The Richmond Mansion
"So am I going to get dragged round all of Munich's art museums lover?" Sandy asked Heather.
"Not if you don't want to..." Heather said without looking up from her book.
"I've volunteered to go with Heather if you don't want to Mom," Sands broke into the conversation.
"When she's not with a certain young baron that is..."
"HEATHER!" Sands blushed bright red.
"You know Sigi and I are making your wedding arrangements darling..."
"We are only teasing darling," Heather smiled. She noticed the smile on the young girl’s lips as she walked out of the room.
“You are terrible,” Sandy said with a smile.
“Well, what’s George going to be doing?”
“Enjoying himself probably – even if Katy is coming later.”
“Oh I’m sure he will be kept busy...”
Saturday 26th March
10.30 am CET
The Furstenheim Townhouse, Munich
“Well, here we are,” Klaus said as the cars pulled up at the entrance to the three storey building, “home.”
“It’s good to be back,” Ingrid said as she got out, two servants coming out and starting to collect the luggage, while Annie got out and stretched her back.
“How are you feeling,” Karen Boyd said as she looked at the pregnant woman.
“I’m fine – and thanks for coming over with us,” Annie said as Ken stretched his lean body up, then fetched the car seat with John in it.
“Well, thank you, Klaus, for letting us stay here,” Karen said as Carina lifted Judith from her seat, and handed her to Juliette.
“We’re here, little one,” Juliette said as she looked at her granddaughter, “ready for a very special week?”
“Yes Grammy,” Judith said as they all watched a tall, thin woman with short dark hair come out of the front entrance. She was wearing a black coat dress, and black shoes, but carried herself with total authority.
“Welcome back, Your Highness,” she said in accented English, “I trust you have all had a good flight.”
“We have indeed,” Klaus said with a smile. “May I introduce you to Doctors Ken and Karen Boyd? Ken, Karen, allow me to introduce Frau Strecher, my estate manager.”
“A pleasure,” Frau Strecher said, “welcome to Munich. I have refreshments ready in the dining room, Your Highness, while the luggage is taken to the rooms.”
“Excellent – well, shall we go in?”
The party entered the large entrance hall, Karen looking round as Jeanne and Henri followed them in.
“Frau Strecher, Monsieur Henri and Madameoiselle Jeanne Marais.”
“Welcome, your highnesses,” she said with a small bow, “if you will all come this way please?”
They walked into a dining room, where a buffet had been laid out and the table set.
“I wish to discuss a few matters with you and Fraulein Huntingdown with regards to the weekend, your highness,” Fray Strecher said, “and Herr Breitz is filming in the grand hall. This was why I had the refreshments prepared here.”
“Excellent – you have excelled yourself as usual, Frau Strecher.”
She smiled as she said “are there any special instructions for the staff?”
“Yes,” Klaus said. "In deference to all our guests, current and to come, can we please talk in English when it is at all practical?"
"If that is your wish, Your Highness."
"Very good,” Frau Strecher said with an incline of her head, “I will inform the staff. We await your pleasure as always. Please, feel free to eat and drink – the staff will show you to your rooms later."
"Oh dear God that woman is terrifying," Karen whispered to her husband as she left the room.
"Well I'll be making sure I'm on time for everything, I do NOT want her upset with me," Ken whispered back.
“All right everyone,” Klaus said as the doors were closed, “help yourselves. And don’t worry – she is a very kind woman.”
“Just remember,” Juliette said with a giggle, “those who are tardy for dinner will not get fruit cup.”
“I don’t get it,” Annie said with a look at Carina.
“You need a crash course in Mel Brooks,” Carina said as she helped Judith to sit down, while Ken put John into the high chair.
“Would you like some milk,” he said, John nodding as Karen produced some milk from her shoulder bag and passed the bottle over.
“Can I some juice please Grappy?”
“Of course,” Klaus said as he passed Judith a cup, only to look up and smile as Juliette hugged him.
“The Baron and Baroness von Manschen.”
“There you are,” Sigi said as she and Dieter came in, “how was the flight?”
