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J.R. Strayve Jr

J.R. Strayve Jr

San Diego, California

The author has an exhaustive knowledge of the times, politics, and world order during the "century" time period. His talent for weaving a bounteous story from a single seed, remarkable.

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About the author

The seeds of this novel started rumbling around in Strayve’s imagination decades ago.  He says, “Whenever I read historical material, I find myself feeling like I am in the scene. Sometimes I have a running commentary going on in my brain, and sometimes my imagination changes events to reflect what I might have done had I actually been there.”

Strayve has a bit of Author James Thurber’s daydreaming character Walter Middy in him. The 1939 story, The Secret Life of Walter Middy, tells the tale of a simple man who lived a big life in his imagination. Turned into a screenplay, it was produced as a movie most recently in 2017. Strayve’s vivid imagination first appeared in third grade when he spontaneously wrote a play.  The father of three adult children and three grandchildren, creating stories for them was one of the best parts of parenting for this true creative.

Braxton’s Century came to life after Strayve suffered an accident in 2016 and was only able to work part-time as a Financial Planner for an extended period.  Fatigued and weakened by illness, he passed out while working out at a gym where he regularly exercised.  After the accident it took a few months to regain his strength, so he would go for long walks to exercise and refocus his thoughts.  He says that during those walks in the inspiring beauty of San Diego where he lives, he reverted to the “daydreaming, window gazing, wildly imaginative” days of his youth.  Those walks gave birth to Prince Braxton.

Strayve’s favorite person history is Winston Churchill who was born in 1875. His familiarity with the time-period, vivid imagination and literary license determined that Prince Braxton would be born in 1860. This Epic novel chronicles Prince Braxton’s life through and up until his 100thbirthday. The character is brilliant, strikingly handsome and lives a life robust with travel, wealth, intrigue, love and loss.  Early readers have compared Strayve’s storytelling to that of multiple bestselling author Ken Follett.

J.R. Strayve, Jr. served in the United States Marine Corps for ten years, earning the rank of Captain and still lives in San Diego. He is friendly with his former wife and mother of three biological children, who remarried and resides in another state.  While married, they also help raise a niece due to unexpected family difficulties.  Strayve has been active in the Hillcrest Business Association, has worked with charitable and philanthropic organizations, was an active volunteer for the LGBT Center Senior Housing Initiative and on the Membership Committee for the San Diego University Club.  His was an arts and entertainment reviewer for The San Diego Theatre Review, writing reviews for music and theatre.
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Braxton's Century

An Epic Novel Spanning the Globe & the Greatest Century

Prince Braxton caught between feuding European and Japanese empires creates his own economic empire spanning the globe. Collecting treasures, growing a legend; consuming challenges, power, and lovers throughout Braxton's Century!

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Literary Fiction Adventure
142,000 words
100% complete
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This Epic novel follows a British aristocrat from his birth in 1860 until his 100th birthday in 1960. He is surrounded in his youth by the rarefied world of his fictional royal family.  Prince Braxton is born at his family’s palatial country estate; alternately growing up in the Fabulous Renaissance House chateau in London. Prince Braxton's character is typical of classic 19th Century romances. He is brilliant, strikingly handsome, talented, and ambitious. 

At an early age he travels Europe creating a vast financial empire. In Imperial Russia he develops mining and oil wells for the financially floundering Imperial family. He serves as his father the King’s Royal Envoy in the late 19th Century Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India; while continuing to build an intentional rubber and shipping empire. He then ventures into Canada and the United States. 

The reader will be mesmerized as Braxton builds  his fame and fortune in London, Vienna, Venice, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tokyo, Calcutta, San Francisco, Colorado, and New York. Some of the more interesting characters include his mother, Contessa and later Princess and Queen Mercedes. His wife: Grand Duchess Valentina. His lovers of varying description that help him resolve questions of morality and authenticity. Romance in a grotto on the island of Capri with Aramis is a highlight only to be contrasted with his interlude with Valentina on the frozen Tundra of Eastern Siberia. He travels and lives in private trains carrying him throughout Europe, Russia, India, and America. He has access and the need for British Admiral Class Man-of-War ships. He has private yachts. A WWII Spitfire fighter aircraft plays an important and dramatic part in the English Channel off the cliffs of Dover. Don't miss the anarchist bombing of the golden Royal Carriage as it approaches Big Ben for the opening of Parliament. The Czar and his sons assassinated in the woods of Finland! The British heir presumptive suspiciously killed in the trenches in WWI. On and on, a page turning saga of the most vibrant times in world history!

The seeds of the novel started 'rumbling' around in my head decades ago.  I have always loved history.  Whenever I read historical material, often I  somehow was able to put myself physically into the scene.  Sometimes I would have a running commentary going on in my brain; and sometimes I changed the events to reflect what I might have done had I actually been there. 

About two years ago I suffered a serious accident and was unable to work full time.  I had difficulty concentrating on numbers and strategies.  So, to clear my head, I would get up from my desk and go for long walks.  During the walks I reverted back to the daydreaming "window gazing, thumb sucking" days.  As I continued on my walks, the story started to come together.  My favorite person in history is Winston Churchill.  He was born in 1875.  My familiarity with the time period and literary license determined that my main character, Braxton would be born earlier, about 1860.  How convenient!  For about three months I would take these walks and continue to build on the plot.  It was relaxing, but at the same time stimulating.  I began creating a special world that was now beginning to challenge me to share. 


Braxton’s Century

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis

Chapter 1:  Cupula Inferno

Note that all characters are fictional.  The chapter opens with young Prince Braxton having set a fire in the rotunda of the Alexander Palace.   Prince John and Lord Ramsey are discovered by Prince Dominic as he is exiting Lady Allison’s chamber in the early morning as the fire erupts in the rotunda

Chapter 2:  On to the Capital of the World!

The family abandon's the damaged palace and starts a new life in London.  Along the way the different family members reminisce about years gone by.

Chapter 3:  The World of London

The family’s chateau is situated on two acres, surrounded by ten acres of Baroque and Neoclassical gardens and niches; extending intermittently throughout the 110-acre park.  This is he beginning of Braxton’s ‘window’ out into the world.

Chapter 4: Many Seasons Rolled Into One

Mercedes takes over the education of Braxton and the younger princesses.  The older princes Dominic and John are ‘beyond’ her reach.  Braxton vacuums up knowledge.  He has a photographic memory and is tireless in his pursuit of knowledge and participation in the world.  

Chapter 5:  Vain Glorious

This chapter deals with Ekaterina’s past, her husband Grand Marshal Prince Gregor, their sons Princes Maxim and Peter.  The fictitious Russo Sino war is fought in this chapter.

Chapter 6:  Braxton Means Business

Braxton gets involved in horse racing.  Mercedes and Ekaterina facilitate Braxton’s education and interest in racing.  Josh and 

Chapter 7:  Braxton, Locomotion, And Master Higashino

Braxton takes interest in learning as much as he can about railroads.  Braxton meets Master Seiko Higashino.

Chapter 8:  Off To The Races

Braxton and Josh start getting involved with horse racing.  Braxton is “caught” at the races, but helps others win big; and is soon tolerated and even encouraged. 

