Tag Archives: Mumpty Fiction

The story of the china doll

The story of the china doll …

In 2015, for the first time ever, I entered a writing competition! It was something I’d always thought about doing, but never actually done – so I did it!   Although I didn’t get anywhere, I still kinda like my story and it made me, my sister and my Mum cry  –  so I feel like there must be something to it.  Anyway … the theme was Hero and it was only allowed to be 2,500 words.  I had about three months to write it in, and I wrote it about five days out from the deadline in about two hours.  Silly.  But see what you think …

Since then I have entered twice more and plan to keep entering, because it’s fun writing to a theme and writing is my happy place.  Anyway – I’m re-posting this because something I saw yesterday reminded me of it.  I hope you enjoy.


The story of the china doll …

When I was thirteen, it made me sad. When I was fourteen, it made me angry. From about sixteen onwards, I just ceased to care. Looking back, that seems incredibly callus, but I guess that’s what you’re like when you’re young, right? It’s all about you.

Imogen was my sister – is my sister – for a while we weren’t close, but you’ll find out about that soon. Mum says when we were little we played together all the time, even though Imogen was five years older than me. I don’t remember playing with her to be honest – I wish I did –we’ve lost enough time already. Mum said our favourite game was to dress up and pretend to be famous ballerinas. Normal childhood stuff for a couple of sisters I suppose – it’s just that when we’d grown up, only one of us could be a ballerina, and that was me. You need legs to be a ballerina …

Black Swan
Black Swan image via Pinterest

When I was thirteen and Imogen was eighteen, she didn’t have much time for me. I was still obsessed with ballet and she was “grown up” – or so she said. She never seemed that grown up to me, in fact most of the time she seemed far from it, but I had my life to lead, full of gymnastics and ballet exams and she had hers – full of boys and phone calls to her friends. I was angry with her for giving up dancing though – that was the one thing I admired her for – she was a really, really good dancer. I used to love it when my class finished and I could rush downstairs to her studio and watch her teaching her troupe. She was graceful, beautiful and happy, and at those times, I was proud of my sister.

But then Imogen met Ben and that’s when we grew apart. Ben was scruffy and rude and smelt of cigarettes. I hated him; Imogen loved him. Mum and Dad hated him too – they were always pleading with Imogen to stop seeing him and to find a boyfriend who was interested in her life and who treated her well. Like all parents I guess, they wanted him to treat Imogen like a princess; Imogen seemed happy with far less.   Inevitably I suppose, Mum and Dad banned him from the house and Imogen of course, moved out. That was the last I saw of her for nearly a year.

For the first few weeks, Mum and Dad just carried on as normal, but I could tell they were worried. Mum jumped every time the phone rung and I’d catch Dad constantly watching the driveway, both of them expecting her to realise how stupid she’d been and to come home. But she never did.

It was five months before they finally found her; holed up in a grotty, damp little house in Auckland where she and Ben lived with six other losers. Mum and Dad were horrified to see how she was living, but even more so, they were horrified at how much she’d changed. Imogen was a beautiful girl when she left – raven-haired with green eyes and a lithe dancer’s body, she had a fresh, wholesome look. With her pale, alabaster skin, she was always being told she looked like a china doll. Now, Mum said with tears rolling down her face, she was skinny to the point of emaciation, her hair was dirty and dull and her skin had broken out. Mum said she just wanted Dad to pick her up, put her in the car and take her home with them. Despite Mum and Dad’s pleading though, Imogen wouldn’t leave and told them to go away and never contact her again. Dad tried to talk to Ben about it, but I don’t imagine that conversation went well. Actually, if I’d been able to speak to Imogen at that time, I probably would have told her how disgusted I was with her and how sad and upset she was making Mum and Dad. If you ask me, she was just downright selfish and stupid, and I didn’t miss her at all. But I know Mum and Dad did.

Life carried on, as usual, for another seven months – Mum and Dad still tried desperately to stay in touch with Imogen and they made several trips to Auckland to see her. The last time they went though, Imogen and Ben had gone and their flat mates didn’t know where to – or so they said. One of them though – Julie I think her name was – told Mum that Imogen needed help; Ben was abusive and they were both addicted to meth, which was basically Mum and Dad’s worst fears realised in one hit.