“Well, we made it,” Klaus said as he walked over and greeted his sister, “how are things here?”
“With me and Frau Strecher in charge? All is going according to plan,” Sigi said as a steward came in.
“She strikes me as the model of what someone imagines a German housekeeper to be like,” Karen said, “do horses neigh when you say her name?
"Don't let her intimidate you," Sigi smiled, "to use a metaphor, her bark is worse then her bite."
"And she is tremendously good at her job," Dieter spoke as he poured a drink.
"That she is," Klaus smiled.
"Does she know about all the American guests who are coming?" Karen asked.
"Yes, and she has accommodations arranged for everyone." Sigi looked at the briefing the Steward had given her, "I don't think she's missed a trick."
"She even persuaded Aunt Gloria to put a few people up." Ingrid smiled, "and we all know how difficult that is to do."
"I take it the Princess still refuses to acknowledge anyone not born at least a baron?" Deiter laughed. "Really she is such a tremendous snob," he shook his head.
"Well she knows she is, and she is unapologetic about it." Sigi smiled as well, "just be glad we aren't holding the wedding on her true home turf in Regensburg."
“So how does she feel about me,” Juliette asked.
“Find out on Thursday – she’s coming to the wedding rehearsal.”
Gieves and Hawkes
Savile Row, London
To a gentleman of breeding and standing, Savile Row was the place to go for suits and other apparel. And for the Gentleman Officer, both current and retired, one tailor in particular was the place to go.
So as John Hammond stood, two assistants working on him, Shirley looked on with quiet pride and a little irritation.
"I said your uniform needed looking at weeks ago John," she said quietly as she looked darts at her partner. "Now these poor gentlemen are having to rush the alterations before we fly on to Munich tomorrow."
"It's not a problem Lady Hammond," one of the tailors smiled.
"Miss Xavier is my partner not my wife Jack." John smiled, "and I knew by experience you'd be able to fit me in."
"Well we knew to expect you when we got the guest list sir," Thomas the fitter smiled, "the Major has always left things to the last minute Miss," he continued as he looked up at Shirley.
“Perhaps a little extra on the jacket length?”
“Quite so sir,” Jack said as he made a mark.
"So much business for the wedding Thomas?"
"Oh some sir,” he said as he adjusted the trouser length, “a few ex-military gents who discovered their uniforms no longer fit, and other gentlemen who's wives finally declared they had to change their suits..."
"Oh poor chaps," John laughed softly.
“Indeed – we had the Marquess of Ordford in yesterday with Lady Amanda.”
“Now why does that not surprise me,” John said with a smile.
"I found HIS missing MBE in his coat a while back Thomas," Shirley shook her head.
"Oh that is nothing Miss, we found a thousand pounds in one gentleman's coat recently, and it was so old that King George was still on the notes..."
"Oh dear lord!"
"Exactly Miss, a lot of our gentlemen tend to the careless with their dress clothes."
“So I noticed,” she said as the door to the fitting room opened, and the clerk showed Maisha in.
“You look very handsome in that Uncle John.”
“I will do when it is ready,” John said as Thomas removed the jacket.
“If you will return at four, Sir John, we will have it ready for you.”
“And the new morning suit?”
“Will be ready for the final fitting as well.”
“Excellent – give me a moment and I will be ready to take you both to lunch,” John said as he walked to the dressing room.
“Our dresses will be ready to collect at five,” Maisha said, “so how will he look?”
“Magnificent – as we both will. Now, did you take care of the other business?”
“I did, Aunt Shirley – it will arrive on Friday in Munich.”
“Excellent,” Shirley said quietly, “excellent.”
2 pm GMT
Shearton Athlone Hotel
Athlone, Co Westmeath
“Good afternoon Miss,” the blonde haired receptionist said as she looked at the dark skinned woman, “can I help you?”
“You have a reservation for me in the name of Walker – Tracy Walker?”
“Ah yes Miss Walker,” the receptionist said as she looked on the screen, and then took some papers from a holder, “if you would fill in the details please?”
