Aberdeenshire, Scotland
December 2017

In a country where they turn back time

"Is everyone ready?" asks Owen and looks at all of us in turn. On Amy and me, his gaze dwells a little longer.

"I think so," answers Teddy, before looking at his wife. "Are you ready to go?"

Amy takes a deep breath, but then she nods and smiles. "Yes, I think so."

The fortnight spent back in the States with her family did a lot of good for her mood and her self-esteem. When she returned, she was much calmer and more relaxed and while it's obvious that a holiday won't solve all problems, everyone was pleased by the effect these two weeks had on her. Owen all but urged her and Teddy to continue taking some time off regularly, allowing Amy to recharge and get some distance between her and the most stifling public interest for a while.

Because Ken and I only returned from our honeymoon a few days ago, I haven't had much of a chance to have an in-depth conversation with Amy yet, but we went for a stroll the other day and she happily agreed to my proposals of weekly lunch dates. She also hinted that she's thinking about Ken's suggestion of seeing someone to support her in dealing with the adjustments of royal life, which I hope will help her going forward.

"What about you?" Ken takes my hand, thus interrupting my thoughts. "Everything okay?"

I look up at him and smile. "Sure. After our wedding, this should be a walk in the park, right?"

I might or might not be projecting more confidence than I feel, which Ken, bless him, doesn't miss. He squeezes my hand reassuringly and leans forward to kiss my forehead – very nearly dislodging my snazzy green fedora hat in the process.

"There's nothing to be worried about," pipes up Persis. "We just walk and wave and smile a little. The worst that could happen is that someone stumbles."

There's a flicker of dread visible on Amy's face, but then she squares her shoulders and declares, "I, for my part, don't intend to stumble."

"And if you do anyway, I'll catch you," Teddy promises loyally.

"And I, you," replies Amy with a twinkle in her eye, before standing up on her tiptoes and giving Teddy a kiss on the cheek.

Leslie laughs. "There's the spirit!"

She opens the door leading to Balmoral's entrance hall, where the rest of the wider royal family is waiting for us. They're staying in various rooms dotted around the castle for the Christmas holidays and we all had breakfast together this morning, so there's no use for greetings. Instead, everyone just nods and smiles at each other, as we follow Owen and Leslie to the front door, which is held open by two footmen. Outside, there's a fleet of cars waiting to take us to Crathie Kirk, which is the church attended by the royals when up in Scotland.

On foot, it'd take about fifteen minutes to get there, but in the cars, it barely takes three. We drive through the park surrounding Balmoral Castle and past the gate house, before crossing the river Dee via a single-lane bridge and passing between the parking spaces used by visitors to the castle ground when the royals aren't here. This is also where the first spectators are lining the road, though most of them gathered closer to the church where a footpath diverges from the main road and where the cars stop to let us out.

When we emerge, there's excited whispering and rustling among the people on both sides of the path, but none of the commotion we usually encounter in London. The people living up here in the so-called Royal Deeside are used to seeing royal people mill around and also appear to exhibit this very British combination of politeness and reservedness that forbids overly exuberant behaviour.

Much less reserved, naturally, are the photographers cordoned off in a special area by the side of the path. This being both Amy's and my first royal Christmas, they turned out in hitherto unknown numbers and right now, they're all jostling for the best spot.

"Well, then." I look at Amy just climbing from a car. "Shall we?"

I hold out my arm so we can link elbows, which Amy does, though looking a bit confused. Skipping over to us from the car she rode in with her parents, Persis throws one arm around Amy's shoulders and beams at us.

"Um…" Teddy frowns. "Don't you think they want to see Amy walk with me and Ken with you?" he asks me.

"Oh, for sure," I confirm, laughing. "But we're instead giving them what they need to see, which is ever so much more important."

Briefly, I catch Ken's eye and find him smiling at me. I talked to him beforehand about wanting to walk with Persis and Amy, to show the world that women of similar age in the same family can actually get along fine, even when the family is a royal one.

Katie, being in on the plan, appears on my other side. She's for once child-free because Puddles is still deemed too young to be made to sit through a church service. She was therefore left at the castle in care of Great-Aunt Tanya, who for her part claims she's too old to be made to sit through yet another church service. Following Katie is Ashley, who hesitates until I wave her closer and motion for her to stand between her sister and me.

