The Kingdom of Roses encompasses London and extends into areas commonly known as East Anglia, the Home Counties, and part of the so-called "Heart of England." Though the Roselands have over time become the most populous kingdom in the Isle for both mortals and changelings, this was not always the case.
Long before the War of the Roses, the fae who called the Thames Valley and the surrounding countryside their home claimed the rose as their symbol. Its dual nature, as both the most beautiful and refined of flowers combined with its needle-sharp thorns, conveyed the nature of the fae nobility. For a while, their beauty surpassed that of mortals, their strength was likewise formidable. The elf-shot that felled so many who trifled with the affairs of the Rose Court was a closely guarded secret, and some say that when the renowned nocker weaponsmith Wayland Smith perished, he took the secret of these magic arrowheads with him.
It is said that the ancient Court of Roses held in the days before the Shattering was the center of fae power in the British Isles, though many from Glastonia in the Kingdom of Mist would dispute this. Those Kithain historians who claim that the Kingdom of Wool (now called the Kingdom of Smoke) once held the most power are shouted down by younger voices; for how could an area as bleak as the Midlands ever have surpassed the glory of Londinium?
Today, the Kingdom of Roses is a study in contrasts. The old and new meld together on the streets of London, a city with one foot in the future and another in the distant past. While the Technocracy holds a small majority of loyalty among mages, this atmosphere has done little to deter the changeling population. In London and the surrounding area, the development of new technologies still holds limitless wonder, and the rigidity of the "Old Boys Network" exists along side an exuberant, youthful subculture. After centuries of rule by King Albion, a commoner, the sidhe returned some three decades ago to reclaim what they felt was rightfully theirs. In fact, so many sidhe attempted to declare themselves the sole rightful heir to the kingdom, that to this day, they have not resolved the issue. Since the mid-70s the Kingdom of Roses has been ruled by Lord Edgar Whitestone, a troll who bears the title Lord Chancellor. The sidhe of the kingdom who hold noble title gather periodically as His Lordship's Privy Council, and together they advise Lord Edgar on matters. Privately, of course, nearly every individual on the Privy Council is trying to stage a coup to declare himself king, but on the surface the system appears to work quite smoothly, with amicable relations all around.
Cities & Sites Edit
London is often the first and last place visitors see in Britain, due to its position as both the capital and the transportation hub of the island. In spite of a large amount of international traffic, London has retained its own identity. Its history serves as an anchor while the whirlwind of trade, culture, and politics spins around it. But like any metropolis, London has its share of crime and squalor. In the World of Darkness, these problems are multiplied fivefold by the influences of supernatural beings who use mortals as their pawns. The threat of terrorism from the IRA and certain Middle Eastern groups is constantly on people's minds, and riots (of rugby players, students, or political protesters) are increasingly common. As the ghosts of centuries past look down on a city in decline, the fog creeps in from the Thames at night, shrouding the city and deepening each shadow.
Staying Out of Trouble Edit
Possession and use of guns and explosives are the quickest way to find trouble, if that's what you're looking for. Fortunately, outlandish dress will only keep you out at the most toffee-nosed places, and most Londoners are too polite to stare. Keep your private bits covered and you should be OK. Loud persons may attract attention more here than in colonial cities, depending on which section of town you're in and whether or not they think you're a rugby fan.
Visitors will have little difficulty puzzing out the public transport system, chiefly served by the Underground. Buses prove a little more of a challenge, but any diligent traveler will be able to figure them out in short order. Virtually every type of cuisine under the sun, from curries to sushi to Big Macs, can be found in London. The relative blandness of typical English food may have added to the popularity of international dishes here. Museums containing many of the greatest treasures of the Western world are plentiful, and the music and theatre scenes are among the most lively in the world.
London gets a very mixed bag of people, and given the English proclivity to ignore anything they think doesn't relate to them, you will probably find that people here are less likely to be rattled by things that might be unbelievable elsewhere. "Less likely" does not mean you can summon forth fire breathing dragons with impunity; simply that given the unusually high level of Banality among many people here, anything supernatural will probably be quickly explained away or forgotten by the average man on the street.
