Right. This is being written as respite from all my Uni work at the minute (alright, I'm bluffing, it's not really that much, but I have written my designated work count for today) so I am settling down to do something else. And, as I said, it'll be like Fear and Courage, but for the girls instead. Cue grown up Charlotte and Louise, and heck, the boys may appear, and even Alice may crawl out of her hole. Actually, thinking about it, yes, yes she will crawl out of her hole. This piece is set in 1961, so a couple o' years BEFORE Fear and Courage, but nonetheless, hopefully as well-written.
Oh, and the boys are now set to appear, I have just decided. But hopefully it should be Charlotte/Louise-centric.
Louise couldn't understand why she was so excited. She thought to herself, as she crossed from the countryside into the middle of London to the other in the back of a Rolls Royce, how peculiar it was that she was feeling excited for someone other than herself.
It was a bright day outside; cold, but bright. The late autumn sun was shining in a relatively cloudless sky and London went about its business as usual. The drive from her country home of Bagshot Park, which the princess shared with her husband, to Buckingham Palace was one that usually took about forty-five minutes, but the traffic seemed to evaporate on the main roads into London and before long, Louise was being driven down roads which were more than familiar to her.
She reached over and found the little compact mirror in her handbag, using it to check that her arched eyebrows, mascara and lipstick were not out of place on her otherwise flawless face. She had good genes, she'd been told this to her face many, most recently by His Royal Highness Prince Nayef of Saudi-Arabia.
The exotic, charming, well-spoken Arabian prince had told her how her high forehead, defined cheekbones, fine nose and 'perfect' lips were very hard to find on any Middle Eastern princess and how it must be a product of 'beautiful English genes'. Fully aware that Louise's husband, a man who spent the majority of his time playing rugby, was standing in between them, the Prince had then whispered to her, in a voice that had made her spine tingle "His Grace should not take these good genes for granted. If I were him, I'd show my appreciation."
And, sure enough, once they had returned to their London home that evening, His Grace The Duke of Suffolk, the former Christopher Thynn, had shown his appreciation for his wife's 'good genes' and that he hadn't really been taking them, or her, for granted. He had shown his appreciation over and over again that night.
As she recalled her altercation with the Middle Eastern royal, Louise giggled and blushed.
If her father could see her now, she thought, he wouldn't be best pleased. In his time as Prince of Wales, the late Edward VIII had referred to one particular Saudi Arabian prince, who had also charmed his wife and Louise's mother Alice, as 'nothing more than a halal-stuffing camel jockey'.
Perhaps that was the only time that the most beloved prince in the world had felt the loyalty, and love, of his adoring wife under enemy threat?
Louise wondered this for a moment, but then decided that it wasn't the case. Her father, her Daddy, of course her father would be pleased with her if he could see her now. She was his little 'Lolly', she was the one he had loved most out of her, her sister and her brothers, she was the one who almost shared a birthday with him, she was the only one of her siblings who's name had been chosen by their father and not their mother. Of the four of them, she was the one who could've gotten away with anything had the now mystical Edward VIII lived beyond his eldest daughter's fifth birthday.
But whether her mother had ever fallen under any spell besides his or not was another matter. Louise didn't like to say.
And besides, her mother, and what she had and hadn't done over a fifty-eight year life, wasn't Louise's priority this morning.
By this point, the Rolls Royce was driving down the Mall, towards the familiar facade of Buckingham Palace. One of Louise's many childhood homes. One childhood home she had had to flee with her family after it had been bombed in December 1938. She hadn't returned for nearly thirteen years, being placed at Blenheim Palace in the care of her maternal aunt Rachel, the Duchess of Marlborough, for the remaining duration of the war. Her time had Blenheim had almost moulded her into a Cavendish, but the Windsor beast that lurked within her refused to die, the royal light refused to be snuffed out. And when Louise was eventually allowed back into the royal fold, along with her two younger siblings, it was like she had never left.
