The Queen's Hand
1830, Buckingham Palace
Reading letters from Whig politicians wasn't the idea of fun anybody had, but the blonde twenty year old found it probably the least fun. Most women of her age and breeding could read, but she was probably the only one that was openly reading about politics and was permitted to. Her friends would read poetry and romantic fiction as she poured over the latest squabbles of the politicians and the policies that they were pushing in the Houses of Parliament.
Of course, Caroline was no normal twenty year old for one reason and one reason only: she was Queen Caroline of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
This politics nonsense was completely new to her. A few months ago, she was third in line to the throne of England and was about to be pushed to fourth after Duchess Augusta of Cornwall gave birth. All was fine until consumption had spread around some areas of the country. The King was fine, but her uncle- the heir, was not so. Prince Edward and his son Alfred, the second in line, headed to the country along with Augusta, Edward's second wife. Elisabeth of Prussia, Edward's first wife and Alfred's mother had died some years ago. Augusta was pregnant with the next child, the child that would relegate Caroline to fourth and push her out of direct view of the crown. Of course, Caroline had never been expected to be Queen so had received the education of a princess, meaning affairs of state had not been known to her.
Consumption had taken Augusta first, followed by Alfred not long later. Edward, a healthy man, was still seen as likely to ride the disease out due to his fitness and the fact that it had seemingly not hit him as hard as it had his wife and son. Yet, one spring night, the disease had suddenly taken over his body and his soul was taken from his mortal body- God had called him to Heaven. The King, Caroline's grandfather, was informed. The next morning, he could not be awoken. Almost immediately after his passing had been confirmed, a carriage containing the late King's private secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been dispatched to Kensington palace. Only two weeks after Caroline's twentieth birthday, she was brought downstairs (alone) and was told that she now sovereign.
A great effort had been put into her training, as she had not benefited from what Alfred had been given. Caroline had no great interest in politics and was more interested in what she could do for her people directly. Nobody but her could access the papers- it was strictly for the sovereign's eyes only, so she was unable to receive the benefit of help. She had daily audiences with the Prime Minister, but he could only educate the young lady so much. Learning politics wasn't her priority, as Caroline still had other issues to attend to. Dances were to be held, world leaders to be met, orphans to be fed, soldiers to be admired and buildings to be opened. These audiences only lasted for half an hour, as the Prime Minister was also a dreadfully busy man (both bonded over them running the country). Ultimately, the Prime Minister decided that Caroline should learn as she went, something that she had no choice but to agree with. There was no way she would be allowed into the Parliamentary galleries to watch the debate as it would be most improper for a lady to do so. All she had was papers and her lust for leaning.
A knock interrupted her thoughts and she looked up from the papers.
"Enter!" she called. Her favourite lady-in-waiting, Lady Bonnie Bennett entered. The girls had been childhood playmates- as a lady of nobility; Bonnie was seen as a good enough friend for the princess. She was glad of this, because Bonnie was a most favoured companion.
"Your Majesty, the Prime Minister and Sir Roger are here to see you."
"Oh," Caroline sounded surprised- no call forward had been extended to her, as was custom when she was to receive visitors, "Please send them in, thank you Bonnie."
Bonnie stepped back, and in walked Sir Roger Crane, the Queen's private secretary and the Duke of Argyll, Prime Minister. Bowing deeply, they walked over to the Queen and her outstretched hand, kissing it. Removing it, Caroline knotted her fingers together and looked to the men.
"Please sit gentlemen," she sat back at her desk and they seated themselves opposite, "I must say, gentlemen, I am a little unsure as to why you did not do the courtesy of calling ahead. I may have been attending to something urgent and you would have rather inconvenienced me. Sir Roger, why did you not put this in my diary?"
Crane shifted under her critical eye, pulling at his collar like a naughty schoolboy, "Well, ma'am, we just thought that it was important we speak to you about an urgent matter. See, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet were discussing an important matter..."
He trailed off, allowing the Duke to pick up, "You have been Queen for several months now and we have our concerns about the future. As you know, consumption wiped through several of your young and healthy family members within days, completely unexpected. We lost an entire wing of the monarchy, which threw our plans into chaos when your grandfather passed so suddenly. Had he have not died only hours after your uncle, we would have had time to prepare for your sovereignty, but the suddenness meant that we had to secure your person. If something happens, the crown will go to the King of Hanover and believe me, none of us want some Germanic noble on the throne of England. We want you to stay as our beloved Queen. This is why we are here- we beg that you start to consider marriage, and promptly. We need heirs, not just one boy, or god forbid a girl, but several healthy babies that will grow to rule after God calls you in your hopefully advanced age...We have names if you wish to hear them, I took the liberty of drawing some up with Cabinet..."
