Alright so I've been writing a lot on fanfiction lately with my story The Legacy of The Romans and a few Star Wars projects, but with Romans nearing the final half and my Star Wars stories soon to be on hold - one already is - so I had a bit of an urge to write something new. I'm a fan of royalty and European history - as you guys who have read Marchioness and Anglo-Saxon Chronicles would know - and I want to write more about that. So, this story begins at Versailles in the court of absolutist France at the height of its power as a young noblewoman finds out who she is and comes to play a much greater role in the world than she could have possibly envisioned.
Wow, that sounds a lot like Marchioness I suppose, even the titles are the same format except this one is in gratuitous French while Marchioness of Torino is English -except for the Torino part, but that's mainly because I think Turin is an ugly take on a beautiful name. Anyway, this is not just Marchioness 2.0, in fact, this story has nothing to do with Marchioness, it just so happens the general plot is superficially similar. As usual, this will be a lesbian story. The story title is in French but the act and chapter titles and all the content will be in English. This is of course for no reason other than to reach maximum pretentiousness. In any case, that's enough author's note, onto the late 17th century royal lesbian goodness!
The Shadow of The Sun King.
The Daughters of France.
I stood in the line of newly mature noblewomen, dolled up and ready to be presented before the King and Queen. My red hair was combed perfectly straight by my mother and our attendants, my freckles were powdered into submission, and my waist was squeezed into an incredibly constricting blue corset that matched by blue and gold dress. My mother deemed that my ginger complexion - which I inherited from her, mind you - appeared far too Protestant for the Catholic King of France. Therefore, she decided to hide my complexion as much as possible and instead focused on my blue eyes, calling attention to them with the blue dress.
I kept my eyes down and shy as mother told me, but I could not help but glance to the girls on either side of me. The one on my left was a brunette. Her black hair was long and curled, a deep pink blush was drawn on her cheeks, and a red dress clung well to her body. Her skin was a number of shades darker than mine and perhaps that gave her a livelier appearance. She was sexier than I was and she knew it, the quiet confidence she exuded was clear but she did not make a sound or even a movement that wasn't premeditated - she could almost pass for an Italian seductress. The girl to my right was also a brunette but her hair was more of a chocolate brown, it was also braided. She wore a golden dress and seemed like she spent every waking moment prepared to be the innocent, gentle, wholesome noblewoman everyone wanted to be.
I was the daughter of the Duke of Anjou and my mother was a noblewoman from the Spanish Netherlands. Her father was a Flemish Catholic landowner who reported directly to Spanish Governor. This marriage had been considered unusual as my father was capable of securing a much greater and more strategic marriage, though my mother tended to not point that bit out, heaven knows why. That could play against me, though that would first require the King to notice me for long enough to remember who I am, assuming he even knows I am his cousin's daughter.
Finally, the King and Queen entered the hallway. Philippe X de Bourbon, King of France and Navarre, walked arm in arm with his young wife, Queen Anne of Poland, a Princess from our eastern ally against the Habsburgs and their realm. The King and Queen stopped in front of every girl and appraised her individually. Only those who received their favor would be allowed to formally join the court as Ladies. Those who failed would remain mere girls for the next year. This practice was seen as a bit excessive and even lecherous by some nobles, but no one dared argue with King Philippe. The King demanded that only the finest men and women in France join his court as Versailles was to be a palace of perfection. Anything that did not meet his standards was seen as a personal insult - the draperies had to match not only his taste but his mood, the staff were to be ready to host lavish dinners and massive parties whenever the King deemed it necessary, and, of course, he was just as selective with his company, down to each and every new nobleman or noblewoman. I had to hope I would measure up.
The line of girls ahead of me got shorter and shorter. Those who made it scared me, everything about them was so put together I couldn't even imagine competing with them, but those who were refused scared me even more. I was absolutely certain that many of the girls rejected would have made it in before me, seeing them be refused meant that I surely was going to be refused as well. I was beautiful, but not beautiful enough. I was witty and I could bite my tongue, but I would be witty when I should have bit my tongue and I would bite my tongue when I should have been witty. I was the daughter of a Duke of relation to the King, but I was also the daughter of a foreign noblewoman of minor status from a country which is often our enemy. I had nothing going for me when the King and Queen arrived. I bowed my head and averted my eyes, not daring to speak or even make eye contact until given direct permission to do so. Mother made one thing clear, our King was an absolutist and he liked to exert his authority over nobles when given the chance.
