Chef’s coat in heavy white satin is uniform. Shoulders pull back as Prince Gustav of Swendway is straightening blue sash, my chest across.
“Pysykää paikoillasi, teidän korkeutenne,” whispers new valet, my hair brushing hard. Stay still, your highness.
Familiar words comfort. Your highness is not familiar.
Your highness is not yet. Another few hours, Henri Jaakoppi is all I am being.
“Pysymme yhdessä,” says Prince Gustav when I stumble over thanking him in limo. We stick together.Enter your cut contents here.
Even in native language, speaking with princes is new. Valet, his gift is. Man-in-waiting, his gift is. Tutor, his gift is. People cannot be given, literally, but to me they would not come without his finding. Winning heart of Queen Eadlyn, I need one helper only. Being husband of Queen Eadlyn, I need army.
Gratitude fills me. Tutor, valet, man, sunny day in Angeles, cheering crowds outside limo, beautiful bride—gifts overflow my heart. I only wish Eikko was here to be sharing.
Bishop pausing, halfway across sanctuary, hand raised. Prince looks to me. “Pysytkö mukana?”
I answer before thinking if he means I follow his feet or his words.
Smile returns smile, almost always. I smile to parents in front row, each with translator, gift from Prince Gustav. I smile to Prince Ahren and Princess Camille of France, holding hands in other front row.
I smile to Queen—no, Princess America, dabbing eyes, her son beside. She smiles but still is crying. “Pysytte lujana,” I want to say. Be strong. Joy gives strength but also demands it.
In days since Queen Eadlyn proposed, my heart is swelling with joy, and my head sometimes is bursting. Names of royalty, easy. Major products of provinces of Illéa, not too hard. Stand for fittings, easy and boring. History of Illéa, not so easy, much excitement. Politics of Illéa, more difficult, with many words meaning almost same thing, but not quite.
Kissing Eadlyn, easy as easy, yet making knees tremble and head swim.
Music always I know: Ode to Joy of Beethoven. Words are different but I hear more than I speak. Blue sky, green grass, all birds and creatures sing with joy to heaven.
Cathedral doors open and little at end of aisle is Josie Woodwork, sister of Sir Kile, in blue. Solemn she is, starting. Lady Brice, wearing red, follows, then Eadlyn’s lady-in-waiting Neena, yellow dress glowing, her dark skin against. Josie skips, a hip-hop from one foot to another. Pysy tahdissa, I think to her. Keep the beat. Yet her joy I would not slow.
When all three ladies on steps like Swendway flag, music is silent. So long silent, I count in heartbeats.
White she wears, like maiden, hands overflowing with daisies of Swendway. Father-prince in uniform, I barely see until he is putting Eadlyn’s hand in mine, for my bride is lovely as dawn and creation rejoices with trumpets as her eyes meet mine through lace veil.
Rising and kneeling, I follow touches on my elbow from Prince Gustav. Too distracting to translate every word, we decided, Eadlyn and I and bishop’s secretary. I do not wish guests to lose joy in forest of unknown words. There are many words—more than in my village, but in my village, church has no gold, no paintings, no statues.
Bible I know in Finnish. In Finnish, I help choose words read. Jos minä ihmisten ja enkelein kielillä puhuisin, ja ei minulla olisi rakkautta, niin minä olisin kuin helisevä vaski tai kilisevä kulkuinen.
If I with tongues of men or angels speak, but I do not have love, so I would become like sounding brass or clanging cymbal.
The words I must say, Eadlyn’s hand resting with trust in mine, I have in memory and in practice.
“I, Henri Noel, take you, Eadlyn Helena Margarethe, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Veil-behind, her eyes are bright like stars.
“I, Eadlyn Helena Margarethe, vie Henri Noel on mieheni. Lupaan olla totta sinulle hyvinä aikoina ja huonoina, ja sairauden terveys. Minä rakastan sinua ja kunnioittaa te kaikki elämäni päivinä.”
Grammar limps like mine in English, vowels are hard not liquid, but I hear voice of angel.
“Pysyä polvillaan,” Eadlyn my wife whispers as she rises from where we kneel together.
Bishop speaks. “Are you, Henri Jaakoppi de Schreave, willing to take this oath?”
“Do you vow to uphold the laws and honor of Illéa, at home and abroad, with justice and mercy, in accordance with the will of our queen and the people?”
What I know of Illéa is so little. Principal products of Midston are natural gas, goats, and cotton. Best maple syrup comes from Hudson. Legal age of adulthood is sixteen. Gregory Illéa funded revolution against Chinese occupation. Good King Maxon abolished castes and gave all education. Queen Eadlyn’s birthday is April sixteenth. Million facts crowd my brain, ten million still to learn.
First time I am driven through streets of Angeles, people threw fruit at Eadlyn and usack.ect. They smile at me when I smile at thempalm trees, her. Lace falls, her face across. Her . Later is better. I see palm trees and sycamores, shiny towers and pink houses. In market, so much fruit, so many people at work. I smile at them and they smile back.
“Promise to raise laws, I do not know them.” My words come out wrong, yet they are right. “All I promise, I have in my heart, to love Illéa’s people as I love their queen.”
Eadlyn takes crown from bishop’s hands and sets it on my head.
Crown sits heavy by end of photos. Cheeks ache from smiling, yet every time I look at Eadlyn, I smile.
In limo, she rests head on my shoulder. “We’re married, Henri.”
Torrent of words follows. I know one in three, but I feel in hands and heart what Eadlyn means. “Aion pysyä ikuisesti,” I say. I will stay with you forever.