Britain was hit hard by the Change, but not as completely wrecked as its Continental neighbors; this was partly due to geographical accident—the existence of offshore islands with significant food resources which could be defended against the hordes—and partly to accidents of leadership.
By March 19th, 1998, the second day of the Change, London was already in dire condition, with unchecked fires raging, a breakdown of water supplies, and extensive civil disturbances. Reports showed similar conditions throughout most of the United Kingdom, and on the continent of Europe itself.
At this point leadership became crucial; Colonel Sir Nigel Loring, Bart. (Blues and Royals, SAS) and several other middle-rank officers were tasked with securing the Royal Family, and authorized to use any means necessary under the draconian emergency powers legislation already in place.
(In point of fact the officers concerned themselves probably more or less granted themselves the necessary authority, almost unnoticed by their distracted—and overwhelmed—political superiors, who dithered between panic and insane over-optimism. Their military chiefs were more realistic and quietly assisted them.)
The officers in question realized that if the Change continued, mainland Britain would inevitably perish; the dense urban population was simply grossly in excess of the carrying capacity, and the breakdown of order would inevitably take the rural areas (themselves helplessly dependent on modern technology) down with them. Similar conclusions lay behind long-established plans and staff studies of the probable results of nuclear warfare; and it was plain that the effects of the Change would be, if anything, worse.
They therefore decided to save what they could by evacuating the Queen to the Isle of Wight, the nearest defensible enclave which could also have some prospect of feeding itself. The Queen and her household, along with a convoy of Guards and SAS soldiers, some skilled personnel, and their families left London on Day Three on foot, horseback, and by impressed horse-drawn vehicles, and arrived on the Isle approximately one week later. Advance parties were already there, establishing order and beginning the gathering of supplies.
Colonel Loring (with the concurrence of the highest level of the military) had also quietly arranged for the proclamation of “refuge areas” on the other main offshore islands of Britain—Anglesey, Man, the western Scottish islands, Orkney and the Shetlands, and units were sent to secure and defend them, with orders to isolate them from the doomed mainland (except for salvage of all possible food and supplies) and then to reestablish communications with Wight.
Prince Charles was at the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk on the day of the Change. A special SAS task force was dispatched to rescue him; the Prince, who had been thinking over the implications of the Change even then, insisted on a rather circuitous route south and west, collecting tools, seed, livestock, and organic farmers of his acquaintance along the way, and stopping briefly at Highgrove, the estate where he had been experimenting with organic methods since the early 1980’s.
Meanwhile, Task Force Windsor had arrived and taken charge on Wight, under strict martial law. An Emergency Executive Council was established, chaired at first by the Queen, and after her death in the winter of 1998-99, by the newly crowned Charles III. Where his mother had merely presided, Charles soon became a full partner and primus inter pares on the Council, otherwise dominated by the officers of the rescue column. Other members included technical specialists and some local leaders.
The political leadership was scheduled to evacuate from London to Wight, but the last message received (some three weeks after the Change) spoke of ‘delays’, and in fact they vanished without trace somewhere in the vast charnel-house of London.
The new King’s pre-Change expertise in agricultural management (and especially in organic, low-input farming) became peculiarly relevant. In addition, the monarchy became symbolically important to the profoundly shocked and traumatized survivors as an element of continuity. The modern world had been discredited; ancient things were a comfort, and a life-raft in a very stormy sea.
The year-round population of the Isle of Wight was approximately 130,000 as of Change Day; the first weeks saw several thousand fatalities, from the usual causes—accidents, fires, suicide, and the failure of medical technology.
The new Council immediately inaugurated a series of measures to ensure survival. Food rationing was the first of these, along with strict control of livestock resources, and redistribution of population to plant the maximum acreage with hand tools before spring was too far advanced.
Luckily, Wight had a substantial area of winter wheat and spring barley already in the ground before the Change occurred. Programs were put in hand to manufacture the necessary hand and animal-powered tools, to preserve working stock (particularly horses) and seed grain for the next year, to improvise a sail-and-oar powered fishing fleet, to modify housing, and to provide essential infrastructure—water supply, handcarts and wagons, alternative medicines.
It was also necessary to provide for the defense of the Isle against the inevitable hordes of starving refugees. Colonel Loring was appointed C-in-C of the armed forces and oversaw their retraining with pre-gunpowder weapons, and the training and drilling of a militia. His son Alleyne Loring was only a newly-commissioned subaltern at the time, but he had extensive experience with ‘recreationists’—groups which trained and fought with pre-gunpowder weapons. He convinced his father that recruiting several hundred of them—including Simon Stanley, closely involved in the project to recreate the medieval longbow; see THE GREAT WARBOW, Strickland and Hardy—was cost-effective.
Several engineering officers were tasked with salvaging, duplicating and eventually improving on the old weapons and armor.
A “navy” was also improvised, mainly from yachts and surviving sailing vessels and under the command of RN personnel, to patrol the narrow channel between Wight and the mainland of Britain.
Acting quickly, small, well-armed units from Wight also scoured accessible areas on the southern mainland for food, livestock (particularly horses for breeding stock) and other essential materials before they were destroyed, including preserved antique arms and armor. Southampton was nearby, a major port involved in the grain-shipping trades; by Herculean efforts, substantial amounts of grain and flour were rowed and sailed to Wight, and more was salvaged from ships adrift nearby.
Limited numbers of mainlanders were allowed entry—in fact, some were sought out almost as soon as Task Force Windsor reached the Isle of Wight by the same raiding parties doing salvage work. These included several thousand farmers and their families (particularly those engaged in small-scale and/or organic farming and those with experience using draught horses), handicraftsmen, and others with scarce skills likely to be useful to the long-term reconstruction effort. The other island refuges were following a similar program, though usually slightly less systematically.
It was reluctantly but firmly acknowledged that entry to the island would have to be strictly limited, or its resources would be eaten bare and everyone would die in the ensuing collapse. Harrowing battles against mobs of the starving were fought in the strait and on the coast where some made landfall, and bodies by the thousand washed up on the shores of the Isle during the summer, autumn and winter of the first year.
The Council had estimated that the Isle could support slightly over 200,000 from the available resources, and approximately 240,000 were present and on the ration rolls by January of CY2.
By a combination of ruthlessness, organization, and sheer hard work by all, the Isle of Wight survived as a civilized community and the core of a new Britain. Similar, if slightly less successful, struggles occurred on several other offshore islands.
By the end of the ‘die-off’ and just before the resettlement of the mainland, the population of the various refuges around the coast of Britain was:
Isle of Wight: 250,000 Anglesey: 40,000 Man: 40,000 Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland: 60,000 Total: 390,000
Survivors on the mainland of Britain were very few; the combination of very heavy population relative to the total land area and good roads ensured that it was a ‘death zone’ as bad as any in the world; hunger was the primary cause of death, but epidemic disease and civil disorder also killed their millions.