Not long after that, the phone call came. That awful phone call in the dead of night that every parent dreads. It was the hospital – Imogen had been in a serious car accident and was not expected to make it through till morning. It turned out she’d come home that evening and found Ben comatose on the bed with a needle sticking out of his arm. Panicked, she and her flat mate had put him in the car and Imogen had been driving him to the hospital when she lost control and veered across the lanes, hitting the median barrier hard and rolling the car. Ben was dead and Imogen was seriously injured. The really sad thing, the doctors said, was that Ben was dead long before she hit the median barrier; her frantic dash to the hospital was already in vain. Why didn’t she just call an ambulance you ask? Apparently drug-addled brains don’t work that way.

Imogen did make it through that first night – barely. And she made it through the next few touch-and-go nights as well. She lost both her legs below the knee though and has a big, jagged scar that goes from the bottom of her chin, across her cheek and stops just under her right eye. She says she’s more like a china doll now than she used to be, except this china doll has lost its legs and has a crack across its face. She says flaws can be beautiful though and now I think she’s right. Back then I wasn’t so sure.

Life was pretty dark for Imogen in those first few months, as you would expect. Mum moved to Auckland to be close to her when she left the hospital and went to the rehab centre. Dad and I stayed home in Cambridge and tried to carry on as best we could. We’d drive to Auckland every Friday night and come home early Monday morning. That was the way we kept our family together and that was the way we tried to help Imogen heal. And Imogen needed to heal – not just physically, actually the physical bit was the easiest I think – she needed to heal mentally. I sat with her for hours, talking and reading to her in those first horrible weeks, while she struggled to come to terms with what had happened. She told me one day Ben had “shattered her soul” and she’d welcomed the drugs because they made her life bearable. I asked her why she hadn’t just called Mum and Dad to come and get her and take her away from it all, but she said she was scared of Ben and what he might do to us if she ever left him. He was violent, she said, and angry all the time. He was also mean and sadistic. The really weird thing though, and she couldn’t explain why when I asked her, was that she still loved him.

Ballet
Image via chinadollxox.tumblr.com

So, like I said at the start, I was thirteen and this whole thing with Imogen made me really sad – sad for her, sad for Mum and Dad – even sad for me, really. But you know what? When I turned fourteen it started to make me angry. We were doing everything we could for Imogen and Imogen just wasn’t getting any better. In fact, she was getting worse – she was just awful; nasty, uncooperative and ungrateful for all the support and help she got from Mum and Dad and the doctors and nurses. For a while I tried to be sympathetic, but then I turned sixteen and I stopped being sad and angry – actually, I just stopped caring.

It was around that time I stopped visiting too. I had been trying to get out of the weekly trip to Auckland for a while, but this particular weekend I had a really important show rehearsal and Dad finally relented and let me stay home in Cambridge. From then on, I stopped visiting and Mum and Dad stopped talking to me about her. Sure, they’d mention her in passing now and again, but I never asked about her – it was almost like I didn’t have a sister any more. Looking back, I guess I didn’t really. The sister I’d had; that beautiful, dancing china doll had gone; to be replaced with a moody, scowling shadow of her former self. It seemed that Imogen had disappeared into the shadows and was afraid to come out into the light.

So I carried on, without my sister; and I hardly noticed. My world was full of dancing and performing – I’d moved to Auckland by that stage to take advantage of the opportunities to perform that just weren’t available in Hamilton. I spent my days practicing and my evenings either performing or working in a local bar to pay my way – being a dancer in New Zealand is not easy financially, that’s for sure. It never occurred to me to visit Imogen – in fact, by the time Mum and Dad bought her to see my show, I hadn’t seen her for seven years.

I was the principal dancer in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it was my third performance when Mum and Dad bought Imogen along to watch the show. Mum had sent me a text earlier in the day to say she and Dad were coming to the evening’s performance – she didn’t mention Imogen – I learned later it was because Imogen didn’t want to come and Mum wasn’t sure she’d be able to talk her into it. Anyway, as I glanced into the audience it was a shock to see Imogen there at the end of the row in her wheelchair – and you know what? In that brief moment when I caught her eye, she wasn’t scowling – in fact, she looked happy. That night, I danced my little heart out; I danced for Mum and Dad, but mostly I danced for my china doll sister who could no longer dance herself, even if she’d wanted to. When we came onstage for the curtain call I could see tears rolling down Imogen’s cheeks, but she was clapping and laughing and I couldn’t believe it. Mum told me later she and Dad hadn’t seen Imogen happy since the accident – it was like those shadows she’d been living behind had been blown away and Imogen had taken one great leap into the sunshine.