"You may relax." the Queen gave me permission as she inspected me. She grabbed my shoulders and ran her eyes across me, noting every detail and every possible flaw. The King stood next to her and sightly behind, observing me, but allowing his wife to take the lead. I did not know what that meant. It could be a bad sign and it could hint that he was so disinterested in me he couldn't be bothered to inspect me himself. It could be a good thing on the other hand though, it could mean that the Queen approves of my appearance and wanted to inspect me herself. Perhaps the King would go along with what the Queen said on these matters, after all, she would be better versed in the feminine realm than he was.
I blushed as she ran her hands down my sides to my waist and quickly stole a hidden glance at the King. Suddenly, it all made sense. I saw a small, pleased smile on his face - he enjoyed the thought of his wife touching another woman - the fact that they chose me for this routine can only be a good thing. Queen Anne's physical examination was thorough, she ran her hands across my rear and even briefly cupped my breasts. I did not dare saw a word, I suppose there were worse ways to become a woman than to get touched by the beautiful Queen of France. This was my way to truly become part of the court at Versailles and any sort of objection would only hurt my chances. Satisfied, Queen Anne smiled, but she left her hands at my hips.
"What is your name, young one?" Queen Anne asked, speaking perfect French with only an almost invisible hint of a Polish accent. She likely learned French long before she knew she had the chance of marrying the King of France itself, after all, French was the lingua franca of Europe. It did not matter if she married to a German Prince or a foreign ruler, she and her husband would communicate in French, in some cases permanently as that was the King's favored language, in other cases, until she learned the local language. Her complexion was pale, only a shade or two fuller than mine. She had green eyes and blonde hair. She was dressed in an elaborate white and gold dress that made her look absolutely beautiful. She was the definition of elegance and she knew that.
"Yolande d'Anjou, my Queen," I answered. My grandfather had been a Bourbon Prince of France but, as he was not going to inherit the throne, he was instead granted the Duchy of Anjou. Dukes of Anjou have traditionally gone far in the world by inheriting other countries, such as the Plantagenets who inherited England and spent centuries fighting the Valois of Paris for control of France and the Medieval House d'Anjou which reigned as Kings of Naples, Hungary, Croatia, and Jerusalem at various points. Of course, my father's status meant little nowadays, bureaucrats loyal to King Philippe ran Anjou just like they ran the rest of the country. My father's role was just to flaunt his wealth and pay lip service to the King here at Versailles just like every other French noble.
"Come, I want you as a personal aide." my eyes opened wide for a moment but I quickly obliged. Anne was evidently amused by my shock as she giggled, I think I even saw King Philippe suppress a laugh. I followed obediently as the King and Queen appraised the remaining girls. The Queen seemed disinterested in the rest of the girls once she chose me and thus the King ended up having to choose virtually alone. The King chose a few more girls to become women in his court but, ultimately, it seemed he became deflated with all of this once his wife was satisfied, so he ended up sending most of the girls back. I wasn't sure how to feel about that. On one hand, I was ecstatic to have not only been chosen, but to have been personally chosen by the Queen. I wasn't quite sure what she meant by a personal aide, that seemed different from a lady-in-waiting - something I am definitely not capable of doing, I can hardly handle my own appearance, let alone the appearance of the Queen of France. The Queen was the consort, so it wasn't like she was expected to have a political agenda - and even if she did, what was I supposed to do? Sure I was interested in geopolitics and the state of the French Kingdom, but my father had been bemused by that interest at best and my mother downright tried to squash it, deeming it unladylike. I could hardly imagine what role Anne envisioned for me, but I was so happy to have succeeded and I would do my best to do what was expected of me. After all, I wanted to make my family happy.
We left the hall and headed for the throne room. I saw the honor guards of the palace bow before the King and Queen and I couldn't help but feel powerful. I knew the bows were not for me, but in my shock and happiness, it was easy to imagine I was some sort of Queen. We stopped just outside the throne room. I could not wait to enter the throne room with a great new status, a status that should surely make even my mother proud. Nevertheless, the King stopped and I had to show deference, I did not want to lose my freshly earned status so soon. There was also the fact that King Philippe exuded authority, he was dressed in layers open layers of exotic clothes and he wore a blue, white, and gold ermine cape. He wore long, curly black hair that made him appear vigorous and healthy even though he has already outlived his first wife and produced heirs. He did not need to wear a crown, everyone knew he was King.