Chapter 9: Cosimo

The chapter recounts the relationship between the young Prince Richard and the young Count Cosimo occurring over thirty years earlier.  The history and story of the Chiacontella is told in more detail. 

Chapter 10:  Th Foundation of Empire is Laid

Braxton purchases interest in a railroad and land along the planned rail construction.   He spends the next couple of years furthering his education and growing his railroad and land development interests

Chapter 11:  The Spiritual Journey Begins

Braxton begins his tutelage under Master Seiko Higashino. This exposure to Far Eastern spirituality results in a change in his demeanor and perspective towards all things.

Chapter 12:  The Journey Of The Bride To Be

Carmen begins her marriage journey to Vienna, where she is to meet her betrothed, the Russian heir.    The Czarevich is brutally murdered.  Prince Maxim, Prince Dominic, Princess Carmen, and Grand Duchess Mathilde kindle friendships and more. 

Chapter 13:  Education & Enterprise

Over three years have passed.  Braxton has completed his formal education.  Braxton is asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Royal Envoy to the continent.

Chapter 14:  Royal Envoy

Braxton starts expanding his interests internationally with his tour of Portugal, Spain, France, the Benelux countries, Germany, and Austria. The Kaiser manipulates Braxton.  

Chapter 15:  Espionage and Vienna!

Braxton and his cohorts, assisted by Princess Carmen get involved in uncovering the Kaiser’s plot.  Mathilde and Dominic get to know each other better.

Chapter 16:  Rome and a Surprise Visitor 

HRH Grand Duke Prince Maxim shows up expectantly in Rome.  He is very interested in Carmen.   There are international implications should the British, Austrian, and Russian thrones be united in marriage.

Chapter 17:  Capris, A beginning, and an End

Braxton and Aramis begin and end their relationship on the island paradise.   Cosimo shows up at an un-expectantly time and place to confront the lovers.

Chapter 18:  St. Petersburg to Moscow

 Braxton begin the triple blind Information Operatives (IO) network.  Braxton outlines and implements his “Mars” campaign.  Braxton arrives in St. Petersburg and learns of the assassination attempt on Grand Duke Prince Maxim.  Braxton helps Maxim in Maxim’s efforts to stabilize the government and assist his absentee uncle, the czar, regain control. Maxim, Valentina, and Braxton work together to strengthen the government.

Chapter 19:  Venezia

Braxton executes his “Mars” campaign.   He brings his I/O network to a higher level.  Grand masked balls and lascivious behavior is the backdrop to Braxton securing his place as an economic power on the continent.

Chapter 20:  Touring Russia

Braxton, with Seiko’s help starts to purchase artwork in a depressed market.  His interests are purely commercial.  He secures them in his Paris home.  The development of Russian mines and forestry begins.  

Chapter 21:  Beyond Moscow

Braxton, Maxim, and Valentina meet with success in developing the mines and foresting.  They start exploring opportunities for oil drilling.  

Chapter 22:  The British Isles Interlude

Braxton returns for the coronation of his father.  Braxton learns that the government wants to send him to Japan and the far east in his capacity as Royal Envoy.   

Chapter 23 Imperial Marriage and Siberian Tundra

 Carmen and Maxim are married.  Braxton returns to Siberia.  Valentina and Braxton’s relationship grows.  The “Mars” project continues.    Oil is discovered in Siberia.

Chapter 24:  The Land of the Rising Sun

Braxton makes a surprising and overwhelming entrance in Japan.  He maintains an upper hand and is presented to the Prime Minister, Prince Hirobumi.  Braxton ascertains conflict between the emperor’s household and the government.

Chapter 25:  Son Of Heaven

Braxton is presented to the Emperor of Japan.  A relationship between the emperor and his family ensues.  Braxton is vying for preferred trading statues with Japan, as are all the other European powers.   Favored trading status is awarded England.  

Chapter 26:  Hong Kong & Beyond

Braxton expands his interests getting into shipping by purchasing an American shipping company.  He also expands trade between Japan, Russia, Western Europe via Russia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  He purchases interest in a deflated rubber market and plantations.

Chapter 27:  Al Hind

Braxton arrives in India physiologically exhausted.  Braxton is overwhelmed with the disparity of wealth in India.  He spends a lot of time and money traveling through India marshaling support for assisting the disadvantaged.   Cosimo takes a desperately ill Braxton to a remote lodge.  He takes over Braxton’s existence, as Braxton is on his deathbed.  Braxton makes changes in his life.

Chapter 28 Mama, I’m Home

Braxton returns to England and another request from the government that he continues to Canada and the Americas as Royal Envoy.  Braxton strikes a deal.

Chapter 29 North America & Joe

Braxton’s trip to Canada is uneventful.  He shortens his trip in Canada and sails to San Francisco.  He solidifies his shipping interests in San Francisco.  He purchases and develops large swaths of land around the city.  Braxton’s interest in mining takes him to Denver.  He meets Joe Roberts.

Chapter 30:  Two Marriages

 Braxton returns to England and marries Valentina.  He runs for Parliament and wins the seat.  Prince George is born. To Braxton and Valentina.

Chapter 31:  Parliamentarian

Braxton and Valentina have five more children in ten years.  The daughter of Prince Dominic and Princess Mathilde die.  Braxton become Foreign Secretary.  Braxton becomes Home Secretary and later Prime Minister.

Chapter 32:  The Man Who Would Be King

Prince John is the heir apparent.  John does not have heirs.  Braxton is stunned that he and/or his son Prince George could become king.

Chapter 33 Private Citizen Once Again

Braxton and all his children, except the youngest, Prince Frederick accompany their father on a worldwide business trip.  They travel to the Americas, Asia, Russia, and Europe. Contingency plans are made to rescue Empress Deidre of Germany and/or Empress Carmen should war break out between England and either of these two countries.

Chapter 34:  The Hunters, Hunted

The Czar and his two sons are ambushed and murdered by anarchists in the woods in Finland.     The empress is rescued as revolutionaries close in on her at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

Chapter 35:  War!

Braxton works to facilitate logistics and industrial relations relative to the war effort.  Prince John assists the incapacitated king in his duties.  Prince John knows that he will be “outed,” soon decides he cannot continue in his capacity as a Royal. 

Chapter 36:  Regency

Braxton confronts and resists the European victors on elements Treaty of Versailles that in his opinion unrealistically shackle the Germans and Austrians.  Braxton essentially rules Britain as Regent and De-facto Prime Minister. 

Chapter 37:  The In-between Years.

Braxton and Valentina, for the first time enjoy their wealth and lives in Europe and England.  The prospects of another war loom large.  Once again, preparations for war begin.

Chapter 38:  The Reluctant King

King Dominic dies and Braxton becomes king.  War looms.  Braxton strives to improve the popularity of the monarchy in preparation for war.  Braxton’s immense wealth, once concealed is revealed by investigative jouralists. 

Chapter 39:  Royal Carnage

The Royal Carriage carrying Braxton and Valentina to the opening of Parliament is blown up in front of the Houses of Parliament.  

Chapter 40:  Waiting and Hoping

Braxton recovers slowly.  War breaks out in Europe.  Braxton is “hands on” during the war.  