Now, as the Princess strained her neck to see the Palace out of her window, she could think of nothing but happy memories to do with the place. The exhilarating time she had had as a sixteen year old, at her first 'proper' social engagement to mark her brother's coronation in 1950, there had been lots of dancing and lots of champagne. She had been whirled around the ballroom by some of the most handsome men she had seen in her life up to that point. The dancing had gone on forever, for the most part without the man they were honouring; George had slunk off to bed just after half-past ten. She had then had similar fun after George's wedding in 1954, she and her brother James had given little tours to groups of friends and cousins, taking them into parts of the Palace which they wouldn't see otherwise, whilst her big brother and his new wife had danced their first waltz in the ballroom surrounded by heads of state and government. And Louise's most recent memory of the place was when she had been married three years earlier. She had remembered being drawn down the Mall in the 1902 Landau, her dashing Christopher sat next to her, newly ennobled as the Duke of Suffolk and resplendent in his uniform of the Coldstream Guards. Crowds had gathered and waved to her, and Louise had waved back, smiling at the children who threw flowers down for her and blowing them kisses. She could then remember walking out on the balcony on the arm of Christopher to a sea of people cheering and waving. Then had come the shouts of "Kiss! Kiss!" And so, just like her father in adhering to the public, Louise had passionately kissed her new husband on his lips.
But now, in the new decade, the Rolls Royce came to a stop in the forecourt, underneath the familiar porte-cochere and Louise waited for her chauffeur to open the car door. She stepped out and looked up to where her sister-in-law, Queen Jane, waited for her by the entrance.
"Jane," Louise smiled and kissed her brother's consort on the cheek, smelling the perfume George had first found attractive about her and saying "Is she nervous?"
"You know," Jane pulled away from Louise and smiled "I don't think she is. I remember I was terrified."
"Well," Louise's next statement alluded to the Windsor spite that lay inside her "You were marrying in. Charlotte has been a princess from birth. She shouldn't be feeling nervous " she handed a waiting footman her mink fur coat to reveal a knee-length red wool dress, with a pink belt and three pink buttons running the centre of the bodice. Exposed in her clothes for the day, Louise glanced up briefly at Jane and blushed.
Jane smiled knowingly and asked "How are you feeling?"
"Shush!" Louise hissed, lowering her voice she answered "Terrible. Much worse than I ever did with Esther. Is it supposed to be harder the second time around?"
"Well," Jane's voice too became nothing more than a whisper as she replied "You know that my first wasn't easy never mind my second. Why don't you ask your mother?"
Louise snorted, pausing briefly as a maid scuttled past, "You're forgetting her second pregnancy was Henry. And you and I both know she doesn't like the talk about that," she paused and mused quietly "The brother by whose death I came into being."
"Don't think like that," Jane said soothingly "It'll just upset you and that won't be good for you or the baby."
"Oh, don't you start," Louise rolled her eyes at her sister-in-law's kindness "You sound just like both our husbands."
Jane smiled as the two women, who had been debutantes in the same year, made their way through the all too familiar entrance hall towards the Grand Staircase, still adorned with the paintings of Queen Victoria's family, and ascended it into the upper floors of the palace that the family of George VI called home.
But Louise also knew her way through these elaborate hallways; she parted company with her sister-in-law on the landing, after being offered a second breakfast and refusing. The Duchess of Suffolk spun on her heel and headed towards her little sister's bedroom at the back of the palace complex.
It didn't take Louise long to reach Charlotte's suite of rooms, which overlooked the beautiful, sunlit gardens where members of the public were allowed to stroll on the weekends when the family were at Windsor. She knocked on the door of the sitting room three times, and it was answered by Charlotte herself.
Louise smiled in response to her sister's beaming face; she loved seeing Charlotte so happy. The twenty-five year old wore her thick, glossy sable hair loose and was still wearing her bright, coral coloured, antique lace-trimmed pyjama set. Her blue eyes sparkled as she stood aside to signal that she wanted Louise to enter the room.
"Nervous?" Louise found herself repeating Jane's words as she faced her sister.
"I will be once I've dressed," Charlotte replied hastily. She bit her lip and cast her eyes downwards, like some subordinate child, she looked up as her long hair fell in front of her face and blushed "But I'm also terribly excited!"
