CHAPTER 1 Introductions

Vicky was walking through the Main Hall of Buckingham Palace with her younger sister Alice. As usual Alice was holding their youngest sister Beatrice. They were on their way to the Royal Nursery from Breakfast, where Alice would have to relinquish Lil Bea before their morning lessons. Helena and Louise went straight to the classroom from breakfast in the small formal dining room. Two sisters couldn't be more different Vicky mused.

Helena drove Mum insane with her boyish antics. Louise like her eldest sister was the epitome of a lady. But Louise was the Prettiest of mum's daughters. Surprisingly she was also the brightest. By far. Vicky wondered from time to time if when Louise married, whether her husband would realize she was more than a pretty face. She could give any man a run for his money. If Vicky and Alice didn't hurry they'd be late and Professor Winston wouldn't tolerate tardiness. They rushed to deliver Lil Bea to Lehzen and the nurses, and then up three flights of stairs. It seemed so cruel to have to ascend so many stairs in full skirts and tightly corseted bodices. No doubt a man's idea, although one must admit it was useful in preventing a young lady from running indecently through a palace. She was beginning to realize why Helena relished the freedoms reserved for boys.

She and Alice took their seats at the large mahogany desk behind their two younger sisters. Across the aisle were the boys' desks but they sat empty. They were meeting with the Cabinet to observe politics in action with their Professor Master Sinclair Wallis. Meanwhile the girls were focusing on their French.

"Repetez après moi en Français sil-vous plait," said Professor Winston, " I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Je suis plu de faire votre acquaintance madame ou monsieur," they all repeated in almost perfect unison. Louise was always slightly faster, than even Vicky.

"Tres bien ladies," Master Winston praised, "Maintenant, mademoiselles dit: I am a princess first and foremost."

"Je suis une princesse premiere fourmi premiere," they droned. Vicky could hear the disdain in Helena's tone and giggled to herself. That was probably why their professor then decided to drill them individually.

"Helene dit: We are so glad to have you here." She hesitated and he snapped "Rapidment!"

"Nous sommes . . . si content pour . . . vous avoir ici," she struggled.

"Et Victoire," Professor began, " dit: Let's not dicuss politics. I want to have fun . . . Yes I would be honored to dance with you."

"Ne pas nous laizzez discute la politique, que je desire avoir l'amusement . . . Oui je serais honore danser avec vous monsieur."

"C'est bon Victoire." He said.

When they completed their language studies they headed down to the Grand Dining Hall. They ate tender duck, sautéed red potatoes with chive, and split pea soup. They digested in the library reading Chaucer and A Midsummer Night's Dream before joining their mum in her antechamber for afternoon tea. Lehzen even brought Lil Bea who greedily ate spotted dick. Lehzen ever vigilant removed the teaspoon from Beatrice's grip before she could slam it on the imported china. Alice asked to hold her. She was enchanted by babies. In fact she had crooned over all of her younger siblings when they were little.

This was the polar opposite of mum's sentiment. Mum was not fond of pregnancy, disgusted by breastfeeding and thought newborns looked ugly. It had been Papa who wanted a large family and so did Alice. Mum had been so in love with him she obliged. Her majesty was called away to meet with some lord or other who had requested an audience with her.

Therefore the girls went on a picnic on the grounds just beyond the neatly trimmed and landscaped gardens. Their ladies in waiting joined them. One carried the crumpets and jam in a basket with bread plates and butter knives while the other carried the blanket which they spread atop a small emerald hill beneath two broad oak trees for shade. The girls closed their satin and lace parasols and sat. Helena began to climb one of the trees eliciting scolding from Louise and another chuckle from Vicky. "Helena if you fell and hurt yourself not only would you be in, pain but we would all be held responsible. That's not fair! Don't be so selfish." She accepted defeat after a few minutes and gave up persuading Helena to come down and recited Shakespeare's sonnets instead.

Vicky couldn't help but admire Helena's daring. Vicky could never have done a thing like climb a tree or ride astride like her. Besides she had always been held to a higher standard as the oldest, she had to be a role model for her younger siblings. She was also at an age where her mother would begin searching to find her a husband. Scraped knees and disheveled hair would not bring her a good match. Alice it seemed was eager to have children but couldn't care less about who the man she married would be. Alice sang to Bea as the baby gobbled crumpets and jam. Vicky lay back on the blanket and closed her eyes while she listened to them all. She wondered how long she would share classes and a bedchamber with them. She knew it wouldn't last forever but she didn't know how that made her feel.