"I must meet with that damned arrogant Anglo again. The situation in Spain is tiresome my dear, but you know it will benefit us all if it goes well." King Philippe told his wife. He was speaking of an English ambassador that was here in Versailles. The situation in Spain revolved around King Fernando III and his failure to produce a heir despite having already been through two marriages. The Spanish Habsburgs had struggled with producing heirs as of late, likely a side effect of marrying within the Habsburg dynasty, but Fernando III had married outside the dynasty, first to a Bavarian Princess and then to one from Wurttemberg, still, he had no luck and he was growing older. He had no brothers or sisters as a result of that decreasing fertility and the Austrian Habsburgs were eager to take the throne. We in France could not allow that, not after fighting so hard to keep Spain and Austria apart in past centuries, therefore King Philippe wanted a solution that would actually benefit France. He was willing to go to war against Austria to put an ally on that throne, but he had to guarantee that England would stay out of this war. That would be problematic as Margaret, the Queen of England and Ireland, was also Queen of Scotland and her husband, Maurits IV, was Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Philippe wanted to avoid a war that dragged in the whole continent, regardless of whether or not we could win it.
"Of course my dear, I love you. I shall be in the throne room with Yolande." Anne replied. The King kissed his wife, I bowed my head and he nodded to me before heading off in the direction of the English ambassador. I turned back to the Queen and found her grimacing. I wasn't entirely sure why but I did not dare ask. Besides, I thought to myself, it was probably just distaste for dealing with the English. Anne sighed but then turned to me and seemed to cheer up, she grabbed by hand and ushered me into the throne room "Come, let me introduce the new you to the court."
It felt right holding her hand. Her skin was beautiful and impossibly soft. She was gentle and she was womanly, but she was nothing like my mother. This was the Queen of France who spent her entire life as a Polish Princess. She was born to much higher standard than I was, but she seemed so easy, wearing a smile on her face - well except for that grimace she gave after kissing her husband - and being affectionate. My mother told me that such behavior was childish and that it was unbecoming of a noblewoman, however, who was more qualified to decide what was womanly in Versailles than the Queen of France herself? We entered the throne room together, hand in hand. We walked in the direction of the throne. Once again, I felt like royalty. The woman with me was unquestionably the Queen of France, but what was I then? I certainly wasn't a King, nor did I want to be, but I couldn't be the Queen if there already was one. There could not be two concurrent Queens, could there? Surely that was impossible, after all, the King and the Queen were married to one another. The Queen could not have any other monarch, especially not another Queen. Such a thing was wrong, unnatural, and sinful.
I was still trying to figure out what I should be imagining myself as when I caught the eyes of my mother and father. My father wore a curly black wig over his short brown hair to more closely resemble the King and he was dressed in a red, white, gold, and blue outfit. He was the Duke of Anjou, nominal head of one of the most important and historic Duchies in France. Anjou has given its name to countless dynasties and provided them with the wealth necessary to finance their adventures abroad. My father may not be nearly as powerful as his predecessors but our status still meant something. Now, given that the Queen has seemingly spontaneously made me her right hand woman, I could be the one who brings meaning back to the name Anjou. My mother was next to him in a burgundy dress. Pride was clear in her face, but I imagined that it was more pride in her work than actual pride in me. My mother was the source of my red hair and my pale, freckled skin. She, however, had green eyes - not nearly as nice ones as Queen Anne, but green eyes nonetheless - my blue eyes came from my father. I smiled at them, feeling accomplished and eager to learn how I may use my post to further impress my parents and my family.
The Queen sat down in the smaller of the two thrones - the one on the left - and then used our joined hands to usher me over to her side. I stood to her left, next to the throne, but not on it. If King Philippe were here, he would be in the throne further away from me and he would likely be joined by a loyal advisor on his right. From this position, standing on the elevated pedestal next to the throne, I could see everyone gathered in the room ahead of us. Nobles, clergymen, bureaucrats, and generals mingled together were servants dashed from place to place, fulfilling the demands of their masters without question. The staff at Versailles were very talented and they were relentlessly vetted before given the status. Philippe X was obsessed with this idea of the perfect court. That was the reason why he and his wife chose each and every girl to become a noblewoman and why even the servants were expected to contribute to Philippe's vision.
