Author: cruisedirector PM
Her Majesty the Queen invites a guest to the Palace.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Bertie/George VI & Lionel L. - Words: 1,931 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-22-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7484837
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This story is a crossover between the universes of The King's Speech and The Queen, and since both of those movies are based on historical events, I want to stress that this is entirely fiction. Although I didn't use the names of any real people who aren't characters in the films, it's going to be pretty obvious who inspired me, so if that is too close to RPF for you, you may want to skip this. Also be warned that there is non-explicit but implied love between two men.
She isn't sure it's wise to invite him. Her husband thinks not, absolutely not, but Philip doesn't know the whole story, and with her mother and sister gone, there is no one else she can ask for advice. In the end she follows her instinct and has her secretary place the call, inquiring about the young man's interest and stressing that it will be a private luncheon...a magnanimous gesture from a monarch who remembers the grandfather he never knew.
She trusts that a man in his position will understand the need for absolute discretion, though as she waits, she wonders how many members of his family already know the truth, which she will never mention unless he finds a way to broach the subject.
She feels uneasy that morning, but when the hour arrives, it passes very pleasantly. The grandson is not as young as she had supposed, though younger than her own children; he is respectful, self-deprecating, witty like his grandfather, and if he is intimidated by her, he doesn't show it. She finds this charming, perhaps in the way her father must have found Lionel Logue charming when they first met.
The grandson is thrilled to hear stories about his grandfather from someone who knew him when she was only a child, particularly since her family held Logue in such affection. She thinks that perhaps she was wrong in her suspicions, though she'd felt so sure, while watching his interviews, that he must have discovered what she'd thought she was the only person still alive to know for certain. Perhaps what she had taken to be hints from him had been meant only as jokes to publicize the film, the same way the actors who played her father and his speech therapist claimed to have fallen in love with each other.
It isn't until after the dessert plates have been cleared - leaving them completely alone for the first time - that she realizes the grandson might have been waiting for a moment of privacy to speak. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out a yellowed, slightly rumpled envelope.
"I hope that I'm not overstepping, ma'am, but I wonder whether this is why you wanted to meet with me," he says quietly, passing it to her.
She doesn't need to open it to know what it must say. To nod would mean not only to acknowledge that she has a hidden agenda, but to confirm the truth of conclusions he must have come to on his own. She holds her head and her expression steady, rubbing one thumb over her father's handwriting on the envelope.
"My grandfather wrote in his diary near the end of his life that he was going to destroy all private correspondence from the King," the grandson tells her. "It puzzled me at first, because obviously there's a great deal of personal correspondence that he saved - progress reports on tours and thank-you notes for gifts, things of that nature, which I talked about when I was interviewed about the movie. There are also gaps in the diaries. I asked my aunt what she thought it meant, but she didn't want to tell me. I kept after her for months before she gave me that letter."
It would be easy to speak in icy tones, to dismiss the speculation of an old woman and to warn this stranger what might happen if he threatened her father's reputation. She forces herself to nod and listen. If this man had wanted to ruin her family, he could have done so already. In all the television appearances and promotional interviews, he has never mentioned the existence of the letter nor anything like it.
"I'm pretty sure my grandfather did what he said he would and destroyed the correspondence. There aren't any other letters like this one. My aunt thought Lionel couldn't bear to destroy this last letter."
"Where did she get it?" The words come out more sharply than intended.
"She inherited it from her husband, who was Lionel's middle son. She said that her husband had found it under the mattress when Lionel died. I don't think my father or his other brother knew that it existed, and my aunt and uncle never told their own children. Lionel knew that he was going to be cremated and had asked my uncle, who was a surgeon, to burn whatever was left with him. My aunt thinks that Lionel must have meant this letter."
"Why didn't your uncle burn it?" she demands. There are a half-dozen reasons, easy to guess, all for the benefit of the Logue family: fame, wealth, notoriety, blackmail, anti-Royalist sentiment, or if she wishes to be kinder, perhaps merely a reminder of the family's onetime proximity to power, much the same way that Camilla reportedly had bragged to Charles that her great-grandmother had been his great-great-grandfather's mistress.