Most of those who did survive were the more successful cannibal/bandit gangs. A few others had managed to hide in remote areas—a scattering in Caithness and Sutherland, and in the Border hills or the fastnesses of Snowdonia. By the spring of the second Change Year, the die-off was largely complete; mainland Britain was effectively empty of human life, for the first time in over 10,000 years. Even with the island refuges, the total was probably lower than it had been since the early Bronze Age.
The Emergency Council began resettlement of the mainland in the second Change Year. The islands were functionally overcrowded and food supplies were only barely adequate; apart from Wight, survival had involved running down stocks of sheep and cattle, which meant they were living off capital.
The first priority was to locate fields of “self-seeded” volunteer grain. These were quite extensive since most fields had gone unharvested in the previous summer, but tools and draught-stock were lacking and extremely labor-intensive methods would have to be used.
The next priority would be planting for the upcoming year; spring grain, and then the main planting season to follow in the autumn.
At this point, priorities had to be established. Over the winter of 1998-9 the Council defined the major problems as:
- Shortage of labor—paradoxically, the die-off had been so complete that there were simply not enough hands to cultivate the available land, or even to harvest most of the several million acres of volunteer grain.
- Shortage of skills—even though the refuge areas had been remote and rural by British standards, most of the survivors in absolute terms were former town-dwellers without any agricultural skills; for example, only around two thousand of the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight were farmers or farm-workers, although as many more had been brought in by the salvage-rescue parties. Even the farmers among the survivors were largely ignorant of the preindustrial farming methods which were ones now available. In terms of manufacturing, while wreckage of the only industrial and post-industrial Britain provided an abundance of raw materials, few were skilled in the handicraft methods which were now all that altered natural law allowed.
- Shortage of tools, horses, and oxen.
- Deterioration of the infrastructure. Large urban areas had without exception become impassable and dangerous wilderness due to fire, flooding and general destruction; repair or upkeep of even the most basic services was out of the question, since most labor would have to be directed to production of food and basic farming tools. Resettlement would have to be on the basis of farmsteads, villages and at most one or two small cities, preferably ones with a high proportion of older structures.
- Loss of cultural continuity. The Council, even in the desperate days of the first Change Year, was determined that the survivors would not relapse into savagery. This implied that long-term projects would have to be undertaken, or at least that forward planning would be necessary. What sort of Britain—or more realistically, England—would emerge from the Change? Decisions made now would influence events for centuries.
The recolonization of the mainland:
1: the first priority was harvesting the volunteer grain crop; this would have to be done with the most basic of hand tools—improvised sickles—and the grain for the most part threshed with flails made from dowling and broom-handles. Some more advanced tools could be salvaged from museums, living-history exhibits and so forth, but for the most part ‘brute force and massive ignorance’ would be the only available method.
Since nearly 3,000,000 acres of volunteer grain were expected to be worth harvesting (albeit yields would be a small fraction of those of a regular planting, in the neighborhood of ten bushels the acre) the amount which could be reaped was a function of the available labor. If enough could be reaped, the food situation would be fully secure. Farms which had planted “heritage” varieties of grain rather than modern hybrids were targeted for special attention, as their strains would breed true.
2: The agriculturally bleak northern islands would be stripped of most of their population to assist and for long-term resettlement—few wanted to make a living farming in Orkney if they could do it in Kent or Hampshire instead—but this would not suffice to rescue more than a fraction of the harvest.
A number of sailing vessels of substantial size had been salvaged, for transport and deep-sea fishing, and crews trained under the direction of surviving hobbyists and yachtsmen.
Exploration showed that the mainland of Europe was mostly empty of human life, a collapse as complete as that of Britain apart from the island refuges. Some of the more remote parts of northern Scandinavia and some of the Baltic islands had survivors, but these were doing fairly well on their own and beginning to organize themselves to reoccupy the area between Stockholm and southern Jutland.
The Faeroe Islands and Iceland were in different circumstances. They had escaped total collapse in the first months, but by the winter of 1998-9 they were in desperate circumstances, with their resources of hand-caught fish and sheep simply not enough to sustain even a fraction of their populations. They faced collapse, less swift than that of Eurasia as a whole, but just as terrible.
Accordingly, in February of 1999, the Council began shipping in refugees from both areas as well as from the British refuge-islands, giving priority to the young and those with farming or fishing experience. After the first harvest began in August, there was enough spare grain to send some on the return voyages to keep people alive long enough to be evacuated. Besides immediate labor needs, the Council was worried that in the long term the empty British countryside might be vulnerable to infiltration by the now more numerous Irish; the Irish survival rate had been over 25%, as opposed to well under 1% in Britain. The Principality of Ulster remained loyal to the Crown, but had its hands full with the Provisional IRA-dominated territories to its immediate west and south.
Over the next two years approximately 250,000 Icelanders and Faeroese were evacuated to southern England; another 60,000 made their way to Scandinavia, where the nascent federation of “Norrland” (see below) was taking shape and resettling the southern death-zones. Only a few thousand were left in their homelands, which could support no more.
3: With arrangements made for the gathering of the first harvest, the Council faced the task of re-starting actual agriculture.
The aim was to establish a system resembling the mixed “High Farming” of the mid-19th century, before industrial inputs or industrial-era artificial fertilizers were widely used. This would provide a reasonable standard of living, but it was no easy matter to recreate it.
Only a few thousand individuals had any real agricultural skills; even fewer really knew how to handle the recreated horse-drawn equipment. Books were some help, but often lacked the crucial details, and many skills could only be learned ‘through the hands’. Often crude ‘labor brigade’ methods would have to be used, and productivity per labor hour would accordingly be rather low at first.
Furthermore, most of the survivors would have to be organized—for the first few years at least—as laborers working under direction, learning a whole new set of skills. In addition, the surviving mainland gangs—the Brushwood Men, as they came to be called—were still a problem and defense was a necessity. Raids by the gangs began almost as soon as permanent communities were reestablished.
The Commanderies: Rural settlement
All mainland territory was declared to be the property of the Crown until otherwise specified. Appraisal teams selected areas for immediate resettlement. The qualities they looked for were land with high soil fertility, reasonable infrastructure (fencing, housing, wells or surviving gravity-flow water systems), good natural drainage, and communications that would be likely to last through the coming seasons of flood and natural decay.
Initial settlement areas stretched from Devon in the west to Kent in the east, and north into the southern Midlands. In the following years the Severn Valley, the Cotswolds, and some areas north and east of the ruins of London were brought under control and a beginning made at reoccupation.
Each resettlement zone was centered on a “Commandery”, a military-civil unit with a small garrison, headed by one of the officers who had overseen the refuge program, assisted by various technical specialists; they tended to be about twice the size of a pre-change parish. Commanderies were loosely grouped by County; that level of administration was overseen by a Lord Lieutenant, assisted by a County Council.
