Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward.
In September of 1929, David found himself again handing out rosettes for prize-winning cattle, this time in Leicestershire. As he awarded best in show, the crowd broke out in polite applause. He did not know whether it was for him or the bull. Nevertheless he smiled graciously and nodded until he noticed a lovely woman standing in front who was not clapping. She seemed to be more concerned with adjusting her gloves than according him accolades for attaching a ribbon cluster to the bovine’s harness. Without stopping to speak to the local mayor, David approached her.
“My God, you are as beautiful as a movie star.”
“That’s because I am one.” She retrieved a cigarette from her hand bag. “Do you have a light?”
“Of course,” he replied, pulling out a book of matches. “Tell me about your movie career.”
After a puff, she explained, “I formed my own movie company in 1923 so I could be a star.”
“Impressive.” David smiled with interest. “What were they? Maybe I’ve seen some of them.”
“I doubt it.” She shrugged. “Making movies turned out to be such a bore.”
“What a shame. I hope you didn’t lose much money.”
“Don’t worry about it. Daddy’s rich. He’s American diplomat Harry Morgan.”
“My daddy is rich too.”
“I know. King of England. You’re the Prince of Wales.”
“And if you tell me who you are then introductions will be complete.”
“Thelma Furness, wife of Viscount Marmaduke Furness. That’s why I’m at this dreary country fair. Former wife. The ink just dried on our divorce papers.”
“Then that means you’re free for the weekend.”
Without further encouragement Thelma hopped in David’s Ace roadster and sped off to Fort Belvedere. She commented his car looked just like Victor Bruce’s auto that won the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I’m just dippy for it,” she said.
David shifted into first gear and stirred up a cloud of dust on the country road. He enthusiastically explained the renovations which were underway since his father finally agreed to give it to him.
“You won’t believe what he said when I first asked him for it,” David said with his infamous lopsided grin. “’What could you possibly want that queer old place for? Those damned weekends, I suppose.”
At that moment they turned a corner, and Fort Belvedere appeared with scaffolding half-way around it.
“I’m absolutely dippy for it,” Thelma announced.
“Don’t worry about the workmen,” he confided. “They won’t be back until Monday.
After they parked, David guided her through the front door and gave her a tour of his bedroom which lasted until the next morning. When he awoke, Thelma was gone but he smelled coffee from the kitchen. They settled into the breakfast nook for a small meal Thelma had whipped up. David decided she looked beautiful even with most of her makeup smudged away. He was about to explain his special relationship to Freda when a reflective mirrored light from the woods beyond the lily pond caught his attention.
“You know I’m quite peculiar,” he began, not knowing how to explain why he had a sudden urge to stroll through the grounds.
“Oh, I know all about Freda,” she said as she stood and collected the dishes. “And I know you’re devoted to your gardening. First thing every morning, playing in the dirt. It’s in all the social pages.” Thelma leaned over to kiss him on the lips. “You’ve been royally had, my dear. You’ve been in my sights for years.” She winked. “I love to share.”
When David first went out the door he started straight for the woods but thought better of it. He turned instead for the shed where he grabbed a few tools. He needed to make Thelma think he was going to play in the dirt. Upon arrival among the silvery birches, he recognized one of his main contacts from the MI6 headquarters. David knew this assignment must be of the highest importance.
“At first I didn’t think you saw my signal,” the man said. “Let’s take a few steps back. No need to alarm the young lady.”
“Nothing would alarm that one,” David muttered as he followed the man around one of the larger trees.
“You know about Princess Stephanie?”
“She’s from Austria, isn’t she? Married a prince or something or other and after the divorce she kept the title.”
“Very close. She was born in Vienna to Jewish parents. Her father was a dentist, a lawyer or some such that they had a bit of money but nothing to brag about. She did quite well in ballet school and became renowned for her beauty. She had an affair with Archduke Franz Salvator who impregnated her. This was a problem because he was already married. Stephanie then talked Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe into thinking the child was his. They were married a few years and divorced. She kept the child and the title of princess.”
“I can get all this information on the cocktail circuit.” David grew impatient. “What does this have to do with me?”
“This is what concerns us. She’s kicked around Europe and most recently Germany where she has become close friends with Adolph Hitler.”
“No one seriously thinks Hitler has any chance of becoming chancellor, do they?” The more he heard, the more David wanted to get on with pruning his roses.
“Everyone is taking Hitler seriously and so should you,” his MI6 contact said in a stern voice. “We have it on good sources that Hitler wants Stephanie’s next husband to be you.”
David laughed out loud. “My God, the man is mad. Why would he want that?”
“He’s gotten the idea you’re warm to the idea of fascism in Great Britain. With an Austrian wife and the English crown, you would welcome an alliance with a Hitler regime.”
“Why would he think that?”
“The cocktail circuit you just mentioned. You’re quite popular with many right-leaning socialites,” he intoned.
“That’s just balderdash. Too much liquor. Too much philandering.”
“Oh, you misunderstand. We don’t disapprove. We want you to take advantage of this misperception to seduce Princess Stephanie. Cultivate her as a source of information in the coming years.”
“So you want me to bed her.” He gazed back at the house. “Well, I hope she’s as beautiful as they say.”