Subject: For All Nails #101: The African Queen
Cape Town, Cape Kingdom [FN1]
17 July 1974
Alexandra, Queen of the Cape, Duchess of Nieuw Rotterdam [FN2],
Protector of West Griqualand, Defender of the Faith and Too
Damned Many Other Titles shouldn't have been a happy monarch,
but she was.
Getting used to the monarchy business was the least of
troubles. She'd been in the hot seat for just over three years,
and she'd come to it completely unprepared; being elected to the
throne had been beyond her wildest imaginings. Of course, she
was related to her predecessor within the fourth degree of
consanguinity and thus eligible to be chosen Queen, but only
just. Her grandmother on her father's side had been royalty.
_She_ was just a doctor, a member of the Cape Town municipal
parliament, and an occasional columnist in the Volkskrant.
But she had been elected anyway. Parliament had been deadlocked
between two equally unacceptable candidates, and had broken the
impasse by pulling a name - hers - out of a hat. She hadn't even
been paying attention to the proceedings - if anything, she had
even less patience for political wrangling then than she did now -
so the delegation that visited her at her medical office had come
as a complete surprise. Fortunately, she'd managed to avoid
making a complete fool of herself, although not by much.
That should have been the end of her problems, like the fairy-
story prince appearing with the glass slipper. It hadn't been
long, though, before she learned that "happily ever after" can
be much more complicated than it sounds.
To begin with, the royal family didn't care for her. That,
probably, was the easiest to understand - the sons of the former
king and dozens of close relatives had been passed over for
someone who was royal mainly by courtesy. Alexandra supposed she
couldn't blame them for resenting her, or for using their
considerable social and political clout to undermine her.
High society didn't care for her either. Many non-Africans,
accustomed to seeing Africa through the lens of racial conflict,
assumed that this was because of her Coloured ancestry. While
it was true that she was one thirty-second black on her mother's
side, this didn't matter at all; her Coloured ancestors had come
from a fine Afrikaner family. [FN3] The problem was the _other_
side of her mother's family; they were white, but they were
descended from dirt-poor farmers who had fled Germany and Russia
during the Bloody Eighties. Her mother's mother, dead these two
years, was a second-generation Cape citizen and had risen to the
middle class, but she'd retained enough old-country ways that she
might as well have been a Boer. [FN4] Even worse, she'd been a
practicing Jew; race didn't matter much in the Cape Kingdom, but
religion certainly did, and Judaism was one of the less suitable
ways to reject Dutch Reformed doctrine. That was enough to make
Alexandra quite unacceptable to the Cape Town hostesses.
Parliament didn't care for her. When they elected her, they
thought they were getting an amiable nonentity; someone who would
preside over charity teas and be too dazzled by the glitter of
the court to do much else. What they got was a conscientious
woman who insisted on doing her job, whether or not she got in
Parliament's way. They didn't like the way she had taken to
actually _using_ her constitutional authority, or her public
addresses about controversial issues like immigration and the
Well, as far as Alexandra was concerned, that was just too damned
bad. Why shouldn't she use the powers that were hers, even if
they had gone unused for generations? And why shouldn't she
speak? Didn't she have the same right of free speech that the
least of her citizens had? Wasn't she, as a sovereign elected
by a representative body, _entitled_ to speak for the people in a
way that a hereditary monarch was not?
The people. At least she had them. Alexandra was popular; all
the poll numbers said so, and so did the encouragement that was
shouted whenever she walked the streets of the city. The public,
or most of them, saw her as an honest woman standing up to the
politicians, and her natural grace made an impression on them if
on nobody else. Parliament was starting to learn that it opposed
her at its peril. In the past year, she'd felt that she was
making headway, starting to moderate some of the kingdom's
residual xenophobia and Dutch Calvinist complacency.
And there were other compensations as well...
"Ma'am?" said her personal secretary; she had forbidden greater
formality, and her staff refused greater familiarity. "Ma'am,
the delegation from Botswana is here." [FN5]
"Send them in." The Botswana negotiations had been one of
Alexandra's pet projects for several months. The two countries
had always enjoyed friendly relations, and Alexandra saw a customs
union and mutual cooperation agreement as the first step in a
southern African community. Negotiating a treaty was well within
the scope of her authority, although Parliament held the final say
about whether it would be ratified; Alexandra had a number of
influential members on board, and was fairly sure she could get
the necessary majority if negotiations were successful.