Chapter 41:  Laying the Foundation

 Braxton develops and finances a plan for cloning the Alexander Academy in England and throughout the Commonwealth.  Braxton enlists the help of Ramsey’s great nephew and Braxton’s great-great niece to sell the vast artwork collection Braxton had amassed over 40 years earlier.  Billions will be invested in the present and future generations educations and entrepreneurial dreams.

Chapter 42:  Succession

Prince George crashes his WWII Spitfire fighter aircraft into the channel in site of the “White Cliffs of Dover.” 

Chapter 43:  100 Years Come To A Close

Braxton immerses himself in improving and updating the English education system.  He fights parliament and influences the dissolving of Parliament to reach his objective.  He secretly helps fund the education program costs.  Braxton encourages the English to get into the space race.  The nation celebrates King Braxton’s 100th birthday.


This book targets the following:

1.  This book will appeal to Ken Follett readers.  The "Kingsbridge" Series & "The Century Trilogy."
2.  Diana Gabalson's readers of the "Outlander" Series will be interested in this book.
3.  Phillippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn," "The White Queen,"  and "The White Princess" readers will be attracted to this book
4.  300K Fiction Books added to Amazon in the last 90 Days. 10K Were Fiction. 4K added in the last 30 days.

5.  5K LGBT (general fiction) added in last 90 days. 2K LGBT added in last 30 days

6.  Those who like historical Fiction.  

7.  Those who like historical romance.

8.  Those that like war and economies and politics intertwined

9.  Someone that likes to put themselves into the plot.

10.  If you liked "Gone With the Wind," you will love this book

11.  This book will appeal to the LGBT community.


Website:  www,

Social Media Dashboard featuring blogs, posts, videos, Instagram: Braxton's Century

Twitter: Braxtons Century

Facebook:  Braxtons Century

Email Lists and continual updates and distribution:  We have between 2000 and 2500 email addresses that will be used to disseminate information regarding the book.


'Fall of Giants'

Publisher: Penquin

Published 2011

'Fall of Giants' covers the momentous events surrounding WWI.  'Braxton's Century' covers the same historical period as part of its plot, but removes and replaces the real center stage characters with its own invented and fictional characters.  'Braxton's Century' also deals with social issues, as does 'Fall of Giants'.

'Heaven and Hell'

Publisher: Berkley 

Published 2000

'Heaven and Hell' drama of the Civil War predates 'Braxton's Century.'  'Heaven and Hell' recounts that saga of two southern families.  'Braxton's Century' recounts the saga of two three noble European families.  War corrupts and distills the characters in both epics.

'The Thorn Birds'

Avon Books

Published: 1978

Both books are similar.  They are sagas, they are about family, great challenges, fear, and some darkness.  'The Thorn Birds' covers Australia. 'Braxton's Century' covers the world.  'Braxton's Century' is somewhat larger than life.  'The Thorn Birds' is life.

'The Forsyte Saga'

Publisher:  BookRix

Published: : 2014

Like 'Braxton's Century, 'The Forsyte Saga' is about money, power, and struggle.  Unlike 'The Forstye Saga,' 'Braxton's Century' is about international power and politics. It is about enhancing established power and family.  The struggles in 'Braxton's Century' are beyond the nouveau riche Forsytes.  The Forsytes were not capable of playing on Braxton's stage.

'Brideshead Revisited'

Publisher: Bay Back Books

Published: 1982

Both 'Brideshead Revisited' and 'Braxton's Century' are stories of privileged families.  Both have huge undercurrents of conflict with social more's and a changing world.  What makes 'Braxton's Century' different is that the protagonists overcomes and prospers, and does not "revisit."

4 publishers interested
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Prodigy Publishing Group was founded in 2009 and has been steadily publishing distinguishable trade paperback fiction since. Its flagship imprint Prodigy Gold Books is spearheading its journey with a fall 2017 line up that includes four novels by four authors sure to delight readers. Prodigy Gold Books is dedicated to publishing a variety of must-read books on a wide array of topics and genres.

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CHAPTER 1 Cupula Inferno

The epitaph on the sarcophagus reads, “His Mountain of God Given Gifts Fueled a Lifetime Gilded by La Passion Pour la Vie.”

The story begins at the Alexander Palace, in Southwestern England, about a day's carriage ride from London.  The young four-year-old, Prince Braxton has the entire palace staff, family, and guests in an uproar!  The third son of Their Royal Highness's Prince Richard and Princess Mercedes has quite amazingly concocted a successful scheme to generate light and stench.  The latter permeating most of this huge and commodious palace.  The inferno has the characteristics of what would be a manure bonfire ablaze indoors!

The young prince thought it would be amusing to have the palace occupant’s senses awakened to the stimuli of flaming light and an acrid smell.   He had not thought much about the consequences of his actions, as he was not accustomed to having to deal with consequences.  This precocious young man was accustomed to sliding in and out of trouble; equipped with charm, intelligence, good looks; and a mind that absorbed, processed, and maximized everything in which it came into contact.  He was a visionary.  But he did not yet know what a visionary was.  Oh yes, in 1866 a hyperactive six year old child was labeled incorrigible at best.

However, on this one occasion, he also did not anticipate family and guests returning to their bedrooms just before the maids where to start lighting the morning fires.  As was the custom, if you were not in your bedchamber by the time the fires were lit, reputations could be sullied.  The maids relate what they had seen to the upper servants; and well, the upper servants confide in their mistresses….

This early morning the young prince's oldest brother, Prince Dominic was leaving the Lady Allison's chamber when as he passed through the Northeast second story promenade, was dazed by a 25-foot flame soaring in the middle of the intersect of the Northeast and East Promenades.  Fortunately, the intersect was roofed by a dome rising 45 feet.  "What in the hell is that?" anxiously whispering to himself; intrigued, confused, and albeit frightened.  As he ran towards the plume, he started to gag first softly, stumbled a bit; and then started to convulse as the stench and smoke started to permeate his lungs.  As he nears the flame, he sees his younger brother and young Lord Ramsey in a peculiar embrace as Prince John is exiting the lord's bedchamber.  So, overcome with smoke and stench he does his best to verbalize and project to his brother, “John! Help!  Fire!”  For whatever reason, the word "fire" echoes throughout both promenades and into most every chamber as disoriented partially dressed occupant's stream into the promenades.  Gasps stifle screams as the noxious odor and smoke streams throughout the passageways.  The young 14-year-old Princess Diedre awakened five minutes earlier by the smoke and stench has worked her way down from her third story bedroom shared with her 12-year-old sister Princess Carmen.  On the landing leading from the third floor down to the second floor, the Princess Diedre reaches for the fire gong and with all her 75 lbs. wails away, striking it with all her might. The sound emanating from the gong is not quite loud enough to alarm anyone, but it does catch the attention of a maid as she descends from the fourth-floor female servants' quarters.  The maid "Sally" runs up behind the princess and wraps her arms and body around her, catching hold of the gong hammer.  As the two of them beat the gong rhythmically and loudly, the thunderous sound begins to permeate the palace.  In the far reaches of the palace, occupants instinctively locate and commence hammering away at the closest gong.  Those inside and outside the palace complex are made fearfully and shockingly aware fire has broken out!