"Ladies, Lords, this is Lady Yolande d'Anjou." the Queen introduced me to the room of familiar people. My parents were here and I could at least recognize many of the people in here, but this time, it felt different. I was the subject of attention and that made me feel powerful. My perspective was only a few feet removed from where I would be if I were the reigning Queen of France. The fact that there was a beautiful woman next to me praising me as she held my hand certainly didn't hurt "As an intelligent, beautiful young woman she will serve me well as a personal assistant. Yolande shall be at my side at important events and functions. She will be an advisor of sorts, a confidant, and even an attendant. Her status is very important to me so I want to make a few things clear to the court. First of all, I want her to be treated with respect and dignity, she may just now be joining us, but she is joining us in a very important capacity. Second of all, I will be paying her a salary that I deem appropriate for her work. I do not want this sum questioned or tampered with. Finally, to the men of this court, I am aware that Yolande is beautiful, however, she is very useful to me so I deem her off-limits. She will not marry until and unless I relieve her of her duties."
Queen Anne's statement to the court was just as much for me as it was for the court. She made my duties clear, she explained that I would be paid a salary, and she told me that I wasn't going to be married off until she deemed it appropriate. I was grateful for that, I hardly thought I was ready for marriage, despite my mother's insistence that I could marry well very soon. My mother went for being a mere Flemish noblewoman that would be forgotten by history to the Duchess of Anjou within the walls of Versailles, she wanted me to take a leap even above that. I was sure my mother imagined me married off to another French Duke, a German Prince, or God willing, somehow setting me up with a foreign King. I was glad that I had the Queen of France herself giving me a perfect excuse for not getting married until I was ready. My parents were hard to read. My father smiled when he learned I was going to have a salary from the Queen - a rather generous one at that - and my mother was happy about my status, however, she was less happy about Queen Anne controlling my marriageability.
Nevertheless, I had a great new role to play in Versailles. Regardless of what my mother thinks, I know today went better than I could have possibly imagined.
"These will be your new quarters, opposite of mine and the King's." Anne told me as she opened the double doors to an impossibly lavish room. In the center of this room was a massive bed with countless layers of fabrics and curtains descending down from the canopy above. To the left, there was an attached bathing room. That room was dominated by a large square bath. On the right, there was a dressing room. The dressing room was loaded with dressers, mirrors, and closets, likely to be stocked with dresses, court gowns, and all sorts of secondary garments. Back in the main bedroom, against the wall to the dressing room, there was a desk stocked with paper and ink. Opposite of the desk, there was a sitting area. Two couches and a chair filled that corner. The walls were adorned with gold detailing and paintings. This room was far larger and far more decorated than anything I have ever experienced before.
"These quarters are amazing, thank you." I smiled with absolute gratitude at Queen Anne, she had been wonderful to me all day and I could not wait to return the favor to her. I never imagined that I would have such an important role for the Queen but, now that I have it, I will be sure not to lose it. That didn't seem to be a risk, however, as Anne seemed to like me and enjoy my company. She pulled me in close for a hug once I thanked her. I hugged her back. I felt the French Queen in my arms, I felt her hot breath traveling down my neck, and I smelled the intoxicating scent of her perfume. I could see why King Philippe chose her as his wife, he had heirs and he was old enough that he didn't need to remarry, but, when confronted with a woman like Queen Anne, how could he not? This woman may be from Poland, but France suits her like a glove. She belongs in Versailles.
"They belonged to Princess Isabelle before her marriage, but I think they suit your more than they ever suited by step-daughter." Queen Anne revealed, acting like it was nothing that she was giving me the room of a French Princess. Princess Isabelle had long since been married off to the Catholic Elector of Saxony but to be given her rooms...that seemed extreme. I was no Princess after all. Anne seemed to not think that shocking revelation was enough because next, I felt her eyes lock with mine. Something strange came over them and I found her hand brushing through my red hair. Slowly, as if involuntarily, her head moved closer and closer and her eyes seemed to glaze over. I lost her eyes but she did not lose my attention, my eyes slipped to her lips, getting closer and closer. I realized that it wasn't just her moving in, I was moving in too. My eyelids shut and for a moment, nothing happened, but then...then our lips touched. I felt the French Queen's love and passion pour into me, love and passion which hadn't been there for King Philippe. I felt as if my body itself was ignited as everything turned hot and parts of my body felt alive in ways they never hand before. I felt right. All too soon, Queen Anne broke off.