Britain has strict rules on the ownership and use of firearms. The only people who generally have guns are terrorists and criminals, and if you are discovered in possession of a gun, the police will assume that you are one or the other. In some rare cases, special operations teams fielded by the police may be packing, and in some cities police officers have guns in their cars. That's pretty much the limit. The same holds true for explosives; if you want to procure any, you will either have to go through a mountain of red tape (demonstrating your legitimate, legal use for such things) or through an illegal arms dealer, neither of which is likely to be quick or cheap. The usual roster of illicit substances are likewise forbidden.
Various branches of the Technocracy monitor customs records on a repeat basis, and anyone bringing in significant quantities of scientific or medical equipment or supplies is likely to be noted and observed. British anti-terrorism laws give authorities the right to perform spontaneous searches, the likes of which may startle foreigners. Careful use of cantrips and magic can be used to circumvent the more obvious measures, but the extreme Banality inherent to the job (as well as the presence of occasional Technocratic mages) makes this far from a sure thing.
Places of Note in London Edit
Westminster Abbey Edit
Westminster Abbey is a shrine to the departed artists and dreamers of the Isle, as well as a favorite meeting place for Celestial Chorus mages. Poets, artists, and even politicians come to the area known as Poets Corner for inspiration from the countless monuments to English creativity housed there. Writers, composers, architects and countless other dreamers are remembered here, and it is said that their ghosts return to the Abbey nightly to feel the warmth that remembrance brings. In turn, they bring inspiration to those who pay homage to their memories.
The Abbey has an almost palpable aura of sacredness to it, and even the presence of "Abbey Guided Super Tours" at £6 a head and up has done little to mar the atmosphere. Though not as important to most Choristers as Canterbury, the Abbey remains a potent symbol of the English national devotion to the One. Though faith has lessened in recent years, the Abbey remains a point of great national pride to both Sleepers and Awakened.
Westminster Abbey also houses the legendary Stone of Scone, a minor fae treasure with a history as long as that of the Isle itself. Rumored to have been hewn from a cliff in Arcadia long before the time of the Sundering, it was, some claim, a source of Glamour that helped to maintain the bond between the nobility and the land. But since it was stolen from Scotland in 1297, its power has gradually faded. Some changelings from Caledonia insist that if the stone was returned to its proper place in Scotland, it would regain its power, but for the time being it lies in state in the Abbey, as cold as the stone sepulchers that surround it.
The Tower of London Edit
Beyond its historical significance, the Tower is loaded with ghosts, a few of whom include the "little princes" (reportedly murdered by King Richard III), Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Gray, Catherine Howard, Sir Thomas More and the Earl of Essex, Although in many other areas ghosts would be banished as quickly as possible, the wraiths who inhabit the Tower are honored guests. They are an integral part of the stories surrounding the Tower, and to drive them our would be to diminish the power of their tales.
The legend goes that when the giant Bran the Blessed, king of Britain, fell in battle while attempting to claim Ireland, he ordered that his head be cut off and buried "beneath the white hill" in London, where it was said he would protect England from invasion. Over the seven years his companions took to return to England, the head remained uncorrupted and was even said to be a great wit. Bran was as good a companion in death as he had been in life.
A second legend tells that as long as there are ravens at the Tower, England will be protected from invasion. Those who guard the Tower have taken this to heart, and over the years have tried tethers, cages, and countless other means to make sure there are always a few of the birds about.
For centuries, Bran's head has stood watch over the island; it is said that during World War II, a team of Nazi occultists (some say rogue Technocrats) tried to infiltrate the Tower to sabotage its mystical protections. As history shows, their efforts did not succeed.