All of a sudden then – at the age of 23 – I had a sister again.   And it was awesome – she was awesome. When I asked her about her sudden change of attitude to life, Imogen said that while she was watching me dance on stage, she’d suddenly realised her life didn’t have to be over. She may not be able to dance, but she could teach and she could laugh and she could love. And that, she thought, might just be enough.

Imogen never did anything by half; before long she had moved back to Cambridge, got herself a little flat and was back teaching again at the local dance school. She was spending more and more time on her prosthetic legs and less and less time in her wheelchair, and slowly but surely, her sparkle returned and my beautiful china doll sister was back.

Sure she was a little bit flawed, but that made her even more special to me. I realised how much I’d actually missed her all those years when I was telling myself I didn’t care. We talked about that, and she said she was surprised I’d stuck around as long as I did. Knowing she forgives me for it makes me feel better, but I’m still very sad we missed those seven years of our lives.

Do you know what Imogen does now? She’s the ambassador for a charitable foundation known as “No Drugs For Our Youth” – she travels around the country visiting secondary schools, telling them her story and pleading with them not to get involved with drugs in any way, shape or form – ever. At the start of every session she tells the kids she has a little sister; a little sister who is her hero and who showed her that life was precious. If only she knew – all I did was dance.

Imogen – my fragile, flawed, china doll sister. My hero.

China Doll
Image source unknown – if it’s yours, let me know!

I hope you enjoyed …

Love …

Mumpty

 

 

The curious creatures of Auckland burlesque – revisited

The curious creatures of Auckland burlesque: revisited 

A little while ago, Mumpty wrote some fictional stories on a few of her favourite Auckland burlesquers.  And this Friday night, she’s done a wee update.  Do enjoy …

Duchess deBerry

Galactic

Remember that saying:

Always be you …
unless you can be a fierce, intergalactic alien queen.
Then, always be a fierce, intergalactic alien queen.

No?  Seriously?  Well, it was inspired by Duchess deBerry, known simply to her nearest and dearest as The Duchess.

The Duchess had always been interested in space travel and so when her dear friend Sir Richard Branson (who rather fancied her) offered her the opportunity to accompany him on one of the first Virgin Airways trips to the moon, she jumped at the chance.  What antipodean temptress wouldn’t really?

Soon after the initial excitement had died down though,  The Duchess’s mind turned to more practical matters – what would she wear on the moon? She had no intention of wearing one of those ridiculous Michelin suits that’s for sure, but her current wardrobe didn’t inspire either.   As always though, The Duchess had a plan,  and that plan involved her illustrious pals at Asphyxia Couture and a brief to put together a little something something for her soiree on the moon.

DuchessdeBerry
Image by Black Friday Photography

She rather  liked what they came up with – it was certainly a statement piece, but practical too she thought.  Her hands were free and she had plenty of things to tie moon rocks and that kind of thing onto.  Sure, she could have done with a handbag, and it might get a bit chilly, but she wasn’t going to be outside on the moon for long periods of time was she?  She assumed she’d be able to pop in and out of the space shuttle at will – I mean even though she wasn’t paying for it, this was a commercial flight, and surely Sir Richard wouldn’t allow a passenger to get cold on the moon?  That would be ridiculous.

No, this little number was perfect and The Duchess shivered with delight as she settled down happily into the seat beside Sir Richard, gratefully accepting the glass of Cristal he handed her. #suchfun

Lilly Loca: disrupted

Lilly Loca, as we know, is a time traveller.  Just last year in fact, she travelled  from 1920’s New York to 2016 in Auckland, where she spends a great deal of time pirouetting seductively on stages around that fair city wearing the showgirl’s version of an itsty-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini and a purple-hued “do” Ru Paul would be proud to own.  But that isn’t enough for Lilly’s outrageous soul, so in an age where “disruption” is a buzz word in business circles, Lilly has decided to try a bit of disruption herself, and thus Gary Krumbert has emerged onto the scene. 