"Good...very good...you are wonderful, young woman. Here I was thinking this was going to take weeks." Queen Anne smirked with a giggle before continuing "Philippe will be done with his meeting with the ambassador soon, I will have to entertain his foolishness. Don't worry though, I will be back as soon as I can be, ready to pick up where we left off."
I nodded dumbly and watched her leave as I sat down on my bed. The kiss felt absolutely wonderful, but why? Queen Anne was a woman, a kiss with another woman was meaningless, it couldn't amount to anything. Perhaps if she were the King instead then it could mean something, but even then, she would be King and I would be a mere vassal of hers at best, the daughter of one otherwise, therefore, I wouldn't be marriage material for a royal anyway. What was with the kiss then? What did she mean by picking up where we left off? We couldn't take things further, could we? That wasn't impossible, we were both women...how would that even work? I thought this was all absurd...but I also knew it felt heavenly. This was the turmoil I found myself in when my mother of all people wandered into my new quarters, likely having been informed of my new living arrangements somehow. The Flemish redheaded Lady scanned the room, seemingly more concerned with the luxury and the status than her own daughter, but this was nothing new. I quickly hid any hint of my inner turmoil before my mother's eyes finally rested on me. There was a satisfied smile on her lips as she sat next to me on the bed, hopefully she had come to the conclusion that my new role with Queen Anne was overall to our benefit despite her dissatisfaction with the marriage rule - a rule which seemed far less innocent now than it did back then.
"You did well today. I'm proud." My mother shot me a legitimate smile. My father could have married a higher ranking woman but my mother got the best marriage she could have reasonably hoped for, however, that didn't seem to be enough for her. She was a Duchess in Versailles while France is at the height of its power, but now she wanted me to achieve her wildest dreams. I'm not sure if my mother thinks this is what I actually want or if she just wants to live vicariously through me, either way, it doesn't seem to affect her plans. She may have not been thrilled about me not going to get married any time soon, but I suspect she already has a plot for how this is going to benefit my status and thus her status.
"Thank you mother. I look forward to serving Queen Anne." It was the truth, even if she had unexpectedly kissed me. I didn't know what to make of that but I did know that I liked it and, while I don't think it would make any sense, I wouldn't mind it happening again. I did hope that the kiss wasn't going to change my role, I was legitimately interested in finding out how working closely with Queen Anne would look. I'm not sure how I would feel if all of this was just a ploy to get some sort of subservient kissing friend...I'm not sure what else I could call it. The word lover seemed rather heavy after only one kiss and I'm not even sure if making love would be possible between Anne and I. The word wife is certainly out of the question. Such a pairing cannot be a marriage, not even the most radical of Protestants would argue that, and even if, somehow, it wasn't taboo, Anne was already married, to the perfectly healthy King of France no less. I didn't know what to call it because I didn't even really know Queen Anne's intentions or what was even possible between two women. In any case, I certainly shouldn't be having these thoughts anywhere near my mother. The point is that I didn't mind the kissing, as weird as it was, but I hoped the job behind it was real after all.
"Yes, of course." My mother replied, evidently seeing this as an excellent branching off point for her plot and the reason she actually came here to speak with me to begin with "With your new role, we can be wherever the Queen is. There are very few things that your father cannot get us access to, but now, you have the key to all of that. Foreign dignitaries, the most exclusive balls and dances in Europe, you're even sleeping in the Princess's bedchambers. Once Queen Anne relieves you of your duties, you and I will have everything we need to make yet another leap in this world."