Persis, meanwhile, grins widely at her bothers. "Sorry, boys. I'm afraid there's not more room for you."

Predictably, they're both very good-natured about it, smiling near-identical smiles and falling back to join a loose group consisting of Chris, Adam and the three Oldwick cousins. Behind them are Uncle Al and Aunt Kim as well as Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob, with Leslie and Owen, naturally, taking the lead of our little group.

The remaining walk to Crathie Kirk is short, but quite steeply uphill and from behind him, I can see that it gives Owen some trouble. He leans heavily both on Leslie's arm and on his cane, but you wouldn't guess it from the cheerful smiles and friendly nods he directs at the spectators. The rest of us take our cue from him, nodding and smiling and also waving at the people gathered on both sides of the path.

I can see that they're clutching flowers and gifts, but we've been briefed extensively about the protocol for this church visits. (Seriously! Protocol for a church visit!) One of the points in said protocol decreed that we wouldn't stop to interact with the public on our way to church, instead leaving it for afterwards.

Crathie Kirk is surprisingly small and rustic for a quasi-royal church. It's had royal patronage for over 150 years though and apparently, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the current church building, so its history is well-established. The south transept is reserved for royal use, so this is where we go after entering the church via a special wooden entrance also reserved for royal use. (Anyone see a pattern here?)

The other parishioners already took their seats before we arrived, so the church service starts pretty much immediately after we all sat down in our pre-assigned pews. As usual, seating order is determined by closeness to the throne, so it's Leslie and Owen in front and assorted Oldwick brothers in the back. (Which is probably just as well, because they're not taking this as seriously as they maybe ought to, despite their mother's glares.)

The minister of the local parish is a very nice man and when he was over for tea the other day, we had a lovely chat about Budapest, which Ken and I just visited and where the Revered headed the congregation of the Church of Scotland for a few years. He also manages to make the service as entertaining as a church service can be and I'm actually surprised to find that almost an hour is gone by the time it's over.

Having proven my point about women supporting each other, I happily allow Ken to take my hand this time and walk by his side as we leave the church again.

Leslie and Owen stay in the middle of the path, but the rest of us branch out quickly to greet the people gathered by the side. Ken tugs me in direction of an elderly man in a wheelchair whose medals identify him as a veteran.

"How do you do, Sir," Ken greets him.

"Hello!" I add cheerfully. "Such a lovely day today, isn't it?" (That's a fib, of course. It's not raining, but the wet cold creeps even beneath my heavy wool coat. 'Dreich', the Scottish call it and onomatopoetically, it sounds exactly right.)

"A very nice day," confirms the veteran with a charming smile. "Made even nicer by meeting our lovely new princess."

Instinctively, I find myself smiling back at him. "Thank you. That's very kind of you to say."

The veteran grins, almost looking a bit cheeky as he catches Ken's eye. "She's a right beauty!"

Thus complimented, I lower by eyes, feeling a bit bashful. I don't see Ken's face as he replies, but just from the tone of his voice I know that he's laughing. "I always say so."

He raises our linked hands to kiss the back of mine, glove and all, making some of the ladies around us coo appreciatively. When I look back up, I see them watching us and find approval written all over their features.

The veteran, meanwhile, has turned around to wave a little girl closer who I take to be his granddaughter. She clutches a posy of flowers that she shyly holds out for me to take. Slipping my hand from Ken's hold, I crouch down to be on eye level with her.

"Are these for me?" I ask her.

She nods, clearly not daring to speak, and looks at me from beneath a blond fringe.

"Thank you. They're very pretty," I assure her as I accept the flowers and, to underline my point, briefly raise them to my nose for a sniff. (It's too cold for my nose to function, so I don't smell a thing, but no-one really needs to know that.)

The girl watches me, still wide-eyed, but not quite as terrified as before. From the corner of my eye, I can see Ken move on to charm a group of middle-aged women, but I stay with the girl a bit longer. She reminds me of another little girl who gave me flowers on a Christmas morning three years ago and briefly, I wonder what became of her. I forgot her name, but I remember that she was very sweet.

"Do you want to tell me your name?" I ask the girl now in front of me.

She cocks her head to the side for a moment before answering, "Matilda."

"That's a beautiful name," I tell her. "I have a friend whose daughter is also called Matilda. She's a few years younger than you."

