1838. One year before the deaths of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna
It was the first time the royal couple had ever sailed to the East, to see the ruler that had assisted Arendelle’s rise to first-class prosperity and wealth. Already, the early modern world was becoming more interconnected. The crown prince of the Qing had sensed Arendelle’s special destiny while Elsa was still growing inside the belly of the queen, Iduna. The night Elsa was born, Yixin, who puppeteered the Chinese emperor, declared that Arendelle was to be China’s “Most Favoured Nation.”
With that title came four generous trading privileges that allowed Arendelle’s traders to trade freely with the Great Qing, no questions asked. Arendelle got a better deal than the Dutch, the Portuguese, or the Russians could ever dream of. Elsa and Anna’s early years saw their home’s greatest economic expansion since 1731, the year the Arendellian East India Company first travelled to Canton to buy silk and porcelain.
It had taken Agnarr and Iduna several months of travel aboard their ship, first reaching round the North Sea and past the English Channel, then around Western Europe and along the coast of the great African continent, before swinging back up and weaving through the subtropical archipelagos and making for Canton in Southern China. They finally reached the port, whereupon they disembarked and were received by the hoppo, a stout, well-fed mandarin who prepared them for the trip inland, towards the Forbidden City in Peking.
When they arrived at the emperor’s residence, which was larger than the entire kingdom of Arendelle, they were received by the Celestial Empire’s elite imperial guard: the bannermen, who carried lances with the flag of the imperial dragon, muskets, and longbows and quivers bristling with arrows.
I thank you for your valuable time at our meeting in Constantinople the other week. What a beautiful city – I never tire of visiting.
The Ottomans hold the key to the Mediterranean, and nine years ago, Katina’s father had forced the sultan to give Russia joint suzerainty over the Dardanelles. When France backed a pretender caliph against the sultan, my country, Britain, as well as Russia, felt that everyone’s interests were threatened, especially since Katina sees the Black Sea as Russia’s weak underbelly. I’ve put the appropriate pressure on the sultan, Britain, and France to accept that the strait is forbidden to all ships of any nation as long as the Ottomans remain in charge.
Remember: the illusion of government is often enough to maintain world order. Only if even that breaks down are we allowed to a free-for-all. Until Turkey’s monarchy (or any country’s government) collapses internally, the Exalted will support them.
Now, to the matter of Arendelle, which is of great interest to all of us.
By Frey, Foreign Affairs Reporter for The Arendelle Guardian
ARENDELLE; SAINT PETERSBURG – The queen of Arendelle is confirmed to be working with her predecessor and sister, Elsa, and leaders of other kingdoms to form an elite corps tailored for diplomacy with Russia. Secret Arendellian and Russian mediators are still discussing whether to hold talks in a neutral location, Arendelle, or in Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital city.
Queen Colisa and Princess Mari of Vesterland are reported to be helping Anna and Elsa steer the initiative, which has been conceived as a united lobby robust enough to resist the overwhelming pressure of the vast Imperial Russian state.
Sources close to the queen and General Mattias have confirmed on condition of anonymity that Anna’s objective is to persuade the tsar and his government to negotiate mutually favourable terms that will prevent misunderstandings and enmity between Arendelle, its allies, and Russia.
After much discussion with Anna, I’ve decided to make a deeply personal choice that has been hanging in the air between Her Majesty and I since my last visit to Arendelle. I wouldn’t give up my new life in Northuldra as the Enchanted Forest’s guardian for any worldly gain or power. Yet my conscience has told me that I must involve myself more closely in my sister’s affairs of statecraft. Not just because she’s asked for it, and certainly not because I presume that I can do a better job. No, Anna is the best queen Arendelle has ever had. She’s better than her predecessor as far as I’m concerned (she’ll vehemently deny it, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on that).
Anna has no plans for me to assume any governmental role, and I don’t wish to get in the way of her daily administration. The title that she kind of made up and bequeathed me, Queen Emerita, should give me enough “cred,” so she calls it, as an elder stateswoman to join her at official functions, domestically and outside of the kingdom.
By Mikael, Business Editor for The Arendelle Guardian
ARENDELLE: The queen’s fiancé and trusted commercial ally, Kristoff, is poised to save rival company Skau-Krogh from looming bankruptcy. In return, Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman (nicknamed the Princely House, a sarcastic reference to his commoner origins and engagement to Anna) will take over All Arendelle Tea, Skau-Krogh’s subsidiary, with Kristoff enjoying a considerable ten per cent stake in his old rival.
The agreement is humiliating but necessary for Skau-Krogh’s tai-pan, Lars Krogh, who had made his firm the willing pawn of the American merchant prince Will Harrison in a corporate war with Bjorgman across multiple industries. From silks and tea to ice and real estate, Skau-Krogh had tried to drive Bjorgman out of business with Harrison’s superior finances. It also obtained a private fleet, courtesy of Harrison, attacking Anna’s allies of Weselton and Chatho. Bjorgman had struggled to keep up with Skau-Krogh, but a twist of fate involving Harrison’s capture of Mari, the princess of Vesterland, and the Duke of Weselton, allowed Harrison to wrench his coveted prize of two lucrative trading privileges in the China trade from our queen. With the Treaty of Weselton granting him these terms, Harrison released Mari and the Duke and ceased to be Skau-Krogh’s backer, leaving Lars deeply in debt with assets he couldn’t pay off, from empty warehouses and docks to uncultivated tea plantations.
