Friday, January 13, 2012

Royal Flash - Chapter 10

In the 10th and final chapter of Royal Flash readers get to see if Harry Flashman can get out of his European odyssey and arrive home to Elspeth safe and sound.

Now saying that may appear slightly odd. Royal Flash is the 2nd of 12 books about the character. Everyone knows he must have gotten out of it okay, because otherwise how can he at the age of over 80 be writing his unexpurgated memoirs? The reason I say it is that the books don't always end as such. This one does, but others have ended on cliffhangers.

Harry is hightailing it out of Strackenz with his ill gotten gains and heads for Munich. He's deduced by now that Rudi's story about him having broken the law for his little episode with Baroness Pechman was just that...a story. He no more broke the law in Munich by doing that than he would have in London, admittedly he'd be in trouble if Baron Pechman caught up to him, but knowing how Bismarck fitted Harry up it's highly unlikely that there is a Baron Pechman, in fact Baroness Pechman may not have even been a Baroness, after all Harry Flashman wasn't a prince, but everyone thought he was because they were told he was, and because he bore a striking resemblance to Carl Gustaf. I think there's a bit of a point being made throughout the book. Harry isn't a hero, but everyone thinks he is because he looks like one and he tells people he is.

Munich, like much of the rest of Europe at the time, is in an uproar. The people are sick of Kind Ludwig's excesses, and he's about to be overthrown. They also focus their anger against the King's mistress; Lola Montez. In another of the actual historical events that populate the books Lola faces down an angry mob and walks through them into her coach. Harry realising that Lola is his best chance to get out of Germany and Europe runs after the coach, he has to hope Lola is willing to pick him, because he is absolutely skint, and it's not like he can pull a jewelled ring or something out of his valise and use it to pay for a train ticket.

Luckily Lola still has some affectionate feelings for her former lover, despite his actions and behaviour towards her in the past and lets him on. The two travel for a time, until one morning Harry wakes up to find Lola and her servant gone, along with his valise! She does leave a note claiming her need was the greater. Uncharacteristically Harry doesn't bear a grudge. There must have been some genuine feeling there, and he does claim her as the most beautiful of his many conquests, he never forgot her either.

In wrapping the story up Flashman explains how he told the story to a young lawyer of his; Hawkins, this was Anthony Hope's real name, and he made it into one of his romances, which sold very well, this of course is how Hope wrote The Prisoner of Zenda, at least that's Flashman's story.

He also said that he met Irma once more. She visited London for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Flashman stayed out of her sight, but she had aged well and was still an attractive woman. Carl Gustaf had died some years back. She had her son with her, and he was the spit image of Rudi Starnberg, so Irma may not have been as pure as everyone believed. Flashman thinks Rudi himself perished along with the Germans during a march on Paris.

Bismarck of course went on to become one of history's greatest statesmen and was responsible for the formation of Germany, actions which later led to WW I. Had Bismarck's plan worked out, the course of events may have been advanced a few years, or they may have turned out differently altogether.

Harry's homecoming doesn't create the same sort of stir that his previous one in Flashman did. The Morrisons are still in residence and none too pleased to see him back. Buck's also back at home, although no one seems to think it will be long before he's in rehab again. Elspeth is taking tea with friends, she does wonder what Harry did to his head and why, and asks what he brought her back from Germany.

There are two short appendices. One covers The Prisoner of Zenda, and it was nice to see George MacDonald Fraser acknowledge his inspiration for this book. The other is some more about Lola herself, and she was one of the more remarkable footnote characters in history and a great match for Flashman.

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