As Tracy filled out the form, she looked round the modern lobby. She had expected an old fashioned hotel, so this monument to modern style was a surprise. A nice one, but a surprise none the less.
“So what brings you to our town, Miss Cocker?”
“I needed a short holiday – some peace and quiet.”
“Well, be warned – we have a reunion here this weekend, so it may get a little noisy.”
“Oh? What sort of reunion?”
“A catholic girls’ school – and we have a few models in as well.”
“Okay – so avoid the bar when they arrive,” Tracy said with a smile.
“Precisely – I’ll be glad to tell you of the better nearby inns.”
“Sounds good,” Tracy said as the receptionist took a swipe of her credit card. “Room 1012 – have a pleasant stay.”
“Thanks,” Tracy said as she took her bag and headed for the lift.
Fifteen minutes later, she was looking out over the River Shannon, sipping her coffee as her telephone rang.
“Penny? I’m checked in. I’ll scope out the locale in a little while and then get some dinner. Call you later tonight.”
2 pm GMT
"Thomas and Jack have been looking after me since I was a young whippersnapper going to Eton for the first time." John smiled as Maisha gorged herself on strawberries and cream.
"Neither looked a young man," Shirley shook her head, "and they clearly knew you of old John Hammond."
"They did Uncle John."
"Well like in all good relationships...and what goes on between a man and his tailor is a close relationship...we have grown old together."
"Maisha slow down you will make yourself sick darling," Shirley poured her own tea, "and I had heard that from other people John dear."
"But this is SO GOOD, Aunt Shirley.”
“Indeed – but remember, something so good needs to be savoured and appreciated. Have some tea, and take a break.”
“All right, Uncle John,” Maisha said as she put her spoon down, and wiped her mouth.
“Remind me to be careful at Wimbledon,” John said with a smile.
“So when do the others arrive, Aunt Shirley?”
“At different times during the week, I think – but we all have to be there by Thursday.”
“And while we are waiting for the others?”
“The opportunity for you to practice your German, and learn something of a different culture,” Shirley said, “as well as some dance lessons when our friends from Hong Kong arrive on Tuesday.”
“I am particularly looking forward to seeing my sister again,” Maisha said with a smile as she sipped her drink.
“And I am sure Ama is looking forward to seeing you.”
“So how was your visit to the Commons?”
“Very interesting,” Maisha said with a smile, “Lady Harker taught me a great deal, although my encounter with a man called Boris was a little – comical.”
“Oh boy,” John said as he shook his head, “never trust an Old Etonian who is into politics.”
4 pm GMT
As Tracy made her way out of the lift, she smiled as she saw the large green and godl banner that was hanging on the wall.
“WELCOME DAUGHTERS OF ERIN”
“Okay,” the receptionist said, “maybe it’s not just a school reunion. You don’t have any Irish ancestry, do you?”
“Oh no,” Tracy said with a smile. “Listen – how do I get to the castle from here?”
“Take this map,” the blonde haired girl said as she passed on to Tracy. “Turn right out of here.”
“Many thanks,” Tracy said with a smile as she left the hotel, and walked along the street. She needed to check out where the shoot was scheduled to take place, and the surrounding area, identify any possible blind spots and think about how she could cover them.
“Mom, we’re going to be fine,” Katy said as she looked at Janice and Adam. “I’ll take very good care of Gran, and make sure she doesn’t get into trouble.”
“Excuse me,” Katherine said with a smile, “I think you’ll find it is the other way round.”
“Just keep each other out of trouble, all right? We’ll both see you in Munich on Thursday.”
“Right,” Katherine said, “we need to head through. I’m glad we’re flying business.”
“One perk of Norstar,” Katy said as she put her rucksack on her back, before hugging both Janice and Adam. “You two keep safe as well, all right?”
“With luck, she’ll sleep on the plane over,” Katherine said as she hugged them both. “Enjoy the peace and quiet.”
“What peace and quiet? I need to see my mother tomorrow,” Adam said with a sigh.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he keeps to the law,” Janice said with a smile as Bev hugged Katy, and they waved her off.
