A Novel by Philip Winsor
The twentieth century has borne witness to a spate of exiled royal families, and a brace of strange tales to match. Only recently has it been demonstrated to satisfaction that the imperial family of the Romanovs was entirely extinguished in the Russian Revolution. As for the Saxe-Coburg line of Bulgarian kings, the exiled infant Simeon II would return many years later to win election as prime minister of the republic that had once overthrown him.
And what of Marania, that charmed but impoverished island nation lying in the distant ocean blue of the imagination, yet within reasonable flying distance of London Heathrow? Inexorable forces are at work. Some former royals chafe at their exile, while others have become more than resigned to it. All are swept up in an improbable train of unfolding events.
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As Basil Vestine, General Secretary of Marania, seeks physical release in his regular run through Constitution Park in the capital city of Urbana, before his eyes loom dark and puzzling images of a sad and formless mental panorama which speaks of the centuries of human suffering that constitute the history of his country.
This history is composed of violence and the constant threat of violence. He sees a land dominated by xenophobia, and a people whose rulers – from the tribal chiefs to the seaborne plunderers and the Arabic invaders, the kings and the revolutionary leaders – chose to seal Maranians off from the world.
Yet he sees too, in remote and diffuse fragments, the beam cast by glorious heroes, by the notable few who served human liberty.
Basil Vestine. General Secretary of the Executive Council of Marania. A distance runner, who trains rigorously. His older brother, Andrei, drew him into politics. Quietly and relentlessly he pursues his vision – a terrific blinding beam illuminating the path ahead. His spectacles with their very thick glass are not a mask but a window: the eyes take in a very great deal.
Andrei Vestine. His younger brother Basil appointed him Ambassador to the United States; also Foreign Minister and Member of the Maranian Executive Council.
Michael Theodore. The second son of the late King Justin of Marania. As a boy of ten his father sent him to America to save him from a violent and brutal revolution. Very proud of being American; to him the Maranian past means the torture and death of those he loved. Yet at times he wonders what it would be like to see once again the homeland of which he retains only fragmentary memories. Avoids the limelight, including all emigre and royal circles, and never uses his title. Acutely conscious of the complexities inherent in language and in awe of these complexities. A man from whom powerful, vibrant silences emanate. Has just turned seventy, but is resisting retirement in every possible way.
Marie Valentin. Curator General of Maranian Museums. Studied Art History at graduate school in New York City with Michael Theodore, but declined to see him outside of studies because “history has placed us on opposite sides.” Cultivated and distinguished – one senses a silver flame burning within her – yet never forgets that this is a working woman.
Alexander Theodore, son of Michael, is a dedicated teacher of History at a private school in New York State. Greatly concerned with bringing radical improvements in Education to the Inner City, he is thirty years old and a bachelor. In all respects a son of the New World; the spring in his walk would identify him as a “Yank” at half a mile’s distance anywhere in the world.
Nina Bourne, daughter of Michael, is ten years older than her brother and lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.
George, elder son of King Justin, claimant to the throne of Marania, elder brother of Michael. He fled Marania on the same boat that took his brother, but his father directed him to assume the leadership of the monarchy-in-exile, situated in London. A man who vastly enjoys spectacle in all aspects and in particular the act of arriving at a formal occasion: portly, rubicund, assured, infinitely impressive with just a little touch of the gaudy, nodding here and there, taking everything and everyone in. A performer in all respects, notably on the piano, and renowned mimic. Possesses the gift of being outlandish and imposing at the same time.
Peter, George’s son. Militant defender of the deposed Maranian monarchy, who launches illegal incursions onto Maranian soil in preparation for a coup leading to the restoration of that monarchy by force. Aggressive, intelligent, disciplined, resilient, formidable – a great threat to the present Maranian regime.