As predicted, my mother was concerned with status. I saw this as a wonderful future for me where I could serve the Kingdom of France, she saw this as a wonderful opportunity to marry me off to whoever she deemed, likely selling her one and only daughter off to the highest bidder. I suppose that was even more motivation to prove myself worthwhile to Queen Anne and King Philippe. I had to prove to the Queen that she still needed me and I had to make sure that King Philippe wouldn't put an end to it himself. I don't know quite what Anne wants to accomplish by kissing me, but I would imagine her husband wouldn't approve. The fact that her reaction to kissing her husband was a grimace while her reaction to kissing me was a smile and a giggle would not mix well with King Philippe's status as the icon of French perfection. How could Philippe be French perfection if his wife preferred a half-Flemish noblewoman?
"What about father? He'll have to stay in France, he's Duke of Anjou after all." I replied. Sure my father's title was practically just nominal at this point but the Duke of Anjou couldn't just up and leave France, his titles mattered. My mother, someone so concerned with status, couldn't expect the Duke of Anjou to just leave France behind so that she could go off to one distant Kingdom or another to live our her dreams of being a wealthy mother-in-law of a King or Prince. There was no loyalty in the marriage game my mother wanted to play, no greater purpose - she just wanted more wealth, more excess, and more status. She would marry into the Habsburgs if given the chance and the Habsburgs have been the natural enemy of France for centuries. Much like the French and the English, or the French and the Spanish - who are now ruled by Habsburgs as well - or the French and virtually every other country in Europe. France has fought them all and France has prevailed more often than not. That success has inspired my loyalty, unfortunately, my mother cannot say the same.
"You're not going to live with your father forever, my dear. A woman marries and goes off to live with her husband - this is the reason why I am in France after all - you should be happy though. You're fortunate enough to have a mother who is going to go with you when you get married. You're going to have my love and support in Parma or Wurttemberg or Portugal just like you do in France now." My mother tried to reassure me. I couldn't help but think that this was a positive spin on her own ambition - she had a place in the greatest palace in the world in the greatest country in the world but she was willing to trade it all for a higher station in a lesser palace in a lesser country. I did have to admit that I was happy she would go with me though. I didn't want to go to a foreign country to meet strange people and marry a bizarre foreign nobleman but, if I had to do so, I would rather do it with my mother at my side as a slice of familiarity. In any case, I was very fortunate because, instead of that, I would spend the foreseeable future in Versailles in the personal service of the Queen of France.
"Here." Queen Anne told me as she handed me a stack of papers, all containing lists of various goods and transactions. These were all written in French and, from a cursory glance, they contained details of trade between France and The Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. I watched as Anne sat down next to me with a similar stack of papers in her hands. Now I understood, she was dividing up her work between us "I asked Philippe to let me look at our trade with my home country. I want to know what we're giving to our eastern ally and then I want to write to my father and find out what Poland really needs. With any luck, we will be able to streamline trade in such a way that will benefit both France and Poland. I took half of the stack, I want you to look through the other half. I want to be done as quickly as possible in case Philippe asks us to help him out with the Spain situation."
"I was unaware that King Philippe actually asked you to help with these matters. When he shooed you off to meet with the English ambassador, I assumed that was indicative of your relationship as a whole." I casually pointed out as I began looking through my stack. It seemed that we were selling weapons, manufactured goods, and exotic chinaware to the Poles in exchange for grain, livestock, and raw materials. France had a high population and it was growing every day, meanwhile, the amount of arable land we have, for the most part, stays the same, with the exception of the occasional conquest - though conquest comes with more population as well - therefore, we need more grain, we need more food, and we need more farm animals. This is the price of carrying a population beyond which the land can actually support, hence, famine can devastate France. The amount of food coming to France from the east was immense but perfectly good weapons the French Army could use, perfectly good manufactured goods that French people may want, and exotic goods from China and India that the French people lack that is going away is immense as well. I wasn't sure how Queen Anne felt, but I think that, right now, trade is too far in Poland's favor. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has the ability to raise prices on their food and grain and, due to French demand, we would have no choice but to give them more goods, weapons, and exotics that should be in France.
"He usually doesn't. I started looking into French relations with Poland on my own and, eventually, King Philippe noticed. He helped me get proper documents and real information. In return, I've wanted to get more involved in French politics. Philippe is reluctant to let me do much more though. Part of him wants to manage everything all on his own like a true absolutist, another part of him feels inadequate by asking his wife to do anything, and a third part of him doubts that I will be very much help at all. I want to prove him wrong but he's reluctant to give me much of a chance. Maybe, with you at my side, I can change that." Anne smiled at me before stealing a kiss on my lips. I blushed and enjoyed the sensation, continuing to feel it on my lips even as she had long since pulled away. A palace servant came rushing through the room, stopping just long enough to pay deference for the Queen, and that prompted me to get back to work. I enjoyed Anne's kisses and I liked being close to her, but the French Queen made it very clear that these things would be our little secret.