Both looked at her fearfully. It had not helped their cause that they had entered without prior consultation, especially with this sprung upon their young Queen. Fortunately for them, the Queen was a good and proper lady who had no known relations with gentlemen, which smoothed the path for her to make a good choice. As a lady of good standing, she knew her duty in life was to marry and have children- all the more essential in this very situation. Both just hoped that she would see the situation as seriously as they did. Nobody wanted a virgin Queen to pass suddenly as Queen Elizabeth I had two hundred years previously, leaving a hassle. It was imperative she make the right choice, as sovereign she had the ultimate say.
Sighing, Caroline nodded.
"Alright gentlemen, I would like to hear your suggestions."
Looking pleased that they had gotten through so quickly, the two gentlemen smiled, shifting upright. Taking a folded piece of paper from his pocket, the Duke put on his reading spectacles and unfurled it, placing it between him and Crane. Crane, of course, had gone through it and given his suggestions. As private secretary, he was the gatekeeper to the Queen's person and any information sent to her, save her parliamentary papers, would be censored by him. She trusted Crane, of course, but she knew that his honest intentions would sometimes be problematic.
"First, we have Prince Stefan of the Two Sicilies. Yes, we know that he is of Catholic faith but we are confident that he is not too devoted that he will not consider conversion to the Church of England. After all, he is the second son so it's not like the kingdom will lose everything. Sicily is an important ally, not too important, but we do not have too much influence in that region. We are doing all we can to stop any more republics falling over Europe after what has happened in France- a marriage to a popular English Queen will make their populace happy. He is educated in political affairs which means he can guide you. You know Prince Stefan, he is a good man and young, so that means a high chance of fertility. On the downside, the Salvatore family is not known for its large families and there is no guarantee that he will convert. The risks outweigh the rewards here; I feel a lot of people will feel uncomfortable with the fact that the father of the future king will be one that is from such a strongly Catholic family. We have also considered Lorenzo of Sardinia, but he is less desirable."
Caroline nodded, "Continue."
"Continuing with the foreign theme," Crane took over from the Duke, "We have Malachai of the Parker family, Duchy of Baden. He is Protestant- from a small Duchy, it is true, but still a very strong Protestant ally. Our peace with Spain is fairly stable but with the United States causing trouble as it always does, it might be best to go with them. Extremely educated man, his family is extremely wealthy so they can help finance our wars and our ventures, keep any troubles under wraps in the colonies."
Caroline tried to hide her disdain for him. Malachai Parker was not known for his kindness and many women across the continent did not have fond words about him. Malachi was also a few years older than her, something she did not like- she knew that the majority of women had husbands ten years older than them, but she knew the implications of that. He would immediately be King, even if not in name, and she would become the figurehead of the administration. She would turn to teas and he would attend meetings with politicians. If she were to die in childbirth or fall ill before her children were old enough, he would likely be the regent. Of course, her advisors would fight having a German as the regent, but he'd win in the end.
"We have a few English options," the Duke continued, "Tyler Lockwood of Leicester recently inherited the Dukedom after his father's tragic death. We both agreed that he is the strongest contender- young, comes from a very rich family and is an only child. Everything has gone to him; there is no worry about competition. He was educated at Oxford, is very philanthropic and his family is active in politics, so he is definitely handy. The Duke has good looks and his family is very popular on the social scene, so that will help with entertainment. I also know that you have known him for quite some time..."
"Jeremy Gilbert, the brother of your good friend Elena Gilbert. You know the Gilberts very well, they are very wealthy and Mr. Gilbert's father has considerable holdings in foreign ports, giving us an advantage in port sales. We are aware that he is young, but his eighteenth birthday has just arrived so he is of a sensible age. When men are younger, they are easy to...manipulate. As the husband, he would have overriding control of the household but if you were to marry Mr. Gilbert quickly, then you would be able to have that control instead. It is important that you have control as you are the one with royal blood, ma'am, not Mr. Gilbert."
"Finally we have Lord Niklaus Mikaelson. Though he is the third brother, he holds considerable value and the Mikaelsons are the wealthiest family in England, only behind Duke Lockwood. He has several siblings and many cousins, his family are very fertile and he could sire many heirs because of this. His eldest brother married a Germanic princess so they have alliances across Europe. Duke Mikael, his father, has links to many Tory politicians and is well respected in society. His family own a manor in Wales, Pinewood, which could be a strategic location against the nationalists. Lord Niklaus is also popular with the people due to his charitable actions, which we desperately need."
"Well gentlemen, you have certainly given me options."
"It is preferable that you choose an English husband, Your Majesty," Crane told her, "There are growing nationalist factions within both the Whig and Tory parties and their influence is crucial. With our expanding influence across the globe and in an unprecedented era of peace, we do not have to worry about alliances with Europe. It is of course up to you; remember that the monarch must propose. We wish not to rush you but every day without marriage causes instability in the royal family, so we beg that you wed soon in order to start trying for an heir. These options are hopefully good enough for you ma'am. I suppose we can leave you with a decision?"