The ‘commanders’—local governors—were in turn were allocated some of the precious farmers and others with relevant skills, and a share of the livestock. It was anticipated that as more individuals gained the necessary skills, and as equipment and stock became available, they could gradually establish farms of their own and that land would be privatized once more.
(In practice, Commanders also tended to favor their own troops when it came time to divide land; this was regarded with some embarrassment, but not seriously restricted.)
Most settlement was nucleated, with villages surrounded by a fringe of farms; as population grew, new Commanderies would be ‘budded off’ on the fringes of the unsettled zone. The Council felt that a certain density of population was necessary to sustain services such as education, to make the upkeep of roads, rails and canals economic, and to make defense and policing easier.
Each Commandery operated under the Emergency Regulations (essentially a fairly strict form of martial law), with authority to levy supplies and labor necessary for defense, internal order, public works, and the implementation of the resettlement plan.
While land eventually became fairly cheap and easily available under a “homesteading” system, capital goods and skills were scarce for a long time, and horses and oxen only gradually became plentiful. Furthermore, bramble and thorn thickets overran most previously cultivated land with astonishing speed, and once established required years of backbreaking work to clear.
Landed property therefore tended to fall into the hands of the skilled, the energetic, the lucky, the well-to-do, and the well-connected—or those who had all these characteristics. Many surviving farmers ended up as modestly prosperous landowners; many former urbanites with no assets beyond a pair of hands ended up as cottagers working for others. However, with labor scarce wages remained reasonable, and rents rather low; the average village worker lived well and had a smallholding (5-8 acres) of their own to supplement their income.
Many Commanders were of pre-Change rural backgrounds themselves, and for that reason (and because while honest and conscientious men themselves for the most part they were after all only human) they also tended to acquire substantial landed property when privatization occurred. Grumbling about this was limited by the fact that the majority of Commanders were genuinely popular with the residents of their Commanderies.
“Commander” and “squire” came to mean much the same thing, and the latter gradually replaced the former in popular usage. In addition, in later years the Crown often granted unsettled land in large holdings to those it wished to reward, on condition that they oversee and finance its settlement.
Without entirely meaning to, the Council’s initial decisions tended to recreate the traditional ‘three-tier’ system of English rural settlement; village/farm/manor.
The villages were inhabited mostly by cottagers/laborers, with a fair sprinkling of craftworkers and service-providers (blacksmiths, weavers, tailors, innkeepers, wheelwrights, maltsters etc.); the farms were divided between yeoman-owners and tenants (themselves often prosperous and preferring to keep their capital in tools and stock rather than tying it up in land); and there was a modestly prosperous gentry, often involved in local government or military service.
Apprenticeship and the Skills Program:
Communication between Commanderies was by road and by animal- or hand-powered carts on the railways, and eventually by reconditioned canals. A program to maintain the essential routes was set in motion, involving labor-levies under the direction of a cadre of specialists.
Non-agricultural areas of the economy faced the same skills shortage as farming. For some time ordinary consumer goods—clothes, hand-tools, shoes—could be salvaged from urban stocks. Obviously this was a wasting resource, however, and some things—farming equipment, millwork, sailing vessels, wagons, and a thousand others—had to be manufactured and maintained as soon as possible.
Individuals with the relevant skills were identified, and volunteers (where possible) “assigned” to learn from them.
First priority was given to items simply not available, such as animal-drawn plows and reaping machines, and farrier-blacksmith training. However, a long-term program to reestablish the manufacture of basic consumer goods such as cloth and leatherwork was also put in hand, and to maintain skills such as thatching, bricklaying, masonry, boatbuilding, and so forth.
It was obvious that the elaborate formal educational hierarchies of pre-Change society were no longer sustainable. Once the first emergency was past, most people would learn their basic life-skills the way children and youth had from time immemorial—from their parents, by example, and through apprenticeship.
At the same time, the Council was determined that there would be no relapse into mass illiteracy.
From CY 2 on, village and town schools were established. A new Act mandated six months of classwork from ages six to fourteen for all children.
In CY3 Winchester College was reopened as a public (private secondary) school, the first since the Change, with emphasis on general education, including estate management, and a cadet program.
Various specialist schools (nursing, medical, engineering) were also established, leading up to the opening of Winchester University in CY7; a second center was established at Oxford in CY24. A naval/military academy was also opened at Portsmouth.
A salvage program for books and works of art, first in Britain and then (to a lesser degree) in Europe was instituted as early as CY3; it focused on getting the most important heirloom artifacts in places where they’d be sheltered from the weather and available as population and wealth grew once more.
When the resettlement began, London was already a sodden burnt-out mass of ruins, and rapidly became worse. Winchester had an excellent location, good communications, and historic associations. The 18th-century core of the old Saxon royal city was reoccupied in CY2, and became the center of administration, education, and much of such manufacturing as was possible.
Proclamations under the Emergency Powers acts in CY1 rendered all surviving adults liable for Territorial Militia service. During the first six months this was very much a reality, as thousands were required to turn out to defend the island refuges, mostly with improvised pikes, axes, sharpened shovels, and clubs.
Subsequently, all adults were required to keep and practice with a longbow, and to keep a sword, buckler, helmet, and jack (mail shirt or brigandine). Exemptions and entrance requirements made the militia in practice largely (though not entirely) a male preserve. The militia also provided an organized force subject to call-up for emergency duty; fire, flood, and other natural catastrophes.
(Archery became a favorite sport nearly everywhere, the more so as hunting for the pot assumed some importance in most rural areas.)
The regular military was based on the units which had established the refuges, and was from the beginning a volunteer force. It was also quite modest in size; until the first Moorish raids in CY6, only internal-security duties were necessary, and much of its time was taken up with public works.
The Regular army consisted of ‘light’ forces—mounted-infantry bowmen—and ‘heavy’. The latter were men-at-arms equipped roughly in 15th-century style, and capable of acting as shock cavalry or heavy infantry at need. There was a small cadre of engineers, capable of building and besieging fortifications, but for the most working on civil projects.
The Royal Navy was likewise modest in size and mostly part-time; RN ships were usually occupied with carrying freight, exploration and patrol work. As civilian merchant shippers reemerged towards the end of the first decade of the Change, RN vessels dropped out of the ordinary carrying trade.
The population of Britain proper (see below for “Ireland”) was approximately 380,000 as of January of CY2.
The relocation program brought almost all the population of the ‘northern isles’ to southern England, leaving less than ten thousand behind—few wanted to risk the isolation that would follow when most had left Man, or Orkney, or Lewis or Skye.
The 250,000 English and 100,000 Scots and Welsh in the resettlement zones of southern England were soon joined by roughly 250,000 Icelanders and 40,000 Faeroese, for a total of 650,000.
