Right! Epilogue time! This is being set in 1948, just before Georgie reaches his majority of 18, and Louise, James and Charlotte are 14, 12 and 11 respectively. Prepare for ICE between Alice and Louise-who has quite the tongue on her.
Hope you enjoy!
Queen Alice sat in Rolls Royce with the window rolled down, letting a cool stream of fresh air flow through the gap and into the back of the car as she and two of her children were driven up through the Scottish countryside towards the Balmoral estate.
She sighed and glanced to her right where her youngest daughter was sitting reading a copy of The Jungle Book lent to her by her brother. Princess Charlotte had turned into a rather stunning young girl, with a gentle heart-shaped face reminiscent of her great-grandmother Queen Alexandra and seemingly endless tresses of glorious sable hair. She was an obedient girl, a hard worker, and always eager to please her friends and family.
"You'll have to give that back to Georgie when you've finished reading," Alice reminded Charlotte gently "If not he won't be best pleased with you."
"I'm planning to read it over the summer and make sure I leave it with him when I go back to London," Charlotte glanced up at her mother only briefly, with eyes the same shade of cobalt blue as her oldest brother, and smiled as she replied, before returning to the classic story of Mowgli and Bagheera and Baloo.
"Good girl," Alice reached over with a bare hand and patted Charlotte's wrist.
"Honestly, Mother," Alice's hyacinth eyes moved slowly over to where her eldest daughter sat opposite her sister as she spoke "Charlotte's not a dog, you don't have to praise her every time she obeys you."
Alice blinked across to Louise and replied, in a way unlike the traditional mother-daughter relationship, "That's something nobody could accuse you of, my dear."
Princess Louise glared at her mother through umber brown eyes. Out of the four children born out of the now legendary union between King Edward VIII and Queen Alice, Louise was the one who most resembled their ephemeral father. In both features and personality; her mother would look into her eyes and see the long-dead David staring back, her hair was a similar shade of golden-brown, her nose had the same unique, upturned tip, and her cheekbones were fine and delicate; just like her fathers. The six years spent under the care of her maternal aunt, Rachel Marlborough, at Blenheim Palace, had almost turned Louise into a Cavendish; but the malevolent Windsor beast still lurked inside her, and out of her and her siblings, it was often more prone to being released in her.
Alice watched as Louise pursed her lips, making a retort on the end of her viper tongue, and then replied scathingly "When I was at Blenheim, I would go into Aunt Rachel's room and read through her old diaries," she smiled "And the things I found-"
"And what things did you find, Louise?" Alice's reply was just as sharp, her timeless face returning to an expression of old, "Because I can tell you, Louise, you know nothing! Nothing of the events in your aunt's diaries!"
Charlotte looked up from her book, used to having to diffuse arguments between her equally stubborn mother and sister, and distracted them by pointing out "We're here."
The motor came to a gentle stop and Alice locked eyes with Louise for one last time before stepping out of the car and onto the pebble driveway of Balmoral.
It was now summer and the Highlands were awash with colour; yellow greens, bright greens, bottle greens, blue greens and black greens poured over the hills and fields with splashes of blue lochs and grey mountain tops.
Alice breathed in the fresh summer air, and turned as a familiar voice called "Mother."
She smiled and held her arms out "Georgie."
The son that greeted her was no longer a boy, but a man. A month away from reaching his eighteenth birthday, and therefore his majority, King George VI had grown tall; not spectacularly so, but a reasonable five foot eleven. His shoulders had become broad, his neck thick and his cherubic boyish face had matured into a high forehead, broad cheekbones, a long, concave nose, thin lips shaped like cupid's bow and a angular jaw line and chin. His hair had remained the same shade of brown, but his eyes had darkened from the china blue of his youth to a darker, more refined, more mature shade.
"How was your journey?" His voice had deepened to a pleasant sound as he kissed his mother on each cheek.
"Satisfactory," Alice nodded and smiled unconvincingly "A bit uncomfortable on some occasions but nothing out of the ordinary," her eyes flicked towards Louise, who stepped out of the car upon her saying that she paused "Where's your brother?"
"Finishing his chess game," Georgie informed his mother of James' latest antics with a grin "He's terribly good nowadays, poor old Fairfax is having to read up on tactics."
"And how is dear Lord Fairfax?" Charlotte asked as she walked round to the near side of the motor, leaning against it as the chauffeur and a footman collected luggage from the boot.
"Coping," Georgie nodded solemnly "Losing Percy so near the end of the war knocked the stuffing out of him," Georgie reminded the family of the 1945 armistice "But the man is of the navy, he knows how to move on from a seemingly endless crisis."
Alice watched as her eldest son approached his two sisters and hugged them individually; his embrace with Louise was cold and off, lasting only a few seconds, whilst he threw his arms around Charlotte, throwing her into the air and catching her again as she laughed.
"I am now the undisputed chess champion of Balmoral!" A proud exclamation from the open doorway made Alice look up and smile. Prince James walked round in jumper and trousers to greet his family and had a sheepish grin on his face which was, like Louise's, all too similar to their father's. His blonde hair was messy and his cognac brown eyes sparkled as he approached his mother, walking barefoot across the gravel "Fairfax readily admits defeat and I am now reigning champion."
Georgie chuckled and turned, smacking James on the arm "Be careful, James, you don't want to get too big headed."
"I think it's too late for that," Louise mused spitefully as she moved away from her family and floated quietly into the castle in a swathe of blue and white.
James snorted and mutterd "She can hardly talk," he paused, took a deep breath then continued, in a voice deliberately louder than before "I bet Cheltenham Ladies College has never had such a self-centred, egotistical, condescending pupil in their midst!"