Louise reached down and took Charlotte's hand in her own, pulling it to her mouth and kissing her white knuckles fiercely "And so you should be, darling!" Louise exclaimed "You've fought too long and too hard for this day," she paused as she and her sister crossed the carpet of the sitting room together, arm in arm. They stopped by the closed door to Charlotte's bedroom and Louise then added "And I am so, so, so happy for you."
"Thank you," Charlotte looked down at her hands again, paying particular attention to the small, unassuming toi-et-moi style engagement ring on the fourth finger of her left hand, running her index finger over both the diamond and sapphire stones "I know it's not as impressive as yours or Jane's, and I know there's no provenance to it that can match Mother's but...," Louise smiled warmly as her sister looked up with a hopeless smile "But...I love it so much."
"Good," Louise reached across and opened the door to Charlotte's bedroom, causing the maid inside the room to jump out of her skin "If you love your engagement ring then that means you'll love your husband just as much, though not quite as much as your wedding dress," she laughed softly at Charlotte's expression "Though I see you'll beg to differ."
"I'm afraid I will," Charlotte giggled like a schoolgirl "After all I took much longer to get to this point in my life than you did."
Louise silently agreed with her little sister as the two walked into Charlotte's bedroom, an array of various formal cocktail dresses spread across the bed and hanging from the wardrobe, but outwardly it was her nature to disagree "I don't know about that, darling. I mean, I nearly married Michael of Saxony and then I wasn't allowed within ten foot of any young man for at least five years. It was horrific. We've both had to face Georgie's wrath over our choice of husband, you know."
Louise notice Charlotte roll her eyes as she slipped onto the stool accompanying her vanity table and replied "But you didn't really, did you? Not to the extent that I did. You didn't have to threaten what I did."
Louise gave a heavy sigh and looked down at the dresses on the bed, paying particular attention to a red lace dress with three quarter-length sleeves; a perfect excuse to change the subject of the conversation she was losing "You can discard this one immediately, darling," Louise picked the dress up by its hanger and ran her hand over the delicate material.
She didn't look up as Charlotte replied, brushing her hair "But why? I like it."
"You wore it to the Royal Variety Performance, that's why," Louise insisted, turning round and placing it on the right side of the wardrobe, a designated 'no' space "And you should never wear the same dress twice in one year, you know that."
Charlotte groaned outwardly "For once can I not have you breathing down my neck about fashion? This is supposed to be my day!"
"Excuse me!" Louise snapped playfully "I don't always breathe down your neck. And I can always get James up here if that's what you want."
Charlotte scoffed "That's if you can wake him up."
It was Louise's turn to roll her eyes as she imagined her little brother-Charlotte's closest sibling-still in bed after a night painting the town red with his posse of friends who included the young Marquess of Truro, his brother and sister-in-law Lord and Lady Holloway, and then dozens of unmarried society belles; Isabel Douglas-Hamilton, Kitty Fitzalan-Howard and the young peeress Baroness Brooke to name but a few.
Louise looked up as Charlotte grumbled indistinctly; she sat tugging her hairbrush through her hair, hopelessly trying to reach the back of her head, "Here," Louise stopped organising the dresses and walked across to her sister, taking the hairbrush from Charlotte's hand and beginning to run it through the long, magnificent tresses that the fashionable hairstyles did nothing for.
"You have such pretty hair," Louise mused as she brushed, not looking up to see Charlotte's expression in the mirror "Much prettier than mine."
"Don't be silly, Louise," Charlotte batted her sister's remark away before returning it with her own flattery "You've always been the most beautiful of us lot."
"If you discredit James, that is," Louise laughed at her own joke; her mind again turning to the fashion-savvy, always fastidiously-dressed Prince James "If we count him then I am most definitely second." Her acceptance of Charlotte saying she was beautiful was another allusion to the father she had so loved and whose personality she had inherited in abundance "But you've still got prettier hair than me."
The sisters then fell into silence, the only sound coming from the hairbrush as it gently ran through Charlotte's hair. The birdsong could be heard outside the window, and as the sun rose higher in the sky, it cast great squares of light across the bedroom, making the dresses on the bed glitter.