Thereafter Britain’s population grew mainly by natural increase and secondarily by a steady trickle of immigration, at first from Ireland, and then from Ireland and the East Baltic area (Balts, Poles, and Finns). Some emigration to the mainland colonies (see below) began in the later part of the first decade.
After the first Change Year, with food abundant and good preventative medicine, death rates were only slightly higher than in pre-Change Britain; averages were in the 6-7 per 1000 per year range. Infant mortality in particular was largely unchanged. The main effect of the loss of high-tech medical care was that very old, very ill people died quickly rather than lingering for several years. Average lifespans remained in the 70’s for both sexes, after a fairly considerable ‘spike’ in mortality among the elderly in the first two Change Years.
Birth-rates were depressed for most of the first twelve months after the Change by the only barely adequate diet and very heavy burden of physical labor.
Contraception remained well-understood and available, if in varieties more clumsy and inconvenient than before—eg., intrauterine loops and barrier methods rather than the pill.
However, with children once more a long-term economic asset—and with competing satisfactions once more limited—birth-rates increased sharply in the post-Change era.
By CY 5-6, age at first marriage had stabilized around 23-24 for women and a year or two later for men.
Total Fertility Rates (median number of children per woman over her lifetime) rose to approximately 3.5 and thereafter fluctuated in the 3.3-4 range; allowing for the lower infant and overall mortality and the high degree of nuptiality this is roughly equivalent to what was common throughout most of the 18th century, or at the height of the post-WWII baby boom in the 1950’s. (For purposes of comparison the TFR for pre-Change Britain was 1.7 in 1998.)
Hence by the end of the first Change decade, the population was growing quite rapidly, usually at around 2% per annum. This growth accelerated as age distribution also reverted to an earlier pattern, with relatively fewer older people, and a large percentage of children and young adults in their primary reproductive years. By the end of the first generation—CY 25—a majority of the inhabitants of the Kingdom were those born after that fateful March 18th.
Language and ethnicity:
As of the end of CY3, the population of mainland Britain was a little more than half British and the remainder Icelander and Faeroese. Of the British majority, around two-thirds were English, and the rest Welsh (from Anglesey), Manx, and Scots—the latter divided between those from the Western Isles and the northerners from Orkney and Shetland.
The Council followed a policy (briefly interrupted when Queen Hallgerda gained an ascendancy over King Charles) of mixing all elements fairly evenly in each Commandery.
Almost all the Scandinavian immigrants were already fluent in English, thanks to their excellent pre-Change educational systems, as were the Welsh and Scots, though a fair proportion of these were Welsh and Gaelic speakers as well.
Education in the new Britain, however, was uniformly in English. While other languages were not forbidden, they were not given any assistance either—and under the hard conditions of the early Change Years, that meant that they were not used above the conversational level.
English-speakers were in a majority, and occupied most of the status positions in the new society; the rest of the population already knew the language. This, combined with extensive intermarriage almost from the beginning, ensured that wholesale ‘language shift’ took place over the next generation. English became the language of communication, and then overwhelmingly the home language of the entire population.
(However, Welsh and Scots Gaelic did survive among the small populations remaining on Anglesey and the Western Isles; and in fact, became more dominant there as those remants reoccupied the nearly deserted landscape, since they were left mostly to their own devices by the government in Winchester and no longer had close contact with overwhelmingly more numerous Anglophone populations for some time.)
The new English dialect of southern Britain—known locally as the ‘burr’ — did, however, have substantial differences from the pre-Change standard. Some features drew on the rural dialect of the Isle of Wight; there were also loan-words from Welsh, Gaelic, and above all from Icelandic, amounting to several hundred in all.
Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco:
Most of Spain became a death-zone as empty as mainland Britain or France. The crowded tourist-isles of Majorca and the Balerics fared no better, and neither did most of the adjacent Mahgreb, heavily dependent on modern inputs as it was, and dotted with multi-million population cities such as Algiers, Oran, Rabat and Casablanca.
The sole substantial exception was the British colony of Gibraltar. Connected to the mainland only by a narrow isthmus, it proved possible (under strong military leadership) to defend the “Rock” once more, this time from a massive attack by the starving.
The supplies stored supplies in the tunnels, together with several providential grain ships which passed close enough by to be unloaded or towed into port, proved enough to bring the population of approximately 30,000 through the first Change Year intact. Water was also short, but adequate—if only just.
Contact with the Isle of Wight was established via sailing craft during the summer of 1998. The garrison commander placed himself under the orders of the Emergency Executive Council. This was fairly theoretical until CY2, when British input in the resettlement process became significant—mainly by furnishing ships and overall leadership.
As the first Change decade wore on, a steady flow of British (and Icelander/Faeroese and Irish) settlers came to join the effort to establish farming communities in southern Spain and northern Morocco, lured by the favorable climate and fertile soils. Reconditioned orchards and vineyards, cotton and sugar-cane fields provided cargoes much in demand in the motherland; some subsidies were given to encourage settlement around the naval bases established on the Moroccan coast to guard against Moorish (Mauritanian and Senegalese) raiders, and to preempt any attempt on their part to settle.
By CY 25 the Guadalquivir valley had been (albeit very thinly) resettled and outposts established as far south as Marrakesh, as far north as Valencia and the Tagus valley, and as far east as the area around Algiers.
The only resistance to this expansion came from the small relict populations of the Riff and the High Atlas; moving down into the lowlands, they found them preempted by the British/Gibralterian settlers.
Note on dialect: the actual speech of Gibraltar at the time of the Change was a form of Spanish, albeit a rather eccentric one. This remained a living tongue for some time in the city itself, but in the resettled rural areas (where northern immigrants ranged from a majority to a large minority) gave way to English over the next several generations. Loan-words and a distinct accent remained, however, to mark the “Southern” dialect of the New English.
France and the Netherlands:
Survivors in France, apart from equivalents of the Brushwood Men, numbered no more than 75,000 in all, mostly in the most remote areas of the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, and the Alps. The Netherlands were still more devastated; only a few of the Frisian islands maintained any population at all, and the North Sea soon came in over the untended defenses, restoring the vast marshes and the salt lakes. Belgium was intermediate between the two.
For the first three Change Years the British government paid little attention to these areas. However, with the founding of Norrland the more far-sighted members of the Council decided that a long-term division of the empty territories would be necessary. The Treaty of Gotland established the western boundaries of Norrland as running along those of the pre-Change German frontier.
This remained very theoretical indeed for quite some time, as neither Great Britain nor Norrland had the population to colonize the vacant spaces. The only British presence for the first few years was that of modest salvage expeditions scouring for tools and artwork.
However, towards the end of the first decade of the Change, the British government began resettlement on a limited scale, mostly at the mouths of the great rivers (Seine, Loire, Gironde) and at a few spots along the coast of Picardy and Flanders.
These continental outposts remained modest until the bulk of the potential arable land in southern and eastern England was at least claimed, if not actually resettled. However, attractive terms were offered to help settlers, and they were joined by a steady trickle from the remaining civilized villages of French survivors, most of which were too small and scattered to sustain basic services.
