We are at Castle Marsh, in a room in the south-east of the castle, looking out over the marshes. Silvery streams break up the sea of susurrating stems. Small birds fly across the streams every now and then and disappear back into the reeds. Someone seems to be reeling in a fishing line for hours on end, and I comment on this to Kira as she points out various features to me.
“Oh that bird! Yes, George calls it a grasshopper warbler. It is a funny sound, isn’t it? I don’t know how George knows so much about the birds here, but I suppose he’s used to paying attention to detail in his work. He says there are reed warblers and sedge warblers out there too.”
I make a note to ask George about this later. Kira and I step back from the window and settle beside a table where someone has kindly provided us with tea and small cakes. Kira pours. I ask her to tell me about growing up at Dimerie and the changes she’s made since she’s come to Marsh.
“After a few adventures I met Princeling Fred”
“Well, Dimerie was a wonderful place to grow up. It’s on an island, you know, which makes it terribly romantic, being cut off twice a day by the tide, and I was lucky enough to have lots of brothers and sisters, so we had great fun together. Nerys and I are very close in age, so we did all our lessons together, and Miles and Morris only a little older, so we tagged along with them a lot of the time. Especially when we were going places we shouldn’t!”
What sort of places?
“Well, like Marsh, Dimerie has lots of secret passages. I’m sure the grown-ups must know of them, but as a child you think they are your private domain, you know. So we would sneak up to places where there were private conferences going on. We didn’t understand a lot of what was going on mind, if it was one of those political meetings. Many of the visitors father had were terribly boring. You grow out of doing it really. It’s useful for getting about the castle quickly though.”
I ask her to summarise her situation for the readers, just for the record.
“Oh yes, I was born a princess of Dimerie, which is a chateau off the coast, heart of a wine-making region, and after a few adventures I met Princeling Fred as he was then, and, well, I married him and came to live here at Marsh. I am Princess Kira of Marsh now. He is the Crown Prince.”
I mention we didn’t discuss the change in status in his interview.
“I think he changed his status before he actually got the status if you know what I mean. He had to prove himself to my father, so he acted very nobly before he was named Crown Prince. Then he had to solve a few more problems and my father accepted him as my fiance. My father wasn’t trying to be difficult, he just wanted to be sure of him, and to be sure I meant enough to Fred for him to change. I never doubted Fred.”
”I’m glad he knocked on my door”
I comment that Fred seemed to become aware of the problems facing Marsh during their adventure with the Pirates, so even without the crown prince status he had been working to change things.
“Yes, that’s true. That seems so long ago now, and yet that’s when I met him for the first time, when I was held hostage here. I’m glad he knocked on my door looking for his uncle!”
Kira had been ‘imprisoned’ in Fred’s uncle Vlad’s apartments during that period.
“You acquitted yourself very well at that time, and in the Battle of Dimerie,” I say. She says thank you and looks at the tea things.
“When will this interview be published?” she asks.
“August, I think,” I reply, and she nods.
“Good. Please don’t say anything before the end of July, but we are expecting to add to our family in the autumn.”
I am delighted and tell her so. She looks shy, but also proud. She is very well, she tells me; all is going smoothly so far. Their daughter Jasmin is six months old in July. I tell her that Fred didn’t mention her in his interview.
“Oh, I know! He told me when he came away, he was cross with himself, but answering your questions, it didn’t come up!”
I apologise, saying that since I interviewed Fred a few weeks ago I have got into the swing of it much better and don’t follow the interview pattern slavishly any more.
She laughs. “No! So I see! Where are we now anyway?”
I think the readers are more interested in these developments than any repetition about the training of princesses, I say, unless you think yours was different? She doesn’t.
“I encourage social trips to Castle Wash”
“How about your contacts in the realms, though,” I ask. “Are yours different from Fred’s?”
“Well, I keep contact with my sisters, of course, and they are getting well spread out through the realms. Nerys is at Buckmore of course, Danielle and Teresa have gone to White Horse together for a year’s placement, so just the three left at home now. Many of the ladies that came to the wedding have kept in touch, and I do see Rosebud and Maisy at Arbor fairly often. I also call on Prince Hunston and his family at Castle Wash whenever the opportunity arises.”