Her secretary ushered the delegation in, headed by the Botswana
prime minister, Seretse Nkate. Botswana also had a king, but
unlike Alexandra, he was a mere figurehead; Nkate unquestionably
called the shots. He was a keen-eyed man who had led his country
for more than a decade, and had been an invaluable advisor to her
during the first difficult months of her reign.
They made small talk for a while; the coronation in New Granada,
that country's expansionist plans, the deteriorating situations
in Europe and Victoria. As always, Nkate's Cape Dutch [FN6] was
excellent; he was also fluent in the bastardized language spoken
in New Friesland. Alexandra couldn't reciprocate nearly as well
in English, let alone Tswana, but all that would improve in time.
Business went quickly and smoothly; by the end of the session,
Alexandra estimated that they were two meetings away from a draft
treaty. There was still some bargaining to be done over the
details, especially the full faith and credit clauses and the
binational trade court, but everyone seemed to be in agreement on
the basic outline. Weary with the day's bargaining, the Botswana
representatives adjourned to their hotel, with Nkate making
excuses and promising to meet them later. The atmosphere in the
room changed subtly.
"You're looking good, Alexandra," he said when their staffs had
left them alone. "It's been a while." He closed the distance
between them, embraced her, and kissed her firmly. She returned
the embrace with an intensity that promised more.
Happiness was where one found it, after all.
[FN1] The Cape Kingdom roughly corresponds to the Cape Colony of
OTL, except that East Griqualand in the FANTL is part of Natal.
The Cape never came under British rule, and thus remained a
predominantly Dutch colony (with a little French flavoring) until
the Bloody Eighties. The colony was made a kingdom in dynastic
union with the Dutch crown in 1879, just in time for an influx of
immigrants from throughout Europe and Mexico. The kingdom's
constitution was modified in 1923 to grant a greater measure of
self-government; this charter, albeit with amendments, is still
in force today. In 1941, after the German conquest of the
Netherlands, the Cape declared independence with the help of the
British garrison in Natal; it succeeded in remaining neutral
through the Global War and thereafter, but has historically been
neutral on Britain's side.
[FN2] That's Port Elizabeth to you.
[FN3] The term "Afrikaner" in the Cape Kingdom refers to the
families who lived there before the wave of immigration that
began in the 1880s. Technically, anyone with pre-1880 ancestors
is an Afrikaner, but the honorific is usually limited to people
whose families have been prominent for several generations.
[FN4] "Boer" - peasant - was originally a derogatory term for
post-1880 immigrants to the Cape, many of whom became homestead
farmers. Over time, however, it has come to mean "lower class"
and acquired connotations similar to "gavone" or "white trash."
The English word "boor," both in the FANTL and OTL, is derived
from this term, and would need no translation for the FANTL's
Cape Town burghers.
[FN5] Botswana in the FANTL defies all the African stereotypes
much as it does in OTL; in fact, even more so. The rich diamond
fields of Botswana were discovered during the 1920s - earlier
than OTL, but well after it became a British protectorate. Thus,
unlike the neighboring Gold Republics, Botswana was spared an
influx of white settlement and was able to benefit more from its
own development. Upon independence in 1947, many of the British
technocrats stayed rather than return to their war-weary country,
and the new government invested heavily in education and basic
infrastructure. In 1973, with a generation of stable democratic
government behind it, Botswana has a standard of living equal to
the poorer Mexican states and the most effective public health
and education systems in Africa.
[FN6] The Cape Kingdom is essentially a white and Coloured
society, and there aren't nearly as many African loanwords in
the local language as in OTL Afrikaans. The speech of the Cape
is generally considered a dialect of Dutch rather than a separate
language, although words from other languages - particularly
French - have crept in.
Jonathan I. Edelstein in Kew Gardens, NY
"It's been a lot of fun." -- in memoriam, Alison Brooks