Demand for land on the continent tended to increase steadily well before all the potential acreage in England was under the plow once more; after all, the area just across the channel offered abundant fields as good as the best available in England, and with a slightly more genial climate.
Prince Edward Island:
The Atlantic coast of North America fared as badly as most of Europe; it was the home of megalopolis, and even the Maritime Provinces of Canada had little arable land and were food-deficit zones. Newfoundland, for example, effectively produced no food at all, and even the inshore fishery was moribund.
The major exception—and therefore the major area of survival—was Prince Edward Island. Canada’s smallest province was easily isolated from the mainland, lightly populated—total numbers had not increased in a century—and had a very large percentage of its modest area in arable land. Combined with quick action by the provincial government, this preserved it, almost uniquely in its continent, from famine and mass die-off.
120,000 islanders were left alive when the spring of 1999 came. A few thousand more were found in the adjacent areas of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Together they made up by far the majority of survivors along the whole Atlantic coast from Labrador to Florida.
Expansion on the mainland began by CY3. Initially it was directed towards the limited areas of good farmland in the Maritime provinces, and then towards the entirely empty St. Lawrence valley between the ruins of Montreal and Quebec City. Not for generations would the mega-necropolis of the former American coastline be much visited, although voyages to the Caribbean began much earlier.
Politically Prince Edward Island remained a parliamentary democracy throughout the Change, another almost unique accomplishment, shared only by far-off Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand.
One feature of post-Change life in PEI was an intense sense of isolation and abandonment; the vast emptiness of eastern North America was an oppressive presence until the last of those who had been adult at the time of the Change died.
This may have contributed to the eagerness with which relations with the Mother Country (Britain) were re-established, although practical considerations were also important.
Regular interchanges were resumed via schooner by CY3. They grew closer throughout the following decade, and events on the eastern shore were followed closely. When the Succession Crisis of CY10 was over, the islanders accepted William the Great’s invitation to send MP’s to the restored Parliament, and titles were granted to give the island and its mainland colonies representation in the Lords as well; in CY22 a tradition that a child of the monarch would preside locally as Governor-General was established when Princess Dagmar assumed that office.
One of the first fruits of this reunion was the joint resettlement of Barbados, which had been entirely depopulated by the Change and its aftermath.
Charles III CY 1 (1998) – CY 10 (2008) William V "the Great" CY 10 (2008) – CY 41 (2039) Charles IV CY 41 (2039) – CY 68 (2066) Elizabeth III CY 68 (2066) – CY 100 (2098)
Britain was, in effect, under martial law for most of the first decade after the Change.
The Emergency Executive Council governed by fiat and decree. Initially this was simply accepted as inevitable, in the harrowing year of the Change and its immediate aftermath. And initially there was surprisingly little disagreement within the ranks of the Council. The necessities were clear, and the Council met them, which increased its popular support.
Prince Charles (after December of 1998, Charles III) presided over the Council, and for the first few years grew increasingly to be more than primus inter pares, until the Crown had more real political power than at any time since William of Orange or even before.
His knowledge and outlook made him a natural leader in the reconstruction effort, and his intelligence and application impressed most. The dominant military faction of the Council were strong monarchists to a man in any case, and the Crown provided an element of continuity to which the shocked population gravitated.
A sense of gratitude also linked the King to the immigrants from Iceland and the Faeroes who flocked in from early 1999 on. Charles had played an important part in organizing the exodus, and the immigrants were among his strongest supporters. This was the more so when in CY 2 (late 1999) he married Hallgerda Haldorsdottir, an Icelander who he had met while she was working with the Resettlement Board.
Disagreements between King and Council grew slowly. At first, the King’s more arbitrary actions were either regarded as tolerable eccentricities or positively approved by that body, many of which were like the King strong traditionalists given to rural nostalgia (what some called the “Merrie England” or “Deep England” complex) and who had been alienated from modern Britain before the Change. The reversion to the traditional monetary system (12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound) saw widespread applause when a money system was reintroduced in CY4. Nostalgia was a widespread sentiment in any case—not so much nostalgia for the period just before the Change, which was too painful to remember, but nostalgia for an imagined England of long before, the rural England of folk-memory. This had little relation to the actual conditions of pre-industrial times, but it proved immensely influential in establishing the new system.
The reversion to the Imperial measurement system in CY5 was more controversial, but was generally accepted—by then the Crown had deep wells of affection and gratitude to draw upon, among a populace now assured of enough to eat, a growing range of basic consumer goods, and a degree of stability.
More serious was the King’s reluctance to call elections to a new Parliament when the overall situation had stabilized enough to make that feasible. There was widespread unease over the obvious and growing influence of the Queen’s family and favorites at Court, especially when the Special Icelandic Detachment, a heavy-infantry battalion recruited exclusively from Scandinavian immigrants, was founded in CY6.
In the same year seaborne raiders from what had been Senegal and Mauritania began to probe into European waters, first around Gibraltar, and then into the seas around Britain and Ireland. Lack of effective response by the Council followed; rumor (correctly) had it that Queen Hallgerda thought that mobilization would require elections, which she was intensely anxious to avoid.
Instead she encouraged the increasingly eccentric King Charles to concentrate on his hobbyhorses—decreeing the use of thatch on roofs, the wearing of smock-frocks in the countryside, and the teaching of Morris dancing. None of these was actually very unpopular in itself, but they did seem to indicate a certain detachment from reality, as did the growing reliance on the Royal astrologer—later revealed to be in the pay of the Queen.
The opposition on the Council—what came to be known as the Whig party in later times—was headed by Sir Nigel Loring, one of the organizers of the refuge system. He was at first reluctant to do more than privately complain and consult, but became increasingly alarmed as the Moors were allowed to develop bases on the Canary islands, and Queen Hallgerda’s influence over the King became more complete. As yet none of her (three) children by Charles had been a son, but her fertility was unquestioned, and if she produced a male heir there might well be widespread support among the Icelanders for an alternative heir who was half of their blood.
The story of Sir Nigel’s arrest in CY8, his escape from detention at Woburn Abbey, and his flight abroad have been told elsewhere (see THE PROTECTOR’S WAR).
There was widespread outrage when it became known that Lady Loring had been killed by the SID as they attempted to prevent the escape. When Prince William was ordered south in pursuit of Sir Nigel’s escape on the Tasmanian ship Pride of St. Helens, outrage became anger. When the Prince’s barely-seaworthy vessel (the rebuilt Cutty Sark) was dismasted in a storm and then nearly overwhelmed by Moorish corsairs off the Canaries, only to be rescued by the fugitive Sir Nigel, anger became fury among many. The Queen’s party began to lose support even among moderate Icelanders.
