The Royal Family of We Make History gathers for an evening of courtly manners, graceful dances, high fashion… and some intelligence work.
As experienced and related by Viscount Christopher Francis with Pictorial Assistance by Sir Michael C.
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Spies are among us!
The warning from His Lordship came as little surprise to the gathering of nobility from kingdoms afar, with rumours floating through the air as did the chill of a January evening.
“They are here looking for signs of weakness in Her Majesty's realm, but Her Majesty’s strength is resolute,” he reassured. “Their efforts shall be doomed to futility.”
Indeed, Her Majesty’s very presence exuded strength, her warm and steadfast countenance framed by a magnificent dress of red and gold. It instantly caught the eye of the Viscount as he stepped into the hall, his journey from Great Britain complete.
“Your majesty,” he offered with a deep bow, sweeping his gold-trimmed tricorn into his hand.
The Viscount adorned himself in fine blue silk and lace over floral print waistcoat. Others chose colours of cream and royal red, or dark shades of green and brown, topping themselves with the whitest wigs they could find, ambassadors of nation and fashion. Many conversations began with the choices of garment and inquiries of the maker.
“I am working with a new tailor,” the Viscount answered. “What he showed was perfect for me.” Perfect and a bit French, one observed.
He hoped it would charm many ladies seeking a dancing partner, and he did not wait long. A princess summoned him to her side to lead her about the hall for the procession, and then into the first dance, a lively circle of skipping about. The dancers stretched nearly to the perimeter of the room.
When it ended, he gathered she did not have a partner for the next dance. Although he knew he was flirting with the boundaries of decorum, he offered his hand once again, resolved that she not be ignored.
“Christ’s Church Bells!” the Royal Caller announced.
“This is one of my favourites!” the Viscount exclaimed to his partner in the long set.
Yet he had not danced it in awhile. He found himself a step or two off in some figures, as did others, many new to the styles of Her Majesty’s Royal Court. Perseverance being the hallmark of the gathered, the fog of confusion soon lifted, uncertainty falling to laughter and a determination to move and enjoy the beauty of each other’s company through any missteps. Several lords and ladies were so eager to dance they forgot to rest for one iteration once they progressed to the end of the set. Random couples found themselves stranded during figures of four when the geometry did not resolve itself correctly. Nevertheless, the song and revelry continued undiminished.
“Remember to use all of the music!” the gracious caller reminded, lest the dancers complete figures too hastily and end up with little to do but smile and share a moment of standing admiration and honour with one another.
Many other dances would invite such moments of warmth, in steps where the Princes and Princesses, Lords and Ladies, Counts and Countesses would all change places about the set. They looked into each others eyes as they rounded one another, not holding hands but perhaps holding hearts if only for mere seconds.
If the joy of the dance was not suitable motivation, perhaps a glance into the pupil might reveal a spy… or three. The Viscount found his attempts fruitless, overwhelmed by the beauty of all the noblewomen. He smiled often as he cavorted, often raising his free hand to the air in an open display of happiness.
With looks deceiving, the gathered relied on their skills of courtly interrogation, politely asking each other their country of origin. Her Majesty’s Secret Service confirmed all three spies hailed from the same nation. Then word came they were all ladies.
The revelation discomforted the Viscount, having met two charming young ladies from Russia this evening. Surely the frigid land of the tsars had not plunged to the depths of using nobility -- especially young nobility -- for espionage. Yet he had heard of Peter the Great’s desire to rid his country of backwardness and align itself with the West. Information bred power. Power stoked conquest. Conquest abetted war.
He needed to find the third member of this treacherous troika, preferably during a pause for refreshments, but His Lordship summoned.
“It is an outrage,” the host lamented. “Are the men of Great Britain becoming so effeminate that they cannot dance with a fine lady about to turn 16?”
He indicated a countess seated across from him. She blushed at the fuss over her as His Lordship chastised the lack of willing partners for such a woman of beauty.
Shocked, the Viscount needed no prodding. He bowed low before her in his highest court manner and offered her the next dance, appropriately titled, “Come Let’s Be Merry!”
Merry they were as they danced in a three-couple set, honouring each other, casting off and down the middle, and leading each other in a graceful short procession between the other couples, catching each other’s eyes on alternating steps -- a fine birthday gift.
“You know you get more dances if you smile,” one nobleman told a lady during another pause for refreshments.
“I do,” she explained, but added the gentlemen looked too serious.
The Viscount, privy to the conversation, nearly dropped his ale.
“It is an outrage!” he grumbled. “Are we not capable of enjoying the dance?”
Hopefully they would be capable of enjoying fine song, he thought, as Her Majesty’s Royal Court Singers entertained and uplifted the assembled with a heavenly rendition of a Christmas carol, a harmonious farewell to a joyous season until the days of December passed over the horizon once more.
The façade of the three spies soon ended as well, unmasked by a team of young noblewomen working together for Queen and country. The resourceful duo picked the impostors from the crowd to the astonishment of the guests.
All three of them stood before the court, two wearing masques. They had gone to great care to blend in, but their origins gave them away. His Lordship revealed they hailed from Prussia -- obviously sent to pry information on behalf of that conqueror King Frederick II. Justice should come swiftly, those gathered agreed.
“JIG! JIG! JIG!”
For almost a minute, they were forced to perform a dance of lower classes. They seemed to enjoy it, raising the possibility they were commoners as well as conspirators.
Prussians, not Russians, the Viscount mused as he watched it all. One letter and three ladies off. Hopes of joining Her Majesty’s Secret Service faded into the night as the duo collected their prize of fine chocolate for their heroic efforts.
“Queens never make bargains,” the great author Lewis Carroll would pen many years later. But Our Beloved Majesty, both merciful and resolute, granted all three spies unconditional pardons, sparing them the dark and freezing gaol to enjoy the remainder of the festivities. The assembled royalty did not hesitate to join hands with them and welcomed them all into the world-famous Pineapple Dance, the simplest and yet most joyous frolic of the evening.
During the final set dance, the Viscount made a disheartening sight over the shoulder of his partner: a noblewoman in blue, dressed in a beautiful full gown, dancing a set dance… alone. She extended a hand to open air where a nobleman should have been, surrounding by nothingness, bowed to by nobody, turning and facing and curtsying to a void.
The Viscount felt his heart breaking as he watched it, almost losing track of his place in the set. As soon as the dance ended, he made haste to set things right.
“I cannot stand to see you dancing alone!” he proclaimed to her before bowing. “Will you share a waltz with me?”
She graciously accepted, and the two shared the final dance of the evening, one that would officially not come into fashion until many years later. But this was the time to ignore such anachronisms.
Her face brightened as they stepped back and forth in gentle motions, the Viscount and his beautiful partner losing themselves in harmony and elegance, friendship and smiles. Her gentle eyes pierced his heart.
“I could dance all night,” the Viscount said to her. “These are my favourite moments.”
His eyes misted over. “This makes up for so much in my life.”
When the dance ended, he bowed to her as he did before, thanking her profusely for the moment of shared peace.
His Lordship encouraged the gathering to return to their home kingdoms and times with the spirit of the evening intact, remembering their duties as members of Her Majesty’s Elegant Service. No oaths or pledges were required, for all the nobility knew their mission: a life in service to others, at any time, any place.
For the good of our world and ourselves, everyone deserved the royal treatment.
And now, a few more words and pictures from Her Majesty's Gracious Servants.
COMING IN FEBRUARY: In His Excellency's Loyal Service
FLASHBACK: If You Can Walk... (How it all began for me!)