Caroline shook her head.
"Something wrong, Your Majesty?" the Duke asked.
"Not at all, My Lord," she gave them a wry smile, "For I have made my decision. Now, I must call for a carriage for tomorrow- I have someone to be visiting."
-THE QUEEN'S HAND-
The countryside outside of London was always pleasant. Caroline sat inside the carriage alone, her wrists crossed gently over her lap like a lady. As it was a very important day, she had dressed to the nines. It was a soft pink kind of day, the skirt slightly billowy with puffed sleeves that were very in style. Lace touched her waist in a band, tightly pulled by her maid as her corset had been. Her bonnet matched as usual, there was no way that the queen could look anything less than the best or there would be quite the scandal. Diamonds decorated her ears and neckline- her mother, the only other person who knew of her decision apart from Mr. Crane and the Duke- had given her the jewels that she had worn upon her engagement to her father William many years ago.
Choosing Lord Niklaus had been a rather easy decision, for Caroline had felt strongly towards him for many years. The two had been in the same social circles due to Klaus' family and being around the same age, the pair were often at events together (never alone of course, always in a group). Her most dear friend Katherine was engaged to Klaus' older brother Elijah, very soon to be wed. Most men had been restrained when with her due to her status, before and after she was made Queen. Klaus, however, had always been open with her, not walking on eggshells whilst showing the necessary respect for her. He had a wicked sense of humour as well- Caroline was not supposed to laugh at such inappropriate jokes, but the way he told them made the corner of her lips turn up. There was also the fact that he was very handsome, with dirty blonde hair and dimples. Of course, it was appreciation in an artistic sense, Caroline was far too good to lust in a way that only bad girls did. Caroline could not force him to accept her proposal but she definitely hoped that he would. Maybe it was a self centric view that the young royal had of herself, but she felt like she and Klaus had gotten on well together and would be compatible. Though she knew him to be somewhat of a rogue, she knew that he would never hit her or have an affair due to his otherwise honourable conduct. Most importantly, they would be compatible- Caroline wanted a loving marriage, not one where they would only come together in the bedroom as most did.
"We're nearly here, Your Majesty."
Caroline looked up at Woodberry Hall, the ancestral home of the Mikaelson family from many years before. It was a very beautiful building with a soft brown exterior, huge panels underneath the window and pillars next to the front door. Steps lead down to the garden on both sides, acres of plush green land and a lake that spread through miles of country side. It was a rather pleasant place, a far cry from the cold Buckingham Palace and busy London.
The carriage pulled up outside of the main gate. Caroline had called unannounced, which she had the prerogative to as the Queen of England. Waiting primly until one of the valets had knocked on the door for her (she would never do such a thing), she looked out as a maid answered. As soon as the door was open, all the valets stood to attention.
"Presenting her Most Royal Majesty, Queen Caroline."
The maid looked shocked at the introduction, deeply curtseying to the floor as Caroline was helped out of the carriage. The blonde stood in front of the servant, the maid not maintaining eye contact.
"Please, there is no need for such formality Miss..."
"Edith, Edith ma'am," the maid had a fair working class accent, "How may I help you today?"
"I'm here to enquire as to whether the Lord Niklaus is home please? I should like to speak to him about an important matter."
"You are in luck, Your Majesty, for the Lord Niklaus is the only one home present. If you would like to follow me, I will take you to him. You can park your carriage over there, gentlemen, our valet will lead you towards our little house."
They thanked Edith, who then motioned Caroline inside. The blonde had always thought the Mikaelsons had beautiful taste, she would be sure to compliment the Duchess Esther on it next time that they spoke. When the Queen complimented decoration or clothing, it was sure to be talked about and the recipient of such kindness would be looked upon highly by her peers.
The pair arrived outside one of the upstairs rooms, Edith knocking on the door. Klaus called her in.
"Excuse me sir, but you have a visitor."
"This better be important," he growled, moving closer to the door before standing, frozen, at the sight of the queen. A stiff bow apologised for his quick, cutting remark.
"Your Majesty, what an unexpected pleasure."
"It is always a pleasure to see you too, My Lord," Caroline nodded in a regal manner, "I apologise for my lack of forewarning but this is an important matter. May we speak alone?"
"Of course ma'am. Would you like some tea?"
"That would be wonderful."
"Edith, can you please bring some tea and those shortcakes?"
The maid nodded and departed, Klaus inviting Caroline in.
"You have been painting and drawing again," Caroline observed, nodding towards the rows of decorated paper, "You indeed have a very true talent My Lord, I have not yet met a man with artistic ability like yourself."
