The posters would appear on lamp posts overnight in those few town centres that were still without security cameras. Some adherent to the new order would soon rip them down, ensuring that their virtuous acts were witnessed.
“Will you fight?” The illustrations changed, but the question was the same. In public lavatories, under motorway arches, in telephone booths, the posters sprouted as fast as they could be torn down. They showed a smashed crown and a trickle of blood. “Will you fight?” Sometimes the question was asked under a picture of a green field threatened by a bulldozer, sometimes over a sleeping child whose cot was darkened by the shadow of officialdom.
Fire was used in a couple of the posters – the Union Jack in flames, the Palace engulfed by a blaze. “Will you fight?” It became a chant, accompanied by its own folksy anthem: “Will ya fight for the future? Will ya fight, fight their might?” And for the encore there was always “A Kingdom Once Again”, played frequently by Radio Free England and sung in rebel English basement bars in Holland and France. It was broadcast from ex-military signals operations in ruined farmhouses in Scotland and Wales, and sometimes from one of the Resistance’s mobile radio vans. These would be disguised as renationalised utility vans in the urban centres, right under the authorities’ snout. Amused sophisticates had at first insisted no one felt this strongly about a monarch. But then the bombs started to explode and people started getting hurt. All it took at first was a couple of hundred hotheads.
In Modern England, which paid formal homage to all cultures, the values being imposed were of a white, urban cadre. The message was clear: conform or kiss off. Homogenise! Speak Estuary English! Call each other “mate”. Comply or be arrested. Tolerance was preached, not practised: no to Asian arranged marriages and Jewish circumcision and Rastafarian ganja.
Will you fight? Some did and died. Haskin-James led the remains of his men out of Gloucester, up into the hills. They had left Lynes where he had fallen, his right cheek flat in the shit of the cattle market, blood seeping into the brown muck.
It was too early to be sure of numbers, but Haskin-James feared that at least 20 comrades had been killed in the ambush. Someone must have tipped off the forces. The attack came just as the auction was starting. The troops had burst out of the back of a cattle truck, their boots echoing on the wooden ramp after it hit the ground. Lynes had managed to use his handgun a couple of times, and some of the other lads had cut down some of the enemy with sticks and scythes. But it had been an uneven fight. Stupid to have trusted the farmers – though it may not have been them, but maybe one of his own men. Who knew? Where was trust these days?
The mobile rang. “Yes?”
“They’re on to the kennels! Don’t go there!” The warning came just in time before reaching the junction that would have taken them on the Evercombe Road towards the kennels. Haskin-James swung the wheel to the left and the commandeered van swayed badly, its tyres screeching. They made the corner, just.
That night, down to himself and four able-bodied men, Haskin-James shivered in a haybarn and cursed the day. One of the wounded volunteers had died and they buried him at dawn by a sharp-thorned hedge which danced in the wind. Haskin-James led the prayers and told the lads they would be moving on in an hour. On, out, and away to safer fields to rebuild and persist with the struggle. Will you fight? Yes, to my dying day, close though that may be.
On ancient beacons, fires blazed through the night. In monarchist villages, the church bells were muffled. In life, the Queen Consort’s popularity had been spotty, but death was her transformation. Crowds formed outside her former house in London – now a hostel for druggies – to leave flowers and stand with candles. The Ministry of the Interior dismissed them as “royal groupies” and castigated commercial radio stations for playing solemn music. Such “inappropriate gestures” would be remembered when broad- casting franchises were next apportioned. But Radio Free England carried 24-hour coverage. Together with the internet, the radio station informed mourners where to gather for protest vigils. At a couple of these, there was trouble.
A warehouse at Tilbury, redeveloped by one of the former royal business trusts, was torched in the night, destroying a bagel bakery and a Hindu jewellery co-operative. A telephone tip-off to the fire brigade had been made by a man who claimed that the fire “served the foreign fuckers right – they shouldn’t have taken royal money”. A chain of halal butcher shops in Leicester was petrol-bombed by animal-rights hardliners.
No politician in parliament criticised the attacks, although a confidential memo was sent from the Cabinet Secretary to the Interior Secretary warning him that “racism might be something to keep an eye on – will play badly in America”. The president, meanwhile, did not interrupt his schedule of engagements, which included a low-cal lunch with winners of the new People’s Medal.
Some newspapers carried reports from New York that the ex-prince and princess had gone to the Fifth Avenue Church of St Thomas to attend a requiem mass to the Queen Consort. Tears had been shed, said Aurora Blayne, a Harlem shopworker who camped outside the church overnight to gain a space near the front. Ms Blayne, 39, said that Prince James had held steady his sister’s arm during the requiem. “That boy,” she said, “he’s just to die for.” A queue of worshippers had formed to light candles to the dead Consort’s memory. Outside the church, young men and women politely asked mourners to sign a petition demanding better human rights in England. A condolence book, supported by the Manhattan Friends of Royalty, was on display at the department store Barneys. Mayor Gilbertson took time out of his re-election campaign to sign it and told reporters that it was “terrible to see the insensitive things happening in our once proud ally”.
It was a displeased Downing Street press secretary who that morning flicked through the international press digest. “Why wasn’t I told this was coming?” Her assistants stared at the floor. The boss was not happy. She liked to know what was going in the papers before the editors themselves were certain.
The windows of several traditionalist shops around London were stoved in, vandals leaving graffiti which announced “royal bollocks”. In the declining number of places where pillar boxes still bore royal insignia, spray paint was applied. Streets signs with a royal connotation were blanked out. In Eltham, south-east London, a boy of 14 was kicked unconscious by a gang of lads who had selected their victim on account of his “toff” accent.
In the Resistance, recruitment soared. Haskin-James did not use the bunker for swearings-in. He now took to booking church halls. The newcomers would be asked to stand, sing the old national anthem, and say why they wanted to volunteer. “My name is Paul and I am a monarchist,” they might begin. “The money I inherited from my parents has been taken by the state.” Or: “The house my mother-in-law left to our youngsters has been confiscated.” Or: “My job at the cigarette factory has been outlawed.” Or any one of numerous explanations. People were fed up. They no longer wanted to feel strangers in their own land.
There was little they could do in a military sense. New volunteers were useful only for the political swell they created. So they were made to feel part of the Resistance and were issued with volunteer numbers, armbands and a pledge card that promised a return to a free and fair England, an England without cadres.
In the West Country, the Minister for Land had been appearing at a Bristol hotel as part of his “listening to England” tour. One evening, as he came off the stage, he was surprised to find his normal aides absent.
“This way, minister,” said a young woman with a black miniskirt. “As quick as we can. There has been a change of plan.” The minister followed her out of a side door and into a people carrier. A figure rose from the back compartment and smothered him as the vehicle sped away. The minister’s body was found early the next morning on mud flats in the Severn estuary.
That same day, Gregor Mayhew and a small squad returned to Evercombe and started to prepare. The minister’s killing was claimed quickly by the Resistance, who praised the volunteers who had taken part in the “long overdue assassination”. Analysts were surprised by the language. It was as though they were pushing for a government response. The Resistance statement, issued on the internet, even added that the volunteers remained in the area, ready to strike again.
The Interior Secretary demanded an instant response, and when the tip-off came, on Thursday night, there was little delay before a 1,000-strong battle group, including artillery, was on its way to the indicated area. It had been a woman’s voice, perhaps slightly European, said the telephonist who took the anonymous intelligence call. All she had said was that the minister’s killers were in a village called Evercombe.
“I want a result,” the president said. “Sanitise the area. Thump these terrorists.”
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