Queen Pirouette was in no hurry to be coronated. She hated ceremony. Unfortunately, every day of her life since childhood had been governed by ritual. With time, the problem only grew worse. Now that she was Queen, nearly every aspect of her life was subject to strict etiquette.
At eight o’clock every morning, the Chief Lady of the Bedchamber would draw her bed curtains and say, “Your majesty, it is time.” This was called the levée. All of the ladies of the Court would vie for the opportunity to hand Pirouette a piece of clothing. Of course, only the highest ranking woman could claim pride of place to give the Queen her first piece of clothing. By no means was she allowed even an iota of privacy. Everything she did was open to public display, even taking a bath. Tickets were distributed for entrance to the gallery where the nobles could gather to watch her bathe.
Because a typical coronation lasted an entire day, Pirouette chose to procrastinate announcing a date. “Why should I be eager to have everyone see me stripped down to my shift so that the prelates can rub their holy oil on my arms, legs, chest and forehead!” Not even her fiancé, GarGar couldn’t convince her to name a date.
I know that I’m late, but circumstances beyond my control have caused me to divert my efforts to other areas. Please accept this post as my contribution to the Photographing Public Art Challenge. Best wishes, Russell
Here are another one of those ugly birds that the city gave to local artists to paint. It’s another example of what I call “committee art.” When more than a couple of people collaborate to create art, the results are never good. If a symphony orchestra took votes on how to play each piece of music, the results would be catastrophic. If a classroom had more than one or two instructors, how could the students learn anything? I’ve been in classes where the teacher abdicates responsibility. Can you imagine taking votes from the students on whether or not to take an exam?
Everyone was assembled, from the guards to the spectators to the judges. The defendant and her lawyers sat at one table facing the judges, while the prosecutors sat nearby at another table facing the same direction. (God forbid that they should face each other!) Tata Sous-sus, whose dumbfounded expression was the source of much merriment at Court, sat hunched over, refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Unobserved, Queen Pirouette sat in the gallery, veiled behind screens.
Only a few days earlier, Tata, the Queen’s closest living relative, had been found guilty of the murder of Lady Greenmeadow. All of these great personages were gathered to witness her obligatory sentence: DEATH. The presiding judge who sat under a large white wig with many curls, cleared his throat and struck his gavel. Behind him, a young valet, dressed in the Queen’s livery, held a curious-looking black cap over the judges head as he spoke.
“We are gathered here today for the sad business of sentencing this unfortunate woman, the lady commonly known as ‘Tata Sous-sus.’ Picking up a document and clearing his throat again, before he could speak, another valet bounded through a side door of the courtroom, ran up the stairs that led to the judges’ seats and thrust a piece of paper in front of him. An audible gasp rippled through the spectators.
“Wha- what’s this?” Stammered the judge, peering through his half-lensed reading spectacles at the note now resting in his hands.
“I’m afraid that I must call for a recess while I consult in chambers with my colleagues. Council for the prosecution and the defense will attend me there.”
As the judges retreated to their chambers, the rest of the courtroom rose to its feet. The room veritably exploded in people shouting into each others’ faces. Tata Sous-sus swooned, and it was only because two of her lawyers grabbed her that she didn’t fall right there on the floor. Looking skyward, Tata murmured, “Thank you, Lord. I thought I was already a corpse.”
GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats, sat on his big white stallion. He’s paused because he and his men weren’t quite sure where they were; that is, where they were located. While his Aide de Camp wrestled with a map that seemed to have a thousand folds, GarGar decided to take a bit of refreshment. Reaching into the inner breast pocket of his jacket, le comte extracted a silver flask. Casually taking a long draught, he also trained his eyes on the Aide de Camp.
“You there!” Said GarGar. “How’s it going with that map? Here! Let me take a look at it!” With that, GarGar tucked his flask back into his pocket and simultaneously reached for the map. His Aide, a young man of about twenty years, looked at him as if he had two heads. “My lord!” Was all the poor fellow could think to say.
“Let’s see here,” said GarGar, tucking his chin into his chest, “The trail we are on started going East, then it went North-East. After a bit, it double-backed South-West, and then corrected itself due East, here!” He poked energetically at the map. “Here!”
The Aide shrugged his shoulders. His ability to read a map was hindered by a serious learning disability. In later years, he’d be labelled with words such as “poor impulse control,” “dyslexic,” and “Attention deficient syndrome.” Be that as it may, he did have the presence of mind to pull a compass from his trouser pocket and shove it in the direction of his leader.
“Yes!” Cried GarGar. “Maybe we can tell by what direction we are going now, it will tell us where we are on the map!”
It was the first anniversary of Queen Pirouette’s accession to the throne. Because this day fell so closely to Her Majesty’s birthday, all sorts of festivities were planned. Abigail Hoffenhoff, Pirouette’s First Lady of the Bedchamber, threw herself into the plannings at the sacrifice of both sleep and food. There was so much to do. Where to begin? First and foremost, locations had to be secured. There was the Great Cathedral, the public square, and even the Grand Ballroom of the palace had to be scrubbed clean and staffed with extra personnel. The Queen, whose time and energy were occupied with matters of state, didn’t bother to question any of Abigail’s decisions.
The first and most important event was the holy mass to be said at the beginning of the celebration. Of course, this would be held at the Great Cathedral, but who would be the celebrant? There were many candidates for the job, but the two most likely candidates were the Cardinal and the Queen’s Confessor. The two men, implacable enemies, tried every means in their disposal to convince Lady Abigail to choose them. Their methods diverged. While the Cardinal initiated a whispering campaign against Her Majesty’s Confessor, Pére Joachim, the Confessor himself chose to whisper in Her Majesty’s ear all of his qualifications for this important post.
On the day that Tata Sous-sus was escorted from her imprisonment, the sun was shining so brightly that she feared it would scorch her flesh and leave her blind. In light of this concern, her maid deployed a parasol above her head. In addition to her long white gown, Tata wore a kerchief to protect her hair and gloves over her hands. Thanks to a fine, muslin veil, not even her face was exposed to the elements. To the gawking crowds, she resembled nothing so much as a ghostly wraith.
“What’ve they done to that poor woman?” Said one common fishwife, pointing at Tata as she was led on foot to Her Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas, an imposing building of red brick with bars over the windows. Tata paused at the foot of the steps, turned around and waved. “God bless you!” Shouted her many well-wishers, mostly women of a certain age who, more often than not, were widowed or abandoned. “Pray for me!” Shouted Tata in return. “Please pray for me!”