Meanwhile, the heat from the fire is rising upward into the fabulous crystal dome appearing to float above the rotunda.  Slowly, the underside of the crystal cupula is beginning to feel the heat from the fire below.  The rising temperatures are absorbed by the lead caulking holding the crystal plates in place forty-five feet above the rotunda floor. The crystal plates loosened by the softening lead in the frame supporting the cupula begin to shift downward.

The Prince and Princess of Wales, Richard and Mercedes are awakened by the sound of many gongs.  Prince Richard sleeping ever so soundly had to be yanked from his bed by the screaming Mercedes.  "Richard, get up, get up!  Fire Richard!  The children!"  Richard barely stumbling out of bed, not at all aware of anything she has said, except "Fire" and "Children!"  As his progress is slow, the panicked Mercedes picks up a pitcher of water and tosses it into his face to distinguish his confused state.  Shocked by what she had done, she tells herself that she will deal with the consequences of this later.  After all, she has just manhandled the future king out of bed and doused him with a pitcher of maybe clean water…. Both Mercedes and Richard raced toward the third floor to gather their children.

Weeks earlier, young Braxton had been in the palace's large cobblestone stable courtyard watching from a distance as some of the younger stable boys played near a conspicuous pile of what appeared to be manure laced with copious amounts of straw.  Obviously, the pile was a product of the stables.  Suddenly as the boys were kicking the ball, an ill-placed lantern was toppled by the errant ball.  As the lantern tipped over; the flame from the candle set the straw ablaze.  At first, none of the boys saw fire, as they were intent on the ball that was now barreling across the stable yard.  As fate, would have it, one of the older boys coming into the yard saw the fire. The stable boy Josh took the shovel he had in hand, ran to a pile of clay and quickly extinguished the fire with six or seven shovels of the earth and clay.  Watching Josh extinguish the fire impressed young Braxton.  As Josh had finished his task, he looked up to the carriage house second story balcony. He saw a drop-jawed misplaced Braxton peering down at him.  Josh stared back at the young prince; he felt his heart skip a beat; he thought the young olive skinned, blond; blue-eyed prince beautiful. Josh, the ten-year-old son of the head coachman confidently and respectfully tipped his hat towards the prince; and continued about his chores.

The palace fire burned and smoke continued to fill the air. Braxton held a linen napkin he had used while creating this fiasco tightly against his nose and mouth to shield him from the putrid fumes. Peering from behind a ten-foot tall marble statue depicting an unknown Italian ancestor, he watched as the chaos continued. Suddenly he heard crashing noises as the dome's crystal panes previously held secure by the now softened lead caulking began to hit the floor.  It was beginning to sprinkle and then rain lethal panes falling and then diving down crashing on the marble rotunda floor; propelling shards across the expansive rotunda marble floor.  He knew without a doubt that he was in danger of being impaled by the shards as he felt pieces of the crystal cut his lower right leg.  Immediately he disappeared behind the concealed panel that led to a dark passage inside the palace walls.  As the panel closed behind him, he took the napkin from his face and secured it to his leg, knotting it in the light of a single candle held by a candlestick from the nursery.

Prince John frightened not only by the confusion of the fire and smoke, but equally panicked over what his brother might have seen, grabbed his now collapsed unconscious 18-year-old brother and dragged him down the marble and gilded promenade towards John's chambers far from the confusion.  Arduously placing his brother on his bed and making sure that he was still breathing, John opened the windows allowing fresh air to displace the poisonous air.  Closing the bedroom door behind him, he quickly returned to the scene of the fire; knocking on doors and making sure that their occupants had vacated all the rooms along the promenade.

Prince Braxton ran as fast as his short legs would allow along the dark passage and up a spiral utility staircase to the third floor where the nursery was located then exiting the passage into the nursery.  He quickly threw off his clothes and donned a full-length nightshirt and jumped into bed, sweating and shaking with fright.

At the same time the confusion in the stables was the inexplicable lack of buckets.  These buckets were vital to putting out the fire.  Surely, there were enough stable hands, servants, and guests to man a bucket line, but where were the buckets?  Josh's father quickly solved the problem by loudly ordering the stable hands to rip buckets from the horse's stalls and take them to the bucket line that had already started to form.

Josh thought that surely, they could not get enough water to the second floor Rotunda.  Josh though only ten years old and not very useful, wanted to see the action.  Racing toward the palace he quickly did something servants never presumed to do but ran through the main hall and up the main stairs.  He hoped he would not be punished having not used the servant's entrance and stairs… he really didn't care at the moment.  He ran down the Southeast promenade detecting the sound of the crashing crystal on the marble floors.  The stench then hit him head on.  He knew exactly what it was.  The buckets were beginning to appear on the scene.  If they had water in them, there was a disaster in the making! The first bucket thrown onto the fire only spreading the fire across the marble floor.

Everyone drew back from the fire after several buckets had expanded the area of the fire.  The manure was now covering twice the area.  It was still burning hot and crystal panes crashing about increased the panic.  Knowing that the answer to the dilemma was smothering the fire, Josh looked around for the solution.  He knew that clay and dirt was the answer!   How could they get clay and dirt up to the second floor of the palace?

The eight French doors leading to the second story garden adjacent to the rotunda were flung wide open as the palace guests and servants had fled outdoors for safety.  The airflow was only fueling the fire inside.  As the crystal plates fell to the marble floor and were transformed into flying shards, the only protection was within the colonnade that circled the Rotunda.

Mercedes, tall, beautiful, elegant, and at this importantly at this moment athletic she pulled her dazed husband, the Prince of Wales behind her.  The prince did his best to keep up with his wife in her flowing floor-length embroidered gown. She was festooned in silver and gold against a pearl satin like material shimmering in the light from the fire. She looked like an angel ascending to heaven; long flowing golden hair falling to her waist as they climbed the gilded broad marble circular stairway to the third floor.

Instinctively and without thinking, Josh raced over to the pile of empty buckets that had been abandoned as the fire spread when showered with water.  He took three buckets in each hand running through one of the open French doors leading directly to the raised planters filled with multitudes of blooming flowers and topiary.  Like a madman, he used a bucket as a shovel and receptacle, driving the bucket into the soft moist cultivated earth.  Nearly throwing a full bucket at one of the liveried footmen gawking at his performance, he shouted, "Take this and throw it on the fire!"  As if following an order from the Prince of Wales himself, the footman leaped towards the open French doors to willingly and enthusiastically execute the order!.  Josh repeated the task with the second, third, fourth, and fifth bucket until before he could look up there was a team of forty or more servants, nobility, and other guests doing just as he had done, taking their buckets to extinguish the fire.  Prince John took notice of the young 10-year old Josh performing his herculean effort.  Who was this boy?

Reaching the top of the stairs leading to the third floor, the Prince of Wales having regained his senses, directed his wife towards Braxton's rooms as he ran towards the princess's rooms.

Mercedes flung open the door to Braxton's rooms and noticed a single filthy candle illuminating the young prince.  He appears to be covered in soot or dirt that runs across his dazed and frightened face.  She quickly jumps towards him swallowing him up in her arms. The smoke and stench have not reached his rooms, but the smell of both is upon him.  She feels him shaking and murmuring and she is confused as to how he could be in such a state.  She looks about trying to ascertain what has transpired.  It becomes painfully obvious, he is in shock and appears to have been in the middle of the conflagration in the rotunda.