“I’m going to pick something up from the newsstand,” Adam said as he walked to one side.
“Any sign of him,” Janice whispered as they watched Katherine and Katy walk to the security gates.
“Nope – so let’s hope he hasn’t followed them.”
“He hasn’t,” Susan said as she walked over, “we’ve been monitoring, no sign.”
“Good – she could do with this down time.”
Sunday 27th March
11 am BST
“So this is Ireland,” Katy said as the car drove down the road, taking the time to look out of the window as the green fields rolled by.
“Oh yes,” her grandmother said quietly as she looked out of the other window, “this is Ireland. Not Waterford – for which I am grateful – but it does feel good to be home.”
“Has it really been that long, Gran?”
“Oh yes, but I always dreamed of coming home one day,” Katherine said with a smile as she saw the castle coming closer. “And that is Athlone castle, where you are doing the shoot tomorrow and Tuesday.”
“Welcome to Athlone,” the driver said, “the Easter services will have started, so we have a clear run to the hotel.”
“How come we lost another hour on our watches?”
“They started summer time today,” the driver said, “so you have another hour’s difference. Anyway, here we are – the Sheraton Athlone.”
As he drove up to the main entrance, the chauffer stopped the car and then opened the doors to let them get out. Katy was wearing a black leather jacket over a blue jumper, jeans and short black boots, while Katherine was wearing a beige coat over a floral print dress, and brown shoes.
“Well, here we go,” she said as they walked in, while a porter collected the cases from the trunk of the car.
“Good morning – welcome to the Sheration Athlone,” the man behind the reception desk said, “may I have your names please?”
“Katherine Carter, and this is my granddaughter Katy.”
“Ah yes – we were told to expect you about now. May I see your passports please?”
As Katherine handed them over, Katy looked round, smiling as she saw Tracy sitting in the coffee bar.
“If you could just sing here,” the receptionist said to Katherine, “your rooms are ready now, so you can have a chance to unpack and change.”
“Sounds good to me – did Orion say when she was getting here Katy?”
“She said about one thirty – so we have a shower and then grab some lunch?”
“Sounds good to me,” Katherine said as they were handed their key cards, and then walked to the elevator. As they went in, Tracy took her phone out.
“Penny? Both safely arrived. I’ll check in again later...”
“I see they’re expecting you Gran,” Katy said as they looked at the banner, before the lift doors closed.
“Why on earth did I agree to this,” her Gran said as she shook her head...
1 pm ECT
The Furstenheim Townhouse, Munich
Juliette and Klaus looked up from their seats as Frau Strecher came in.
“Major John Hammond, Miss Shirley Xavier and Miss Maisha Abonoyu, Your Highness.”
“John – welcome, welcome,” Klaus said as he stood up, embracing all three of them before Juliette did, “we will be having lunch shortly – I hope you are hungry.”
“Fairly so – so long as it is not strawberries and cream.”
“Oh no – plenty of Apple Strudel however. Frau Strecher, three additional guests for lunch.”
The estate manager bowed as she left the room, Shirley sitting with Juliette as she said “so, how are you feeling?”
“Getting more nervous as each day passes. I’ll be glad when Diana and Sandy get here later.”
“I spoke to Mandy last night – they will be arriving Wednesday. And then...”
As the door opened, everyone turned and looked at the man who came in. He had short light brown hair, was wearing a denim shirt and jeans, and had a viewfinder round his neck.
“Oh – my apologies Your Highness, I thought this room would be empty.”
“It’s all right – we will be moving in now anyway. May I introduce Edwin Breitz, who is planning a documentary about the family?”
“A pleasure – I will return later,” he said with a low bow as he walked back – into an older couple who were about to come in.
“My apologies,” he muttered as he walked off, Klaus wondering who he was talking to before they came in.
“Aunt Natalya, Uncle Wilhelm – welcome,” he said as the Baron and Baroness von Buchenwald came in. “You’re just in time for lunch.”
“Excellent,” Willy said as he walked over and kissed Juliette and Shirley, then shook John’s hand.
