I arrive on the morning coach from Seventh Happiness, so I am ready for a spot of high tea at Jupiter’s tavern in the square at Castle Buckmore. I try the espressimenta and a Melange du Jour, which is excellent: lovely fresh green leaves and radishes, tomatoes and baby beetroot. Jupiter herself takes a message to Baden, Prince Lupin’s steward, to say I’ve arrived safely, and he joins me for a briefing. That is to say, he briefs me on Prince Lupin’s and the Lady Nimrod’s requirements . They both request pre-publication copy. We haggle a little and agree terms. Baden reassures me that this is a routine event when talking to the press; he does not think I would write anything he wouldn’t approve. I wonder if I should interview Baden; he might have some interesting secrets.
In a room with an elevated location, looking west over the Vale of Buckmore, Prince Lupin is seated on a silk-covered lounger. I am offered a silk-covered easy chair or an elegant chair with a side table should I wish to rest my notepad on it. I choose the easy chair since it puts us on the same level. Baden takes up an unobtrusive position near the door. Lupin welcomes me graciously and invites me to start the interview.
“We like to feel we are a force for good in the realms”
“I am really King of Buckmore,” he starts, in answer to my first question asking him to summarise his situation for new readers. “I was Prince for so long, and so enjoyed that status that I prefer to travel incognito as it were, but I do hold the kingship and am recognised as such in the realms. Buckmore is one of the oldest Houses, and generally considered to be a leader in all matters. I like to think we are quite influential.”
Is that ‘quite influential’ in the understated English sense, meaning ‘extremely influential’? He looks embarrassed.
“Well, yes,” he concedes. “We have managed, over the centuries, to amass rather a lot of wealth and that brings both power and responsibility. We pride ourselves on our level-headedness and wisdom, although most of that lies with the lady Nimrod, of course. We like to feel we are a force for good in the realms.”
I ask him about his rise to the kingship, what it entailed.
“Apart from my father dying in order to leave the job open for me?” he jokes. “Well, as the eldest son, the only chld to survive to adulthood as it happened, I was obviously trained for it all my life. I spent some of my formative years at Castle Powell, since there were no suitable young people I could associate with here, and that was a great benefit. Not only did I learn how another castle functioned, but I met most of their princelings as well as the then royal family. Baden here,” he gestures towards his steward, “was a princeling at Powell. Came here to avoid the Succession Wars, didn’t you?” Baden smiles and nods as if this is an oft-repeated line. “I also was able to mix with the population more easily than here at that time, which was very beneficial. Then I spent a year at Castle Vexstein, learning the business there.”
I check which business he means, the brewing concern or the royalty business. “Both, of course,” he says, “it was important for me to be familiar with both. “
There is a suggestion that Buckmore is a major shareholder in Vex Breweries, I say. He shrugs. “Buckmore is involved in many industries, mostly in a public relations capacity,” he says. I push further asking if that is the case with Vex and he just smiles.
“Nothing casual or scandalous”
He has a reputation for being somewhat of a playboy in his youth, I say.
“In terms of having the freedom to enjoy myself, I hope,” he replies. “Yes, that is true; I had a lot of fun, travelling around, enjoying experiences that the realms offer, meeting people from all walks of life. I did maintain standards though, nothing casual or scandalous, I’m afraid. Maybe I set the fashion for free living amongst Crown Princes though,” he looks thoughtful, “perhaps I should have made it more clear that responsibilities were still taken seriously.”
Has he got any particular incident in mind, I ask.
“I realised later that perhaps I was a role model for young people. In that case a role model has to make sure that he is only frivolous at the right time, and can take responsibility as well.”
I press for an anecdote perhaps, but he just asks whether I have tracked down Ludo for an interview yet (I haven’t). It seems he thinks of Ludo as one who did not draw the correct line between frivolity and responsibility.
“Who are your most important contacts in the realms?” I ask, feeling that the question is redundant when interviewing the most important contact anyone can have in the realms. He considers it carefully though.
“The Kings’ Council members of course,” he says, “that is to be expected. What people might not expect is how highly I rate the innkeepers and bartenders in the realms. Keep in touch with them as contacts and you get to hear what the population is concerned about. Although I hope if they read this they won’t start clamming up when I talk to them.”
“There must be better ways we can employ people’s talents”
I ask about his most exciting and embarrassing experiences. He tells me about a trip to the north where he was invited to slide down the snow-covered mountain, either sitting on a tray or with his feet strapped to a board. “Most exciting” he says, his eyes sparkling as he describes the speed, the near-crashes, the falls headfirst into the snow, trudging back up the mountain and doing it all again. And embarrassing? “Oh, the wedding, I think. I found that really embarrassing, having to tell Nerys all those things with the whole world listening. Mind you, I meant them, mean them, she’s such a wonderful person.”
I smother the urge to say “aww”. He really is a very sweet person, despite being a prince, or a king, and somewhat pompous at times.
What is the thing you’d most like to change and why, I say, focussing back on the interview.
“Well, there are lots of small things I’d like to change,” he says, glancing at Baden meaningfully as if Baden has a list of things he hasn’t done yet. “What I’d most like to change is the way succession happens so that we don’t have these dreadful assassinations and manipulations to get the person with the most deadly faction behind them onto the throne. Admittedly that hasn’t happened recently but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. I think Dimerie’s idea of including the girls is a good one, stops wasting a good portion of our brainpower. Then again, living in a world where you can make a living as an assassin sounds pretty poor to me. There must be better ways we can employ people’s talents.”
I ask him how it could be done and he shrugs and refers me to the ‘Thinkers of this world’. Since Princeling Fred seemed to allude to this problem, although not in such graphic terms, I wonder if others may have views on it in later interviews.
“I haven’t got the brains for it”
Who would you most like to say sorry to and why, I ask. He looks as if this is the correct answer to the most embarrassing moment question. “To the Lady Nimrod. She knows why. Ask her.” I am tempted to press him, but decide to see what Lady Nimrod says later.
The next question is ‘who would you most like to be with in a life or death situation?’
“Well, first and foremost I have to say that I have people to keep me out of life or death situations,” he says, “so if they aren’t around I’d like to know why. Baden had better be there to explain!” He looks sternly at him, and receives a grin in return. “For comfort I’d like to be with Nerys and Nimrod. For action I’d like a nice troop of the General’s finest I think. Who do you think, Baden?” he calls over.
“The 25th or just a couple of the secret agents, I think, sir,” is his response.
“Ah yes, secret agents,” he winks at me, “I can’t tell you about them!” He laughs, clearly enjoying the idea.
Finally, I ask, if you weren’t you, who would you like to be?
“Interesting question, that,” he comments. “I rather admire young George, messing about with his engines and machines. It seems so exciting, although there’s a lot of hard work he puts into it all, of course. I haven’t got the brains for it, though. Maybe I could be his test engineer though. You know, testing out his inventions to see if they work.”
“Could be dangerous,” I comment.
“Yes, but you’d be the one with all the attention, all the girls, wouldn’t you. George isn’t one for all that. I think that would be fun!”
He hints back at his playboy past, which does sound rather more risqué than he made out earlier. I can just see him landing George’s latest flying machine somewhere exotic, standing beside the machine, surrounded by adoring fans. However, he does get that everywhere he goes, so maybe it’s just a change of job title. Oh, and the responsibility that goes with being King of Buckmore, the most powerful, and probably the most wealthy of the Castles. I wonder what Lord Smallweed of Vexstein would make of that claim? I shall look forward to finding out.