This decline was exacerbated when in CY9 (2007) the Prince married Ingeborg Andersdottir, a young physician he met while in hospital on his return from the Canaries.
The King’s increasingly obvious mental problems and the birth of a male heir to Prince William the next year brought matters to a head; the fact that Queen Hallgerda was brought to bed of a son not long after also probably helped precipitate the crisis.
The Queen had managed to bring the entire Special Icelandic Detachment to Winchester on a series of pretexts; she had also (she thought) had most of the regular forces of the Crown dispersed on various tasks, including coast-watching against Moorish raids.
When the King died (officially of a stroke, though rumors that Queen Hallgerda smothered him with a pillow persisted for generations), Hallgerda declared herself Regent for her son Eric, who she claimed would “unite the peoples” of the new British kingdom.
This might have had some degree of plausibility if William’s son Charles had not been born several days earlier.
However, William had been making secret preparations for something of this sort since his return from the Canaries. With the aid of Colonels Knollys and Buttesthorn, he immediately denounced the Queen’s move as an illegal coup.
Part of the SID detachment sent to arrest him defected or refused to use its weapons. The loyalist colonels had secretly managed to keep several companies of Regulars in the vincinity of Winchester, and with their aid and that of some of the Territorial militia, the remaining Hallgerdists among the SID were killed or captured in a series of running fights over the next week. Queen Hallgerda herself and her children were captured attempting to flee to Bristol.
William was immediately crowned as William V. His first proclamation was an amnesty for all surviving supporters of the Queen, and for the Queen herself, who was thereafter kept in comfortable house arrest—ironically enough, at Woburn Abbey. Her children were however taken from her, and distributed for adoption to loyalists.
The SID was disbanded and its men either incorporated into the Regular army or settled as farmers and craftsmen in widely separated Commanderies with reliable commandants.
William’s second official act was to announce that Parliamentary elections would be held within six months, and that a Parliament (and House of Lords) would be summoned.
The new regime’s first order of business was the Moorish threat, against which both the Archbishop of Winchester and the Pope now preached a Crusade. Two years were spent in preparation and diplomatic arrangements, before an allied fleet and army set sail for the Canaries—British, Norrlander, Ulsterman, Shannon-Irish, and Italian. King William was in command, and the corsairs were first crushed in a naval battle off the Canaries, then pursued to their bases on the African mainland and heavily defeated once more. Pirate nests were burned out, and the fleet returned to universal acclaim.
(Except for the “Republic of Ireland”, a rump state in the western part of the island universally known outside its own borders as “Provoland”, just as the Principality of Ulster is termed “Ian’s Rump” by most non-residents. Later investigation showed a degree of collusion and collaboration between Provoland’s leadership and the corsairs.)
On his return in the spring of CY10, the King was met by the Archbishop of Winchester and Pope Benedict XVI, then in England for talks concerning the reunion of the Anglican and Roman churches, and as the envoy of the Umbrian League.
Acting jointly—and somewhat to William’s surprise—they crowned him at the victory celebrations. His title:
William, Rex Britannorum et Imperator Occidentalis: King of Great Britain and Emperor of the West.
William the Great (as he was henceforward universally known, somewhat to his own embarrassment) reigned for several decades until his death in a fox-hunting accident in CY 39/2037, and over a largely peaceful realm, acknowledged as first among equals among the allied European states—except, of course, Provoland, where whiskey and grudges were the national industries.
British Religious Developments:
The post-Change population of Britain was drawn from two main elements—indifferentist British, lapsed Lutheran Icelanders and Faeroese, and a smattering of others.
However, the aftermath of the Change saw a powerful if low-keyed religious revival among the survivors. The mass death of the aftermath was traumatic enough; perhaps almost as important were the long-term implications of the Change, an inexplicable upheaval in the constants of natural law itself. Scientistic materialism was, for most of the population, discredited at a stroke.
For the most part this revival centered around the Church of England—the immigrants had no established church of their own to provide a rallying point, and in any case were mostly eager to ‘fit in’ in their new environment.
As it happened, the three surviving bishops (who did not include either the pre-Change Archbishop of Canterbury or the bishop of Portsmouth) were all of the High Church party, traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. And in any case, this ‘tendency’ within Anglicanism became a powerful beneficiary of the nostalgia for an older England which swept much of the surviving population.
Accordingly, by the end of the first decade of the Change the Church of England was once again attended by a large majority of the population of the kingdom—and was once more largely a matter of village churches and their congregations. Theologically and ritually, this was very much a “smells and bells” organization.
Organizationally, the traditional supremacy of Canterbury was replaced by that of Winchester, which was established as an archbishopric.
In CY5 regular communications were established with the Umbrian League, a group of small villages and towns (effectively city-states) which had survived in northern-central Italy, and which had been reinforced by survivors from the Italian Alps and elsewhere.
(A somewhat larger group of survivors held out in central Sicily around the town of Enna; this became a Kingdom, under somewhat mysterious circumstances about which the island’s emissaries remained resolutely close-mouthed.)
The Umbrian League was a loose federation under the titular supervision of the new head of the Church, a cardinal entrusted with that task by Pope John II before the final collapse in Rome. Escorted by the Swiss Guard, and by some elements of the Vatican bureaucracy, Cardinal Ratzinger had escaped to the north. By CY10 he had also been proclaimed Pope Benedict XVI by the first gathering of Catholic cardinals since the Change; the convening of the College had been an epic in itself.
Benedict had no ambition for secular power. He did, however, have a cold determination to re-knit the global fabric of the Catholic Church, and to establish foundations for the future—he took as his personal motto the Benedictine maxim, “pruned, it grows again”.
One aspect of this was his negotiations with the Church of England. Accidents of survival had made the Anglican hierarchy more receptive to his approaches than had ever been possible before. Negotiations, slowed by distance and initially cautious on both sides, took up the whole of the decade before the accession of William the Great; the new king was however anxious that they succeed, not least because it would help bring the Umbrian and Sicilian forces into his anti-Moorish alliance.
Benedict shared William’s policies in that respect, but also pressed the reunion for its own sake. It was obvious that Great Britain would be the foundation for the rebirth of civilization in most of the West European territories, and he was determined that that regrowth would be on a Catholic basis. Norrland was smaller, farther away, and firmly Lutheran, but there was a crucial window of opportunity for Britain.
Theological problems proved less onerous than organizational ones; the Anglican tradition of a married clergy was a particular stumbling-block.
The eventual reunion was corporate: the Church of England once more recognized the Throne of St. Peter as the head of Christendom, and Benedict (as a “symbol of reunion” and to put the vexed matter of the validity of Anglican orders aside) consecrated the Archbishop of Westminster as priest, bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal-Primate of the Anglican-rite Catholics. He in turn did the same for his subordinates, and so on down to the parish priests.
The matter of the marriage of the clergy was settled by analogy with the Uniate church (Greek Catholic), which had also been permitted to retain this feature when it returned to communion with Rome.