Does that happen often?
“Well, I encourage social trips by people of Marsh to Wash and vice versa. There is a stage that goes once a week now, to take us to Wash on their market day, and bring us home again the same day. It also brings visitors from further afield the previous evening of course, and allows them to leave having had a full day here, which is good. Helps communications, you know. It’s often full though, since George gets a lot of visitors.”
Kira seems to be revitalising Marsh in many ways. There are notices scattered around the castle at suitable places for people to read them, advertising choral evenings, sewing circles, debating societies, as well as a request for help with the something called a summer study. Her name appeared on most of them. “Well, I encouraged different people to organise them,” she says when I ask further, “but it does seem to help if people know I am involved. There are new groups that have nothing to do with me though they asked me to be a patron, and I was happy to oblige.”
“Fred’s face when he saw her!”
What is the most exciting thing that’s happened to her so far, I wonder, since many exciting things have happened.
“This was a difficult one to answer. I thought of so many things at first, since I do seem to have attracted more than my fair share of excitement with all this hostage-taking and escape and so on. The whole of the escape from Marsh and getting to Castle Fortune was really exciting since I didn’t really know these fellows who had rescued me, but they seemed all right, and one of them seemed more than all right, if you know what I mean. Exploring Fortune with just Fred and George was exciting, especially when we thought we’d found a ghost. I thought our wedding day was really the most exciting, most enjoyable day of my life, until I saw baby Jasmin for the first time – or even better, seeing Fred’s face when he saw her!” Her face gets increasingly wreathed in smiles as she talks these exciting moments through. I think she’s got the order exactly right!
What about her most embarrassing moment?
“When Jess died and everyone thought it was me. I had a hard job convincing Queen Eleanor I was not Jess, and it was really embarrassing but also made me feel almost guilty that I was still alive and Jess wasn’t.”
I ask her if Jess’s death is what she’d most like to change.
“Well, I would like it to change of course, very much, but … Life is what it is, isn’t it. It’s not something I can change, what happened then. I’d rather list something that I might actually change if I worked hard enough at it.” She needs little prompting to continue and explain her desire to see females included in the lines of succession; she cites Castle Fortune as a classic example of a society that went to ruin simply because of the succession laws as they stand. “It’s a nonsense. A waste of many people’s work and lives.”
Who would she most like to say sorry to?
“Jess, for somehow not preventing her death. Or for allowing her to go instead of me. Oh, I don’t know. She wanted to do it so much. It was something she wanted to do to prove herself once more. She was very committed to Arbor, a very brave young woman.”
What about the life or death situation; who would she like to be with? It comes as no surprise to hear her say “Fred.” She does add the 25th Rifles to her request, then George, her brother Miles, and Sundance the security agent. A pattern is starting to emerge!
“I’m sure there are hard times ahead”
I wonder about her relationship with George, since he and Fred are so close.
“Oh, George is such a sweetie!” she says, then adds, “don’t print that,” then laughs, “oh, go on, you can print it, I’ve told him often enough, and he always looks bashful!” George, it seems, is like another brother to her, she takes an interest in his work and he in hers. “I’d miss him terribly if he wasn’t here.”
I ask her the final question on the list: if you weren’t you, who would you like to be?
“I know I’ve had time to think about this, but I really can’t think of anyone I’d like to be. Certainly no-one I’d rather be. I’m so lucky. I have a handsome and wonderful prince for a husband, a beautiful daughter, interesting and fulfilling work that needs doing, lots of friends… If I wasn’t me I‘d like to be Nerys but with Fred as my husband instead of Lupin,” she laughs, “although Lupin is a sweetie too!”
Is life all happiness, I ask her?
“No, there are difficult decisions that have to be made, and I’m sure there are hard times ahead. I hope I have the strength to come through them and bring the people I love through with me. We’ve all had moments of tragedy that we have overcome. Life is life and we must make the most of it as it comes. Does that sound pompous?”
No, I tell her, and thank her for her frankness and her time. She is delighted to have helped me. I’m delighted she is here and I hope she will be here for many, many years.