When I say Gary has emerged onto the scene, I mean more that he has BURST onto the scene and not in a glamorous, overnight-sensation kind of way; but in a more clumsy, goofy kind of way.  Because that’s the kind of guy Gary is; he’s a goofy drag king, born of the always glamorous, and sometimes androgynous, Lilly Loca.  He’s been around a while, but more recently has begun to make his presence known.

Gary_ruffles

One might be forgiven for assuming Gary is the quieter side of the Loca/Krumbert duo, and indeed he does tend to fly under the radar a bit.  I think his slightly nerdy persona  engenders a level of trust in people that allows him to get under their skin without them really even knowing it.

GaryKrumbert
Image by Peter Jennings

For Gary is most certainly not the quieter side of the duo.  Recently a naive judge referred to him as the “Veteran Virgin King” – well, let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.  Gary, in fact, is quite inspired by that raunchy, ginger-bearded Tudor King of old, King Henry the VIIIth.  So much so, in fact, that he has a set of silk stockings and a hat set with a feather on a jaunty angle that he brings out on certain occasions, and it really does drive the ladies quite mad with lust; as you can imagine I’m sure.

So this one time, at Drag Camp, Gary did something quite naughty – even for Gary.  He TOOK Lilly Loca’s rainbow-hued “do” and used it onstage as a “costume piece” shall we say.  To make the situation much, much worse, the costume piece was a merkin (uuuuuuuggghhhhhh – I know, right!)  Lilly, as you can imagine, was LIVID when she recognised it from her front-row seat in the audience.  She leapt out of her seat, scaled the stage and advanced upon Gary with a look in her eye that inspired sheer terror in his.  Such terror, in fact, that he scuttled offstage at the speed of light with Lilly’s “do” flapping between his legs and Lilly in hot pursuit.  The audience squirmed uncomfortably as a loud slap, a shrill squeal and a muffled thump could be heard backstage.  A few more thumps and squeals occurred and a couple of audience members burst into titters of barely suppressed nervous laughter, before the EMCEE Felicity Frockaccino hastily took over and began to belt out a rather raucous version of “I will survive” in a trembling vibrato.

Broken legRumour has it Gary was EXTREMELY lucky to get away with just a broken leg and he’s currently overseas on an extended vacay while his poor, battered body recuperates.  Reliable sources say he’ll be back when the heat dies down and Lilly has calmed her farm.    #suchfun

Leda Petit: the rise and fall (and rise) of an assassin …

Leda_champagne
Image by James Yang

When last we left Leda Petit, she was doing well as a secret assassin, making money by the bushel and lurking in bars, drinking champagne out of shoes and fraternising alluringly with her marks before she made her final, lethal move. 

Leda_fraternising

But things have gone rather downhill since then …

Leda_heroinchic
Image by James Yang

Sadly, our Leda has become a little too fond of the high-rolling lifestyle she can now afford as a result of her prodigious “hit” rate.  It’s a never-ending cycle of a whiskey here, a cigar there – a line of coke up her nose; “but never before lunchtime darling – I have standards.

Leda_mess
Image by Peter Jennings

One particularly snipey member of the Auckland paparazzi could almost be  excused for comparing Leda’s behaviour to that of Amy Winehouse at her worst.   But really, that would be unfair – as she says, Leda has standards, and she would NEVER go on stage and deliver a less than stellar performance like Amy did on the odd occasion.

Leda_paparazzi

Yes, while these days Leda is having a lot more fun than your average punter, she is also getting the job done.  I mean really, when you think about it, she’s living a glamorous Old Hollywood lifestyle that rivals that of Frank Sinatra and his cronies.  Of course, she’s doing it Her Way (do you see what I did there?) and I have it on good authority that despite the heavy nights and the early morning stumbles home to her apartment, Leda can be relied upon to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to mingle come midnight when the “respectable” bars open and Leda’s marks await.  Why look …

LedaSee what I mean?  She really is a consummate professional, our Leda. #suchfun   

Yours in updated curious creatures …  

Mumpty

The curious creatures of Auckland burlesque

The curious creatures of Auckland burlesque …

Curious Creatures
L-R: Lilly Loca, Duchess de Berry, Leda Petit – picture taken @ Venus Starr’s Diamond Carousel

Mumpty loves a bit of fiction – she also loves a bit of burlesque.  So here’s a wee combination of these two loves – and who better on which to base some light-hearted stories, than four of Auckland’s curious creatures of burlesque: Duchess deBerry; Lilly Loca; Heidi Heart and Leda Petit.