After a little while, Louise's mind turned all the way back to April, when Charlotte had originally gotten engaged, and she remembered vividly the reaction of their older brother. It had been one afternoon when the family was all together at Windsor when things had come to an almost irrevocable head.
"For the last bloody time," King George VI roared across the desk to his little sister, who bravely stood her ground despite his orders otherwise "I am not going to give you permission to marry him!"
Louise stood off to George's left, seeing Charlotte's fisted hands shake as she replied reverently "Why not? There's nothing stopping me!"
"There's the fact that he's Scottish!" George struck his fist on the table with such a force that even Prince James, who had resigned himself to an armchair with a crossword, had to look up as his china cup of tea shook from the reverberations "And untitled!"
"What does that matter now? After everything that's happened, what does it matter?!" Charlotte exclaimed, her voice desperate "Georgie, please, I thought you would understand!"
There was only the rare occasion that the King ever disagreed with his youngest sister about anything, or worse still gave an answer resembling their terrifying grandfather; this was one of those rarities when both occurred.
"And did Captain Darnley tell you that his brother had a child out of wedlock? Hmm?" George hissed in example, his breathing becoming more audible as his scarred lungs worked their utmost "Or, more importantly, that his father was once a member of the Communist Party?!"
"I've met Mr. Darnley," Charlotte's reply was met with an expression of abject horror from her older brother, Louise watched his face fall from anger to shock and then to panic all in one swift move; in any other situation, Louise would've found it hilarious, but she turned back to Charlotte as she continued her story "And he's perfectly amiable. I don't see why him being a former member of the Communist Party should be a problem-."
"You don't see?" George's voice was firm as he interrupted her, leaning on the desk "You don't see? Well, I do, I see that-."
"What Gee's saying, Lottie," James piped up from where he sat across the room "Is that dear old Andrew may well be in with the reds and so that means we're all going to end up dead in a basement like the Romanovs."
Louise had to smile slightly at James' perfect grasp of the situation, although George spat across to him "Shut up, James. If you've got nothing productive to say then don't say anything."
The King threw Louise a glance before turning back to Charlotte, raising his hands slightly "I'm not going to fight with you, Charlotte, I love you too much-."
"If you love me then why can't I marry him?! Charlotte cried, pointing to Louise "She got to marry who she wanted."
"There's no need to start telling me that!" George sat down in his chair and linked his hands together across the desk "I do know. And I won't let you marry him for the above reasons and for the fact that I don't think he'd be appropriate for you in the long term-."
"You're just jealous because he's got further in the RAF than the amended constitution would ever allow you to," James again provided another insight into George's reluctance.
Both Charlotte and George ignored this latest comment, Charlotte turning back to George and asking him "Why don't you think he would be appropriate?"
"Because...," George sighed, struggling to find an answer "Because I...," he breathed out and repeated his order "I am not letting you marry him beca-."
"I will not give him up!" Charlotte shouted clearly, so out of character for her that James even folded his paper down to glance at the scene "I will not put him in a box and move on. I love him, George!"
Louise could almost see George's spine straighten with her naked eye. He looked up at Charlotte, where she stood in the middle of his study, wearing trousers and a jumper, and said firmly "You can go now, I've made up my mind." He waved her away with his hand and returned to the state papers he had been reading beforehand.
Louise watched as Charlotte pursed her lips together, a retort forming on the edge of her tongue. She momentarily turned to leave, before returning to where she stood. Louise watched tears form at the edge of her sister's eyes.
She had been defeated by the power of the King.
"Fine," Louise looked up as Charlotte spoke with a resolve to her voice that she had never heard before "I'll do it."
George stopped whatever it was he was writing mid-sentence and glanced up at Charlotte, carefully replacing his pen in its place on the desk, and looked up at her, his normal, gentler voice having resumed "Do what?"
"Give it up," Charlotte shrugged carelessly.
George's eyebrows knotted and he asked "Give what up?" Although he, Louise and James, who had stood up for this revelation, probably knew what was coming.