Said friend is actually Hanson and little Matilda is younger sister to Jims, but I don't know to explain a personal protection officer to this girl and anyway, 'friend' isn't really such a bad definition for what Hanson has become to me.

"You're Princess Rilla," states Matilda and her previously wary gaze turns curious.

"Yes, I am," I confirm, though I'd be lying if I pretended to have gotten used to this form of address already.

"I watched your wedding on TV with Mummy," continues Matilda, growing bolder. "I liked your crown."

"It was very sparkly, wasn't it?" I reply, feeling myself smile.

Matilda nods enthusiastically. "Do you often wear a crown?"

"I did last night," I answer. "We all dressed up for a special dinner and I got to wear a crown."

In fact, I wore a tiara lent by Great-Aunt Tanya, who arrived with a whole crate of them and handed them out to anyone standing still for long enough. Leslie, Mary and Kim wore their own tiaras, but Persis, Katie, Amy and I found ourselves decked out in Romanov jewels. Even Ashley got a sparkly diamond comb to wear in her hair, which she was very pleased with.

"I'd also like to wear a crown," Matilda informs me seriously.

"Well, in that case…" I raise the flower crown my hands automatically created from the posy she gave me, perhaps in memory of my encounter with the other little girl on Christmas Day in Canada. (Madison was her name, wasn't it?) "It doesn't sparkle, but would you still accept this one?"

Matilda considers the flower crown for a moment, before a smile slowly spreads over her face. "It's pretty!" she declares, with conviction.

Returning her smile, I carefully place the flower crown on her head. One flower, I keep for myself and tug it beneath the hat band of my fedora.

"See, now you have a crown for yourself," I tell Matilda, who seems very happy with her headdress.

"Like a princess!" she adds excitedly.

"Like a princess," I confirm, smiling fondly at her as I get up from my crouched position. (My knees give an ominous crack as I do. Looks like I'm getting old!)

Matilda, sensing that I have to move on, picks up the hem of her coat and does a very elegant little curtsey. "Merry Christmas, Princess Rilla!"

"Merry Christmas, Princess Matilda," I reply, briefly inclining my head in respect and acknowledgement.

The veteran, who's hitherto followed our exchange quietly, beams at me and adds, "Merry Christmas, beautiful princess!"

Laughing and shaking my head, I raise my hand to wave goodbye at him, while at the same time taking a step back. The others, I notice as I quickly look around, already walked further and I start to follow, but before I can reach Ken a few metres in front of me, an elderly woman stops me by calling out, "Your Royal Highness?"

As usual, my brain needs an extra second to realise that yes, that's actually me now. When it does, however, I turn towards the woman with my friendliest smile. "Hello, how are you?"

"Very well, Ma'am," replies the woman quickly. (It's seriously odd to be ma'amd by a woman who could well be my grandmother!) "I hope you're also feeling fine?"

"I am," I assure. "It was a lovely service."

"Yes, we're very grateful to have such a clever and compassionate minister," the woman agrees, thereby also letting me know that she's a local.

Before I get a chance to join into her praise of the minister, she leans down to pick up a bag standing between her feet. "If you allow, Ma'am, I'd like to give you this."

From the bag, she pulls what looks like a bunch of colourful fabric at first glance, but reveals itself to be a quilt upon further look.

"How beautiful!" I declare, accepting the quilt. "This is very kind of you!"

"It was made by the women of our congregation," the woman tells me. "Everyone provided a patch and sewed well-wishes into it."

Looking closer, I see that there are indeed words sewn on the colourful patches decorating the quilt.

"How thoughtful!" I exclaim, feeling genuinely touched by the thought and care that went into creating it. "Thank you so much!"

The woman smiles, proudly. (Something about her reminds me of Mrs Weisz, making my heart respond to her.) She shows me a white spot of the quilt where a patch is missing. "We thought you might like to add your own message here," she explains.

"Yes, absolutely!" I nod. "I'm afraid I'm not the best needleworker, but I could ask my grandmother to help me."

"A lovely idea," approves the woman. "Two generations working together – perhaps to finish a quilt that will one day cover the bed of yet another generation?"

There's an almost impish smile on her face and when I realise what she's implying, I find myself laughing. "Not for a while yet, but one day, sure."

"All in good time," agrees the woman. "There's no need to rush. First, you should enjoy marital life for a bit." Her knowing expression tells me clearly quite what she's telling me to enjoy about being married.

