The Rusted Crown (Evolution of the Fifty-Six’s Governing Body)
When details of King Anthony Donjou’s secret contract with Earth became public, he was forced to flee to Earth with his son Charles. Welcomed as the monarch of a legitimate government in exile, he lived in favor on Earth until the day of his death.
The king’s married sister, Amelia Torgo, stepped in to fill the void. Though facing heated hostility towards the monarchy, she followed protocol and abandoned her husband’s name Torgo to retake her maiden name Donjou. In the ninth month of 3337, Amelia Torgo was named Queen Amelia Donjou.
Queen Amelia’s first act was to ratify the establishment of the first inter-planetary congress empowered with authority to overturn decisions of a monarch with 75% percent vote. Twenty-three leading figures in Bagwell City comprised this first congress.
With public opinion now firmly behind her, Queen Amelia established tariffs on all goods being sold to Earth. Funds collected were to repay Earth’s loans issued for the reconstruction of Bagwell City following the disastrous explosion that destroyed an eighth of the city. (See Bagwell City (Part 2))
Though support for repaying the debt was widespread, there was no consensus on how the funds should be gathered. This conflict escalated when the Freight Forwarders Alliance, an extremely powerful shipping guild, refused to collect or facilitate collection of any tariffs.
Notes recovered from the queen’s diary reveal that a large bloc of royal advisers suggested forcing the FFA to comply with the new law, but that she fully understood the frailty of royal power. One passage dated three days after the FFA’s refusal particularly stands out: “How am I supposed to force the FFA to comply? Why should I? Their concerns are legitimate. The crown has no authority to take the money of its citizens. Negotiation is the only way to preserve this house of cards called royal authority without establishing a security force. I shall negotiate.”
Negotiations lasted two weeks without result despite the queen’s offer to use independently controlled escrow accounts that would pay Earth directly. The FFA stood by its original position that the crown held no authority to collect or spend taxes, through escrow or otherwise.
However, everything changed in the fourth month of 3338 when Earth submitted an open letter of support for the FFA’s position followed by a reminder to the Twenty-Three that their rightful king remained in exile on Earth. Within six hours of this letter, an FFA spokesman read a statement of support for the queen’s proposal. A second statement was then delivered, chastising Earth for attempting to manipulate the Twenty-Three.
After the early chaotic months of her reign, Queen Amelia led the Twenty-Three through a peaceful period of expansion. Under her watch, the Twenty-Three grew into thirty-two colonies.
Though success attended her professional pursuits, the queen’s personal life remained one of constant turmoil. A small black dot on the little toe of her left foot, first thought to be a blood blister, was found to be a rare fungal disease that was spreading. Doctors raced to perform an amputation of the foot. Five years later another surgery removed everything below the knee, followed by the entire leg. Time only made the disease more aggressive until the spreading passed to the right leg and left arm. The queen’s condition was carefully shielded from the public with highly controlled appearances and state-of-the-art prosthetics.
Health issues didn’t stop Queen Amelia’s love life. She married four times and was renowned for frequent liaisons with famous men. She had two sons with her first husband and famously declared that home life was not a queen’s role. After her first son committed suicide by hanging, her diary shows a change of heart and documents her attempts to bond with the second son, Jarl Torgo, but time was short and, twenty years to the day after taking the throne, in the first month of 3357, Queen Amelia Donjou passed away, leaving her only remaining son, Jarl Donjou, king.
The new young king carried ambitions far larger than his mother. With the crown barely in place on his head, King Jarl moved to establish a sales tax on all transactions taking place inside the Thirty-Two. Congress speedily overturned the law. This resulted in the birth of a thinly veiled enmity between the king and congress. When congress rejected the king’s next ordinance that all new citizens of the Thirty-Two pay a processing fee for proper documentation, the veil was torn and King Jarl issued threats of bodily harm against congress. Congress responded by placing the king into mandatory protective custody for two weeks.
King Jarl used the time during this ‘protection’ period to sell royal endorsements for anyone willing to pay. The king raised over thirty million triks inside of two weeks. Within days of his release, two members of Congress were murdered in apparent robberies gone badly. Three more congressmen resigned a week later citing health and family as reasons. All remaining members disappeared into hiding except one man named Herbert Roland. He allowed himself to be used as bait by hired security forces.
Sure enough, his house was burgled. The assassin was captured but in the ensuing scuffle, the congressman was shot twice in the chest. Despite an intense, sometimes physical interrogation, the assassin refused to confess any connection to the substantial sum of money transferred to him a week earlier. Congressman Roland clung to life for three days, only succumbing to the injuries during a private meeting with the king at the hospital.
King Jarl immediately declared congress’ authority void and, because congress lacked the proper number of votes to form a 75% majority, the king’s declaration stood valid. Taxes soon followed. Protests followed the taxes. Riots followed the protests.
When a grain refinery was threatened in the flames two weeks into the riots, there was a reverse uprising of regular citizens. Two hundred thousand people marched through the streets with clubs. Anyone caught damaging property was roundly beaten. The riots sputtered after two days leaving taxes the last thing standing.
The extended planets laughed at the tax, making Bagwell City the only colony to comply. When taxes were levied on supplies from Bagwell City, as well as Earth’s supplies flowing through the city, the colonies’ hue and cry was duly ignored. King Jarl’s father joined the outcry and publicly denounced the king for murder and corruption. He was arrested for high treason and found guilty by the king, who had him executed.
Armed with the influx of cash and using the riots as justification, King Jarl organized the Fifty-Six’s first permanent police force while at the same time chartering a royal protective service. Among the many royal security recruits was Charles Donjou, son of the late refugee king Anthony Donjou. Nine months later, King Jarl lay dead, poisoned by his own security force.
Charles Donjou made a public claim for the throne the next day. Unfortunately for Charles, an emergency congress was already convened and he was found guilty of murder and summarily executed. With no direct descendent to be crowned, congress declared the throne vacant until a suitable heir could be appointed.
The throne remained empty until the fourth month of 3358 when Philip Walton, brother of a leading congressman, was voted king by congress. Philip was crowned but, on completing the ceremonious parade to the royal residence, refused entrance to the house by royal security forces – he was a king not in line of Donjou. This started a bitter and, for the new king, embarrassing showdown.
Clothed for festivities, the members of congress convened in the street outside the residence and passed a motion disbanding royal security. When security refused to budge, the celebrations were completed at a local wedding hall. Two weeks later, with little hope of resolution, congress declared them trespassers and requested police intervention.
Police arrived but refused to intervene, citing royal authority, leaving congress with no choice but to capitulate. It didn’t help that public opinion stood squarely behind the besieged royal security. Three weeks into the standoff, congress declared the coronation of Philip Walton void. A thorough search of the meager Donjou family tree uncovered Frank Robert, second cousin of the late king Jarl. He was crowned King Frank Donjou in the sixth month of 3358.
Historians would later refer to this period of royal uncertainty as “Days of the Rusted Crown.”