Chapter 69 – Constitutional crisis
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Soji laughed as he read the on-line edition of the paper on his iPad. He was having breakfast with Trev the Track and Eustace in the officers’ mess at Hereford. He said, ‘fucking journo’s, we are much better than those Navy Seal wankers’.
They had just returned from Pakistan, where they had successfully tracked and captured two of the Taliban leaders who had been hiding out in the mountains on the Afghanistan border.
With them was Colonel Tom Shields from the US Navy Seals. They had conducted the mission together, and had the utmost respect. Tom laughed at Soji’s jibe and said, ‘Yes, but at least we don’t have to ask permission from Her Majesty.’
Arriving in the mess hall was a contingent of Navy Seals and select SAS troops. Today they had come to learn from a master of his trade. Their instructor was going to teach them how to stay undetected in enemy territory.
Soji banged the table with the end of a fork and called for silence. Respectfully he introduced Tom, who welcomed the group. The Navy Seal introduced the lead instructor.
Eustace stood to address the troops.
The King was much more difficult to deal with. Legally if it were proven he was actually a crowned King of England, there could be a constitutional crisis. If they put him on a stand, there was a risk of show trial which nobody wanted. Milt realised that a smart lawyer could actually get King Stephen crowned and force the current Queen to abdicate. This was unthinkable.
Charles had called in a favour from one of his old tutors at Oxford University. Coincidentally, Charles had received his PhD in medieval English History and his tutor was Professor Sir Peter Edwards. Sir Peter was in Charles opinion, the foremost living authority on English medieval history. Sir Peter considered Charles one of his star pupils, and treated him almost like a son. He knew of course about Charles’s chosen profession, the University of Oxford was a prime recruitment ground for MI6, but they never spoke of it. Charles would just say he was a Civil Servant.
A long-time friend of Sir Peter’s was Professor Rupert Soames from the Faculty of Law. He was a constitutional legal expert, and was often consulted by the Royal Family and their advisors on matters about the monarchy and accession. Rupert appeared regularly on radio and television, whenever a birth or death occurred and was considered an authority on who could or would be next in line for the throne.
Both Professors were in their sixties and met Charles and Milt for a ‘hypothetical conversation’ in Sir Peters’ study. Ironically the study was in St. Peter’s College, and Sir Peter was fond of saying ‘no relation’ as an in joke.
Sir Peter served dry sherry in delicate cut crystal glasses. Charles remembered the glasses from his undergraduate days when he and his fellow tutorial group students had sat nervously in Sir Peter’s study, treasuring the small glass of sherry, and hardly daring to put their glass down for fear of breakage. Sir Peter said the glasses dated from the 18th century, but Charles suspected they were from the Pound Shop. Milt thought the Sherry tasted like it was from the Pound Shop.
So called ‘hypothetical conversations’ were a regular part of Rupert’s life, and he always enjoyed them. He could never discuss them of course, but the previous week he had entertained the principal private secretary to Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who had asked the effect if his one of his sons was to marry a Jewish girl. Apparently the youngest, Prince Harry, was having a fling.
Milt took a sip from his small glass and tried not to grimace. He cleared his throat and began, ‘We have a hypothetical situation that I would like to put to you both in confidence.’ He paused while both Professors nodded their agreement and sipped their sherry. They both of course knew what Milt and Charles did, but officially they were just Civil Servants, so it was best not to ask too many questions, or to interrupt. Of course Milt was a Cambridge man, but they didn’t hold that against him.
Milt of course knew that both these Professors knew what he and Charles did, so he cut to the chase. ‘We have a man in custody who claims to be King Stephen, Stephen of Blois. Although if true this man would be 1,000 years old, and he looks about 40, but we have good reasons to suspect that it may be true.’
Milt would not go as far as discussing anything about the Silver man and the connection with the Americans.
Immediately both Professors were intrigued. People of Charles and Milts intelligence and standing would not come to them with a fanciful tale of a madman in custody, this must have some plausibility.
Sir Peter, put down his sherry glass on a side table and took down a well-thumbed volume from a book shelf. He consulted an index and turned to a relevant section. Charles had briefed him discretely of course, so had already read the text beforehand. He knew Milt would not have the patience for the elderly academic to begin fumbling around his extensive book shelves.
As Sir Peter began reading from the book in his hand, it was immediately obvious where Charles had picked up his habit of staccato speech, ’Stephen, King of England, ascended to thrown on 26th December 1135 on the death of his father Henry 1st. He was born, ahh … that is disputed, but it was either in 1092 or 1096. That would make him’, he paused why he did the maths in his head,’ 920 or 916 years old’.
Sir Peter would have carried on reading, but Charles interrupted him politely, realising that his boss was not in the mood for a history lesson, ‘Professor Soames, perhaps you could let us know the constitutional effects … if this is true.’