Kristoff’s new role as a political influencer on top of his role as top dog of Bjorgman heralds a new plank of Anna’s new strategy, which aims to make Arendelle’s trading houses a key ally in her foreign policy. While detractors in the business paper of the Fjord Times and the Arendellian Commerce Chamber are wary about any return to state-sponsored mercantilism, the shocking ease with which the powerful Harrison manipulated a domestic trade war for his personal gain has united the kingdom’s parliament behind Anna’s new approach.
This amazing woman is Queen Colisa of the Kingdom of Chatho, a member of Anna’s Entente of Small Kingdoms. She’s a fellow guardian of Arendelle and a close, lifelong friend of Queen Anna’s and Snow Queen Elsa’s. Her forces include her “Ten Tigresses,” (I’ve called them the Ten Fighting Tigresses because of how well they fight!) who successfully defended her kingdom from conquest by Lars’ and Will’s privateers. The friendship between her and the Diarchy started years ago when they were children. Princess Colisa met Elsa and Anna on a trip to Arendelle. Here’s a record by an artist on how they met. Queen Colisa tells the story…
Queen Anna told me that she still has and treasures that pillow to this day.
“How dare that foreign girl run around the Forbidden City like she owns the place!”
“She shouldn’t even be allowed to look upon the prince regent’s face. Yet she sees him almost every month!”
“Does she have some kind of black spell over him? Do they have bewitching magic in England?”
From the consorts and concubines to the eunuchs and princes, murmurs swirled in the imperial clan about the young Englishwoman with a Chinese name. From a wide-eyed five-year-old to a beautiful young lady, over the years Peony Sinclair had grown into a diplomat equally comfortable in the court of the Qing and among the governments of Europe.
Some of the rumours against Peony were malicious; others were genuinely concerned about her safety. Court politics in China was complex and fatal. There were midnight conspiracies and backstabbing between scholar-officials, eunuchs, the harem, and the military. To courtly rivals, it was bad enough that Peony had her own room in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the quarters of the imperial family. When she was just five, Yixin hired Genoese designers to renovate her small room into a European-style bedchamber to make her feel more at home. For her bedside, he imported an Italian clock that the late Qianlong Emperor loved. This was unprecedented, beyond any court member’s wildest fantasies.
The jealousy aimed at Peony, a no-name, bastard foreigner who wasn’t even of royal blood in her home country, was intense and unreal.
But this place was her home. She knew nowhere else.
As you may have read in recent editions of our fine newspaper, The Arendelle Guardian, Queen Anna recently had to sign the Treaty of Weselton. This document established an uneasy peace between Anna and Will Harrison, a rich member of the First Family of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the cabal of the Exalted. The deal guaranteed the lives of the captive Duke of Weselton and Princess/Ambassador Mari of Vesterland. In return, Anna had to relinquish two of the four special trade conditions from the Most Favored Nation Trade gift given by Prince Regent Yixin to Anna’s and Snow Queen Elsa’s parents, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna, and the Kingdom of Arendelle on Elsa’s birth date.
The cold-blooded hostage-taking by Mr. Harrison (along with the defeat of the Duke and our forces in trying to remove Harrison’s troops from the shores of Weselton) had put their lives in danger. This rocked our beloved Queen (my beloved niece) to her core. Not just the pact from Yixin, but the lives of two people were on the line. Mari was a friend, and despite the bad blood we’ve had with the Duke, his country is part of Anna’s Entente of Smaller Kingdoms, and a life is very precious indeed.
This was the darkest time Anna’s ever experienced since the cave in Northuldra when she feared that her sister Elsa was dead (fortunately, Elsa survived her near-death and is still with us, praise God!). I’d like to share a bit of the conversation that I had with Queen Anna and Snow Queen Elsa (with their permission) about this heartbreaking time.
I want to start this column by thanking my beloved Elsa for her tireless encouragement. She’s supported me in public through her column in this paper, and in private during my most vulnerable and fragile moments. I want to thank my inner court, my government, and all my friends. I want to thank my allies for sticking with my alliance, despite my recent humiliation at Harrison’s hands. I want to thank the Duke and Mari for being so kind to extend their apologies, which I don’t accept, because there’s nothing – zero, nada, zilch – to say sorry for. If you were ever captured again by Harrison, I’d gladly give up the rest of my trade rights with the Celestial Empire to save you.
I want to thank Peony Sinclair for easing the terms of the Treaty of Weselton with Harrison. I know I have a complicated relationship with the Exalted, and I know you were trying to protect me. And most of all, dear citizen, I want to thank you for your faith in me. I promise to do my very best as your most prominent public servant.
I usually visit Anna every week, often arriving in Arendelle Castle on Friday afternoons, when parliament’s sessions are wrapping up. Anna insists on sleepovers until at least Sunday afternoon, which I’m more than happy to do. So it was a strange feeling when I arrived at the palace today, on the back of my beloved Nokk. It seemed like an eternity since I’d returned, even though it had really only been a fortnight.
I managed to share a heartfelt and loving reunion with Colisa, Chatho’s queen. I’ve treasured her since childhood. If I was Anna’s big sister, then Colisa was like a surrogate elder sister to me, though I was lost to her for a long time during my darker years.
I knew why things felt so strange, though. So much was happening. The Duke of Weselton had stayed with Anna for a while, left to reclaim his territory from Skau-Krogh, but then got himself captured. He and Mari of Vesterland had been held hostage by Harrison, who tied their release to Anna’s relinquishing of our four trade privileges with the Qing emperor. Peony Sinclair’s intervention whittled it down to two, so Harrison didn’t get everything he wanted. But Anna still had to sign the Treaty of Weselton, which is a blow to our kingdom and a heavy blow to Anna personally.