I don't reply, of course, just bite back a smile and briefly raise my eyebrows to show that I understand. Then, gathering the quilt fully in my arms, I state, "Thank you again for the beautiful quilt. Please relay my thanks to the other women in your congregation and tell them it will take pride of place in our home."

"It's an honour, Ma'am," replies the woman, even as she reaches down and produces another bag with yet another quilt. "Would you mind giving this to the Duchess of Kendal with our best wishes?"

Somehow, I'm oddly pleased by the fact that she and the other women didn't forget about Amy. She is, after all, still a newlywed princess herself and has earned a quilt with good wishes as much as I did.

"Of course I will!" I promise. "Thank you, again, and Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas," repeats the woman, holding out the bag to me.

With my arms full of fabric already, I see no way to take it, but luckily, Beaverstock and Corr arrive on either side of me in that very moment and relieve me of my 'burden'. With most of our staff sent home to celebrate Christmas with their families (including Hanson, at my personal request), it falls to the PPOs to not only protect us today but also help us carry the flowers and gifts presented by the public.

"Thanks," I murmur as I transfer quilt and bag to them. Turning, I see that the others have moved on even further, with some already having reached the cars. Ken, however, waits for me not far down the line and, smiling, holds a hand out when our eyes meet.

I quickly walk towards him and grab his hand, with my PPOs not far behind. It takes another few minutes until we make it back to the cars as well, by the end of which a good dozen bunch of flowers and several more gifts have joined the quilt. I don't think I've ever received quite so many presents on Christmas before! It would almost be bewildering if it wasn't quite so moving.

Everyone else is already seated in the cars, but before I can get in as well, Ken stops me with a hand on my arm. "Walk back with me?"

I frown. "Why?"

"No particular reason. I'd just like to spend some time alone with you," he explains, shrugging.

Lowering my voice and leaning closer to him, I point out, "You had me all to yourself last night."

Ken grins. "I did. And yet, I'd like to take a stroll with you right now before the family claims us again."

"Won't we miss Owen's speech?" I wonder as I absent-mindedly watch the first cars pull away.

"It's boring anyway," Ken replies, unconcerned. "I saw the tape and it's mostly lots of wedding footage and Dad welcoming Amy and you to the family."

"Even more of a reason for me not to miss it," I demur.

My husband, alas, is not to be swayed. "There is that tape, plus they always put it on Youtube afterwards for you to watch as often as you'd like to. But we won't miss it anyway. It doesn't air until 3pm today and it's barely past noon now. Even if we walk as slowly as humanly possible, we couldn't really miss it."

"In that case…" I squeeze his hand and step away from the car. "Let's walk."

The PPOs clearly aren't happy about our impromptu change in plan, but the spectators still lining the road leading towards the castle definitely are. They came to wave at cars zooming past, but instead get Ken and me actually walking past them, stopping intermittently for some smalltalk, well-wishes and even more gifts. (Seriously, where do they get all these flowers in the middle of winter in the middle of Scotland?)

The walk to the gatehouse easily stretches out from ten minutes to thirty, but with Ken assuring me we have time, I don't really mind. Once we're past the gate, the PPOs melt away as well, giving us some semblance of privacy as we stroll through the garden, our linked hands swinging between us.

"Isn't it a bit weird that all these people come bearing gifts when you're much more financially comfortable than them?" I muse.

"We are," corrects Ken casually. "And yes, I'm sure your Grandma Bertha would certainly think so."

I swat at him, making him laugh.

"Seriously though, I don't know how it originated, but I have no idea how to stop it either. It would be incredibly impolite to reject a gift someone brought to give to us, don't you think?" He looks at me questioningly.

"I suppose so," I agree, thinking back to the seller at the flea market trying to gift me the wedding bracelets.

"If it helps, we hardly get to keep anything," Ken continues. "The flowers are sent to hospitals, any toys are given to children's charities and whatever is edible is distributed within the household. All other gifts are recorded before becoming property of the Crown, which is to say, my father. We can use them, but nothing we receive in official capacity as royals is ever our property."

I hum in thought as I mull this over. "Quite strict rules."

"Ah, yes." Ken grins. "They weren't always in place, but there was a rather sticky situation involving Al and a sailing yacht when I was a child and… let's just say my grandmother thought it prudent to install some guidelines."

"I can imagine!" And I can. Uncle Al is fundamentally a good and kind person, but he really has a talent for putting his foot in.