Sir Peter sat back down with the volume still open on his lap and continued to read, while Rupert took a sip of his sherry and then began in his distinguished voice well known to radio listeners.
‘Well, if true there would be a major constitutional crisis. A monarch crowned and still living always takes precedent over a monarch who was crowned at a later date.’ He then added as if to soften the brutal frankness of his opinion, ‘of course hypothetically speaking, it has never happened before or actually been tested in law.’
Milt and Charles exchanged glances, sitting in somewhat shocked silence.
To fill the void, Sir Peter tapped the volume with an index finger, and said intriguingly, ‘Of course you could always exhume him.’
He went on without being asked, ‘I thought I remembered something odd about his death, he is buried in Kent at Faversham Abbey. You could go dig him up and see if the clever science types can identify his DNA.’
Milt and Charles shot Sir Peter a glance and Rupert smiled.
MI6 kept several safe houses in and around London, where from time to time they ‘entertained guests’. Entertained was the term they liked to use. The occupants were not exactly under house arrest, but were guests that MI6 liked to keep close and keep an eye on.
The King had been taken to safe house in Fulham in West London. It was a large Victorian terraced house that was now split into two large flats. Two female housekeepers ‘entertained’ the King around the clock in the spacious upstairs apartment, while a MI6 security detail managed the only exit in or out through the downstairs flat. The objective was to isolate the King from contact with the outside world.
It was obvious that the King enjoyed female company, and the ladies on the MI6 payroll were used to plying the selected guests of this flat with their expert hosting skills. This was not just limited to their sexual favours, they were also both trained gourmet cooks and knew a fine bottle of wine when they saw one.
During his time there, Professor Sir Peter Edwards travelled up to London from Oxford and went to dinner on a number of occasions in order to study this King in the flesh. Sometimes the dinners were with MI6 specialists such as psychologists, and sometimes with Charles. They talked to the King, who they respectively called King Stephen or Your Majesty, about his life and verified it in detail against historical records.
They built up a psychological profile of the King. They could find no detail that was inconsistent with him being the real King Stephen, and that had lived in the 12th Century. In fact every operative verified the story. Psychologically, medically and historically everything checked out.
They dug up the remains buried in Faversham Abbey and compared the DNA. The historical records showed that the grave was the burial place of King Stephen in 1154. They dug up the remains in the middle of the night to avoid public scrutiny. Dame Ann confirmed the DNA of the remains was similar but not the same as the person in the Fulham safe house.
That night over an excellent dinner of venison and an excellent pinot noir from Burgundy, the King told the story of his deception with his cousin. Up until that point Sir Peter and Charles had held back from telling the King any of the historical facts they knew about his reign. They had not wanted to do this, for fear of the King using this information, rather than telling his version of events.
As the King did most nights, he drank wine as if it were water, and his words were soon slurred, ‘I changed places with my cousin William of Blois, and he was to travel to Winchester in my place. This was to give me time to ride to Farnham to meet the Archbishop. I wanted to persuade the Archbishop to go to Rome and talk to the Pope on my behalf and recognise my King-ship, so those dastard Barons could be brought onside. But then that bitch Greta appeared, and then the Silver man.’
As the story unfolded, Milt watched the King live on a large TV monitor inside the MI6 building near Waterloo Station. The hidden CCTV cameras in the dining room at the Fulham flat were broadcasting the meeting live over a secure link. As the conversation proceeded he wrote instructions on a note pad, and continually tore off sheets which he handed to MI6 operatives in the room, who carried out the written instructions to investigate facts and figures.
On one note he had written, Was William de Blois his cousin?
The operative brought the note back, where he had put a tick, and written confirmed.
A note was handed to him from one operative, which he asked to be text‘d immediately to Charles.
On the video screen, he could see Charles reach for his jacket pocket as his Blackberry buzzed. The message read, ’DNA match to cousin.’
Skilfully Charles steered the conversation, ‘Your Majesty, you say that William was your cousin, how exactly are you related?’
The Burgundy was having its effect on the King, his eyelids drooped slightly as he slurred his words, ‘My father had many lovers, and he enjoyed it. Probably where I get it from.’ He laughed and looked garishly across the dining room to the kitchen area where one of the hostesses was keeping a discrete distance. ‘My mother said William’s mother was a French maid, a tart that she dismissed. Anyway we were brought up together.’
Charles interjected, ‘So you weren’t actually cousins, you were half-brothers?’
‘I don’t understand the term.’
‘You had the same father but different mothers.’
Sir Peter turned the conversation to a different subject. As he did so Charles’s Blackberry buzzed again, the message read, ‘DNA half-brother’s perfect match’.
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