Enjoy …

Duchess deBerry

Duchess deBerry

The Duchess was French of course.  She owned a small, 17th century chateau named La Roche-Sur-Yon, but she refused to live in it because it didn’t have a private theatre – and what use was a chateau if it didn’t have a private theatre?  Of course she could have applied to her local “consiel” for consent to add one, but that seemed tiresome, and the Duchess didn’t do tiresome.

So instead she spent her time wandering gaily around the world with just her credit card, a hat box and a battered Louis Vuitton suitcase.  She attended the opera in Versaille and the bull-running in Spain but found neither to her taste.

So she took up singing in smoky jazz lounges; the seedier the better – the money was poor,  but it was good for her soul. And anyway – she’d had the forethought a couple of years earlier to marry a very wealthy art collector.  He had lovely manners, and was therefore happy to share his fortune with his young and beautiful wife, while not requiring her to share much of anything with him.

The Duchess smiled happily as she ordered a champagne cocktail – her set had gone well and now she was back in the bar of her favourite hotel in Naples chatting to an alarmingly handsome stranger – she really did love her life these days.

Lilly Loca

Lilly Loca Prive

Lilly Loca was a time traveller.  She’d travelled from 1920’s New York – where she’d been a luminary of stage and screen, performing to packed audiences and leaving a trail of broken hearts everywhere she went – to Auckland, New Zealand, 2016.

One evening in 1924, after a lot of very expensive champagne, she’d taken a wrong turn down a long, dimly lit hallway of the New York Baltimore Hotel, and had found herself in a musty room that smelt like it had been locked for centuries.  Just as she turned to find her way out, she had spotted a glorious-looking red door with a gilt frame which practically begged her to turn the handle.  And Lilly, being both adventurous and tipsy, did exactly that.

After falling for what felt like ten minutes, she jolted to a stop and found herself in a very strange, yet familiar-feeling place.  Blue, tube-like things proclaimed her destination in twirling writing as “Privé” – it looked very much like the Baltimore’s “Kiss Bar,” but there was lots of stuff called “technology” that Lilly wasn’t used to.  Still, everyone at Privé looked and behaved in pretty much the same manner as her 20’s theatre family had, so she decided to stay.

Being an adaptable soul, Lilly soon adjusted to her new environment – she got herself an iPhone, a FitBit and even one of those new-fangled Spotify playlists where she played Bowie’s “Lazarus” on endless repeat.

She just had a niggling worry that she might have left her diary on the hotel bed in 1924, and there were things in there she’d kinda wanted to keep secret …

Heidi Heart

Heidi Heart
Photo by Bruce Jenkins

Heidi Heart had a very dark secret.  It was something she’d tried hard to resist and she’d certainly never planned to tell anyone – it was HER dark secret.  The problem had arisen when Valentine, her husband, had come home to their New York apartment early one day from an interstate trip and found her.  The look of sheer horror on his face – before he turned and headed wordlessly for the door – haunted her even now, three years later.  

Shaking, she’d packed it all away when he walked out and prepared herself for the inevitable fallout when he told their friends.  She knew her social position, if not her entire life, would be ruined – but she’d known there was that possibility right from the start – and she had been prepared to take the risk.

Valentine never told their friends – he was probably too embarrassed – and they’d never discussed it; not once.  Their marriage was now just a marriage in name though.

In her darkest, most self-destructive moments since Valentine’s discovery, she occasionally thought bitterly that it had been in the privacy of her own bedroom hadn’t it?  It hadn’t actually hurt anyone.  It wasn’t fair that he had rejected her so completely since that fateful day.  Although, in her more lucid moments, she’d had to admit to herself that it wasn’t just that one time.  She’d  done it before – why she’d even performed a seductive striptease wearing men’s clothes as part of the fantasy.  But there were worse things than that weren’t there?

Yes, Heidi – there are – but not many.  Can you guess Heidi’s secret?  Well, I’ll tell you – she’s a bloody Justin Bieber fan.

Leda Petit

Leda Petit
Image by Luke Tarvor

Leda Petit was an assassin.  Only two people in the world knew this – which, when you’re an assassin – is a very good thing.