"Everything," Charlotte insisted "I'll give it all up, you watch. If it means I can have him then I'll have none of it."
"What?" James asked the question that nobody else wanted to "Your title?"
"My title," Charlotte echoed him "And my money, and my residence, and my place in the line of succession," she turned to stare at Louise "I'll become Charlotte Windsor if I have to."
George stared up at Charlotte in disbelief, whispering "Why? You don't need to do that..."
"I do," Charlotte's answer was simple "I do if it means I can marry him."
Louise saw George sink back into the chair and lay his hand over his eyes. He remained like that for a while, before looking back up at Charlotte and nodding with a smile "Daddy would be proud of you, do you know that?"
"I don't care whether Daddy would be proud of me or not," Charlotte spoke the truth in a fearless voice, her eyes fixed on George "Even if it was him sat there instead of you I'd tell him the self-same thing. Don't try and blackmail me with the memory of a man I can barely fathom."
George's expression, or lack thereof, indicated that he realised how serious Charlotte was. He cleared his throat and stood quietly, speaking softly he replied "I'm not trying to blackmail you, Charlotte, far from it," he paused "Are you sure?"
"Perfectly," Charlotte raised her chin and held George's gaze as he rounded the desk to stand in front directly in front of her "I'll renounce everything. Our children will be as common as the next. We'll live in a house in Greenock. I'll be a housewife."
Louise watched George lean back on the desk and chuckle softly to himself, running his long hand over the back of his neck he looked up at Charlotte and whispered "You don't need to do that, Lottie."
Charlotte stared at George and asked "Don't I?"
"Not to that extent," George answered, reaching back on the desk for his papers. He held them to his chest and moved away from his desk, heading towards the door which led back to the state rooms "Not yet anyway," he leaned forward and kissed Charlotte on the nose "Give me more time to decide, and then start with the drastic decisions, alright?"
Charlotte went to say something more, but Louise butted in by saying firmly "No more, Charlotte," Charlotte turned back to Louise with desperate eyes as George disappeared through the door, closing it behind him "Let him consider."
And consider it George had done. Five months later, in September, George had finally given his permission for Her Royal Highness The Princess Charlotte to marry Captain Andrew Darnley.
Charlotte didn't have to carry out her threats, it had been decided that Andrew would be created a marquess, but whether he continued being known as Cpt. Darnley was up to him. Their children would have titles appropriate for their father's peerage, and the couple would be given York Cottage as a wedding gift from the King.
His Majesty thought it appropriate considering Darnley would not be a working member of the Royal Family, whereas Charlotte would continue her duties and patronages.
The date for the wedding had not been confirmed, but would be sometime in the new year, perhaps even longer.
Captain Andrew Darnley nervously paced the antechamber to the White Drawing Room considering all of this, as he waited to be received by His Majesty.
He turned to see himself in the mirror; he had had his uniform pressed yesterday, and his shoes shined. He had even gone to the barbers to have his hair trimmed. When asked what the special occasion was, he had laughed and fabricated some story about it being his mother's birthday.
Of course, it was all a lie. Andrew's mother was born in April, not October, and she wasn't even in London. She, his father, his brother and his brother's family were all up in the town of Greenock. They had been told yesterday, despite Charlotte's family having known for months, and were both pleased and apprehensive. Thomas Darnley was indeed a former member of the British Communist Party; he had even been present at the November 1938 rally calling for the end of Edward VIII's reign because of his supposed lack of care towards those fighting the war. And his brother was also a member of the party which called for independence in Scotland. They wondered how their neighbours and friends would view them with an indelible link to the royal family, but were also happy for both Andrew and Charlotte, who had spent the summer with them in Greenock.
Andrew had met the Princess at Oxford University, where they had both been studying history, he at Balliol and she at Lady Margaret Hall. He had received a scholarship to study there from his grammar school despite his father's meagre earnings, and had first laid eyes on the Princess when they had been sat listening to a lecture about the old English kings. They had them bumped into one another again when one of Andrew's classmates, Alexander Cambridge-also a cousin of Charlotte's-had thrown a soiree one evening. And then, their mutual acquaintance developed into friendship, and later love, and now Andrew stood about to announce to a unassuming public that he was going to marry their beloved Charlotte and that he loved her more than anything else in the world.
