TLR 3 – Blood Royal

How easy can it be to build a conspiracy out of coincidence?

Asking a series of nested what-if questions, and travelling along a thread much like Sherlock Holmes – once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, is the truth – you bring forth fiction.

Tsaritsa Alexandra Fyodorovna (Alix of Hesse), seated

In an interview with The Quill To Live, Robert Jackson Bennett describes the formation of his novel, City of Stairs: you ask yourself why this person is in such a spot, and how they got there, and what they did. Once you know that, you have the seed of a story to build on.

Back when I started noodling on the story that became The Last Rhinemaiden, I was reading a lot of history books, mainly about World War One. Other books on my shelf included some of the more Fortean aspects of royal lineage, at a time when genetics was a fairly new science.

The nasty eugenics of history also holds a gleeful fascination with the weaknesses that spring up on occasions when Royal houses intermarry.

Rumours that a child was imprisoned in Glamis Castle, deformed, disabled, hidden via privilege. The haemophilia that cursed the Russian royal family. Queen Victoria’s Gene.

Thusly, the Cuckoo Club universe began to grow, as I noticed a number of unrelated coincidences in the history books I was reading.

The history of the British royal family, and the Hohenzollerns of Prussia, was one keystone.

Another was the history of conflict between France and the German states throughout history, centred on their border on the Rhine – Burgundia, in the Middle Ages.

From this history I linked to the Merovingian kings of Dark Age Europe, who claimed their right to the throne of France from a mythological source – a mother who came from the sea, way back in the mists of time.

“According to tradition as well as certain early Church writers, Lazarus, the Magdalen, Martha, Joseph of Arimathea, and a few others were transported by ship to Marseilles.”

― Michael Baigent, Holy Blood, Holy Grail

So I asked myself: what if the Merovingian kings had ancestry not from the sea, but from the Seine? From a river goddess – the Rhinemaiden – when the early Frankish kings were little more than tribal, pre-Celtic, pre-Bronze Age, pre-Neolithic (how far back do we go?).

And this, hidden in myth, was a matrilinear society where your inheritance was important. Your bloodline.

Goes back to Osiris and Isis, death and rebirth on the greatest of Old World rivers, teeming with gods and goddesses which spring from the thin green ribbon through the desert. A healthy population of sprites and spirits, never destroyed, but narrowed into that small concentration along the Nile where the floods bring fertility.

But a goddess doesn’t die. She continues to hold forth an influence, even when her progeny are disinherited. She continues to be interested in these humans, thinking creatures who control her seaway and trade upon the surface of her world.

Then The Golden Bough brings in the myths of the sacrificial king.

Charlemagne overthrew the last of the Merovingian kings and founded the Holy Roman Empire, which threaded through European history until the last Holy Roman Emperor abdicated to take up the throne of Austria. (And, of course, the last of those was Franz-Josef I, in charge when the Great War kicked off, which tied well into my proto-novel set in 1914-18.)

The Danube, with its Lorelei, springs from almost the same source as the Rhine.

Suddenly there was a whole new set of coincidences across history which underpinned the conspiracy at the heart of The Last Rhinemaiden.

All I needed was a story.


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Published in: on March 20, 2021 at 8:00 am  Comments Off on TLR 3 – Blood Royal  
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