Michael Moorcock



In Which Is Presented the Palace of Queen Gloriana Together with a Description of Some of Its Denizens and a Brief Account of Certain Activities Taking Place in the City of London on New Year’s Eve Ending the Twelfth Year of Gloriana’s Reign

The Palace is as large as a good-sized town, for through the centuries its outbuildings, its lodges, its guest houses, the mansions of its lords and ladies in waiting have been linked by covered ways, and those covered ways roofed, in turn, so that here and there we find corridors within corridors, like conduits in a tunnel, houses within rooms, those rooms within castles, those castles within artificial caverns, the whole roofed again with tiles of gold and platinum and silver, marble and mother-of-pearl, so that the palace glares with a thousand colours in the sunlight, shimmers constantly in the moonlight, its walls appearing to undulate, its roofs to rise and fall like a glamorous tide, its towers and minarets lifting like the masts and hulks of sinking ships.

Within, the palace is rarely still; there is a coming and going of great aristocrats in their brocades, silks and velvets, their chains of gold and silver, their filigree poignards, their ivory farthingales, cloaks and trains rippling behind them, sometimes carried by little boys and girls in such a weight of cloth it seems they can barely walk. There is precise and delicate music to be heard from more than one source, and nobles and retainers all pace to the music’s time. In certain halls and rooms masques and plays are rehearsed, concerts performed, portraits painted, murals sketched, tapestries woven, stone carved, verses recited; and there are courtships, consummations, quarrels, of the intense sort always found in the confines of such a universe as this. And in those forgotten spaces between the walls live the human scavengers, the dwellers in the glooms-vagabonds, disgraced servants, forgotten mistresses, spies, ostracised squires, love children, the deformed, abandoned whores, idiot relatives, hermits, madmen, romantics who would accept any misery to be near the source of power; escaped prisoners, destitute nobles too ashamed to reveal themselves in the city below, rejected suitors, defaulting husbands, fear-driven lovers, bankrupts, the sick and the envious; all dwell and dream alone or in their own societies, with their own clearly marked territories and customs, living apart from those who exist in the brilliantly lighted halls and corridors of the palace proper, yet side by side with them, rarely suspected.

Below the palace lies the great city, capital of an Empire, rich in gold and fame, the home of adventurers, merchants, poets, playwrights, magicians, alchemists, engineers, scientists, philosophers, craftsmen of every sort, senators, scholars-there is a great University-theologians, painters, actors, buccaneers, moneylenders, highwaymen, dancers, musicians, astrologers, architects, ironmasters, masters of the great smoking manufactories on the outskirts of Albion’s capital, prophets, exiles from foreign lands, animal trainers, peacekeepers, judges, physicians, gallants, flirts, great ladies and noble lords; all bustle together in the city’s alehouses, ordinaries, theatres, opera houses, inns, concert halls; its forums, its wineshops and places of contemplation, parading fantastic costumes, resisting conformity at any cost, so that even the wit of the city’s urchins is as sharp as the finest conversation of the rural lord; the vulgar speech of the street arabs is so full of metaphor and condensed reference that an ancient poet would have given his soul to possess the tongue of a London apprentice; yet it is a speech almost impossible to translate, more mysterious than Sanskrit, and its fashions change from day to day Moralists decry these habits, this perpetual demand for mere empty novelty, and argue that decadence looms, the inevitable result of sensation-seeking, yet the demand on the artists for novelty, while it certainly means that bad artists produce only fresh and shallow sensation, causes the best of them to fire their plays with a language that is vital and complex (for they know it will be understood), with events that are melodramatic and fabulous (for they know they will be believed), with argument on almost any subject (for there are many who will follow them), and so it is, too, for the best musicians, poets, philosophers-not excluding those lowly writers of prose who would claim legitimacy for what everyone knows is a bastard art. In short, our London is alive at every level; even its vermin, one might suspect, is articulate and flea discourses with flea on the question whether the number of dogs in the universe is finite or infinite, while rats wrangle over such profundities as which came first, the baker or the bread. And where language catches fire, so are deeds performed to match, and the deeds, in turn, colour the language. Great deeds are done in this city, in the name of its Queen, whose palace looks down upon it. Expeditions set forth and discoveries are made. Inventors and explorers enrich the Realm-twin rivers flow into the city, one of Knowledge, one of Gold, and the lake they form is the stuff of London, equal parts intermingled. And there is conflict, of course, and crime here-the passions are high and heady, the crimes are fierce and horrible, for the stakes can be enormous; greed is a giant, ambition is Faith to more than a few-a drug, a disease, a cup that can never be drained. Yet there are many, too, who have learned the virtues of the rich; who are enlightened, humane, charitable, generous; who live according to the highest Stoic tradition; who display their nobility and offer themselves as examples to their fellows, both rich and poor; who are mocked for their gravity, hated for their humility, envied for their self-sufficiency Pompous piety, some would call their state, and so it is, for some of them, those without humour, without irony. These proud princelings and captains of industry, merchant adventurers, priests and scholars follow a code, but they are individuals nonetheless-even eccentrics-though all would serve the Nation and Empire (in the person of their Queen) at any cost to themselves, even, should necessity demand, with their lives; for the State is All and the Queen is Just. Only secondly, to a man and woman, would they consult private conscience, on any matter whatsoever, for they would deem all personal decisions subservient to the needs of the State.

