featured a larger population than both of the Commonwealth's African members combined. A multinational state that was home to over 250 ethnic groups, Nigeria possessed a strong economy that included considerable reserves of oil and natural gas. The nation had been a Britanique colony in its past, gaining independence in 1960 but choosing to go its own way shortly afterwards, politely refusing Commonwealth membership and adopting a federal republican system of government. The road following independence had not always been a smooth one as Nigeria had experienced a civil war and several military coups over the years, but democracy had eventually prevailed; Grand Bretagne had made sure to remain as friendly with Nigeria as possible over the years, helping to develop a warm understanding between the two nations. Nigeria's incumbent President, Ikemba Makinde, was forty-nine years old and the former Governor of Lagos State, the location of Nigeria's primary port and largest city that bore the same name as the state; an experienced political operator, Makinde was head of the centre-right Constitutional People's Party and had been elected as President in 2018. The CPP had been elected with a majority of the seats in both houses of the bicameral National Assembly at the same time, the legacy of Makinde's predecessor who had retired due to his advanced age. Makinde's tenure thus far had seen a deepening of relations with Grand Bretagne, and it appeared that he was intent on advancing to the next logical stage of the process.

"So when is this application likely to be announced officially?"

Sir Michael smiled slightly at Graham's question. "I suspect that it depends on what sort of response President Makinde receives from our government. Ultimately it is in everyone's interests for Nigeria to join the Commonwealth, Prime Minister, a fact that is obvious to anyone. Nigerian membership would provide the Dominion of West Africa with a formidable friendly neighbour, and there would undoubtedly be increased trade between the two. The Makinde administration is currently negotiating for the Nigerian Armed Forces to be supplied with more modern Britanique armaments, and believe me when I say that such a contract would be worth a great deal. Then of course we do have Pétrole Britanique to consider. They have numerous joint ventures ongoing with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, so Nigerian membership of the Commonwealth would only benefit that relationship."

Graham nodded approvingly. "Of course, that means better access to oil and gas supplies for us."

"Precisely, Prime Minister. Then when we look at the benefits to Nigeria, there are many. Greater access to Commonwealth markets, greater cooperation with Commonwealth governments, membership of the Commonwealth's subsidiary agencies, the right to participate in the Commonwealth Games...the list does go on and on."

"So remind me about President Makinde, I know that you have a profile of him either in that dossier or memorised."

Sir Michael nodded before turning to a new page in his dossier. "A capable politician, his party has a majority in both houses of the national legislature. A Britanophile, and certainly suitable as both a Commonwealth head of state and head of government, as both roles are combined in the position of President in the Nigerian political system."

Graham chuckled at the use of the phrase 'certainly suitable' as he had quickly picked up on the Civil Service code since being elected to office. If an individual was described as 'eminently suitable' then it usually meant that they had attended either Oxford or Cambridge, whereas 'certainly suitable' meant that they had attended a Britanique university of lesser renown but had achieved a high final grade. "Where did he go to university then?"

"The London School of Economics, not quite Oxford or Cambridge but not too bad in the grand scheme of things. He read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, earning an Upper Second. There were questions asked about his relationship with Pétrole Britanique when he was Governor of Lagos State but Nigerian state investigations failed to turn up anything untoward." Sir Michael closed the dossier and leaned forward. "As the information about this potential application was off-the-record, it is unlikely that it will be mentioned at Prime Minister's Questions but it never hurts to be prepared. If it is raised then it may necessitate a leak enquiry to determine how the information got out. Of course, there would be no problem with you discussing this news with His Majesty during your audience this afternoon. In the meantime, the FCO will respond to Ambassador Ramsden with completely unofficial and off-the-record advice stating that we would have no problem welcoming Nigeria into the Commonwealth, so President Makinde should feel free to press ahead as he sees fit."

The Prime Minister appeared thoughtful for a moment. "This would be beneficial to His Majesty when you think about it. Not only would he be the monarch that welcomed Nigeria back into the 'family', but he'd also be the first monarch to welcome any nation into the Commonwealth since the end of decolonisation in 1971."

