Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. Since I haven’t done much work on Part II of this WIP, I’m skipping ahead to Part III, “A Most Unusual Sovereign,” which opens in August 1929. With the unexpected death of Grand Duke Mikhail from rheumatic fever which weakened his heart, 25-year-old Aleksey has finally officially come to power.
Before a coronation can be held, there needs to be a Tsaritsa to be coronated with. All these years, Aleksey has resisted romantic attachments and taking a bride, for fear of passing on his disease and leaving a young widow and orphans. Now there’s no more choice, as his brothers-in-law and head servants have drawn up lists of potential brides of appropriate lineage. He’s adamant he not marry anyone descended from Queen Victoria through the maternal line, the origin of hemophilia in Europe’s royal houses, and also wants to look at non-ruling princesses first.
Marrying a Russian-blooded woman instead of some foreign princess will help to endear him further to the people, but the first delegation of princesses have no interest. They’re not fond of his liberal reforms, such as granting a constitution and pardoning certain of the reformed Bolsheviks. After the princesses have left and he’s retired to his study, someone knocks on the door.
Coat of arms of the House of Gagarin, Copyright Janvhei
“My name is Arkadiya Mikháylovna Gagarina, and I’ve come to see the Emperor.”
The bodyguard swung the door open. “I didn’t realize we had a princess from the House of Gagarin coming as well. You’re too late, since you just missed the other princesses.”
The woman at the door had long chestnut-brown hair, with matching deep brown eyes. In comparison to the other princesses, who’d come dressed in all sorts of finery and with their faces and nails painted, Princess Gagarina was dressed in a simple cotton aubergine gown ending several inches below her knees, ordinary brown leather button-up boots, and a basic black straw hat without any embellishments. Her natural beauty, unenhanced by any cosmetics, was somewhat of a rarity amid the current trends. As she walked in, Alekséy noticed her limping rather heavily in her right leg.
The unlikely Tsaritsa was named Varvara (Varya) in the discontinued original version of this story, but I honestly just don’t like that name anymore. It’s so heavy and dated. Now Varvara is only her baptismal name, since there’s no Saint Arkadiya. Her parents named her after the Arcadian utopia. Arkadiya is a rare name, but it’s definitely a real name.