"Captain Darnley," Andrew turned to see Lord Lawrence Prideaux, the new equerry and personal secretary to the king after the reign of Charles Fairfax had ended in '56, standing in the doorway.
"Sir," Andrew's strong, supple accent answered clearly and loudly as he clipped his heels together.
"His Majesty will see you now," Prideaux opened the door fully and allowed Andrew to tentatively walk into the splendid drawing room; a room which had history etched into its gilded walls and was a symbol of the dynasty his fiancée descended from.
Andrew could see the King standing beside one of the sofas, his hands behind his back, a slight smile of his face and his blue eyes, the same shade as Charlotte's, expressed an emotion that Andrew thought was happiness.
Andrew came to stand in front of George and waited, watching as the chiselled, aristocratic face of His Majesty cast it's gaze across him. Andrew was not a bad looking man by any standards; tall and lithe with a long, narrow face, high cheekbones, silvery grey eyes and dark, charcoal coloured hair, he was probably considered very handsome by most.
The King then held out his hand "Captain Darnley."
"Your Majesty," Andrew took George's outstretched palm and adhered to protocol with a little bow.
"Please, sit," George motioned to the ornate armchair behind Andrew.
Andrew sat down gingerly on the edge of the seat, watching as George also sat down. He stared at the man who would be his brother-in-law; his ramrod spine straight, his hands on his knees. Taught from boyhood. Andrew had learnt how to sit properly when he had joined the RAF in 1956, straight out of Oxford; before that he still sat at the most formal tables with a slight slouch. And now, as he faced his king, he too sat properly, proud to have at least one aspect of being at the top of society correct.
George blinked and then told Andrew "Prince James will be joining us shortly, along with Queen Alice," he paused, glancing round to the footman stood by the door before turning back and asking "Would you like tea?"
"Err," Andrew faltered, looking up at the footman and then to George, he shook his head "No, thank you. I'm fine."
"Could I have some tea please, Fisher?" George asked the footman, who immediately sprung into life "And also bring two additional tea sets for His Royal Highness and Her Majesty."
The King turned back to Andrew and smiled "I can tell you that you are the only person I know who's been involved in something which has caused my mother to cut short a holiday to Cannes that she hasn't grumbled about," he chuckled "I'm impressed."
"I didn't intend to cut her holiday short, Sir," Andrew's voice was fairly quiet, despite his earlier confidence.
"Please," George insisted with raised eyebrows "It's George. At least in private."
The King then noticed what had caught Andrew's eye on the little round table beside his chair; a photograph in a silver gilt frame of the late Edward VIII holding baby Charlotte, who was just a few days old, his eyes locked on the daughter who would only ever know him for one and a half years of her life before he would leave for Russia. And his fate. George saw Andrew swallow at the haunting photograph, and the King then spoke again, softly "He'd be happy to call you his son-in-law, you know."
Andrew turned back to George and asked bitterly "Would he? Really?"
"Mmm," George replied quickly and quietly as voices could be heard beyond the closed doors "He would."
Andrew stood with George and turned as the voices of Queen Alice and Prince James could be heard coming in from the ante-chamber. The doors were opened from inside the ante-chamber and the legendary queen consort, and arguably her favourite child, walked into the room.
Alice had ceased to age at forty-two, and her creaseless face still expressed the vigour of her youth even at nearly fifty-nine; she wore her now white blonde hair up in a style not too dissimilar to the fashionable beehives, and wore a black dress which showed off her enviable figure and her starved, tiny waist; despite being a widow for twenty-two years Alice still skipped lunch as her husband once did. Finally, she wore a string of pearls around her neck and carried a little black leather handbag halfway up her arm.
James was also well dressed, not in military uniform like Andrew and not in a suit like George, but in trousers, a crisp blue shirt and over it a knitted white and navy cardigan which also had a collar. His hair was brushed back against his head and fell loosely in front of his eyes as he leant forward with his hand outstretched "Andrew."
