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Falstaff and Helvets, United in Matrimony; 1791

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AFAITER DES ESPUSAILLES FALSTAFF AILLURS HELVETS

Millier Setcent Noentissan Ceis An

 

Interior of Saint Peter's, Rome, Giovanni Paolo Panini (Italian, Piacenza 1691–1765 Rome), Oil on canvas

The eldest Houses of the Empire file into the Basilica for the Falstaff-Helvets wedding, 1791

 


 

In the Basilica of the Final Revelation did the Kaedreni upper echelons meet in full outside of Owynsburg for the first time in a decade or more; for, as with all couplings of the grand and ancient families of the realm, the greatest religious authority was the only true choice afforded. With the gracious officiation of the High Pontiff, there could be no doubt as to its legitimacy, nor to the favor yet awarded to the names within.

 

The first carriage to arrive was that of the House de Falstaff; a solemn gray thing that could be mistaken for a covered prison wagon, were it not for the pastel-yellow sun upon a blue sky that denoted its owner to be that family so fallen from its midday heights a century ago. From it, a sullen, pale man of good build emerged wearing a simple suit of black and white, along with an aged matron of brown hair and muted dress, and a blonde woman perhaps in her mid-thirties. Little remained of the once-great fortunes of the lords of Leuven; there was none of the great fanfare of the Conradine era, nor even the air of solemn reminder that might have met their arrival when Armande headed the house – no, those days had long past, and in their place was the grim desolation of a family firmly reminded of its last century of misfortune, for just as many in the Empire had heard of the cultured noblesse of Leuven’s vineyards, so too did many know that the remnants of that family’s blood lay only in two brothers, one so sickly that he’d not been seen in a decade. Where once were colorful buildings in a field of windmills and festivals, now stood only a dark manor in a darker swamplands – in every way, a shadow of its former self.

 

The second to arrive is the procession of the Palatinate, a series of carriages carrying the Prince-Archbishop of Albarosa and the Bishop of Ves at its fore in vessels covered in bright red and gold liveries, but more importantly His Holiness, James II himself, in the next, a pure white carriage guarded by knights of the Order of All-Saints. Perhaps this was to be considered a diplomatic coup by the house-in-decline, for an officiation by the High Pontiff was neither easy to arrange nor to fund, but more likely it was a series of maneuvers meant to remind the Kaedreni, and, more loosely, the greater Orenian whole, that Kaedrin and Oren are forever bound, and His Holiness was the only party neutral enough in the worldly turmoil of noble intrigue to bind two such families.

 

The third set of arrivals was that of the House of Helvets, resplendent in its wealth and replete with the furnishings afforded by such; for, whilst the House had existed for nearly as long as the Empire itself, it had of late found no lack of excuses to flaunt the wealth associated with its great ascendance in Ves. A dozen carriages carried two dozen retainers and hangers-on, merrymakers and distant relatives, lordlings and laudables, and for a moment it seemed to be that the entire Kaedreni court had been invited to the affair on the Helvets’ tab. From the central vehicle of the great caravan, a carriage covered in gilded roses, rose the Count Rochefort and his son Adrian and his son’s wife Charlotte, each covered in jewels and rich velvet, and the great Count’s daughter, Theodora, who was to be wed, in a long, beautiful gown of white and silver. Her own visage was not so pleasantly excited as those of her entourage – for the man to which she would shortly be wed was not her choice, but instead by the vast insistence of the rest of the realm. Her family’s retainers, the Pruvia-Albarosas and MacDrochs and Robicheaus, arrived in much greater spirits than she, each in carriages covered in the nepotistic wealth-sharing of the Kaedreni elite that had been so attacked by the Crownlander nobility, but so lauded within that Commonwealth.

 

Finally, a select few of the local nobility had also been invited to attend the wedding – perhaps simply as proof that the wedding was indeed occurring, and Albert fulfilling his obligations to the Crown and to the county he had inherited. The Duke of Crestfall and his household arrived in subdued style, for there was in the minds of the elite no purpose to the scions of the realm acting in any other way. With him, the Duke of Cathalon, longtime friends of the House de Falstaff, and with them Leopold FitzPeter and his family – and, being the last invitees to arrive, the wedding began promptly after they were seated (for to allow the Crownlander Houses to mingle with the Kaedreni was, as all knew, generally a disaster waiting to happen).

 

Of course, the ceremony itself was relatively unimportant to the esteemed guests of the wedding – nor were the feelings of the parties involved. Luckily so, they might have thought, for the bride was half a foot shorter than the groom, and both reeked thoroughly of the depression that came with great societal expectations. They would do their duties to their bloodlines as surely as the sky was blue, but, at least at this moment, there was little love to be seen – and how could there be, when this was the first time the two had met? The High Pontiff’s voice was clear and uninterrupted, and quickly the event itself came near its close. With a cordial smile, filled to the brim with false enthusiasm, Albert recited his vows, and with a melancholic attempt at a simper, Theodora recited hers. The two sealed the ceremony with a brief kiss before the crowd applauded with due emotion, cheers and cries from the Helvetii and Kaedreni otherwise at the new security of their prodigal daughter, light applause from the Leuvians and Crownlanders due to the future security of the County of Leuven. At the banquet held afterwards, modest by both Kaedreni and Crownlander standards but with enough food for each to eat their fill, there were congratulations and gifts as usual from and to the assembled parties, a show of a donation to the Church through the Prince-Archbishopric of Albarosa, and the couple arm-in-arm answered the varying and pointless questions offered by their guests.

 

All in all, a match made without a hitch.

 


 

HouseOfAshfordDeFalstaff.png     Helvets.png

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Theodora of Rochefort walked towards the church with a delay in her step. She couldn’t tell if this was one of her fantastical dreams, or if it was the real thing. She prayed that her sisters and mother were there, somewhere in the pews.

 

She stopped at the doors, they were big, tall, and glamourous, really. Theodora had never anticipated something like this to happen to her-- not after two marriages fell through. It’s now, or never. She thought to herself. Theodora, although nervous, couldn't deny the excitement she felt towards becoming a wife, a countess, and soon, a mother. 

 

Theodora glided down the isle, her long, white and silver train spanned at least a least 30-yards. She didn’t put on a smile, nor a frown. Her visage was neutral, perhaps a bit dour. She’d never talk to her betrothed, the Count of Leuven before. Anxious thoughts raced through her brain, she kept on walking, but it was clear, her visage screamed sadness.

 

The ceremony was quick and went fine, Albert had recited his vows, and Theodora hers. After the wedding, She spent no time in indulging herself with temporary happiness.

 

Perhaps not a match made in heaven, as she had dreamed of so early on.

 

 

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High Pontiff James II celebrated the sacrament with appropriate solemnity. He had grown accustomed to such reluctant matches—common among the nobility—and thus developed an attitude of not prying too much about couples’ enthusiasm. In the first few years after his ordination, he often worried at the morality of celebrating such unions. Yet upon becoming Bishop of Reza and later the Vicar of God, the aged priest saw their necessity. After all, had not his own office (and all its consequent limitations) likewise been thrust upon him?
 

He excused himself almost immediately after proclaiming the couple to be wed. It was no longer the Pontiff’s custom to linger at public engagements; even the minor exertion of officiating a ceremony would cause his palsy to intensify and become unseemly. Just before departing for his office, James II prayed that true love would develop between this pair.

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