Aldershot and Elizabeth
By Chris Nuttall
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I was barely a year old when a strange event, believed by some to be the work of God or the Devil, brought a strange town into existence only 25 miles from London. When the light had faded, a small town with revealed, complete with puzzled green-clad soldiers carrying strange weapons. The Queen, upon hearing a strange report of the new town, dispatched a set of investigators to discover what had happened, only to find that the newcomers believed themselves to be in the future. The small army turned out to be the most powerful force in existence on the surface of the planet…and had come from the future.
Despite chattering that it was probably the work of the devil, the Queen invited the commander of the garrison to London, in order to find out his intentions. Brigadier John Travis – a hulking dark man, taken by some to be a Moor at first – explained that the garrison town had been tossed back in time, and that they had no way of returning to their own time. The five thousand soldiers, officers and incidental civilians were prepared to make a deal; if they were allowed to settle in England, they would place their knowledge and services at the disposal of the Queen. The newcomers also claimed that Her Majesty would face unparalleled challenges in the Future, including popish-inspired invasion schemes and threats from her cousin, Mary of Scotland, who would eventually be executed on Elizabeth’s orders.
The alliance nearly became unstuck when some of the newcomers insisted on their rights as Englishmen, including freedom of religion and worship, and it was largely due to the intervention of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, that the agreement was sealed. The newcomers would be permitted, more or less, a ‘free town’ in the area surrounding Aldershot itself, in exchange for their assistance. Within five years, a surprising influx of people, including Jews and free-thinkers, had turned Aldershot into one of the most influential towns – and the richest – in England. Although there were some problems over sanitation – the newcomers introduced a series of measures to prevent diseases from spreading that actually worked – and the law, Aldershot – surprisingly – worked. It also introduced democracy into the British Islands, but more on that later.
The Kings of France, Spain and the Pope had been kept abreast of developments within England, although they were unable – at first – to discover the origin of the newcomers and suspected – or chose to believe – that they were devils. As more improvements began to be inserted into Elizabeth’s small kingdom – and the doctrine of watchful tolerance was accepted – the outsiders began to suspect that there was deviltry at work. A strong England was not in the best interests of France or Spain; both powers had hopes that once Elizabeth died, they would be able to bring England into their orbit. For the Pope, in Rome, there were other concerns; England was attracting freethinkers and Jews and might, even, bring some new strength to the protestant cause. On a more understandable level, the possible advantages of snatching what the newcomers had brought, they concluded, might end the struggle for supremacy once and for all.
Elizabeth – and Cecil, and Sir John, who had been knighted – had been working to understand the changes that might happen. Elizabeth was not keen on the presence of French supporters in Scotland (including Mary herself), not least because now there was a quiet, undeclared war going on. The kidnapping of a civilian from Aldershot and a daring chase by a company of newcomer riflemen had sparked off an incident with Spain, while the French were attempting to convince Mary to accept a new army. England’s population was not only growing, it was becoming much more nationalistic, not least because of the spread of newspapers and steam engines that powered railways right across the country. There was, as Sir John ruefully remarked, little of magic in them – and, indeed, both France and Spain would deploy their own railways a few years after the English deployed theirs – and other innovations could quickly be copied by outside observers. Cecil might have worked hard to prevent a major security breech, but it was impossible, for example, to prevent some secrets from slipping out. One of them was what had happened to Mary in OTL.
Mary, Queen of Scots, had been an odd child from the start. The news of the future had been treated as a sign from God, a warning of what might happen if she didn’t take precautions, such as summoning a small force from France to serve as her bodyguard. For the Scottish nobles, this was intolerable and a small-scale civil war threatened to erupt, the more so as Mary hired menaiceries – with French money – and started to raise a new army. French urging for her to launch a pre-emptive attack on England – the more so as she believed that there would be major support for her among English nobles disconcerted at some of the rapid changes, chief amongst them Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Dudley, the former favourite of the Queen, had realised that his position had been lost to Sir John and chose to take action. He believed, probably correctly, that his unpopularity would ensure that his fall would lead to a rapid social collapse.
Elizabeth had been forewarned by Cecil that there might be a Scottish problem, but in the event she was as surprised as anyone else when Dudley made to kidnap her, while a small Scottish force headed south into England. The timing, however, was poor; Elizabeth – who had fallen into the habit of always carrying one of the mobile phones from Aldershot – was traced rapidly and rescued before any harm could come to her. Dudley himself committed suicide before he could be arrested, while smaller Companies from Aldershot advanced north. Elizabeth’s reward to Sir John was to make him the commander of her armies; this power was rapidly used to destroy a small French force and then support the Scottish nobles in mounting a coup. Elizabeth ‘accepted’ the position of Queen of Scots; the former Queen was sent into exile and her son, James, was adopted by Elizabeth.
This development was seen with unease by observers on the continent, in particular France and Spain, who had realised that the English now posed a serious threat to their own existence. Dudley’s coup had unleashed forces of reform within England and while Aldershot would remain the only ‘free town,’ it wasn’t long before there were demands for a greater degree of political participation within other major cities, including London itself. A newly-unleashed Royal Navy, including some of the world’s first steamboats and the most advanced weapons in the world, including primitive radio, prevented a direct invasion of England and, later, ensured that Elizabeth would become the mistress of an empire that including much of North America and Australia. The attempt to invade England by Spain was a disastrous failure.
The winds of change did not remain confined to England. Radical new ideas were sweeping the continent, challenging everything. As Elizabeth grew older, English traders were poking in everywhere, while others were supporting reformanist factions right across Europe, even to the point of advocating an end to the older monarchies. Protestant factions in Germany were able to use the new knowledge to save themselves from the coming Hundred Years War; instead, the power of France and Spain was largely broken. The Dutch made further progress than anyone else, even Elizabeth; they had a working democracy within twenty years of the Arrival.
England had suffered a major population boom. The arrival of new medical knowledge, new farming techniques and even potatoes had ensured that many more children would grow up to be settlers in America, or even in Australia, while still others would become politically-active. James took the throne when Elizabeth finally died, but by that time, much of the power had become concentrated in Parliament’s hands. The United Parliaments (Britain, Scotland and Wales; later to be joined by smaller American parliaments) ended up controlling most of the world. By 1600, English influence was paramount over much of the world and democracy had taken firm roots across most of the world. Racism and sexism became almost non-existent and, in many ways, it was a utopia.
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