"The rules don't apply to personal gifts though, nor to those given for special occasions, so you get to keep all the sparkly jewels you received for our wedding," Ken teases.

We asked the public to donate to charities of our choice instead of sending in gifts, but of course all those foreign royals and dignitaries came bearing presents. I only have a vague idea of everything that piled up, but I know Bilal and Andrew sorted through it all while Ken and I were honeymooning, so we should get a better idea of our wedding gifts once we return to London in the New Year.

"I was given a quilt by a nice lady today with good wishes stitched into it," I tell Ken thoughtfully. "Would that also qualify as a personal gift?"

"It does, I think, but I'll check," Ken replies. "Either way, no-one's going to snatch it away from our bed if that's where we decide to put it."

"I think it's meant for the bed of our child," I explain. "One day, I mean."

"One day," repeats Ken, a rather foolish little smile on his face. We agreed to settle into married life (and for me, royal life) and also to get Owen's upcoming Silver Jubilee out of the way before starting with the family planning, but it's definitely something we both want.

"I was told to enjoy marital life beforehand though, so I don't suppose there's any rush," I inform Ken saucily.

His smile widens into a grin. "No objection here." Wrapping an arm around my waist, he draws me closer and, when I raise my face to his, gives me a sweet kiss.

"I must warn you though," I tell him pensively as I lean into his side. "If our firstborn is a girl, I'm making them change succession rules. There's no way I will ever explain to a daughter of mine why her young brother gets to be king over her just because he's male."

Ken makes a thoughtful sound. "No, that wouldn't do. I'm kind of hoping for a son first, but I'm definitely also looking forward to us having a little girl. She'd have to have your hair, of course and – Rilla? Why are you looking at me like that?"

It took a moment for my mind to catch up with his words, but when it did, I stopped dead in my tracks, grounding my heels into the gravel and staring up at him in sheer disbelief.

"Rilla?" he tries again, looking concerned. "Love?"

"You!" I splutter, indignant. "You awful, horrible, chauvinistic, sexist… man!"

For a moment, we stand opposite each other, me jabbing my finger at him and him looking utterly and totally confused. Then, suddenly, his face clears up and he starts – laughing.

Laughing!

"I don't know what there's to laugh about!" I accuse. "In fact, I shall march right back to that church and ask the nice minister whether he can do something about this marriage of ours, because clearly, I was coerced into marrying you under false pretences!"

Ken, alas, is still chuckling. "He couldn't if he wanted to. Different church."

Do I look like I care?

Ignoring my outrage, Ken crosses the distance between us and wraps me into a hug. I hit at his chest, somewhat half-heartedly, but he ignores that as well.

"Me hoping for a son first is not because I think men make better monarchs," he explains, his voice low by my ear. "In fact, history has probably proven otherwise. Some of our greatest monarchs were women and anyway, I'm fully convinced a daughter of yours could feasibly conquer the world if she chose to."

Slowly, I drop my hands and stop fighting his embrace. "But?" I ask, if a little grudging.

"If our firstborn is a daughter I'll be right by your side in making sure she gets the rights accorded to the first child and I know we'll do our best to prepare her for the job," he answers, lightly brushing his nose against my temple as he speaks. "I just think that a boy would have it a little easier and I want life to be as easy and worry-free as possible for any child of ours."

"Easier in what way?" I want to know, raising my head to look at him.

"For men, the scrutiny isn't as bad and neither is the judgment," Ken explains. "I've seen how they hounded you, Amy, Persis and even Katie, who's turned being inconspicuous into an art form. Hell, they're already starting with Ashley! Comparably, Teddy, Chris and I never had it as bad, not even with me being heir to the throne. I hate it, but it's a fact that for some reason, women are always judged that much harder."

I nod slowly. He's correct about that.

"I just think that if we have a daughter first, she'll have to bear the double burden of being a princess and being heir apparent," Ken continues, sounding subdued. "I'd just like to spare her that and a boy would likely have an easier time. I thought – hey, are you okay?"

Concerned, he studies my face, raising a hand to brush it over my cheek.

"I… I never saw it like that," I admit, haltingly. "I just thought what a great sign it would send to the world to have a girl become queen in her own right, but… this isn't about symbols, it's about people. I should have considered that. How foolish of me!"