“I am glad you arrived safely,” Natalya said as she joined Shirley and Juliette, “and the younger generation?”
“They went to the Cathedral with Sigi and her family, but they should be back at any moment,” Juliette said.
1.30 pm BST
Katy looked up and smiled as Orion O’Ryan came into the dining room, her great aunt and father following her.
“Hey Orion – want to join us?”
“In a few minutes – we need to get our cases to our rooms, but we’ll be right down after that.”
“oh you sit down lass,” her father said, “Your aunt and I will sort the rooms out.”
Katy and Orion looked at both of them, as her father said “right – come on Brenda, we can do this quickly.”
“Don’t worry – this is neutral ground,” Katherine said as the redheaded Belfast lass sat down.
“So how was the flight?”
“Interesting – have you seen the powers that be yet?”
“You mean the women in charge? Not yet,” Katherine said as she looked round.
“MISSY! How on earth do you do that?”
“Training,” Missy said as she and Alice appeared at the table. “Anyway, I’m glad you both made it – let me introduce you to someone who will act as an additional chaperone for the next few days. This is Paula Gaunt, and her daughter Aileen.”
“Pleasure to meet you both – and to see you again Katherine,” Paula said with a smile.
“Hello Paula – so what induced you to come here?”
“Duty – I’m the keynote speaker at the dinner on Tuesday. I invited Aileen to come as she is the same age as you two.”
“And I wanted to meet you – after Caroline and Jo came to visit, they said you would be here next,” Aileen said as she looked at Orion and Katy.
“Well, pull up a seat – let’s have some lunch together.”
“Why don’t we make our way over there,” Missy said as she indicated a nearby table, leaving the three girls to talk to each other.
3 pm BST
“Well, here they are,” Paula said as Alice and Mandy came in.
“Good afternoon darlings,” Mandy drawled as she kissed Paula, Brenda and Katherine, “ready for a couple of days work before the fun.”
“The girls are working, I’m here for the meeting,” Katherine said, “as are both of these ladies – allegedly.”
“See – we do the work, they drink the Guinness,” Alice said with a laugh. “But it does mean we get to split the journey to the weekend.”
"So are they under lock and key safely Alice?" Katherine asked.
"They had better be," Alice sighed, "you wouldn't believe the security I have them under at Tom and Paula's place in Dublin. Caroline gave her very best advice."
"Well it's a most anticipated wedding, I could probably make myself a fortune leaking pictures in advance..."
"You just dare Katherine Carter!" Alice glared.
"Now would I really do that?"
"That's an interesting question," a voice giggled.
"Hey Maeve," Alice kissed the newcomer.
“Maeve,” Katherine said, “allow me to introduce Kathy O’Dowd, Orion’s great aunt and chaperone.”
“So you’re here for the meeting as well,” Maeve said with a smile.
“In part – Orion’s father will split the chaperone duties with me,” Kathy said quietly.
“Gran – Orion, Aileen and I are going to go for a swim,” Katy said as she appeared in the bar.
“All right – but remember we have a meeting later to give schedules,” Alice said as Katy walked off.
“I’m glad they’ve hit it off,” Paula said, “it means they have a friend their own age there as well.”
5 pm CET
“Countess de Ros and Miss Richmond,” Frau Strecher said as Sandy and Diana came in.
“There you are ma cherie,” Diana said as Juliette and Sigi stood up, “how are you feeling?”
“A lot better now both of you are here,” Juliette said, “where are the others?”
“Heather is helping Sands and George to unpack, Jo and Abby went straight off with Cari and Annie,” Sandy said as Frau Strecher brought fresh coffee in. “Did I see Natalya and Wilhelm?”
“You did – they arrived earlier,” Sigi said. “The troops, as they say, are gathering.”
“So is there a schedule for the week?”
“Well, up to Wednesday everything is more informal, but more and more people are arriving. Thursday we have a rehearsal and a private mass at the cathedral, fillowed by tea with the Cardinal. Then Friday we have the parade.”
