1 The First Wave
"Your Highness, the peasants are revolting again. They are demanding something they call equal representation. They demand to see you and have you acknowledge their concerns and demands. What will you do?"
"Order the Royal Guards to form up. Open the gates, I will go and personally deal with this."
"Is this wise Your Highness? What if they cause you harm? It has not been long since you inherited the throne, our country cannot afford more upheaval."
"Do not worry Erhart, my people will not harm me, I will speak to them and defuse the situation. We cannot allow this to fester, or our neighbours will see it as a sign of weakness and pounce. My Father's passing has already caused them to see us as a fat piece of meat ready for them to carve up. You only need to make sure my family are safe."
"Yes, Your Highness."
Frederick von Erlitz, Prince of the Grand Principality of Erlitz, approached the Palace gates as he saw his Royal Guards form up.
"Let me be very clear about this. There is to be no fighting civilians. Do not injure them. You are to keep them back should they rush towards us. Remember, they are your parents, your friends, your neighbours, no killing. You hear me?"
"Yes, Your Highness!" they all enthusiastically responded.
"Good, now open the gates. Let us hear what they have to say."
Frederick mounted his horse and left the Palace grounds following his men. Crossing the moat, he quickly noticed the barricades and the anxious guards stationed there to stop any of the peasants from becoming violent. He noticed their looks of relief upon seeing him arrive with his Royal Guards. His eye-catching arrival quickly spread throughout the masses congregated in the Royal Plaza.
"It's His Highness, he actually came. Your Highness, please listen to us." "Your Highness, over here, we need your help, please." "Your Highness…" "Your Highness…" Pleas for help intermingled with cries of desperation, all of them sought to attract Frederick's attention.
Frederick smiled and waved as he attempted to placate those around him as he waited for his men to quickly set up a small platform upon which he could stand on and be seen and heard by the crowd.
However, to some people, being ignored like this inflamed their passions for revolution. As one disgruntled voice spoke out, a couple soon caught on and a few moments later the crowd which had been patiently waiting for Frederick once again erupted.
"Your Highness, you must rid yourself of those false advisors. They are leading you and our country down the wrong path. Your Father, Prince Wilhelm, may he rest in peace, would never have allowed these charlatans to occupy such important places of power. They will destroy us all, Your Highness please."
"No, those are merely false rumours, Your Highness, you must keep Prince Wilhelm's promise to us. He said he would ensure that our voices would be heard, he said he would set up a Parliament where people of ability not people with just money could enter. That the common man and woman would be represented and be able to make a difference in our country. Your Highness, please, keep your Father's promises."
Frederick felt a headache come on. On the one hand, he understood the people's plight and sympathised with their cause, however, he was no longer the same Frederick from the modern world. He was now the head of a country, a ruler and leader of a nation. He had the lives of fifteen million people in his hands and he had made a promise to ensure their lives would be safer, better and more prosperous under his rule. And to realise his grand ambition, he could not allow for dissenting voices, especially this democratic movement to succeed at this point in time.
Erlitz and the world he now lived in was simply not ready for the democratic institutions of the twenty-first century. Rule of law, free and fair elections, the right to vote for all and a transparent and open government were simply not feasible in this pseudo-seventeenth or eighteenth century world.
Perhaps in time he could consider it, if he were the head of a large nation, safe and secure in its lands, then and only then would democracy stand a chance. But in this world where the concept of a nation state was in its infancy, something as radical as government by the people and for the people, was simply a pipe dream.
Frederick would do all he could to ensure that his divine right, his absolute powers were not impugned. So, he could only speak the truth and tell his people his thoughts on their proposal. At the very least they deserved an honest answer, this way he could at least satisfy their minds if not persuade their hearts.
Frederick composed himself and stood atop the hastily erected platform. He looked out over the anxious and worried faces of his subjects. A hush fell across the crowd as they stood awed and humbled at the sight of their Monarch, inculcated by the many years of loyalty to the Crown, as he prepared to give them a response. Everyone there stood and watched with bated breath, the children, the women, the men, the guards, all of them knew regardless of what was said, it would be a turning point for the history of Erlitz.
"My people, what you ask of me. I cannot give." A loud gasp broke the silence as the crowd quickly became riled up once again.
"Please, let me finish. The promises of my Father, I cannot keep. Not today at least. Your desires, for equal representation are in conflict with what my Father would have wanted. The reason why he did not, no, why he could not enact his plans, to keep his promise, was simply thus. It is not possible."
"But Your Highness, the people of Anjou have set up a government run by the people for the people."
"Oh, and how do you think that came about? Through bloodshed and internecine warfare, brother betraying brother, families torn apart, famine and disease rife throughout the land. Where is the great Frankish Empire now? Everyone and their dog came out and claimed a piece of land for themselves, some proclaiming themselves to be scions of the Frankish Royal Family, other cousins, uncles declaring independence. The opportunists gathered together a rabble and proclaimed in the name of the people, justice, liberty and equality, but what are those, but meaningless ideals used to draw you in, but ultimately to line their own pockets and flatter their egos. Corrupt and useless aristocrats replaced with the worst dregs of society, is this what you want? My people do not be lulled by their false promises. There will be no paradise on this Earth should you persist on this path. Please, trust me. You know who I am. You know what sort of person I am. I cannot keep my Father's promises. However, I can make a promise to you today. Your lives under my rule will be better, safer and more prosperous than ever before. These are not empty words. This is my motivation. My driving force. My people stand with me. Only with your help can I succeed."
Frederick paused and watched as the people were mollified by his words. He could see some hesitation remained in a few of those gathered before him. He knew he was close to convincing them and decided to go all in.
"Although I cannot make good on my Father's words, I can do this much. People of Erlitz. I Frederick von Erlitz, Prince of the Grand Principality of Erlitz, do so declare, in your esteemed presence, the abolishment of landed titles. From now on, all are equal before me and the law, whether you are the poorest peasant to the wealthiest noble, all shall be judged equally."
As expected, a loud cheer erupted from the crowd. They had come hoping to be heard but unexpectedly had managed to create change. The crowd was exuberant and for the first time in many years felt hopeful in the future of their country. Their respect and love for Prince and Country soared.
"Frederick! Frederick! Frederick!" rang out across the city. Frederick smiled and waved for a little longer before he returned to the Palace, ready to carry out the next step of his plan.