"I hate to tell you, dear James, but that's where you're wrong!" Louise shouted back, not even visible from the shadows of the outer vestibule as she removed her hat, sunglasses and shoes "Because they had our dear Mother!"
Alice's face, which had barely aged from nine years ago, remained still. She was used to this constant sneering from her eldest daughter.
Georgie rolled his eyes and sighed, waiting for the sound of the internal front door to close before saying "Lemonade, anyone?"
There were murmurs of agreement from James and Charlotte, who accompanied their brother round to the gardens, where a set of table and chairs waited for them with cool, refreshing lemonade. Alice wandered inside Balmoral, determined to find her daughter. She moved swiftly through the outer vestibule, throwing her coat and hat onto the side table as she saw Louise at the foot of the stairs, smoking.
"I see you've picked up a habit at the Ladies College," she said coolly.
"No, not from there," Louise exhaled, a line of tobacco smoke escaping her lips "From Auntie Rachel," she flicked ash from the end of the cigarette onto the old carpets "She said it's better to start early with cigarettes otherwise you'll never like them," she raised an eyebrow and scoffed "I mean look at Georgie, your beloved golden child has turned into a man who is as boring as that doorframe, who doesn't smoke, drink, dance, throw parties or do anything that a king is supposed to do!"
"And what is it that a king is supposed to do?" Alice raised an eyebrow "If you're so worldly, my dear Louise?"
"A king," Louise paused and looked at her mother with an expression of explicit sarcasm before continuing "Is supposed to have fun," she paused again and added "Like Daddy. He was a good king."
"He dragged this country into an eight year war, I'd hardly call that being a good king," Alice retorted.
"No," Louise once again tried to impose her own opinion of history onto her mother "You dragged us into an eight year war. You and Mr. Churchill. If it wasn't for you, my Daddy would still be alive today."
"Don't talk about something you cannot remember!" Alice snapped, she thought of raising her hand to her daughter, but knew that would only make matters worse "You have no comprehension of how your father was as a man."
"No, I may not!" Louise stood, her cigarette holder still hanging out of her mouth as she shouted at her mother"But I do have comprehension of what I lost as a daughter!"
She spun on her heel and pounded up the stairs, the thud of her feet subsiding as she disappeared into her designated bedroom with a slam of the door.
"She's a martyr, isn't she?" Georgie emerged from the doorway leading to the drawing room.
Alice glanced towards her son as he approached "Mmm, but you all lost your father, she seems to forget that."
"But perhaps she felt closer to Daddy than we did?" Georgie suggested, forever the peacekeeper in the family.
"She couldn't have felt close to him," Alice narrowed her eyes and insisted to her son as she once did her husband "She barely knew him. I could perhaps understand if you were bitter, your father was around in your life long enough to leave a mark, but Louise...," she sighed "I don't know and I don't think I want to."
Later that evening, the family of five sat around the large dining table, spread out equally as they tucked into a dinner of pheasant.
"Did you go to Kathleen Hartington's funeral, darling?" Alice asked Georgie of the late Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish, killed in a plane accident two months ago.
"Mmm," Georgie nodded as he swallowed his mouthful "I did. Quite a tragic service. Poor old Uncle Eddie was in tears. The funny thing was that the only member of the Kennedy family there was her father; not her mother, her brothers, her sisters, none of them. And even her father looked like he was struggling to keep his eyes open at times."
"Well think about it," the intellectual James considered carefully "Mr. Kennedy first lost his son, then had his eldest daughter lobotomised, and now has lost his second daughter who, had it not been for cousin Billy's untimely death, would've been the future Duchess of Devonshire and de juro the most powerful political hostess in the country!"
"Beware, James," Alice said, her face having darkened at the mention of Mr. Kennedy "That odious man had many fingers in many pies. I still say he was behind dear Billy marrying that Catholic girl, just so he could have a indelible link to our high society."
Georgie watched astutely as Louise pursed her lips again and responded to her mother "I suppose we can be thankful that he hasn't returned to try and impose one of his younger sons on darling Charlotte, or God forbid try to have one of his daughters crowned Queen Consort!"
"Louise!" Georgie hissed across to her "Don't be absurd!"
Louise jutted out her chin defensively and fell silent again, her eyes travelling across to Charlotte as she said "I remember when cousin Billy was killed. It was so sad."
"You don't remember cousin Billy dying," Louise told her otherwise "You were much too young."
"I was seven!" Charlotte exclaimed in protest "And I remember when Uncle George died so of course I'll remember when Billy was killed!"
Alice blinked slowly and said quietly "Charlotte, darling, do calm down," her steely gaze turned on her eldest daughter "Don't become quite as defensive as your sister. It dirties your personality somewhat."
Louise's eyes narrowed and her lips pursed once again, a sure sign that she was about to say something spiteful, but this time they returned to a narrow smirk. She glanced over at Georgie and said hoarsely, as if she had a lump in her throat, "Please excuse me, Georgie, I all of a sudden don't feel hungry anymore."
There was an unnerving silence as Louise slammed her cutlery onto her plate, stood, threw the chair back underneath the table, and then stormed off, step by step, back to her bedroom.
Since the war had ended in 1945, the fabric of society had changed beyond recognition for the likes of old Queen Mary and the old Duchess of Devonshire, but in the highest reaches of that society; the Royal Family, the old fabric of insufferable relationships, close bonds and childhood ending prematurely was still as strong and as vibrant as ever.
Done! And hopefully, nut, that lil' epilogue was a preview of what is to come in the future for Alice and Louise Just decided whilst writing this that I am gonna start what will be my (hopefully) epistolary story, The Soldier, whilst at the same time getting on with The Ostrich Plume Years, a prequel to this. See you soon, guys!