"James," Andrew expressed more confidence with Charlotte's younger brother than he did with George, and smiled when James gave him a friendly pat on the arm. But then it came to her mother.
He edged close to Alice, who stood watching him with her deep eyes, and then held her hand out for him "Captain Darnley."
Andrew took the Queen's left hand and kissed her knuckles, noticing the engagement ring still glittering on her finger and then let go, stepping back and clipping his heels together again "Your Majesty."
He felt Alice's eyes stare into him and only dared look up when she told him "Appropriate attire, Darnley," she made her way across to the chairs and sat down in one without waiting for invitation from George, looking across to her elder son as the footman arrived back with the tea "Where's Jane?"
"Vicky is ill," Andrew heard George reply as James guided him over to the marble mantelpiece, taking a freshly poured cup of tea with him "She was going to be here but Vicky wants her to spend all the day with her in the nursery."
Andrew noticed Alice's scoff in reply as she poured herself tea, and also noticed James roll his eyes at her "Don't mind Mother," James spoke with honesty, the smile on his face broad "Out of all of us she's the only one who really knows how nervous you are. She just pretends otherwise."
James took a sip of his tea before continuing, allowing Andrew a brief insight into his gloriously rich knowledge of the ruling English and British families "When she got engaged to my father she was the first real commoner, despite being the daughter of a duke, to marry the heir since Anne Neville married the eldest son of Henry VI."
Andrew chuckled softly, glancing across to Alice "And when was that?"
James replied with a cheeky smile "1470!"
Andrew raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth to reply when the door opened again and Princess Louise entered the room.
"She's ready for you. She's waiting outside," Louise spoke to Andrew first, not bothering with formally introducing herself. She came to stand beside Andrew and told him "She wants your permission to come in."
Andrew felt butterflies in the pit of his stomach; if this was how he was feeling on the day of his engagement being announced, then God knows how nervous, and excited, he would be on the actual wedding day itself. He didn't know what it was precisely; whether it was the unknown world of the press, which Charlotte had been courting her entire life, and then the looming engagement interview, which Andrew knew Charlotte was also worried about. Or if it was the knowledge that he was marrying the youngest child from one of the most famous couples ever. Or if it was the thought of seeing his beautiful Charlotte ready to declare her love for him to the world and knowing that she was just that; his, and that she loved him.
He turned to Louise and felt his mouth go dry before stammering "She...sh..she can come in!"
Louise smiled warmly and turned back to the door, saying loudly "Come on then, Lottie, don't keep us all waiting."
Andrew felt his heart pound and then his chest swell with pride as the doors were opened again and Charlotte entered the room. Her hair had eventually been styled, by Louise, into a bouffant bun with a thick strand either side of her face, framing the timeless beauty evocative of Queen Alexandra, and she wore little makeup; a sprinkling of blusher and a pale lipstick. After much debating, the sisters had chosen a red wiggle dress, made of satin with rose pattern brocade. It fitted perfectly over Charlotte's petite figure, showcasing her slim waist and giving way to her long, pale calves, and her small feet which had been encased in satin heels of the same shade.
Her smile was etched into her face as she asked to her family and fiancé "Do you like it?"
James answered first "Stunning," Andrew watched him slide past and pick Charlotte up in his arms "You are the most perfect princess, and I am so, so, so proud to call you my little sister," he kissed her cheek and Andrew took note of how comfortable the two siblings were in one another's company "Make Daddy proud," James' whisper was overhead by all in the room, and Queen Alice stiffened at the mention of her husband, having to sniff herself to hold back tears.
"She will," George remained where he was for a moment longer before also moving across to Charlotte as James stepped aside "She already has done."
Andrew watched as George kissed Charlotte on the cheek and this time it was Charlotte who whispered "Thank you, Georgie."
George pulled away from his sister and said reverently "Do you really think I'd deny you your happiness? Hmm?" He tapped Charlotte on the nose "You look beautiful, darling."
