The May Queen

An extract from my novel Beyond The Two Doors

The tradition of May Day celebrations stretched back several centuries at the Maybury Estate. Every year, the parkland was transformed into a child’s paradise with colourful stalls selling candy-floss, ice-creams, candy sticks and lemonade. A merry-go-round, swing-boat and donkey rides all had queues of children waiting a turn. In the centre of it all, there stood a giant maypole.

In the evening, there was a procession, lit by lanterns, leading to a ring fort where once stood a stone circle. A few stones remained with the rest pilfered long ago. Local folklore said it had been the site of a great battle between the Celts and the Romans. The May Queen resplendent in a golden gown wore a headdress made of newly unfurled leaves. She made her way to the hill fort just before sunset to reclaim her throne from the Old Man of Winter.

Clara arrived just as the pageant was about to begin. Low clouds covered up the evening sun and lanterns lining the path of the procession seemed to glow brighter. A hush descended on the crowd as the May Queen emerged from her horse-drawn carriage. Local children dressed as wood nymphs scattered leaves and petals in her wake. Squeals of delight pierced the hushed atmosphere as young and old alike delighted in the spectacle. The May Queen led the procession to the hill fort as the crowd pressed forward to watch the combat between winter and summer.

The Old Man of Winter emerged like Pan from a copse of trees, dancing around the remaining standing stones, claiming all the seasons for himself. There were gasps from the crowd and children held their breath, hoping the fairy princess would not die. Old Man Winter reached a large wooden throne decorated with garlands just as the May Queen climbed to the top of the fort. A fire eater danced around them, adding to the drama and spectacle. He blew fire above their heads as they locked arms in a battle for the Throne of Summer. A troop of dancers emerged from the copse, breaking into two groups to represent summer and winter. They joined in the mock battle for the throne until finally a crescendo of music saw the Old Man of Winter fall to his knees and renounce the throne. The May Queen took her rightful place on the Throne of Summer amid much applause and shouting. And just as she seated herself on the throne, the setting sun broke through clouds as if nature itself had liberated summer from the grip of winter.

An extract from Chapter 15 of Beyond The Two Doors.

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