She hadn’t meant to become an assassin, it’s just that she’d had a boyfriend once who had proved very, very hard to shake once she’d got sick of him and in the end, she’d had to just “make him disappear.” A few months after that, she got a call from a mysterious gentleman who offered her $200K to make another gentleman disappear – he’d been good for the money and Leda rather liked her new $195K Mercedes (she’d spent the rest at Louboutin) so the next time he called, she was happy to “talk turkey,” so to speak.

The lifestyle wasn’t all bad actually – she seemed to spend a lot of time in bars drinking champagne out of shoes, smoking and looking authoritative, while she kept an eye on her “mark.”  She loved the feel on her skin of the cold blade under her garter belt, and had grown fond of it’s reassuring weight.  She also rather enjoyed the seduction, particularly if her mark was good-looking, but in the end there was a job to be done, and Leda was a consummate professional in that regard.

Leda always bought herself a little something special after each hit; a big solitaire here, a Birkin handbag there – she did it out respect for her mark really.  She was nothing if not respectful, our Leda.

Yours in fictional and curious creatures …

Mumpty

Sentinel & the Galleon

Mumpty fiction: Sentinel & the Galleon

Elizabeth 1

Sooo … I entered a writing competition again!  This is the second time I’ve done it and it’s exciting, a wee bit nerve-racking and lots of fun!  Anyway … the theme this year was “A convincing lie” and it was only allowed to be 2,000 words. You may or may not know this, but I am a Tudor history geek, so of course, I was inspired by that!  See what you think …


Sentinel & the Galleon

Sentinel

Well, Elizabeth thought grimly, it appears I need to remind Robert of our disparity in rank. She arched one finely plucked ginger eyebrow and observed the tense set of Robert’s neck as he stalked away. His behavior would certainly not do –one should never turn their back on the Queen and Elizabeth had seen the shocked looks of the courtiers when he had done so.

Elizabeth and Robert had been childhood friends – he had stuck by her through the tumultuous and the downright dangerous times, but now she would have to remind him she must be seen as regal and unquestionable – the Virgin Queen, respected by all and beloved by most.

But that unpleasant little conversation would have to wait – Elizabeth and Robert had a “situation” to deal with. One neither of them could currently see their way around, and one which wouldn’t go unnoticed much longer. Her allusion to that was the reason he had left so abruptly.

Of course everyone in their inner circle knew Elizabeth and Robert were lovers. The concept of the “Virgin Queen” was a lie – so far as her people believed, a fairly convincing lie – but a lie nonetheless. However, before you jump to conclusions and assume Elizabeth was pregnant; she was not.

Robert, you see, was a thief. A fraudster. That was the problem. And very soon, it would not only be Elizabeth who knew it, but the whole of the English court and beyond.

The situation was grim, and frankly Elizabeth was furious with Robert. As Queen, she had bestowed great favours and offices on him – she’d had to really, but that wasn’t how people would see it. Whilst he was descended from a very wealthy family, the tiresome Lady Jane Grey saga – which had resulted in his father’s execution – had rather drained the family’s purse and Robert couldn’t be expected to carry out his role as the royal favourite without the means to do so.

The crux of the matter though, was that Robert had become greedy and his accompanying lack of integrity had landed them both in this unpleasant predicament.

It had started with Sentinel. As Master of the Horse, Robert came in contact with some spectacular animals and when Sir Francis Knollys arrived one morning on the magnificent black stallion, a covetous gleam appeared in Robert’s eye and he determined that Sentinel must be his. Sir Francis wasn’t interested in selling Sentinel at first, but Robert made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. An offer Robert also couldn’t afford to make, so he purchased Sentinel out of the purse he’d been allocated as Master of the Horse. From there, it was a logical step that the same purse paid for Sentinel’s upkeep. Robert knew no one would have the temerity to question why Sentinel was available only to him and wasn’t part of the courtier’s pool of horses.

But it hadn’t stopped at Sentinel. God knows if it had, Elizabeth thought, I could have made it all go away. There were numerous other transgressions; a painting here, an expensive wall tapestry there, even a water closet in his quarters at Whitehall – all on the public purse. But it was what came next that threatened to bring both Robert and Elizabeth into disrepute and eventual ruin.