“A ceremonial parade by the Furstenheim Jaegers – with all of us.”
Sandy smiled as she picked up her coffee. “Well - how many brides-to-be will spend the night before their wedding participating in a military parade Ju?'
"I know Sandy,” Juliette said with a smile, “but it really is a great way of introducing me and the girls to the people of the Estates and of Furstenheim loyalty."
"So have you been practicing Ju?" Sigi asked.
"Oh yes - Hauptfeldwebel Strecher has been putting us through our paces."
"And why doesn't it surprise me that she is the unit's Sergeant-Major?" Sandy shook her head.
"I know..." Ju rolled her eyes.
"As I told you weeks ago, it's not easy marching in high heels." Sigi spoke again.
"But you make it look so easy Sigs."
"Ah but I've been doing it a long while."
"So does Annie march?"
"No she gets to sit in a carriage in her maternity uniform and holds my Granddaughter, who by the way looks so cute in her little uniform."
“Okay – so Friday is that, and I presume dinner later. And then Saturday.”
“A most important day,” Klaus said as he appeared with Dieter. “A small civil ceremony and then the main event.”
“Who is coming to the little civil wedding at the Neues Rathaus?" Dieter asked.
"Just very close family and friends," Klaus responded.
"Yes in contrast to the cathedral it will be very intimate." Juliette leaned on her betrothed's shoulder. "And I told Herr Breitz 'NO CAMERAS'."
"Good," Sigi smiled.
“That will be at ten, allowing us time to return and change before the cathedral.”
“Then,” Juliette said, “back here for the reception – have you seen the grand hall yet?”
“I thought Chateau de Ros was big,” Jo said as she and Abby looked round, “but this is amazing. This is where the reception will be held?”
“Yup,” Carina said as Judith held Abby’s hand, “I think we can get everyone in here.”
“And the rest,” Abby whispered, “and there’s a parade on Friday?”
“Oh yeah – me in full uniform and high heels. Good stuff.”
“So where are the dresses,” Jo said as she looked out of one of the high windows.
“Apparently under guard in Dublin until Alice and Mandy come over mid week.”
“Safest place for them,” Abby said as she looked round.
"And this is just your townhouse Cari?” Jo sat down before she said “It makes the Gaunt's place in Dublin look almost tiny."
"Does it Jo? Well all I know is that this is where Pop and Ingy usually think of as home."
"I'll need Big Sister to tell me what all these paintings are." Jo looked round the walls of the great hall.
"Well I bet Heather knows a lot more about them then I do."
"You of course Mademoiselle Countess aren't intimidated by this one bit are you?" Annie asked Abby.
"Not really... Although I think grandmamma will be most impressed."
"Well for a girl from a split-level rancher in the St Louis suburbs, I have to admit I am."
"And I have to agree with you." Jo nodded her head. “Clint is going to have his mind blown as well when he gets here.”
“When does he arrive?”
“Tuesday – so I get a day and a bit to prepare for the fun...”
"You know we have an appointment to go to the Nymphenburg Palace tonight Annie and be introduced to the Duke?"
"Uggh don't remind me Cari,” Annie said as she shook, “the thought terrifies me."
"Why?" asked Jo.
"Because in a slightly different world he'd not be Duke of Bavaria, but King of Bavaria..."
"And as such our overlord," Carina laughed as she finished the sentence.
"I have heard he can be slightly terrifying."
"No,” Cari said, “he's just an old gentleman of the real old school darling, and remember he survived a Nazi concentration camp as a child."
"Oh God, why was he in a camp?" asked Abigail.
"Because the Wittelsbach's were anti-Nazi, and didn't keep their mouths shut about it."
“Big history lesson this week as well,” Abby said with a smile.
“Can I have a hug Aunt Abby?”
“Of course you can little one,” Abby said as she picked Judith up and rubbed noses with her.
“Do we wear the pretty dress soon, Mama?”
“We all do little one,” Cari said.
“Ah there you are,” Sigi said as she came in, “we will be having an early meal tonight, to give some of you a chance at an early night.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jo said as she stretched her arms up.