Meanwhile, Prince Richard stumbles upon Princess Diedre and Sally, having collapsed against the gong which they had so tirelessly rung until they had lost all their strength, but not their will to keep striking.  Upon looking up and seeing Prince Richard, whom she had only observed once from afar two years previous; Sally sprang to her wobbly feet, almost passing out as she attempts a curtsy mumbling "Your Royal Highness…"  At the same time, she quickly turns and shakes the dozing Princess Diedre who instantly looks up to see her father. Reaching out to him with both arms, panting "Papa, Papa, we rang the gong together, we were the first ones to ring the gong!" Pointing to Sally, she says, "And this girl helped me the whole time!  She is very strong too!"  The prince quickly puts his arms around Diedre lifting her into his arms, turning to Sally, he quickly and anxiously in a loud voice cries out, "Thank you so much for what you have done. Please help me find Princess Carmen!"  The Prince carrying Diedre; Sally following behind, runs down the hall in search of Princess Carmen.

Unbeknownst to the family on the third floor, the fire had finally been extinguished.  The now wide-open dome buffeted by a mild breeze was quickly drawing what remained of the smoke and most of the stench out of the palace.

As in any efficient household, the staff quickly set to removing what was left of the manure and straw along with the shards of crystal that littered the Rotunda.

With significant presence of mind, the sixteen year old Prince John directed the guests to the palace library, instructing the head butler to arrange for refreshments and beverages.  It was time for all to calm down, commiserate with one another, and share their fears and anxiety.  It was unlikely that they would be returning to their rooms as the fumes had made them uninhabitable. As a precaution, he ordered blankets and champagne to help settle everyone's nerves.  Having forgotten all about his brother, John, accompanied by a footman went to check on his eighteen year old brother Dominic whom he had deposited in his own bed an over an hour earlier.

Mercedes realized that Braxton had had a hand in the blaze.  She does not know how, or to what extent he is involved. However, she knows deep down that he is involved.  But how? Why? Who else is involved?  Then she feels scared, she feels vulnerable, not for herself but Braxton.  How can she protect him?

The Prince of Wales is overwhelmed with relief to find Princess Carmen tucked in bed, soundly sleeping. Carmen has been oblivious to all but her sweet princess dreams.  Without thinking he places Diedre on Carmen's bed and himself between them, caressing them both, as they sleep in his arms.  He is quietly crying, ever thankful that his girls are safe.  Moments later he looks up and sees Sally fast asleep in one of the girls rocking chairs.  He makes a mental note to tell Mercedes to inform Mrs. Crompton, the housekeeper of this girl's heroics.  What's her name?  Oh well, perhaps Diedre can tell Mercedes in the morning.  Then suddenly startled! The prince gasps, "Oh my God! Mercedes! Braxton!" The prince quickly, but gently jumps out of bed, and races down the hall towards Braxton's rooms.

Mercedes turns to her now sleeping Braxton, still in her arms and says gently and quietly, “Il mio figlio prezioso, cosa hai fatto? E cosa posso fare per proteggerti?"  "My precious son, what have you done? What can I do to protect you?"  Eyes still closed, the prince slowly turns his angelic face towards her, dolefully looking up at her whispering. "Angelo mia madre, mi dispiace, per favore amati. So che sarai sempre e per sempre per me. Anche io per te.”  “My mother angel, I am so sorry, please love me. I know that you will always and forever be there for me. Me too for you.”

Abruptly, Richard abates his charge towards Braxton rooms. Standing just outside the room, Prince Richard almost hears what mother and son have said.  His hearing isn't remarkable, his Italian is worse, so he cannot comprehend the words, but he grasps the meaning.  He and Mercedes will have this discussion another day.

Most of the guests and none of the servants had any rest after the fire.  While the fire only lasted twenty minutes, the sun was rising by the time all had calmed down. It was time to make plans to vacate the palace.  While the damage was severe, it was confined to a relatively small part of the palace.  The part of the palace that housed the family and most of the better rooms.  The renovation would prove expensive and time-consuming.

Chapter 2 On to the Capital of the World!

The Prince and Princess of Wales had a couple of choices.  They could go to their castle in Scotland or make a short day's journey to their expansive home in London.  The Prince did not want to be too far away from the Alexander Palace until the plans for restoration were completed. Oh yes, he had to figure out a way to pay for the work as well...  He was wealthy, but not all that liquid.  The most significant part of his wealth was his wife's dowry.

Within 12 hours all the guests had departed.  The family and all the servants were beginning to depart the Alexander Palace.  This magnificent structure constructed of a variety of Italian Marble and South American gold and silver was at this moment uninhabitable.  While refurbished in 1840, the year the Prince and Princess were married, this wedding gift from the bride, then the Countess Mercedes Chiacantella's parents was now once again destined to be modernized and renovated.  The expense for the refurbishment, unknowing, to all, was to be ultimately born by young Prince Braxton.

Twenty-six years earlier in 1839 the beautiful daughter of the Duke and Duchess de Chiacontella cared for nothing but the family seat, the Villa Incantarre. The villa situated in the center of the Chiacontella Duchy north of Rome; had almost always been sheltered geographically from the mainstream of politics, industry, and importantly, centuries of war and upheaval.  This geographical setting and the cunning of what was indeed an ancient banking family had allowed them to exist as a powerful and influential force for over 800 years.  The family, the villa, and ducal trappings were modest.  But their wealth was not.  Their wealth was concealed in foreign holding held blindly; not to be traced directly to the family.  Even the banks they controlled did not bear their name or coat of arms.  They did not extravagantly collect art or construct monuments to themselves. They never lent excessive amounts of money to any one client.  The kept their interest rates just a bit higher than the better-known banking families.  Merchants and princes thought the Chiacontella a second-tier banking family.  This misperception had shielded and protected the family for centuries. Their wealth outlasted the banking families of the Medici, Rucellai, Acciaiuolo, Perrezzi and more.  They continued to prosper in the shadows as the Rothschilds began to dominate Europe in the 19th century.

The familial values of the ducal family had been instilled one generation following another.  The foundation of family education and training had been adopted from the Far East.  This was possible as a result of trading and assimilating elements of the cultures with whom the clients of the Chiacontella banks traded.  On more than one occasion the Chiacontella banks had to assume ownership of failing trading companies.  While assuming control of these companies, they kept the trading activities and their identity "below the horizon."  They rarely competed head-on with other traders or banking families.  The family avoided financing wars whenever possible. They looked for opportunities others did not see or did not value.  The financial web they wove by the time of Henry the VIII covered much of Europe, Northern Africa, the Near East and elements of the Far East.  They never looked to marry into the great families of Europe.  Instead, they married into families that could bring integrity, intelligence, and learning for both business and culture to the family.  Character, accountability, family, philosophy, and education was ingrained in all members of the family.  Unique to other populations of Europe, they sponsored a robust education for all citizens of the duchy.  The Chiacontella duchy wasn't Xanadu, but it was peaceful and prosperous.

