The Ruins of Coventry
He had debated whether or not it was appropriate to be the one officiating at the ceremony, that perhaps it was the King’s duty to be there instead and to represent the United Kingdom and its empire. But he did not want to bring his majesty to this humiliation amongst the ruins of the cathedral which he swore were still steaming from the bombing of a few years ago, years that had just as many days as any other but were somehow longer, every hour determined the fate of the world and the lives of millions, a single movement in a single moment could destroy an Empire and create another. Part of him was glad it was over, that the times of struggle were to cease and he could retire. However he knew that despite the absence of bombings and fighting, things would never be as peaceful as they had once been before the war.
He had put on a suit for the occasion, he was going to remain looking like the people’s servant first and foremost. There would be no trace of militarism in his appearance, he would show the photographers assembled a scene in which Parliamentarianism was being challenged by Fascism. If the King was here he would have been clothed in a splendid uniform covered in medals. It would then appear like the old order was simply greeting the new one, a second barbarian invasion of Europe represented in a chat between two men over a piece of paper. Not the conflict over the rights of man which he had always seen as the war’s main focus. Simply one Germanic king being replaced with another.
“Very well, let us get this damnable thing over with.”
The words of his previously defiant speeches now haunted him as he treaded carefully around worn down walls and over wet grass to great his victor, a man whom he despised on every level possible. He would have fought to the end like he promised, but the King and the People, they had other ideas and now he was being forced to accept the terms of a peace treaty that he never wanted to see drafted, printed, and signed on English soil. They all blamed the loss of the war on him and so he was going to stand for the whole Empire.
It was merely a formality, there would be no occupation, no reparations payments. India would be given independence, they had to withdraw from the Suez and give Gibraltar to the Spanish, but London would remain free of Swastikas. It was a legacy he could leave to his people.
As he sat down and faced the man with the Charlie Chaplin moustache decked out in iron crosses and khaki clothes, he thought of his options. America would surely take him in, he could stay there and move about in the last remaining high society of the Free World. A hunting accident, arranged with his servants, was another way to go, in the middle of Britain’s rolling hills and quiet forests, in a manner befitting a Lord, decked out in his finest tweed. Or he could try and flee the ensuing house arrest awaiting him as soon as he signed his name, and hide on the Orkney islands, living as a painter of fishing scenes and crashing waves.
Whatever he chose to do, he wanted to be someplace else at the moment the pen was handed over to him. Anywhere he would not have to hand the flame of freedom to a despot to extinguish. If there was no such place left, then under the rubble of Coventry Cathedral was the spot for him.