The grandson is hesitating, looking directly at her, evidently able to guess at what she might be thinking. "I suppose my uncle must have kept it as a way to remember his father," he says finally. "I didn't know him well, but this uncle had become a doctor, which my grandfather said in his diaries that he would have wanted to be as well if his circumstances had been different. I think my uncle always thought he was very close with Lionel because they had so many things in common. To have discovered only after Lionel died that my uncle didn't know something of such great importance to his father may have been a shock to him. Or perhaps my uncle already wondered, but never could talk to his father about it. If it had been me, I might have saved the letter just to feel I understood the man a little better."
Her knuckles have gone white, clutching the envelope; she is crumpling the old, fragile paper, damaging the letter within. That should not matter - she will have to burn it later, as the grandson surely understood when he handed it to her - yet she sets it down and smooths it out, glancing at the stains on the envelope from who could guess how many rereadings.
"What does it say?" she asks, disliking the idea of this stranger quoting her father's private words and at the same time knowing that she may never feel strong enough to open the envelope and read them in his own handwriting.
The grandson's eyes drop and his cheeks flush. "Nothing vulgar." She wonders whether that sort of note ever existed - whether a King of England could have been rash enough to send erotic letters to a man. Her mother had insinuated that her uncle's naughty letters to Noel Coward had been taken and destroyed before they could be wielded against his family. Surely her father had veiled whatever feelings he might have had in less incriminating language.
She can't help wondering whether Lionel had chosen this particular letter because he believed it to be the safest or contrarily because it was the most passionate. She also can't help wondering whether the grandson is wrong that his own father never knew - perhaps Lionel's other sons knew all too well, and chose not to give their own offspring any hint of such an explosive family secret, the same way she and her sister never shared all that they knew about their father with their children.
"Is there anything that might explain why your grandfather saved just this one?" she asks the grandson, holding up the envelope.
"The language is very...affectionate." The man is still blushing, still choosing his words with great care. "I know that people were more expressive of their feelings in those days. But if it ever got out, people now would read it as something sordid."
If there's one thing she learned from Diana's death, it's that despite the decline of letter-writing as an art form, modern people are far more expressive of their intimate emotions than were those of her generation or the generation before, whether commoners or kings. She does not mention that her father was never a very demonstrative man, so any letter that sounds even a bit affectionate indicates a great depth of feeling for its subject.
No matter how he might try to spare her sensibilities, it's clear that the grandson believes this to be a love letter. Curiosity battles with concern in his expression; after a few moments, curiosity wins. "You thought that I might have something like this when you invited me," he speculates.
She chooses to ignore the gross breach of etiquette, saying instead, "Thank you for bringing it to me. I hope that you will do me the favor of letting me keep it."
His breath catches, but she knows he must have made his decision when he elected to come to the Palace with the envelope in his pocket. To him, it is a titillating relic from an ancestor he never knew. To her, it is a time-delayed bomb bearing the signature of her beloved father. "Of course, Your Majesty," he says.
"Again, we thank you." She will send him a souvenir of her father in return when a suitable amount of time has passed. "My family appreciates your family's loyalty."
"We feel honored that a member of our family was able to serve the King. Just as I am honored to be here today." It's a rehearsed response, like her own. They have already moved past the moment for sharing any connection. She reaches for the teapot to ask whether he would like another cup, and smiles in approval when he tells her he has had too much already.
Once he is gone, she takes the letter to her bedroom, where she asks a maid to light the vanilla candles she sometimes requests to get rid of the smell of the window cleaner. No one will ask what she has been burning once the ashes are in the rubbish bin. When she is alone, she pulls the letter from the envelope, wondering whether the streaks on the back might be tear stains or merely an effect of the stationery's age.
Years ago, her father's hand had turned this page over onto itself and creased the fold into the center. She is a loving daughter and a Queen: surely she is brave enough to face whatever words she may find inside.
She unfolds the paper as she knows Lionel must have done, the first time he read it and many times after.
My dear Logue, the familiar handwriting begins. I had to write once more before leaving on this dreadfully long tour, to tell you again how much I will miss you and long for your presence...