"Very true, Prime Minister. So you see why this potential application would be to the benefit of everyone."

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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun May 02, 2021 4:08 pm

(OOC: After having a chat with a couple of interested parties, a couple of edits have been to previous posts in the thread. Nothing particularly major.)

23 April 2021, 21:20hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

The primary royal residence in the United Kingdom had always been the subject of rumours regarding secret rooms and tunnels, the rumours ranging from the plausible to the downright ridiculous. As the floorplan of Eybury Palace had never been made public for privacy and security reasons, people tended to have their ideas of what sort of amenities lay within. While the secrets of the palace were largely quite mundane, there were a few little gems of interest such as the secret tunnels linking it to Clarence House (the residence of Queen Mother Christina) and the Houses of Parliament, as well as the rarely-used private Underground station that was connected to the rest of London's subway train network; King Thomas found the station to be particularly amusing as it reminded him of the villainous escape methods often used in the 'spy-fi' movies that were still incredibly popular with the Britanique public. The more mundane 'secrets' were simply useful amenities that were not widely reported. For example, Eybury Palace featured a full-size indoor swimming pool, the location of which couldn't be pinpointed by anyone outside of the Royal Household. The palace also included the Royal Physician's Office equipped for surgical procedures, available to all household staff as well as the Royal Family themselves; a private ATM that admittedly did not see much use as the Royals very rarely needed to carry cash around with them; and a home cinema that occupied the Palace's south drawing room, available for the household staff. While King Alexander and the then-Queen Christina had always used the cinema separately from the staff, King Thomas and Queen Marianne had proven themselves to be far more personable and sometimes joined the staff for viewings of particular movies. Thomas even exercised some royal influence from time to time and acquired advance copies of the more anticipated movie releases, for the express purpose of allowing household staff to see such films before the rest of the Britanique public. His attitude was that the household staff worked hard for him and his family, so they deserved some perks if he could provide them.

This had been the case on this particular Friday evening, as the Royal Household had just finished watching 'For King and Country', the latest entry in a long-running Britanique spy franchise. There was an actual Royal Premiere for the movie scheduled for May 6th, meaning that Thomas and Marianne would end up watching it again in less than two weeks at an event swarming with press representatives and various celebrities in addition to members of the cast and crew of the film, but the Royal Couple had long learned how to act surprised at plot twists and the like if they had already seen the featured movie in the palace's cinema. Although all of the staff knew full well that the King and Queen were in the cinema with them, Thomas and Marianne always preferred to take seats at the back rather than at the front as this allowed the staff to sit closer to the screen if they wanted to. With the screening finished and the staff heading home happy, the Royal Couple began strolling through the opulent interior of their residence on the way to their respective apartments.

"So what did you think?"

"I think that they made the right choice for the new Rémy Berard. He's got that suaveness, it's almost like he was born for that role."

"Someone's got a crush."

Thomas rolled his eyes and snorted as Marianne giggled. "I just think he's going to be an awesome Rémy Berard, that's all. Sure he's handsome, but he's married. Properly married, not like this." He used a finger to gesture back and forth between them. "Besides, I'm sure that you didn't mind the shirtless scenes either."

"Well, you may be right."

The pair continued chatting about the movie and various other mundane topics until they had reached the corridor that led to their private quarters, at which point they bid each other a good night before separating; Marianne entering her apartments as Thomas continued along the corridor to his own. As the Queen walked into her rooms, she was met by a beaming Louis Évreux who paused mid-undressing.

"All taken care of."

"You mean..." She gestured with her head in the direction of the King's Apartments, a similar smile to Louis's beginning to develop as she did so.

"Uh-huh. Windsor helped out, so he's informed the kitchen staff that His Majesty might not be up for breakfast at the usual time."