In their efforts to help secure the safety of the family and its fortune they established properties and homes in various parts of Europe.  As a result, they established banks in Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia, and England.  They set up non-descript and low-profile banking houses in all these countries.  None of the banks associated directly with any of the other Chiacontella banks.  They were perceived as autonomous by outsiders but were in fact tied tightly to the Duke de Chiacontella’s banks.

The hereditary ruling dukes did not always run the family businesses.  While they may have had the title and presumed authority, an ancient trust document existed that dictated how a board of family members would assign duties within the maze of interests they held.  Every couple of generations a hereditary duke would rise to assume control.  Having the duke at the helm afforded smoother transitions and transparent leadership.  It was however not critical to administering the commercial interests of the duchy.  Myths abound of the mysterious demise and birth of members of what was assumed an unbroken dynasty.  What is certain is that the Chiacontella Bank had survived.

During the 17th century, the Chiacontellas purchased vast acreage in the south of England.  The property bought through a series of transactions with noble families that had either run out of money, been exiled, or their heirs killed in wars.  The acquisitions were conducted quietly over fifty years.  Not even in 1860 did the deeds to the vast land holdings have the family name on them. The only exception was the Alexander Palace and its 100,000 acres.  Significant properties were also purchased over the years in London and Manchester to lay the groundwork for future banks in those cities.

Like the Villa Incantarre, the Alexander Palace was remote from most economic and political activities.  The palace was still relatively isolated when Braxton was born in 1860.  The invention of the steam engine as it applied to trains would change all that.  The Alexander Palace was not initially grand.  In fact, it was a dilapidated royal palace that had been virtually abandoned by the English royals. The property was purchased by forgiving a small debt and promising to lend more.

Eventually, the most significant parts of the palace where demolished and a Medici size structure was built on the site.  The Chiacontellas must have felt a need to do "something" grand with their money.  They felt England was far enough away from their other European holdings.  They knew their English interests were protected by the channel from marauding European armies that threatened their continental holdings.  Whether or not they were Catholic or Protestant was of no significance to them.  They had been taught and educated to know who they were.  Their concealed self-possessed confidence in who they were empowered them.  Their ingrained humility was an essential part of who they were. Maria was the epitome of the best of the Chiancontella.

Twenty-four hours after the guests had departed the Alexander Palace the family was preparing to get into their carriages.  The trip would take at least a full day. Departure was scheduled for the early morning as the sun was beginning to appear on the horizon.  The air was crisp as they made their final farewells to persons staying behind to care for the palace during refurbishment.

There was an air of excitement as all were looking forward to their arrival in London, knowing that more than likely they would be in London for the duration of the social season.  They excitedly anticipated experiencing what was London.  The youngest members and household staff had no real idea of where they were going.  They did not care; they were leaving the countryside for the most exciting city in the world!

The Prince and Princes stepped into the magnificent royal carriage drawn by six horses with a postillion riding forward, two coachmen, and two footmen in the rear.  The two young princesses and their maids were in the second less spectacular carriage, followed by a similar carriage carrying the three princes.  The equipage following the family consisted of three additional carriages each containing eight passengers, including tutors and senior servants.  Four covered large wagons carried a total of twenty servants, footmen, and baggage.   The Prince of Wales' Royal Guard of twenty made up the front and rear of the caravan.

Important artwork and artifacts, along with silver and valuable pieces had been relegated to the secure storage rooms in the basements.  Important pieces were transported in the baggage wagons.  The remaining furnishings in the house had been removed to one end of the palace and covered.  Prince Richard had left twelve soldiers behind to ensure that the household was kept secure.

The Prince and Princess of Wales had a little conversation as they were exhausted and the previous two days events were whirling about in their heads.  They both were pondering what life would be like when they opened the house in London.  The day previous Princess Mercedes had dispatched ten palace retainers to London to open the grand home and prepare for their arrival as best they could on such short notice.

In the third carriage, Braxton, sitting facing towards the back of the carriage towards his brothers was uncharacteristically quiet.  He wasn't yet excited about the trip.  He had spent most of the previous day recuperating.  It wasn't until the previous evening, when the palace was quiet, had he set about putting things in order.  His primary concern was that he might be found out if those conducting the refurbishment discovered his mountain of buckets that he had taken from the stables to haul his incendiary fuel from the stables.  He located the buckets where he had left them in the darkened passage after having constructed his towering inferno.  He spent more than an hour carrying them back to the stable.  He accomplished this task unseen by retracing his steps through the underground passage that led to the building housing the grain stored for the horses.

The passage had been constructed 150 or more years earlier as an escape route from the palace.  The underground portion of the passage network was dark and dank.  It was full of rats and spiders, but that did not hinder his progress; as this was his secret passage as he thought were all passages that ran throughout the palace.  He made the best of the arduous task as he slowly regained his confidence.  Having positioned his buckets under the stable floor after five trips back and forth to the palace, he slowly opened the trap door disturbing multitudes of rodents and bats.  The sound was scary, as was the silence as he slowly opened the trap door into the stable.  The trap door was concealed under racks that bore the load of the mass of tack and harnesses used for all manner of things relating to the palace stable.  Quickly, he placed each of the numerous buckets on the stable floor. He closed the trap door and headed to a door leading to the back of the building.  Quietly and slowly he unlatched the door in total darkness and deftly positioned the buckets near a pile of fresh hay.  Only Josh watching from his bedroom window in the garret over the carriage house observed him.  Braxton's task complete, he returned to the tack room; secured the door; descended into the passageway and returned to his rooms in the palace.

Slowly and quietly he entered the bedroom through the concealed panel, undressed; and jumped into bed.  He did not see his mother sitting in the armchair across the room in the dark.  He fell fast to sleep.  She sat there ruminating what to do to take charge of this high energy genius of a son.  His nanny had to go.  She was not up to the task; as had been illustrated many times before.  She chuckled to herself remembering the time he had concocted and placed a Black Plague sign on his bedroom door demanding that no one enter.  While the nanny set off to sound the alarm to evacuate the palace, he sat comfortably on the floor of his room next to the fire consuming an entire tray of sweets that had been intended for that night's dinner guests.  He had earlier absconded with the plate from the pantry, having distracted the kitchen staff after having let loose four live chickens in the kitchen.

Braxton was still caught up in his thoughts as the carriage labored toward London.  "Braxton," said Dominic, "Why are you so quiet? Aren't you excited?" Braxton looked up at the second in line to the throne; looked down again and said, "I don't know." "Well, if I had any idea that you were going to be so quiet, I would have objected to you joining John and me in the carriage." Said Dominic.  John came to Braxton's defense as he always did and instructed Dominic to leave him alone.  Braxton embraced his charm and manipulative acumen; leaping off of his seat propelling himself towards both brothers, hugging them effusively; and curling up between them like a puppy positioning himself for a safe and secure nap.

Josh sitting in one of the baggage wagons pondered the two times that he had seen Prince Braxton up close. The first one as Braxton had observed him put out the fire in the courtyard.  The second one was when he had seen Braxton piling the missing buckets next to the hay.  It was just too obvious to be true.  But had that fire in the palace be the work of this beautiful boy?  The more he thought about it, the more excited and nervous he became.  London might be fun after all.  He could only imagine what this mischievous angel would come up with in the city!