"It is Klaus when we are alone, as it was in the old days," Klaus gave her a looped smile, "And why thank you my queen, you are most generous in your praise. I find artistic pursuits ones to be worthy of my time."
"I can see why- your eye for detail is exquisite. The way you have captured the likeness of the stable boy- it as though someone had lifted a true image onto the portrait."
"You are too kind, ma'am, would you like to sit?"
Taking a chair out for her, he seated her first before sitting himself- he was not allowed to be seated before the sovereign. Caroline sat up, poised as usual even though she was with a friend- she was trying to mask the nerves she felt. She was about to propose marriage, something that meant a change that would last a lifetime and even affect her reign. Klaus could be the one to sire the future King, he could even be regent if Caroline was unlucky enough to die in childbirth. This was not a light tea.
Edith came in with a tray of treats. She poured the tea for the guests and handed out the plates with the shortcake. They thanked her and she immediately departed.
Caroline undid her bonnet, placing it on the floor. Once she had, she turned back to Klaus.
"So what is it I can do for you, Your Majesty?"
Contemplating for a moment, the queen finally found her voice.
"Well, it is quite a delicate matter and I apologise for springing it upon you in such a way."
"The Duke of Argyll and Mr. Crane visited me yesterday regarding a matter related to the future of the kingdom. As I am unmarried, they wish that I soon be wed so that I may secure an heir and security for our beautiful country. They gave me a list of options and you were on them. Out of all of the options given to me by the gentleman, I found you the most appealing. So I came here to ask you..."
"To marry you?" Klaus finished.
"I suppose so," Caroline agreed, "Like I stated, I am sorry for springing this on you and I do not demand an immediate answer, I just wished to let you know what was going on. If it helps, I find you quite agreeable in both character and appearance, as I hope you find me. We go way back as friends and I always found you to be one of the dearest people, I hope I am not wrong in thinking that we were always on the best terms. I know that marrying for an alliance is important but I do wish to be with somebody who I would be content in companionship with and I find that it could be you. Maybe we could give it a few days and meet again so that you can think about it. Marrying me would make you Prince Consort and it would be an incredibly hard life, so I imagine that you must think I am somewhat insane on springing this on you. As you know, the monarch must technically propose."
"I do not need an answer," Klaus interrupted.
"I should like to marry you; I should like to marry you very much indeed."
That shocked Caroline.
"Did you expect me to reject you?"
"I expected you to at least think about it."
"Well Your Majesty, I have always found you to be a very appealing woman. You are rather beautiful, but I am also captured by your spirit- I find the other women at court silly and gossipy, you are freer and open minded. I do not want an obedient wife, I want a wife that I can be free with and I believe that you would suit that role beautifully. For years I have thought more highly of you than any other woman- I do not feel affection for many people and you are perhaps one of the few that I feel sincerity towards. So yes, I accept your proposal with all of my blackened heart."
Caroline blinked- she hadn't expected it to be that easy. When she realised what had happened, a huge smile appeared on her face.
"Then I am very pleased, very pleased indeed. The engagement is not technically official until the Prime Minister has been informed and we will obviously need to announce it formally at a party, but we are to be wed. I do of course wish that you had gone down on bended knee- all the romantic stories get me you see."
"Well then," Klaus stood, holding out his hand, "I cannot disappoint my future wife."
Frowning, Caroline took his hand and was led to the window. Once they were there, Klaus went down on one knee.
"My dear Queen, I wish for your hand. I promise to honour you by making you laugh in front of all of the stuffy courtiers and bring you pleasure by kissing you until your lips are red raw. Will you marry me?"
Caroline had to laugh.
"You are a funny one, Klaus, but yes, I will marry you."
"Thank goodness," Klaus leapt up, his hands still in Caroline, "Now dear fiancée- may I inquire as to whether I can kiss you for the first time?"
Traditional Caroline had been taught kisses weren't until official engagements, but she felt a burning desire to feel Klaus against her. Nodding gently, she allowed herself to be brought into his embrace. Their lips moulded together as though they were always meant to be, the taste of his tongue smooth against her mouth. Though his hands were in a gentlemanly position, Klaus wished to touch more. Caroline also wished to be touched more, fighting all ideas of impropriety- it was only one kiss, she reasoned, true physical interaction would be saved for her marital bed.
"How was that?" Klaus asked.
"Liberating," Caroline responded breathily before remembering where she was, "I mean, very enjoyable thank you."
Klaus laughed, "There will be more of that to come in future, Your Majesty."
"Klaus, we are engaged- I feel that in private you can call me by my first name."
"Caroline...Caroline," Klaus felt the taste of it on his lips, the name rolling off his tongue, "I like it."
Caroline smiled at her future husband. The Kingdom would be in safe hands, she knew it.
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