Marianne walked over to him and planted a grateful kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, Louis. I hope that this works out."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Thomas entered his apartments and let out a slight yawn as he closed the door behind him, then started to unbutton his shirt as he prepared for an early night once again. A noise from elsewhere in the King's Apartments momentarily caught his attention, and he frowned as the brief silence following the noise was replaced with the sound of a string instrument being played. He paused and listened in momentary confusion, then his eyes widened as recognition struck him like a thunderbolt when he realised that he was not only listening to a violin being played, he was also listening to a song of particular significance being played. He began to softly sing to himself as he followed the sound of the familiar music, hurrying across the bedchamber towards the open door that led into the bathroom, which in turn connected to the lounge area of the King's Apartments.

"A star so bright, you blind me...don't close your eyes, don't fade away, don't-"

As he stepped into the small private lounge, Thomas stopped singing as he froze in disbelief at the sight before him. In the middle of the lounge stood the figure of Min-shen, dressed in a stylish black suit, effortlessly playing the song that he and Thomas had long past chosen as 'their song' on La Belle. As he saw Thomas entering the room, Min-shen smiled and began to mouth the slightly altered words of the chorus to Thomas as he continued to play.

Yeah you and me, we can ride on a star, if you stay with me Tom, we can rule the world...

"Min?"

Min-shen ceased his playing and nodded, his hazel eyes peering out from underneath his swept-forward fringe. "Hey, Tommy. Someone suggested that we should have a chat and...fuck it, come here." He set down the musical instrument and quickly strode across the room as tears began to descend down Thomas's face, throwing his arms around the young monarch and holding him tightly while doing his utmost to resist his own emotional response. Thomas reciprocated Min-shen's embrace as firmly as he could, burying his face in the violinist's shoulder as he continued to sob softly.

"I never thought I'd see you again..."

Min-shen gently tucked his fingers under the King's chin and lifted his face to lock eyes with him, bringing their lips together in a tender kiss as Min-shen's resolve finally cracked and his own tears began to flow. As they broke the kiss, the pair gently rested their foreheads together and gazed into each other's eyes, Min-shen letting out a soft chuckle amidst his continuing tears.

"Both crying already, we're doing so well."

"What did you do to your hair?"

"I thought I'd try white-blond rather than black, and I kinda like this style. Why, don't you like it?"

Thomas sighed loudly and smiled as he attempted to wipe away some of the moisture on his face. "I do actually, it's got a little bit of a bad boy vibe. Well, I think so anyway. Ohh, I'm not dreaming this, am I?"

Min-shen smirked and sniffed back his subsiding tears as he took hold of some of Thomas's wavy brunette mane and gave a playful tug, eliciting a mild whimper from the King. "What do you think?"

Thomas retaliated by reaching up and grabbing Min-shen's fringe before giving a tug of his own, giggling at the violinist's protest as he did so. "You're real enough. I don't get it, how are you here?"

Min-shen lightly kissed Thomas on the forehead and made a contented sound. "We've got a lot to talk about."

Hand-in-hand, the pair walked through the connecting bathroom to the royal bedchamber, sitting next to each other on the side of Thomas's expansive four-poster canopy bed. Min-shen let out a soft sigh as he began the conversation, both of them wiping away what remained of their earlier tears.

"A couple of days ago I received a letter from the Queen, asking me if I'd moved on from you. She wanted me to call her regardless of whether I had moved on or not, as you were having problems moving on and she wanted to help you. Either by confirming to you that I'd moved on or by reuniting us." He reached into his jacket's inside pocket and produced the letter, handing it to Thomas so that he could read it for himself.

"Damn." Thomas shook his head and smiled as he finished reading. "She moves quickly, I'll give her that. She launched a one-woman intervention at me on Sunday night, just as I was going to bed."

Min-shen raised his eyebrows in amusement. "I got the letter on Tuesday, so she must have written and sent it the day after she cornered you. Anyway, I called her and told her that if it was possible, then I'd want you back. She set up this whole thing with that Louis guy, he picked me up at my flat and brought me to the palace, then Windsor let me in here." He gently squeezed Thomas's hand. "Tommy...I wanted to talk to you after your father died, but I was worried that it would be too soon. You had all these new responsibilities to deal with and I figured that you needed time to adjust to it all before I came crashing back onto the scene. Then I saw the reports about you and Marianne dating, and I thought that you'd moved on, even if admittedly it wasn't quite in the way I'd expected to see. So I tried moving on myself, but there was always the same problem. No matter how great they were, no other guy could match up to my Tommy."