Then came Alice. She remained silent as she walked across from her chair to where her second daughter and youngest child stood in the middle of the room that had seen the official engagement pictures and newsreel footage of herself and her own husband, all the way back in 1925, take place.
Andrew saw Charlotte hold her arms out as her mother approached and embraced her; something she never done with her other children, except James on occasion. Alice pulled away and took Charlotte's face in her hands, kissing her forehead fiercely she whispered "My beautiful girl. My beautiful, darling Charlotte."
Andrew noticed James, who had come to stand beside Louise, reach down at take his older sister's hand as it tightened; she had clearly never received such affection from her mother before announcing her engagement. If Andrew remembered rightly, Alice had only turned up to the Palace because she had been in the country. James leant forward and whispered something inaudible to Andrew, but Louise replied by sniffing and nodding, before leaning her head on her brother's shoulder.
Alice sniffed and then told Charlotte "Now, I have something for you," she turned briefly back to the chairs to find her bag, at which time Queen Jane emerged from an internal door.
As Alice searched for her gift, Jane commented softly "You look beautiful, Charlotte," she gave Andrew a pat on the arm as she walked past him and came to stand beside George, who wrapped his arm round her shoulder and kissed her hair.
"Here it is," Alice wiped away tears from her eyes as she produced a little brown box "I haven't worn this for many, many years," she told the family gathered as she walked back across to Charlotte.
Andrew watched as Charlotte took the box from her mother with a puzzled expression which quickly turned to a gasp of surprise "Mother..," Charlotte stammered "I...I can't wear this...no..no...I can't."
"What is it?" Andrew spoke up for the first time since his fiancée had entered the room.
Charlotte swallowed and turned the box round so that everybody could see inside; the famous brooch given to Alice by Edward VIII on their wedding day in 1926. The three ostrich plumes and the crown.
"You can," Alice took the brooch from its box and then proceeded to hastily attach it to the right side of Charlotte's dress, satisfied when it glittered in the sunlight. She looked up at her daughter "And you will."
Charlotte smiled and nodded before looking up at Andrew, beckoning him across with her finger "Come here, you," she smiled as Andrew finally moved from the mantelpiece, edging past Charlotte's family "Let me see if you're up to standard."
"Ma'am," Andrew smiled gently as he came to stand in front of Charlotte.
She nodded at him approvingly, brushing his broad shoulders with her hands she said "Very good, Captain. This will do."
"I hope so," Andrew replied "Because you certainly will."
Charlotte giggled and stood on her tiptoes to kiss Andrew on the cheek "I hope I will," she said as Prideaux entered the room again.
"The press are ready for you both, Ma'am."
Andrew straightened his jacket and stood tall, he raised his chin and then finally offered his arm to Charlotte "Your Royal Highness?"
Charlotte winked at him as she slipped her hand through the crook of his elbow "Captain. Darnley."
The RAF officer, with his royal fiancée, then walked over to the door which Prideaux held open for them, into another ante-chamber which led to the Blue Drawing Room and the mass of cameras and reporters, all gathered here from all across the globe for some announcement or another. Though they didn't know what.
Prideaux closed the doors on Andrew and Charlotte and they were finally alone in the antechamber.
"Now remember," Charlotte turned to face Andrew, reaching up and smoothing his dark hair back against his head "Speak slowly and smile. If you ever find yourself tongue-tied just squeeze my hand and I'll take over."
Andrew nodded and stammered "You...you're used to this," he laughed "I...I'm just the boy from Greenock. The locals in the pubs will be shocked at this I can tell you!"
Charlotte giggled and placed her hand over Andrew's cheek "Let them be," she whispered "We've got this far haven't we? This is the beginning of it all."
Andrew nodded and leant forward, kissing Charlotte on her forehead "It certainly is, my love."
The couple rearranged their positions again and neared the closed doors to the Blue Drawing Room, Andrew knocked briefly and the doors were opened from the other side.
And with another step, Princess Charlotte introduced Captain Andrew Darnley to the world.
Done! I really enjoyed writing that, though it wasn't as Louise/Charlotte-centric as I'd hoped. I may write another one. Maybe a wedding...? Thanks for reading! :)