Settling into their carriage, Richard began to think back to his youth.  The Prince of Wales was on his Grand Tour.  The tour that all aristocrats traditionally embrace signifying their reaching maturity.  It was 1839 and the prince was about fourteen years old.  As first in line to the throne, his tour was unlike any other noble young men.  He was tasked with visiting most of the significant royal courts in Europe and many minor royals and noble courts as well.  He was related to most of them.  The kingdom was by necessity allied with many of them.  So, his tour would not be as "fun" as the other men's tours.  He was in the spotlight.  He grudgingly embraced his tasks and performed them admirably, as he was an admirable young man.  He took his responsibilities seriously and brought great credit to the royal house and the English kingdom.  His presence helped assure friend and foe alike that there would be unbroken dependable continuity in the royal line.  Rome was to be the last stop on his tour.  There he performed his princely duties well.  He also had the life-changing occasion to meet the Count Cosimo de Chiacontella.  The Count had gravitas.  He was very handsome, smart, athletic, charming, and possessed a comfortable humility that attracted everyone to him.  He was known to be very wealthy.  Not that he displayed it as much as did his father, the Duke de Chiacontella.  The young men’s introduction occurred at the dinner hosted by the Pope for the young Richard, Prince of Wales.  The festivities were held at the magnificent Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.  Never, other than in Versailles, and perhaps in Vienna had the Prince seen such opulence.  The overwhelming luxurious beauty of the spaces and the proportionate grandeur communicated heights of palpable power, and a feeling of being closer to the creator.  The textures and colors wove many themes and concepts together. Thus, cementing his current understanding of Biblical history; and what life could be like if "man" were not in charge.  He was stunned, overwhelmed, and humbled.  This began his transformation from an indulged prince towards that of man of compassion, humility, and understanding.  He began to develop a will to love his fellow man as they were, and not how he had previously perceived that he should demand that they be.  This unexpected revelation confused him.  Was it the spirit that emanated from his surrounding?  He did not know.

Count Cosimo Chiacontella was a very engaging, charming, and self-deprecating gentleman.  He was acutely aware of his surroundings.  He was educated well beyond his peers; and had little use for most of the trappings associated with his class.  His persona gave off a feeling of confidence supported by serenity.  He didn't have the swagger of a young aristocrat.  He did not need it.  He was comfortable with who he was.  It was up to others to get to know him if they cared to do so.  HRH Prince Richard wanted to know who this exceptionally handsome self-possessed courtier was.  Cosimo was just a bit younger than Richard, but appeared to everyone older than his age.  He was an “old soul,” yet sophisticated and significantly erudite. Papal court etiquette required an introduction be made.  Richard hoped he was to have the opportunity to meet the count. 

Cosimo's not so charming, self-absorbed, somewhat arrogant sycophantic father, the Duke de Chiacontella, was obsessed with making the introduction.  During the requisite tour of the Sistine Chapel his Holiness and the duke made polite conversation with HRH.  Richard would one day be the king of the most influential nation on earth; the older pair wanted to bring Prince Richard into their fold.  The young prince was aware of this tact; and felt that he could serve the king and the government by getting to know these two manipulating men.

Cosimo was summoned from a bevy of young and some not so young aristocratic ladies.  As Cosmo joined the circle his father took the opportunity to introduce HRH to the count.  Immediately, the two young men felt a comfortable chemistry of which both his Holiness and the duke made note and approved.

Cosimo had, of course, earlier taken notice of the young prince.  His first impression was that HRH was doing his duty, and did not appear to be impressed with the company as much as he was with the glorious architecture and surroundings.  Cosimo too was inspired by the chapel and its essence of spirituality.  He senses that Richard felt it as well.

Protocol required that Prince Richard be seated among the older Princes of the Church and nobility.  The dinner was successful, as Richard rose to the occasion, representing the crown.  The evening ended; and the honored guest was about to leave the assembly. Cosimo took a chance and drew Prince Richard to the side, inviting him to go riding the following morning.  Relieved to have an excuse to get away from all the formalities of the palace, Richard accepted.

The following morning was bright, crisp, and brisk as the pair met accompanied by their respective equerries.  Neither cared to be part of a crowd and individually contemplated ridding themselves of their escorts.  It was obvious to all assembled that both men were chomping at the idea of venturing out beyond the confines of the Apostolic Palace.  This positive energy encouraged and lifted the men’s spirits, promising an excellent ride and pleasant morning.  "My dear count, with your permission I have asked my men to allow us space to run the horses and enjoy the countryside."  Cosimo responded enthusiastically in kind, instructing his men to do the same.  The prince and count set off on their ride.  Once out of the city and heading up into the hills surrounding ancient Rome, they picked up the pace as a free-flowing conversation ensued.

They discussed the city, it's beauty and some of its history.  They talked of politics, alliances, and conflicts faced in dealing with many of the challenges occupying Europe and beyond.  Lost in conversation, they continued riding at a comfortable pace into the early afternoon.  At one point, early in the afternoon, one of the Prince's aides rode up alongside the pair.  He respectfully brought to their attention the time of day, the time that had passed; and the fact that not only the horses, but the men following some distance behind required rest, water, and sustenance.  Laughing at their being oblivious to this reality, they readily agreed to stop at the next village and rest the men and horses.  As the young men's horses were attended to, and all were taking nourishment, HRH and the count decided to go for a stroll.  It was during this stroll that they began to realize how much they had in common.  HRH turned the conversation towards a more personal bent as he inquired of the young count as to his apparent serenity and comfort in being himself.  Cosimo was startled.  He had never anticipated that the future king would want to converse in a manner that he cherished and thought natural.  What heir or king does that?  Observing the count's reaction, HRH asked the count for a favor. "Count, I hope that I do not presume too much in asking this question.  I am in all honesty consumed with the responsibilities that I one day will assume as king. I am not prepared to carry the burden. I am, however, resolved to find the strength, knowledge, and will to rise to the lifelong tasks that lay ahead. I would hope to learn from our conversations.  I wish to explore conversation of great depth which is by its nature certainly personal.  I find it preferable and advantageous to put us both at ease.  So, may I suggest that when we are in private, we use our given names?  I feel that this would abet frank, open, and enlightening conversation.  Would you grant me that honor, Cosimo?"  Once again, Cosmo was caught off guard.  However, this time he did not give any indication that it was anything but a normal request.  "Well, of course, Richard.  I too feel that it would be quite appropriate and would facilitate a meaningful conversation." Here began a lifelong and mutually beneficial relationship.  The dialogue initiated here was to influence generations well beyond a century.

As Richard and Cosimo returned to their entourage, Richard peered into Cosmo's eyes, thinking to himself, if this man were a woman, I would marry him.  Cosmo returned the gaze. For a moment, there was a mutual feeling of warmth bordering on sensuality. Facing Richard, Cosmo placed his two hands on Richard's shoulders saying, "Richard I would like to extend an invitation to our home, Villa Incantarre, you must meet my twin sister Mercedes.” Richard, dumbstruck, accepted the invitation.  His meeting Mercedes would change his life and the course of history.