"Min, I..." Thomas paused and gathered his thoughts. "I figured that after what happened between us, you would've moved on. Someone as amazing as you would never struggle to find a boyfriend, you just proved me to be right about that. The whole thing with Annie was my mother's idea, to prevent any awkward questions about my private life and to keep up appearances for the more conservative members of the Commonwealth. I'm guessing that she's told you this, you wouldn't be here otherwise. She's been badgering me about finding someone because she's got a lover and I think she felt guilty that she was the only one who had someone. The fact is that I didn't want to get into a relationship because I didn't want to end up hurting someone that I care about like I hurt you." He paused once again. "I also didn't think that I'd find anyone else like you."

"You weren't the one who hurt me, Tommy. I mean yes, it hurt when we broke up but I didn't blame you for it. You were forced into an impossible decision by your father, you simply tried to do the best you could for me. We both got hurt because of him." Min-shen sighed slightly. "I did initially think about going back home to Hong Kong, but you did what you did so that I could stay with the Royal Philharmonic. So I stayed just like you wanted me to. It felt a bit weird at first, but using La Belle always reminded me of how much you believed in me and how much you wanted me to continue with my dream. I'm still a Second Violin but there's talk of me getting a solo in one of the upcoming performances, to see how I cope with it."

"I'm glad you stayed with them. Talent like yours deserves to be given as large an audience as possible, and if you do get to do a solo then you'll put the rest of the Violins to shame. Good to know that La Belle is serving you well, it means that I did do something right after all."

Min-shen's expression grew stern for a moment. "Hey, don't talk like that. You never did anything wrong in our relationship, Tommy. Your father was the problem, not you. Never you." His tone softened as he changed the subject. "So how are you managing as King? Aside from the romance stuff, are you doing okay?"

"Yeah, I'm coping. Annie's always looking out for me, the Household staff do what they can to help. Mum still does royal visits and that kind of thing so there's a bit less work for me to do. I still feel lonely at times though, these apartments are supposed to be a sanctuary but sometimes they just feel empty."

Min-shen smiled affectionately at Thomas. "I'm pretty sure that I could help with that if you want me to."

"So you genuinely do want us to get back together?"

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't. Do you want me back?"

"I can't think of anything I'd want more than to have you back." Thomas bit his bottom lip and took a deep intake of breath. "Would it be okay if you stay here tonight?"

"I can stay here for the whole weekend if you want, but there's no need to do anything unless you're certain that you want to. If you just want to talk, then we just talk."

"Honestly, I'm happy just having you here. I think I might need a little time to process everything before we, well, you know, so talking sounds good. We need to catch up properly."

Min-shen nodded. "I completely understand. I've known about this for a couple of days, you've only just had it sprung on you. We'll take it slowly, and you tell me whenever you feel ready. Besides, the anticipation will make it all the more special when the time comes."

Thomas couldn't help but smile as Min-shen gave him a playful wink. "You haven't changed a bit, Min. Um, I know this might sound silly, but could you play for me?"

"Nothing silly about that at all." Min-shen gave Thomas a gentle kiss before retrieving La Belle from the lounge area, returning to the bedchamber and taking up a stance. "What would you like to hear?"

"'Rule the World', from the beginning please."

Min-shen nodded approvingly before positioning the violin and beginning to play their song once again. While he played, he watched with satisfaction as Thomas sat on the side of the bed, slightly swaying to the music with an increasingly contented smile etched across his features, wiping away the occasional escaping tear of joy.
Last edited by Marimaia on Mon May 03, 2021 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun May 09, 2021 3:08 pm