I thought about France on the world stage. We are the dominant power in Europe, surrounded by Spain from north and south with the Austrian dominated Holy Roman Empire to the east. This Habsburg entanglement has not prevented us from dominating the continent, nor has the presence of England just offshore. England, Scotland, and Ireland are united in a personal union under Queen Margaret II. Margaret II was married to Maurits IV who ruled the Netherlands. England may be united with the Netherlands by marriage but we have prevented the English from establishing a permanent presence on the continent, something which they had lacked since the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453. Abroad, France possesses a number of trade outposts along the Slave Coast of Africa leading to a trail of Indian Ocean islands pointing the way to French India. From Pondicherry, we exert authority over much of the east coast of India, from the Carnatic up to Bengal. The trade and manufacturing in these region pours into Paris and Versailles, allowing the excesses of the French government and court to be the envy of Europe. In the Americas, plantations produce cash crops like sugarcane that allow us to bring something to China that the Chinese actually want, meanwhile, to the north, a vast realm stretches from Nouvelle-Orleans in the south all the way up to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in the north. In this vast territory, we could grow tobacco, harvest timber, and trade for furs. We have an incredibly large empire overseas with tons of potential, yet we have a trade imbalance with Poland of all places? The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is barely left standing due to constant border wars and often incompetent leadership due to a bizarre election system, a trade deal with them should be equal at best and, if anything, biased towards France.
Why should we depend on Poland for grain when we lay claim to a huge portion of open North American plain ripe for cultivation? Yes we have not yet really settled the plains we claim to, however, using some of that excess population in France, we can begin to settle it and we can make a difference. Our land claims and our trade with the Indians already demands a series of trade posts and forts littered across the land, trade posts and forts that could serve as the foundation for settlements. More people in the Americas could bring crops to France, more tax revenue could justify the existence of these colonies, and more people could be pressed into service against England's growing colonial empire in the Americas. The English lay claim to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Hudson Bay, and several Caribbean islands. We claim Louisiana, Nouvelle-France in Canada, and another few Caribbean islands. With the exception of Portuguese Brazil and some Dutch islands, the rest of the Americas are claimed or even outright settled by the Spanish. This Spanish Empire, stretching from the southern tip of the Americas up along the Pacific coast to a settlement they call San Francisco, is a vast and wealthy landmass.
The Spanish Empire in the Americas contains great plantations, plains upon plains of free roaming livestock, and literal mountains of silver. These lands are massive, valuable, and the first in the Americas to be settled by Europeans. The wealth of the Americas allowed Spain to wage constant wars against France in the past centuries and now, with the Habsburg line ruling Spain in danger of dying out, it is only natural that all of Europe has become invested in the succession. The Austrian Habsburgs would like to see the lands remain in the family and, with any luck, become unified again, however, this would make them too powerful and too threatening. Thus, the obvious alternative in Paris is to engineer a way to get King Philippe or one of his close relatives on the Spanish throne, that way, France would be the one to grow too powerful and too threatening. Needless to say, our rivals don't want to see either of us grow powerful. England, the strongest of these neutral parties prepared to intervene in any succession war, are more on the Habsburg side at the moment. King Philippe is working hard to bring the English over to our side but such a process is long, tedious, and stressful. I understand why Queen Anne feels a need to help her husband with all of this.
At this point, we are willing to accept that getting a Bourbon on the throne may be impossible, but we are working hard to ensure that the Habsburgs, if nothing else, will not re-inherit all of the Spanish Empire. King Philippe was likely searching for a good ally, someone stupid with ranged ambition. Philippe's plan is to weaken Spain and neutralize it on all fronts. King Philippe wanted to get a Frenchman he could control on the Spanish Throne and he felt the fest way to do this was to clear it with England and only then do we begin negotiating with the Habsburgs themselves, both those in Vienna and Madrid. The Spanish Habsburgs and Austrian Habsburgs may have shared a dynasty, but they were rather far apart by now, despite the inbreeding. The Austrian side of the family had been less prone to the practice, with the inheriting line anyway, and thus, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold VI was not actually meant to inherit Spain at all. Of course, the Habsburgs smelled a chance at getting a throne and no moment of facts would hold them back.
