For All Nails #300: Descendants
By Johnny Pez
It required a moment's reflection for Yvette Fanchon to figure out why Victor Fontaine, Paramount King of the League of Cities of Ghana, reminded her of Carter Monaghan. It was not just that the men were of similar ages and similar builds. It was, she realized, because most of the Africans she had met were pure African. Fontaine, however, displayed a mix of African and European features, just as Monaghan did, and just as most other North Americans of African descent did. His skin was the color of lightly creamed coffee and his brown eyes held flecks of green.
If Fontaine looked like Monaghan, however, he did not sound like him. He spoke French with a distinct Tourainian lilt (as had, by all accounts, his grandfather before him), along with a touch of something exotic. And his manners were those of a French gentleman (as were, again, reputedly those of his grandfather). He expertly brushed his lips against the knuckle of her hand as he murmured, "Enchanted, Madame Premier."
The formalities involving an official state meeting between the Premier of the French Republic and the Paramount King of Ghana had all been taken care of back at Gambetta Field, under the glassy stares of the vitavision cameras and the equally glassy stares of the journalists. Here, in her office within the Palace of the Republic, they could dispense with such formalities. They could also, she assumed, dispense with whatever official reasons of state had nominally brought him to Paris, and discuss what he was really after.
"Your Majesty is too kind," Fanchon murmured back. She was conscious once more of the portrait of her great-grandfather staring sternly at her from the wall behind King Victor. Here, she knew, she need not wonder what her revered ancestor would have thought of her actions. After all, the great Marshal and President of France had expended much effort and treasure to win the allegiance of the rebellious former Major. Did she detect a hint of a smile beneath the Marshal's mustache? Fanchon knew it was nothing more than her imagination, but it pleased her nonetheless.
"Please, Madame Premier, you must call me Victor," said the King.
"Of course, Victor, and you must call me Yvette. Please, come and be seated." She led him across the office to the pair of chairs upholstered in leather that sat before a set of wide windows. Despite his age, Victor's movements were strong and steady. From the windows, in the clear winter air, one could see north to the venerable Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris standing guard over the Island of the City.
As he settled into the lefthand chair, Victor said, "It is said, Yvette, that Cape Town is the most European city in Africa. FN1 Now that I have seen Paris, though, Cape Town seems nothing more than a small, backward provincial town."
"You would have done better to visit Amsterdam, then," said Fanchon with a slight smile. "Cape Town would not have suffered so much by comparison. Although it is much larger, I think you would have found Amsterdam to be just as backward and provincial."
"And yet," Victor pointed out, "Cape Town has this to recommend it: it has strong ties still with its mother city, and now that Europe is changing, strong ties will count for much."
Fanchon had suspected the true reason for King Victor's visit to Paris; now she was certain. "It is my understanding," she said, choosing her words carefully, "that Queen Alexandra's recent visit to Berlin has had little immediate impact upon the Cape Kingdom's status vis a vis the Union."
Now it was Victor's turn to smile. "I do not think that the Queen -- or Prime Minister Nkate -- expected any immediate impact to result from her visit. They are both people with an eye on the long term. The seed has been planted, and both will, I think, be content to stand back for now and watch it grow."
"Victor," said Fanchon, "I will be blunt. Alexandra brought much to the table, as the expression has it, during her trip to Berlin. Her Southern African Commerce Union would be a valuable adjunct to the European Union. At the very least, she can expect in time to achieve some form of association, and full membership would not be out of the question. What of Ghana? I am quite well aware of your nation's political and economic status. Compared to your neighbors in West Africa, you are a strong, stable, prosperous nation. Compared to the states of the Union, you are poor and weak. To continue my blunt speech, if you seek membership for Ghana in the European Union, you will be disappointed."
"I appreciate your blunt speech, Yvette," said Victor smoothly. "Fortunately, I do not intend to apply for membership in the Union. What I offer, instead, is the prize your great-grandfather sought in vain: union with France."
Fanchon fell silent. This, she had not expected. Was Victor joking? It was still occasionally difficult for her to tell when other people were joking, especially people she did not know well. At the risk of seeming foolish, she decided to take his offer seriously. "Victor, it would be impossible. Ghana is a Muslim nation, a black nation, and a monarchy to boot. France is none of these things."
"As for the last," and here Victor gave a shrug that was pure Gaul, "nomenclature is mutable. A Senate can choose a President just as readily as a House of Kings can choose a Paramount King. And as for the first, I seem to recall that you chose to stand by King Frederick in his efforts to maintain the European Union on a strictly secular basis."
"And suffered politically for my efforts," Fanchon reminded him. "The Nationalists are now the second largest party in France. Were it not for our alliance with the Socialists, we would have been turned out in the last election."
Victor smiled again. "I think I can promise you that the Nationalists will make little headway in Ghana, should we become a part of France. And an extra thirty million citizens would certainly enhance your standing in the Congress of Delegates."
Fanchon was skeptical. "Are all thirty million of your people so eager to give up their independence and allow themselves to be ruled from Paris?"
Victor smiled blandly. "Naturally, we do not anticipate Ghana becoming just another French province, just another Touraine or Auvergne. We find the current status of Brittany to be an excellent model. And perhaps the Bretons would be less restless if their status within your republic were less singular."
Fanchon was shaking her head. "You give me reasoned arguments and count off the pros and cons of your proposed union as though it were nothing more than Kramer Associates acquiring yet another rival business. However, a nation is not a business. A nation is a thing unique unto itself, with its own identity, its own ways, its own spirit. Simply put, a France that was half Ghana would no longer be France."
"And what is France?" wondered Victor. "Is a nation that was ruled by the Germans for thirty-five years still France? Is a nation that makes up one tenth of Chancellor Grauer's Union still France? Nothing is fixed, Yvette. Things either grow, or they shrink. You cannot keep France as she is; all you can do is choose whether to make France more than she now is, or less."
With a sigh, Fanchon said, "This is what I will do. I will bring you before the National Assembly, and there you may make your proposal. I will neither endorse your scheme nor oppose it. What I will do, though, is recommend that a referendum be held on the question, for union with Ghana would affect all Frenchmen, and so all Frenchmen should decide this question for themselves."
Victor nodded. "That will be enough." He added, with a smile, "I can be very persuasive when I want."
Fanchon gestured out the window, to the city spread out before them, and to the nation that existed beyond. "Can you persuade a majority of Frenchmen to accept thirty million Muslim blackamoors as their brothers?"
Still smiling, the Paramount King of the League of Cities said, "We shall see."
(Forward to FAN #301: An Independent Quebec Within a United CNA).
(Forward to 14 April 1980: Look Both Ways Before Crossing).
(Return to For All Nails).