24 April 2021, 08:20hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

As happened every day of the week when the Royal Couple were in residence, breakfast at Eybury Palace was served at precisely eight o'clock in the Lingnan Dining Room (also known as the Cantonese Dining Room as the terms Lingnan and Cantonese were used as synonyms to describe the same culture), located on the same corridor as the separate private apartments for the King and Queen. While the Dining Room's walls were primarily a soft eggshell blue, their colour was drowned out by the rich reds, blacks, and golds that comprised the rest of the room's decor, including the large panels decorated in geometric designs that ran along the bottom quarter of the walls for the entirety of the room. The furniture and decorations within the Dining Room were all either inspired by the aesthetic styles of the Dominion of Liangguang or had been brought over from the populous East Asian member of the Commonwealth. The interior faces of the doors featured exquisite renditions of Lingnan tiered towers, while ornately decorated plinths were topped by impressive blue-and-gold Lingnan vases. The room was lit by the floor-to-ceiling windows that ran along one wall, each framed by red-and-gold panelling that was decorated with traditional Lingnan depictions of dragons; the windows also featured folding shutters of the same design. The dining table itself was rather uncomplicated in design but had been crafted from Lingnan rosewood, as had the matching dining chairs.

Queen Marianne sat at one end of the dining table, idly picking at her breakfast of baked beans and cheese on toast. Not what anyone would probably expect the Queen of Grand Bretagne to enjoy in the morning, but Marianne knew what she enjoyed and so the simple meal had become her breakfast of choice well before she had ascended to her current position. She shared her husband's fondness for Earl Grey tea but took hers with honey and no milk, and she sipped at her freshly made tea as she cast her eyes around the room, evidently awaiting something. She then turned her attention to Louis Évreux, who was stood in an 'at ease' stance between two of the impressive windows, smartly dressed in his valet uniform.

"Mark today on the calendar, Louis. King Thomas III of Grand Bretagne is late for breakfast."

Her valet and lover shrugged slightly. "Things must have gone well last night."

"Let's hope so." She then turned to look at Windsor, who was stoically stood near the fireplace, across the room from Louis. "Windsor, what do you think?"

Before the royal butler could respond to the Queen, the doors to the Dining Room began to open quite slowly, and Marianne grinned as Thomas's face sheepishly emerged into the room. "Well, talk of the devil."

"Sorry, Annie. We've only just woken up, we were up late."

"Doing what, I wonder?"

The doors opened the rest of the way as Thomas fully entered, followed closely by Min-shen who was sporting the beginnings of a five o'clock shadow, both still wearing the clothing that they had worn the previous evening. The violinist slipped his arm around Thomas's shoulders as he responded to the Queen's enquiry. "Talking, although we still have a lot to catch up on. I think it was about half-three when we crashed out, wasn't it?" He quickly planted a kiss on Thomas's cheek before continuing. "We woke up about five minutes ago, and he was adamant that we couldn't be any later for breakfast."

"It was more like half-four, Min. Not that I'm complaining." Thomas wriggled slightly and let out an involuntary giggle as Min-shen tickled the back of his neck with an index finger, then crossed the room to Marianne and gestured for her to get up. As she rose from her seat in mild confusion, Thomas stepped closer and grabbed her in a tight hug. "Thank you, Annie. Without you, I wouldn't have him back."

She smiled softly and returned the hug. "No need to thank me, Tom. I'm happy to see you happy." The pair exchanged their traditional cheek kisses before Thomas headed towards his usual seat at the other end of the table, but before the Queen could sit back down she was approached by Min-shen, who gave her a gentle peck on the cheek.

"He might not need to thank you, but I can't thank you enough."

"Don't mention it, just make him happy."

"Just try to stop me." He smiled at her before nodding appreciatively towards Louis and Windsor in turn. "You two as well, thanks for last night."

-----------------------------------------------

Breakfast was quickly and efficiently provided for Thomas and Min-shen within minutes of them taking their seats at the dining table, Thomas occupying his seat directly opposite Marianne while Min-shen positioned himself at the King's right-hand side. Much to the Queen's amusement, both of them requested the same thing: chocolate-filled croissants. This was the first time that she had ever seen Thomas order that particular item for breakfast so she guessed that the pastry food must be of some significance if they both ordered it; she was surprised to see that the kitchen had already prepared the croissants, so she suspected that there must have been a conversation between Min-shen and Windsor the previous evening while she and Thomas had been watching the movie. The King and his companion each received a plate bearing two croissants that were visibly studded with chocolate chips; for beverages, Thomas had his usual cup of Earl Grey with milk and one sugar while Min-shen opted for milky coffee with two sugars.