"You must admit he is being stubborn." I looked up from the stack of papers to see the English ambassador walking alongside the Count of Auvergne, my uncle. I think I understood what was going on, King Philippe and the English ambassador were at an impasse, so Philippe adjourned the meeting for a time. During this recess, the Count of Auvergne was sent in to appeal to the ambassador. My uncle was clearly paying lip service to the ambassador and trying to make him sympathetic towards the French position on the Spanish question. The ambassador was clearly falling for it and his pleas were getting noticeably weaker, after all, complaining about an absolute monarch's stubbornness was a foolish and weak complaint. An ambassador from a country as major as the Kingdom of England had to be entirely aware of how absolutism works and that absolute monarchs have to be shrewd, stubborn, and intelligent in order to maintain such a system without leading their country into bankruptcy and ruin.
"The King is doing what he feels is right. Austria and Spain are superpowers in their own right, seeing them combined yet again will be ruinous for Europe. Ask your Queen this - how can she, in good conscience, claim to be the defender of the faith for you Protestants but stand idly by as the Holy Roman Emperor becomes the ruler of the country which spawned the Spanish Inquisition? The German Protestants would suffer!" the Count of Auvergne pleaded. He was appealing to the Protestant English ambassador emotionally, after all, in reality, nobody could expect that the Spanish Inquisition would spread to Germany, but, to a righteous man raised hearing horror stories of the Spanish religious courts, such an image was horrifying. The truth is that the Holy Roman Emperor couldn't stop a robbery in Saxony if he had six months head notice. Leopold VI rules the Austrian lands and he has titles and prestige that covers the rest of Germany but fails to produce any actual effect. Simply being the King of Spain would not radically change the situation in Germany.
"Perhaps, but putting a Bourbon on the Spanish throne causes the same issue. You know that I can't go back to London to tell my Queen that the thrones of our two largest rivals are only a handful of deaths apart. As powerful as Austria is, Austria is not England's rival. Spain and France are our rivals." the ambassador countered. So it did indeed seem to boil down to the Bourbon question. That particular bit was always going to be problematic because Philippe X obviously hoped that France and Spain could one day be united by these events. Uniting two colonial Empires and two of the strongest continental powers in Europe with one another would leave England weak and vulnerable. Even now as England is at the peak of its power, united with the rest of the British Isles and joined with the Netherlands, England struggles against France or Spain separately. United, the two countries could wreak havoc on English ambitions. A threat that Austria never represented, no matter how strong it was. The ambassador was indeed in a difficult position.
"Nonsense, the Bourbon dynasty is strong and healthy. Yes King Philippe is a Bourbon, but so am I, so is my young niece Yolande here. There are plenty of ways a Bourbon could be on the Spanish throne without harming England. This can become a solution that makes everyone happy." my uncle briefly mentioned me with a small smile, I smiled back. The English ambassador looked at me just long enough to entertain my uncle's gesture and I played along. The ambassador and the Count of Auvergne turned back to their discussion as if nothing ever really happened.
"In that case, why does it have to be a Bourbon to begin with? If King Philippe is concerned with balance, he could just as easily propose a minor Habsburg claimant. Queen Margaret is not convinced this is anything other than a naked play for the Spanish throne." the ambassador replied, seemingly exasperated. It almost seemed like this English ambassador thought his own Queen was being unreasonable. I actually understood where Margaret was coming from and I figured that she was doing what was right for her state, just like how King Philippe was doing what was right for France and the House de Bourbon. In any case, the two men continued the conversation as they left the room. It seemed that my uncle wasn't exactly have a hard time with convincing the ambassador, the problem is that the ambassador was just doing his job. Queen Margaret gave him clear discussions to not give Spain to the Bourbons without massive concessions and no real chance of a Franco-Spanish Union. Shrewd work, good work, hypocritical work from the woman married to the ruler of the Netherlands. This was exactly the kind of foreign policy that the English needed and this was exactly why they were a worthy rival for mighty France.
Alright, let me know what you guys thought!