It has not always been so in Albion, was never as completely true as it is, now that Gloriana rules; for these people who, through their efforts, hold this vast Commonwealth in balance, who make it a coherent entity, who ensure its stability, believe that there is only one factor which maintains this equilibrium: the Queen Herself.

The circle of Time has turned, from golden age to silver, from brass to iron and now, with Gloriana, back to gold again.

Gloriana the First, Queen of Albion, Empress of Asia and Virginia, is a Sovereign loved and worshipped as a goddess by many millions of subjects, admired and respected by many more millions throughout the Globe. To the theologian (save for the most radical) she is the only representative of the gods on Earth, to the politician she is the embodiment of the State, to the poet she is Juno, to the common folk she is Mother; saint and villain alike are united in their love for her. If she laughs, the Realm rejoices; if she weeps, the Nation mourns; if she has a need, a thousand would volunteer to satisfy it; if she is angry, there would be scores to take vengeance on the object of her anger. And thus is created for her an almost unbearable responsibility: Thus she must practise diplomacy at all levels of her life, betraying no emotion, expressing no demands, dealing fairly with all petitioners. In her Reign there has never been an execution or an arbitrary imprisonment, corrupt public servants have been sought for actively and dismissed, courts and tribunals deal justice to poor and powerful equally; many, who offend against the letter of the law, are released if the circumstances of their crimes are such that their innocence is evident-so thus, effectually, the injustice of the Law of Precedent is abolished. In town and meadow, in village and manufactory, in capital or colony, the equilibrium is maintained through the person of this noble and humane Queen.

Queen Gloriana, only child of King Hern VI (despot and degenerate, traitor to the State, betrayer of his trust, whose hand caused a hundred thousand heads to fall, unmanly self-murderer), of the old blood of Elficleos and of Brutus, who overthrew Gogmagog, is forever aware of this love her subjects have for her and she returns their love; yet that love, both given and received, is a burden upon her-a burden so great that she can scarcely admit its presence-a burden, it might be thought, that is the chief cause of her enormous private distress. Not that the Realm is unaware of her distress; it is whispered of in Great Houses and common ordinaries, in country seats and clerical colleges, while poets in verses refer obscurely to it (without malice) and foreign enemies consider how they might make use of it for their own ends. Old gossips call it Her Majesty’s Curse, and certain metaphysicians claim that the Curse upon the Queen is representative of the Curse lying upon the whole of humankind (or perhaps, specifically the people of Albion, if they wish to score a provincial point or two). Many have sought to lift this Curse from the Queen and the Queen has encouraged them; she never quite gives up hope. Dramatic and fantastical remedies have been

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