The announcement of the engagement of Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur to the Prussian princess, Katerina Brunhilda, was announced in November 1890. The news was greeted by the citizens of Barrow in a variety of diverse ways.
20 November 1890
It was with no small amount of pleasure that I was able to convene today the first meeting of the civic committee tasked with making plans on how best the borough might celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Prince Arthur and the Princess Katerina Brunhilda Wagner-Goering-Hess of Bavaria.
Thankfully, the frightful Alderman Ditch is laid low by the most vicious gout and is therefore unable to dominate local planning as is usually the case. Instead, I am delighted to be working alongside William Boot, editor of our fearless local organ 'The Thruster', Mrs Marjory Winklecoomb, of the Winklecoomb taxidermy empire and the ever fragrant Miss Clarissa Nimrod who has read a lot of Austen and who's father is 'big in the yard'. 'A wedding, Reverend Flange!' she cried, skipping into the meeting room and shaking her golden tresses free of muffler and hat. 'I simply adore weddings, don't you?' And I swear, at that point, unbeknownst to both Boot and Winklecoomb, Miss Clarissa Nimrod touched me ever so slightly on the forearm with a delightful pressure not normally associated with accidental contact. What a splendid young thing she is!
We quickly narrowed suggestions for the borough's gift to the happy couple down to a shortlist of four:
•A cruet set fashioned from a pair of four-inch explosive shells made by apprentices in the ship yard (need to verify safety of this proposal).
•A scale model of the Barrow-built HMS Powerful with marzipan figures of Arthur and Katerina Brunhilda waving on the poop deck.
•'Sun Setting, Slag Bank Glistening' a watercolour of Walney channel by local artist Beluga Emin.
•A three pound gift token towards the stuffing and mounting of any animal of their majesties choice (donated by Forsyth Winklecoomb and Company Ltd).
We deferred a final decision until our next meeting. We then moved on to discuss the possibility of a half-day holiday in the town, the question of 'street parties' for the lower orders and the preliminary costing of a grand civic dinner. What a splendid opportunity to encourage the good folk of the town to rise above the general air of economic hardship and industrial decay and unite for one brief moment in the celebration of the mystique of our constitutional monarchy and the majesty of our most gracious royal family! Huzzah indeed!
21 November 1890
I spent the morning attending the latest outbreak of black death at Rampside and left that wretched place around a quarter after noon. Returning via the town centre I was intrigued by the number of layabouts and loafers gathered around crudely printed posters attached to gas lamps and walls along Duke Street and was interested enough to stop and read them for myself. 'MASS MEETING TONIGHT' it read, 'NO PUBLIC MONEY TO BE WASTED ON ROYAL WEDDINGS. RISE UP LIKE LIONS AFTER SLUMBER, PEOPLE OF BARROW! SHAKE THE CHAINS OF MONARCHY AND SERVITUDE FROM YOUR SHOULDERS. YE ARE MANY, THEY ARE FEW'. I was staggered by the sheer ingratitude of such sentiments and was shocked still further by the small print. 'Keynote speaker - Eliza Trotsky, Commander of the PFFTLOTWPOB (Popular Front For The Liberation Of The Working People of Barrow).' I hastened to the vestry with all haste that I might confront the snake of insurrection coiled within its very bosom.
Upon my return I called Eliza, my housekeeper, into the confines of my study so that I might give her the length of my tongue. I demanded to know of her, what on earth was she was thinking of, dragging the good name of the vestry-cum-surgery into the murky world of European revolutionary politics?
I'm shamed to recount that the young woman had no shred of apology about her. Instead I was treated to a tirade about the 'obscene' expense of a royal wedding at a time of immense economic hardship and suffering for the workers and that it was a disgrace for people like me and that 'Nimrod bint' to be planning to waste money from the local rates not two weeks after deciding to cut poor relief in the town.
Oh, I gave back as good as I received! What about the good that the royals did for our 'tourist' industry here in Great Britain? 'People as what can afford it go to Rome to see the Coliseum' Eliza snapped, 'But they're not still throwing Christians to the lions! Why, even in this 'ere country, there's folks what goes to the Tower of London, but it ain't to see people bein' beheaded. You can have an 'eritage industry based on 'istory, you DON'T need to perpetuate a class based system of oppression to maintain it!'
Somewhat discombobulated by her arguments I raised the issue of the employment to be gained through the production of trinkets and memorable souvenirs for the occasion. Surely this would benefit all concerned? Apparently not! It would simply be another scam wherein, for instance, match manufacturers would re-package their products in 'wedding colours' but it would still be the young match-girls who would be 'paid a pittance and who's heads would drop off because of phosgene jaw.' And with that, she took her leave of me and flounced out of the study, slamming numerous doors behind her en-route to the pantry where she informed me she could be found for the rest of the day, packing relief parcels for comrades in Ireland who were about to be 'murdered by the big banks and such like.'
I sat at my desk, exhausted by the argument. I suspect there is something in her eastern European origins that inspire her to such political extremes. 'Eliza Trotsky', I sighed her name to myself. I'm sure there were no Trotsky's at Cambridge. And yet, for all her subversive madness, there was something strangely 'interesting' about her.
Just then, Walsh, the much abused and ridiculed under-butler, appeared at the study door to announce the presence in the drawing room of Miss Clarissa Nimrod who had come to discuss her designs for the celebratory napkins. I passed Eliza in the corridor and she gave me a withering glance and sneered: 'Oh, for the love of God, can't you two get a room?'