The reunion was greeted with enthusiasm or at least acceptance in most quarters—except, for equal and opposite reasons, in Ian’s Rump and Provoland. The Principality of Ulster remained a dour Free Presbyterian enclave for the most part, and the Republic of Ireland (Provisional) ironically went into schism rather than stay in a Church which included the hated English.
Greater Britain: CY 41:
By the end of William the Great’s eventful life he reigned over a realm encompassing Britain proper, the (internally autonomous) Principality of Ulster, the mainland territories stretching from the Rhine mouth to Gibraltar, the Mahgreb from the Atlantic east to the borders of Sicilian-settled Tunisia, and Prince Edward Island and its offshoots from Barbados to Montreal on the western shore, with the odd scattered bits and pieces elsewhere. (The Falklands were part of the realm once more, for example, and shipped their wool to Bristol in a yearly merchantman.) All of these sent representatives to Winchester; the Principality and PEI also had their own local assemblies for internal issues.
Although independent and four months round-trip traveling time away, the Commonwealths of Tasmania and New Zealand still formally acknowledge the Crown, and solemnly send the name of their new Governor-Generals for ‘approval’ after the fact.
By the end of William’s reign the total population is 2,200,000; 1.2 million in Britain proper, 150,000 in the Principality of Ulster, 250,000 on the western side of the Atlantic, and nearly half a million on the European and African mainlands.
The overwhelming majority, 80% or better, were rural, dwelling in manor, farm and village as farmers, cottagers and craftworkers. With 60,000 dwellers, Winchester was the political, economic, cultural and social capital and the largest city in Europe. Portsmouth (20,000), Bristol (15,000) and Gibraltar (15,000) were the next-largest urban centers. Oxford (5,000) was a sleepy backwater, but its university had been re-established and some of the ancient buildings refurbished.
Within Britain itself, the population was heavily concentrated in the south and east, with its fertile soils and relatively good farming weather. The mainland territories’ largest settled zone was in southern Spain, in the fertile lowlands of Andalusia; elsewhere pockets along the coasts and up the major rivers were frontier zones. Northern Britain and most of Europe were wilderness, where budding forests of oak and beech and chestnut grew up through a scrubby jungle of thorn and brambles.
The economy is dominated by agriculture—local versions of ‘high farming’—and handicrafts, with some water-powered factories and a good deal of seaborne trade; the latter is carried by sophisticated windjammers, and is mainly in luxury goods, but includes some shipments of bulk staples produced in different climatic zones—wine, olive oil, wheat, rice, sugar, dyestuffs like indigo.
Manufacturing centers on textiles (wool, flax, cotton), processing agricultural products, construction, and working up metal goods from salvaged scrap; the dead cities are an endless mine of everything from iron and steel to glass. The largest imports from outside the Empire are exotic goods like coffee (south America), tea (Ceylon) and spices (Zanzibar and the Far East). The cities have small paper mills (using linen rag pulp for the most part), and specialist industries such as printing and the manufacture of precision instruments.
A Visit To Eddsford:
A visitor from any time before the Change would find an exotic mixture of centuries and periods in a typical British village.
But it might take him—call him Chesterbelloc or Billy Morris, if we want him to be happy, or Polly Toynbee (leader-writer for the Guardian), if we want her to be miserable—a while to tell what came from where.
Let him (or her) therefore visit the village of Eddsford, somewhere in eastern Hampshire or western Sussex, on a mellow day late in August, in the fifty-first year after the Change. (AD 2049).
Eddsford was resettled in CY2, but most of its straggle of cottages, shops and worksteads and houses, its irregular green and watering-pond and war memorial (though now including post-Change names), all long predate the catastrophe—although it is more populous now than for a long time before that. The use of older buildings is typical of the zone that was resettled within a few years of the change, before time and weather and fire had a chance to destroy too much. Brick and half-timbering are the commonest materials, with a few stone-built structures; in areas which went decades without human occupation only the sturdiest stone buildings would survive and much would be new-built.
The rural landscape around our hypothetical Eddsford, with its hedge-enclosed fields of moderate size planted to grain, pasture, roots and orchards and hops, its farmsteads, villages of thatched or tile-roofed cottages, and inns brewing their own beer… it might all be Victorian or Edwardian save for the lack of steam railways. The inhabited part of the countryside is carefully kept, fields neatly tilled, hedges hand-trimmed, woodlots near habitations managed for firewood and coppice-timber.
Yet there is more wildwood in spots and more in the way of birds and wildlife than our Chesterbellocian or bien-pensant visitor would be used to, and it includes species long extinct in the wild before the Change. Deer of several types are common, and the rivers are thick with otter and the odd beaver; salmon run seasonally in many streams. Bears are seen now and then, and wolves; even tigers occasionally drift south from the trackless Wild Lands which stretch from the ruins of Birmingham to Scotland, especially in a hard winter.
Just a little east of here the difficult clay soils of the Weald hills are reverting to the great trackless forest of Andredesweald that the Saxons knew and the Romans before them—it isn’t worth anyone’s while to keep them clear when so much better land is available, and their shaggy hedgerows have merged into a mass of thicket where the roots of the king trees grind the bricks of the stockbrokers’ houses and lever steadily at the roads the commuters used. A day or two’s travel to the West the New Forest is already wilder than it was in the Conqueror’s day.
The dress of the Eddsford villagers would also show that this wasn’t really the year of the old Queen’s diamond Jubilee. Some of them wear smock-frocks of linen over shabby-comfortable pants and jackets and shirts, and some don’t bother with the outer garment; women may wear trousers (usually the younger and unmarried) or calf-length skirts and blouses. And outside the bounds of the village, it’s common to see travelers alone carrying a spear or bow, or a sword at their belt. Everyone wears a hat, usually a rather floppy wide-brim, occasionally a pork-pie or straw boater.
Their speech would be another clue. It would be easily comprehensible to a 20th-century Englishman, but it is not quite like anything the pre-Change world knew either; perhaps the basis for it is the Hampshire drawl, but there are turns of phrase and accent that recall Wales or northern Scotland, and words that have naturalized themselves but still show their archaic-Scandinavian roots in Iceland, as does a slight sing-song lilt. It is the common speech of everyone in the countryside about, and of every villager save for two Irish immigrants.
Apart from the squire, parson and schoolteacher, everyone except the plumply prosperous man who keeps the Moor’s Head wears sturdy shoes made by the village cobbler and his family, whose shop stands next to the blacksmith’s and just across from the inn/public house, near the general store that stocks everything from pins and scissors to peppercorns and oranges and boxes of tea. The cobbler will repair a saddle or bridle—if you want one made from from scratch, you must go a little west to Musgrove, which is larger than Eddsford and halfway to becoming a town.