Some say that the enchantments laid upon the Tower must be renewed once each century, on the anniversary of the completion of the Tower. Of late, much controversy has erupted between the sidhe and mages of the Order of Hermes over who should perform the enchantment for the 900th anniversary of the Tower. The mages point out that in the sidhe's absence, they have maintained the magicks alone, while the sidhe claim that the initial ritual involved fae magicks, for was Bran not one of their line?
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien are but a few of the names of the students and teachers who've spent time at Oxford, but they are some of the best-known among changelings and their kin. Since the time of the Shattering (by which time Oxford had been churning out educated lads for some two centuries), the area has been overseen by a series of rulers, primarily trolls of the Seelie court. When the sidhe returned some three decades ago, Oxford was the site of one of the worst battles in the War of Ivy. The final duel between Lady Garyn Garfield, the troll ruler prior to the Resurgence, and Lord Berwin Lindell of House Gwydion, was the stuff of legend, with Lady Garyn wielding a greatsword and Lord Berwin fighting with rapier and main gauche. For awhile the troll's strength and stamina were formidable, but the sidhe lord's quick, precise strokes and nimble step brought him victory in the end. Though Lord Berwin rules as lord of Oxfordshire today, he does so over a county all but deserted of commoners, most of whom were devoted to Lady Garyn.
With regard to magick, Oxford has been under the control of the Technocracy for more than two centuries. Some even claim that the first colleges were begun so that medieval mages and Craftmasons would have suitable assistants versed in the Classical languages and disciplines. Prior to the Convention of the White Tower, members of the Hippocratic Circle worked alongside members of the Houses of Hermes, and differences in methodology rarely stood in the way of philosophical debate and academic inquiry. The Battle of Grimsfen Tor, less than 100 years after the founding of the first colleges, caused the first major schism between the two groups. Hasty apologies and protestations that "thee affayres of our fellowes must not interfere wyth thee pursuit of knowledge" quickly smoothed things over, but set the stage for increasing conflict. Over the years, most of the Hermetics migrated over to the Chantry established at Cambridge, as the Oxford Chantry became increasingly interested in a single "truth": that of the science embraced by the Technocracy.
See also Waltham College
Begun by students dissatisfied with Oxford, Cambridge has gone on to rival her elder sister town. Although some changelings continue to live here, the increasingly banal atmosphere is driving many away. Despite the sterile, feeling (no doubt fed by the Technocracy Construct nearby) creeping over parts of the university, the people of Cambridge still have a strong connection to the land.
See also Barrow College
Notable as the official residence of the royals, Windsor was also where the first sighting of the Questing Beast in the 20th century happened. The ancient oak tree known as Herne's Oak has long been associated with the fae, and some believe that a trod between Windsor and Arcadia once had its terminus there. Modern changelings investigating the area have come up with no evidence of the trod, but if it did once exist, it is likely that it has not been used in centuries. Of course, if it did, that would go a long way toward explaining the sightings of fantastic beasts in the woods nearby.
The roar of airplanes at nearby Heathrow Airport has marred the fairy tale quality the town once possessed, and the decline of the monarchy has meant that each year fewer tourists are inspired by the sight of the royal residence. Nearby Eton has been dominated by the forces of the New World Order for decades now, shaping the boys who will go on to lead the nation.
The Kingdom of Roses saw the worst of the War of Ivy in 1969; political divisions between commoners and sidhe remain tense even today. Though this does not show itself in open hostilities, the tone at most "mixed" gatherings is frosty, as those who gather resort to politeness and formality to ease the tension. Though Lord Edgar has asked everyone to put the past behind them, every year more sidhe move from the other kingdoms to the Roselands, and more depart from the Roselands for Concordia. In this land of tradition and ceremony, the notion of commoners controlling the reins of power is unthinkable to many sidhe.
Still, divisions within sidhe ranks have forestalled the coronation of a sidhe as king of the Roselands. The political maneuverings, formal debates, and duels that have postponed the selection of a new king seem likely to continue on indefinitely, so it would seem Lord Whitestone will continue to rule into the foreseeable future.