Galleon

The Galleon Leicester – where it all started to unravel for Robert. Rather than paying for the galleon from his own private funds, he fraudulently commissioned, built and fitted her out from his purse as Lord Steward of the Royal Household. The galleon was a vain folly and an expensive one at that. Robert wanted it for reasons threefold; the more noble reasons being to increase England’s sea power and to offer Elizabeth a quick means of escape, should that be necessary; and the third being simply that Robert felt his position in the realm warranted it.   While the Galleon Leicester was not designed as a pleasure craft, it was entirely suitable as such, and Robert embraced that use wholeheartedly, hosting many a magnificent soiree onboard, with Elizabeth as guest of honour. On one particularly extravagant occasion, he had Sentinel spirited onboard before his guests arrived and greeted them from the stallion’s back. Impressive, but risky – Sentinel soon registered his distaste by whirling round, rearing and nearly throwing Robert off the side. Robert dismounted and Sentinel was led off – but not before the impressive spectacle had been witnessed by all, and was talked about for months afterward.

Those were the glory days for Robert and Galleon Leicester, and Elizabeth had no idea of his deception. She believed he’d paid for the galleon out of his private funds and indeed, she’d been impressed by his generosity in commissioning her partially for Elizabeth as a means of escape.   She doubted such means would ever be needed, but she was flattered all the same. Flattered that is, until Robert knocked on the door of her privy chamber late one evening, his face pale as a ghost. Elizabeth dismissed her ladies at once and watched in horror as he fell to his knees in front of her, his shoulders wracked by silent sobbing. “Robert,” she asked in a hushed and terrified tone “what is wrong?” In the half hour that followed, Elizabeth ran the full gamut of emotions; from horror to disbelief; sympathy to anger and finally to the current feeling of dull dread that had resided in her chest for the five days since his confession.

Not only had Robert been duplicitous in his use of the Royal Household purse, he had used Elizabeth’s royal seal to authorise it – something which Elizabeth would never have allowed, had she been asked.   Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s Personal Secretary, had taken Robert aside that evening and questioned him about where the money had come from for Galleon Leicester and a number of other expenses. Robert had denied using the Royal Purse of course, but Walsingham had solemnly promised him a full investigation would ensue over the next few days. The use of her royal seal meant Elizabeth was mired as deep in this mess as Robert and she knew full well there was no point in disassociating herself and claiming she had no knowledge of it – no one would believe that, given the closeness of their relationship. She was also under no illusion that Walsingham would ensure that particular approach would be wholly ineffective.

So that is how the current situation had come about and Elizabeth was furious she had spent the days since Robert’s confession worrying herself sick trying to find a solution, only for him to turn his back on his Queen and stalk away in anger. That behaviour would be addressed – mark my words, she thought to herself. But first things first. She was going to have to come up with something for Walsingham and it was going to have to be good. He was no fool and furthermore, he was no supporter of Robert, nor she suspected, herself. If the latter were true, he would certainly never admit it – that would be treason and treason meant a forfeiture of his life. Which, Elizabeth mused, would certainly be the easiest way out of this mess.

No, she had to come up with something or they would both be ruined – he rightfully so; she, through no fault of her own. She would be seen as a silly and thoughtless Virgin Queen who had allowed a man to turn her head and take advantage of not only herself, but the people of her realm. She may as well abdicate then and there, and Elizabeth had no intention of doing that.

And so the lie was conceived and Elizabeth went about the task of ratifying it using the formidable skills of state she had inherited from her father, King Henry VIII and her mother, Queen Ann Boleyn.

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Image from the movie Elizabeth: the Golden Age

The ensuing lie was convincing indeed and Elizabeth delivered it at its dramatic pinnacle when Walsingham came calling the next morning. She was rather proud of her performance really; the wide-eyed surprise when he deferentially yet smugly laid out his accusations, followed by her scathing delivery of the lie itself. Her subsequent arrogant dismissal of Walsingham, accompanied by a thinly veiled threat that it would not be in his best interests to question her ever again – it was all rather good really. The most gratifying moment was the dawning recognition on Walsingham’s face that he’d been hoodwinked by a far superior opponent.

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Half an hour later, Elizabeth tucked a stray lock of firey red hair back under her crown and in a voice of steel, requested her page bring Robert to her. It was time they had a conversation.

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Image via deviantart.com

Hope you enjoyed my story!

Yours in stallions and galleons …

Mumpty