The innkeeper’s footwear comes from a fancier establishment in Winchester, the capital. Our hypothetical Guardian columnist’s unhappiness would increase at the sign creaking over the entrance to his establishment, which indeed painted with a Moor’s Head, severed and bleeding, on a silver platter. The innkeeper’s father fought in William the Great’s battles with the corsairs, and came back with a limp and a paying-off bonus that set him up as landlord of this rambling establishment during the privatization. The Moor’s Head’s core is a pre-Change brick building, built as a pub in the Napoleonic period, but it was a realtor’s office in the decade before the Change.
Within you may purchase ale (home-brewed, 1d per pint), wine from the European provinces of the Empire, brandy, Irish whiskey, lodging for the night, a quite pleasant if simple meal (the beef-and-truffle pie is justly famous), or play a game of darts or billiards.
The weekly Winchester-Dover stage stops here, and the innkeeper earns a pleasant supplement to his income by supplying fresh teams.
Right now the squire’s estate steward is in one of the snugs, discussing threshing fees with several farmers of the neighborhood. Those who rent land from his employer get the use of the mobile horse-powered machine for nothing (or as part of the share of the crop they pay, depending on how you look at it), but freeholders negotiate a fee, a percentage of the threshed grain. It won’t be very steep, or they might find it easier to club together and buy one of their own, or even just hand-thresh with flails over the slow winter months. Grain buyers from Winchester and Southampton will visit later in the year. Half a dozen of the King’s troopers are present as well, mail-shirted hobelars whose nags stamp in the stableyard; the men are in from road patrol and calling for beer and more beer before they head on to barracks at Musgrove.
Closer examination of the village street would show more craftworkers than in any period since the Industrial Revolution, but also the use of highly sophisticated machinery powered by water, wind and animal power. The gristmill, however, is halfway between the village and Colonel Barrington’s residence, Royston Hall; the squire’s father oversaw its building during the resettlement, and the miller rents it from him. Just now the miller and his two elder children are stripping down the wheel and checking the bearing race; soon the busiest time of their year will come.
Roads and canals knit the island kingdom together, along with horse-drawn railway cars; a network of heliograph/semaphore telegraphs stretches a little further each year, and every village has its post office, but a visitor from outside the Eddsford neighborhood will still attract curious glances, or a crowd of small children.
When some black-avised Moors (in fact a Wolof dignitary and his entourage, all on their way to Winchester as emissaries of the Emir of Dakar) passed through Eddsford last year it was a sensation which still has the dignified quasi-retired regulars at the Moor’s Head talking over their evening pints.
Or as Mrs. Tofford (who is postmistress) says, ‘set those idle old soaks gossiping for a year and a day’.
The post office has a small public library attached, also run by Mrs. Tofford. In it one can read back issues of the Times of Winchester, (the Empire’s Paper Of Record, its byline boasts), theIllustrated Monthly News with its engraved pictures of court events, and any number of edifying and improving publications including the Church Times and the British Agriculturalist.
(Most visitors prefer blood-and-thunder novels of adventure in far countries, though, from the presses in Winchester and Southampton and Bristol; mysteries set in the fabulous times before the Change are also popular.)
Only a few elderly men and women in Eddsford remember that world themselves, and even to them it seems like a far-off dream of their youth. They seldom speak much of it, except when their grandchildren pester them for tales of wonders and they drag out stories of cars or airplanes told so often the tellers aren’t sure how much is real anymore. The children believe them… but then, they believe in Robin Hood, too. Some of the youngsters more than half-believe in Puck, since “Rewards and Fairies” and “Puck of Pook’s Hill” are part of the school curriculum.
A typical Sunday would see most of the village and surrounding area (except for the cobbler, a contumacious and outspoken atheist) at Communion service/Mass in the village church, an ancient gray-stone Norman foundation. The ceremony would be familiar to a late-19th-century Anglo-Catholic “ritualist” (the Sarum Missal is used), and if transported there he might find the prayers for “the Holy Father, Innocent VI” (following those for the King-Emperor) congenial.
The congregation files out past a notice-board outside the door which lists meetings of the vestry, the choral society, the Harvest Festival Committee, the Mothers Union, and a dozen other organizations. On the other side of the churchyard is the parson’s house, where his wife is currently teaching the local Sunday School; the house is the largest in the village after the squire’s, but comfortable rather than grand, a Georgian structure set in an acre or so of garden. The school proper is not far away, which is convenient when the vicar tutors a few of the more promising village students, the ones he is grooming for scholarship examinations for the school at Winchester.
After the service the local squire in his Harris tweeds could linger at the parsonage in the well-filled library, sharing a glass of sherry with the vicar and discussing the management of the local school or a family where the husband has been drinking more than local standards find acceptable.
The squire’s tweeds are peaceful enough, as are the hunting pinks he wears when pursuing Charlie James Fox later in the year together with neighbors, relatives, the officers of the garrison in the market town southwest of here, and some of the more prosperous farmers… but the scar on his cheek and the notches in the longsword that hangs over the library fireplace in the Hall half a mile up the road from the churchyard were both put there by the scimitar of a Berber raider, east of Rabat. The squire’s smile is a little crooked because of the scar tissue, but he doesn’t regret it much; the raiders came off far worse.
He and the parson both attended Oxford together, however, and share an interest in the clergyman’s monographs on the evolution of English dialects since the Change. In fact, they’re second cousins.
Squire and parson both wave to the District Nurse pedaling by on her safety bicycle. In the meadow behind the Moor’s Head the lads (and some of the lasses) of the neighborhood are meeting for their weekly longbow practice, supervised by the Squire’s eldest son; young master Edward is just turned twenty, and is wearing his new set of plate armor, which he does at any opportunity; he hopes soon to translate his Territorial Militia rank and family connections to a commission in the Regulars (and is cramming for the required examinations). Then, he thinks, he will escape Eddsford’s rural boredom and sail off to win eternal glory.
(His father regards this with benevolent amusement, but thinks the lad will probably come to no great harm for a few years leading dusty patrols into the deserts south of Casablanca, or hunting bandits in the Cervennes.)
His daughter Ingeborg is there too, watching the archery, but her thoughts are more on the upcoming opening of the social Season in Winchester, where she will be presented at Court. Until recently her thoughts were divided between horses and the upcoming term at Cheltenham, but her coming-out has begun to prey on her mind. Will she seem excessively countrified? Surely not. After all, her mother was a lady-in-waiting, and Eddsford is not really remote…
If our hypothetical observer were to take the road southward (after a refreshing mug of the Moor’s Head’s best, and perhaps some bread and cheese and ham for the road, or possibly spending a half-hour having his horse reshod) he would find a road winding away, over the Downs and towards the sea, through the fields of the village and the surrounding farmsteads; some are rented from the Squire, some belonging to the yeomanry. The bustling port of Southampton is only a day’s ride away, with tall ships back from as far away as Brazil and Capetown, or even Tasmania and Hinduraj…