"So do you two have any plans for today?"

Thomas gestured towards Marianne with a croissant as he replied to her, causing her even more amusement. "Well after breakfast, I need a shower. After that...well, we haven't been awake long enough to plan anything for the day." He turned to Min-shen with a quizzical expression. "Did you bring anything that you can change into?"

"Yeah, it's in that overnight bag I hid in your lounge." Min-shen drank some of his coffee before continuing. "I will say that I didn't bring anything fancy. It's just a change of underwear, a t-shirt, and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. As well as some toiletries, I didn't know if you'd changed yours and I wasn't sure if you'd want a repeat of that first time I stayed over."

Thomas set down the croissant and licked his fingers before using a napkin to dry them. "You were expecting to stay the night, weren't you?"

"Hey, she was the one who recommended that I bring some stuff with me, just in case."

Thomas looked across the table at Marianne, raising his eyebrows. "Is that right?"

The Queen shrugged slightly. "Just as well that I did though, wasn't it?"

"Well...yes, okay, I'll give you that." Thomas returned his attention to Min-shen, who was observing the minor exchange between the Royal Couple with great interest. "Anyway, I highly doubt that we'll be going anywhere outside the grounds, so you'll be fine with what you've brought. We'll probably just end up walking and talking around the palace, it might not sound exciting but-"

Min-shen reached out and took Thomas's hand, lightly running his thumb over the back of it. "We're easing back into things, Tommy. Besides, I can't think of anything I'd rather do than spend time with you, no matter what we're doing."

The pair turned to look at Marianne as she addressed them. "Well, rest assured that I'll stay out of your hair while you two continue getting reacquainted. I need to head over to Clarence House to see your mum anyway, Tom. Don't worry, I'll be the soul of discretion about this."

Thomas nodded appreciatively. "Thanks, Annie. I'll tell her eventually, once we're properly back on track."

-----------------------------------------------

24 April 2021, 22:00hrs [UTC+0]
Eybury Palace
London, United Kingdom of Grande Bretagne

Following a day spent reminiscing about fond memories, as well as having meaningful discussions about how their relationship had ended and where a resumed relationship might end up going, Thomas and Min-shen ended the day in the private lounge of the King's Apartments. After spending some time spooning on the couch half-watching television, the pair's conversation turned to a more practical concern.

"So I take it that there are some spare sheets and a pillow that I can borrow? I mean it's not like this place would be lacking for bedclothes."

Thomas shifted so that he was on his back, allowing him to face Min-shen properly. "Huh?"

"Well, I know we wound up spooning on the bed when we crashed out earlier this morning, but we need to sort out sleeping arrangements for tonight. So I'll take the couch."

The young monarch made a thoughtful 'hmm' before responding. "See, I was thinking that I've got a massive bed and so there's plenty of room if you wanted to share it." He looked up at Min-shen with a coy smile. "What do you think?"

"Only if you're absolutely sure, Tommy. There's no rush, you know that."

"I know, but spending the day with you today has been just like it used to be, Min. Everything just feels right. So yes, I'm sure."

Thomas got up off the couch and reached out to take Min-shen's hand, then began to lead him towards the royal bedchamber. As they entered the bedroom, Min-shen smirked slightly. "So does this mean I can start calling you 'sweetcheeks' again?"

Thomas couldn't help but smile at the mention of the pet name that Min-shen had given him in the past. "Only in here, because I haven't told anyone about you calling me that. It's not the sort of name that any prince should be heard being called. let alone the King of Grand Bretagne."

"No problem, sweetcheeks."

Thomas shook his head and laughed at Min-shen's broad grin. "I've really missed you, Min."

As they reached the bed, Min-shen pulled Thomas closer and gave him a passionate kiss. "I've missed you too. Now that I'm back, you're never getting rid of me."


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