Braxton, still curled up on the coach seat, his brothers gently moved him back to his original place in the carriage thought Braxton still soundly sleeping.  He had awakened and was becoming more aware of his surroundings.  He did not move; and kept the appearance that he was still not awake.  The brothers removed a flask that was always at hand and started to discuss events that up until now had not come to the surface.  The young men tapped into the second flask, and the conversation transitioned from the trials of packing for the migration to London back to events of the night of the fire.

"John, how did I end up in my rooms?  I awoke mid-morning as the guests were leaving the palace.  I was terribly confused and decided to get up and look around.  I walked down to the rotunda and was surprised to see that the fire and its evidence in large part gone. Gone as if nothing had happened.  The place had an odd odor, and there were some discolorations was here and there.  Oh yes, it appeared the glass from the dome had wreaked havoc.  What on earth happened; and why was I not present?  Well, brother, I carried your unconscious body back to your rooms when you had collapsed from smoke inhalation." "John, the last thing I remember was calling out to you as you and Ramsey embraced."  John stunned, looked at his brother in disbelief! "Dominic! That is not fair and is libelous." Dominic sat back and casually replied, "Well dear brother, I saw what I saw.  I have suspected for a while; and hoped I was incorrect in my assumption.  You and Ramsey are in a tough spot.  A dangerous spot.  What exactly are the two of you thinking?  If you get caught, it will be ruinous.  You need to get over this childish and insidious play. My lips are sealed, but if it gets out, watch out! It is my sincerest wish that you get on with it, and get over it.  The family does not need scandal, and you do not need disgrace."

Braxton heard every word.  He had not suspected John's dalliance.  He had seen it.  He was curious as to why his brother John and Lord Ramsey were physically intertwined when he had observed them on more than one occasion from the concealed panel that he peered from into John’s room.  He thought it odd and boring. He had also thought it best then not to reveal his knowledge of what he saw; and wiser now, not to let his brothers know what he knew.  Feigning sleep, he once again fell back to sleep.

Princess Mercedes felt that the carriage ride from the Alexander Palace would give her an opportunity to have Prince Richard's full attention and provided the perfect milieu to discuss pressing family matters.  The first and foremost in her mind was what to do with Braxton.  It was apparent that he had outgrown his nurse and that he needed to be challenged intellectually and physically.  His intellect and energy far surpassed anything she had seen in her other children.  This excessive energy and intelligence coupled with his precocious nature was a recipe for disaster after disaster.  Fortunately, HRH was on pace with his wife and agreed with her assessment of Braxton’s needs.  “Well, Mercedes what do think should be done?” “Richard, I know that he is still very young, but we need to make some radical changes.  I have made inquiries for engaging a tutor.  I also think that he could use some companionship his own age.  I have no idea who we could get to spend time with him.  But I am up to the task.  What say you?”  “It makes sense to me.  I have been ruminating on this dilemma for a while.  I am so glad that you are taking action.  Whatever you decide, I will support you.  But please remember, we are not at the Villa Incantarre.  Things are a bit more reserved here. Don’t go and engage some mystic from the East!” chuckled the prince.  Mercedes gave him a playful jab and whispered into his ear, “No promises, my dear.”  She intended to put her plan into effect during their stay in London.

Princess Mercedes had other concerns regarding her children.  She was not comfortable and feared for her children’s futures in a very dynamic and changing world.  She felt her daughters most vulnerable.  She decided to test her husband’s patience.  “Richard, I would also like to address a couple of issues with the older children.” “Mercedes, are you taking advantage of the fact that I held captive in this carriage and cannot run away?” smiling at her in his very own playful way.  “Yes,” replied Mercedes.  “Well, as I have no choice, fire away!”  He then settled back, knowing this was going to take a while.  Mercedes proceeded to explain to her husband that it was important that the princesses become more aware of the "real" world.  It was vital that they be able to relate to those outside their gilded circle of sycophants and royalists.  She was looking desperately for a way to familiarize her daughters with the lives and reality of the world's populations.  She was afraid for the lives and survival of her children if they were not capable of adapting to a changing world.   Understanding others in their world would better prepare them for their future lives whatever they might be.  Mercedes illustrated the enormous changes made both economically and politically by the ramifications of revolutionary 1848.  Governments and monarchies had been traumatized; she insisted that her children be prepared to deal with a changing world.  Richard listened patiently.  He had no choice.  Besides, he was confident that Mercedes would do what was best for the family.  When she had finished her “speech” he took her face into his hands and kissed her lovingly.  They were both glad that they still had enough time left in the ride to London to take “pleasure” in one another’s company.

Prince Dominic was the eldest and second in line.  He had a foreboding that things were not going to go well for him as king.  He could not put his finger on it.  He felt somewhere deep inside that though in all likelihood he would be king, his reign would be almost inconsequential and perhaps brief.  He did not know why he had this foreboding.  Oddly, it did not bother him.  His only concern was that if he did not produce an heir, his brother John would be next in line.  That was even more unsettling.  John was loyal and for the most part dependable, but not serious.  He was kind, but not focused.  John did not avoid his education; John just seemed not to value it.  He was amicable and compliant.  His brother appeared to have no ambition and no avarice.  He was "Gentlemanly" John.  Everyone liked having John around; as they would a loyal dog or dedicated servant.  John was compassionate; and was often the first one after their mother Princess Mercedes to anticipate and act to fulfill another family member’s needs. John was admired for his sense of style and social graces.  No one wished him ill.  If they thought of him, it was more of as an aside.  He was great company, safe company.  Dominic wondered if he was the only one that was concerned for John's relationship with Lord Ramsey.

Gerald, Viscount Ramsey was descended from a long line of nobles.  His pedigree could not be more distinguished.  Lord Ramsey was related directly or indirectly to most previous English royal houses, and indeed many European noble houses as well.  He was dashing, handsome, brilliant and well educated.  Ramsey knew how to exist and flourish in polite society and the politics of the aristocracy. He was not socially ambitious.  He was already at the top of the "ladder."  He did not need to be center stage.  He was "on-stage" by birth and innate talent.  However, he lusted to be relevant.  He needed to be needed; to be part of the "scene." John needed him.  John's "needs" made Ramsey relevant.  It was a "perfect match."

Braxton did not know Ramsey.  But he did know that he found him entertaining and exciting.  Significantly, Ramsey was essential to his favorite brother, John.  Ramsey was a "window" out onto the world.  A world beyond Braxton’s nanny and tight-knit, insulated family.  Braxton anticipated the stay in London as an opportunity to see more of the world.  Ramsey would hopefully be a conduit.  Now, how was he going to make it happen?

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  • J.R. Strayve Jr
    on April 16, 2018, 3:30 a.m.

    I have had the opportunity to read the first chapter. It is amazing! So captivating and really cannot wait to see what else is in store in this magnificent book. Please hurry up and publish!

  • linda haymaker
    on April 16, 2018, 9:43 p.m.

    Anxiously awaiting arrival of the book. Very excited for you.

  • Gary Wayne Colward
    on April 18, 2018, 2:43 a.m.

    I have seen your writings and commentaries on many topics , be they theatre reviews, Journal entries, and such. It is amazing how your words bring the vision and message to life for the reader. Good luck on what is sure to be a New York Times Best Seller!

  • Pam Hill
    on April 26, 2018, 12:41 a.m.

    So excited for your book and can't wait to read it!