"Not foolish at all," Ken corrects gently. "I've just had much more time to think it over."

"And what if we do have a girl first?" I ask, suddenly horrified at the thought. "What if we can't protect her?"

He doesn't answer right away, instead drawing me closer and holding me for a moment. "We can't protect her," he finally admits. "We won't be able to completely protect any child we have. We can just love them and teach them and support them as best as we can."

"It doesn't sound like much," I point out, frowning.

"On the contrary, it's a lot," Ken argues quietly. "Look at me and where your love and support got me. I like to think I'm a better person for it and I know it made me so much happier."

His admission raises a smile from me, but my thoughts are still going in five directions at once.

"Look, you'll be brilliant and I'll do my best and together, I think we can work something out," he promises, lightly bumping his nose against mine. "And anyway, we still have some time left and also a whole lot of influence. How about we work to make sure that any daughter of ours, firstborn or not, gets to live in a world that doesn't judge her quite so unfairly?"

"Grandma Bertha would like that," I reply, smiling a somewhat watery smile.

Ken laughs softly. "I'm sure she would. We shall ask her advice, and Anne's and Joy's and of all the other women who I'm sure have plenty of great ideas what to do about it."

"We shall," I agree. "Your Mum, too. And your Aunt Mary."

"And them," he confirms, his hand lightly stroking over my back.

There's a moment of silence, before I ask, "You think we can make it work?" Even as I speak, I'm not completely sure what I'm asking about, changing the world or raising a family or, really, everything that lies before us.

"I'm not sure," Ken admits, "but I know that we'll sure as hell try."


The title of this chapter is taken from the song 'Year of the Cat' (written by Al Stewart and Peter Wood, released by Al Stewart in 1976).


A/N: Special thanks, this time, goes to OriginalMcFishie, who had the idea with the quilt and also allowed me to tweak it as needed!


To DogMonday:
You didn't identify who you would have liked to give a speech at Rilla's wedding, but since you mention a "she" who has known Rilla for a long time and who played a role during the wedding ceremony already, I'm thinking you mean Una Meredith? To be quite honest, I never saw Rilla and Una as being very close friends. In the book, all their interactions circle around Walter in some respect, so they're never really show to have a friendship of their own. This, in my story, they're friendly and Una provides a bolthole for Rilla during the break-up, but they're not super close friends either. Una has known her for a long time, but to me, it would have been a bit odd to pick her over her much closer friends, even if she hasn't known them as long.
Ken promised Rilla that he'd take her to Venice so often in the course of the story that I figured he had to make good on that at some point ;). Throw in the Paris hotels and Neuschwanstein Castle he also promised to show her and a honeymoon tour of Europe was a bit of a no-brainer. As you say, he's gotten quite good about keeping his promises and since we already had the exotic beach holiday earlier in the year, it gave me an opportunity to shake things up and write about a very different kind of holiday. Also, Venice!
I deliberately decided early on that Brexit isn't a thing in my story. Brexit and Trump were two controversies I didn't want to delve into, at least not within the confines of a fictional story. So, either Brexit never happened or, for those leaning "Leave" in real life, the UK never joined the EU in the first place. I don't really care which option readers prefer to go with, but I know there's no Brexit in my story.
As for the Nobel Prize celebrations, I must honestly admit that they don't really register with me. We usually get media coverage of the winners around the time that they're announced, but the actual celebrations don't get much attention in Germany except for the annual blurb in the society pages focusing on which tiara Victoria wore and whether Madeleine made an appearance on the big night. Other than that... it's not something we hear or read much about, hence why it's not been on my radar. I have three options for you though how the honeymoon timing fits around the Nobel celebrations anyway: A) Rilla and Ken went there deliberately to attend some events in honour of the two British Nobel Laureates (similar to how the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg appear to have done in 2011), B) Ken thought they could use the Nobel hoopla to slip under the radar because attention would be focused elsewhere (mistakenly, I assume, but the man has been wrong before), C) in my universe, Nobel Prizes are handed out on October 21st instead of December 10th (a possibility given that my universe deviates from real life in 1892, which was before the first Nobel ceremony, before Nobel's death and even before he wrote the deciding testament). Take your pick ;).
Indeed, this chapter brought you Christmas at Balmoral! And yes, next chapter covers New Year, because while that's not a creative moment to end a story, it's usually an effective one. Or, well, I guess you'll be the judge of that!