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In fairness and in good faith, she did request of Parliament more than once, more than several times, that the matter of the Prince Consort's status be reviewed. But in truth that she would admit to no one, not even her dearest, not even her diary, not even the spaniels; in truth, she was relieved each time the notion of raising him to equal with herself was rejected.

She loves Albert. Let no one ever claim to love another more than she loves him. But she was joined to her Empire before she took his hand; she was a queen before she was a wife. And she loves that her first and grandest status lifts her up even as her second status bends her knee. She is second to Albert in their marriage, but she is ahead of him in Court.

It thrills her.

A guilty thrill, because it's terribly selfish, and more than that it's a pure inversion of the natural order. Each time he falls in step a stride behind her, each time she sweeps into a room without glancing back to see if he follows, she is turning up her nose at the way things ought to be. It makes her stomach twist and heat, brings a flush to her face. Illicit and marvellous, to be Queen while her beloved stands a step below as Consort, and her Government--hers--shows no indication of ever permitting him to meet her as equals.

He never speaks of it, her Albert with his pride. Perhaps, she thinks sometimes, perhaps it isn't pride that holds his tongue; perhaps he takes the same thrill as she does, in inverse. Perhaps he loves standing in the place of her wife in the public view, perhaps it brings heat to his skin to bow his head and his will to her as his husband.

Her suspicions grow stronger on those nights when she comes to bed to find him already there but not yet asleep. It's not a common occurrence, precisely; he has his books and his accounts and his terribly serious discussions to keep him up late warring against his natural inclination to fall asleep early. She has her matters of state to occupy hours where they never were invited. But on occasion-- on occasion. She comes into the bedchamber and finds him lounging abed, his face lighting up in a smile when he sees her.

She strides to the bed like a hero. Like a man, a master of her household and all within it, and he as her prize, willing and surrendered in the sheets. She can climb atop him, like a conqueror, and pin his wrists to the mattress, and he permits it as he ought to, because her will is law.

She kisses him and he sighs against her mouth. It's so terribly exciting, how she acts and he simply does what she says, every movement falling into place the way children are told things will when they are kings or queens. The way nothing ever does, in reality, where the million clockwork parts of politics and wisdom and the ever-shifting game of life get in the way.

Here, though. Like this. He is hers, and he gives way to her, lets her have her way with him, kissing his mouth and holding his hands. If it was a day when the clockwork parts fell in her favor and she feels especially bold, she places his hands where she wants them, and he gives her her way again, smiling up at her and doing the delightful things she's told him she enjoys.

And in the end, of course, taking him, turning being taken by him into her final ownership act, until he smiles and sighs and falls asleep with her kiss on his lips. She rests her hand on his chest, palm flat, fingers splayed wide, feeling his heartbeat echo through her while she watches him sleep, and she thinks, mine, mine, all this is mine, so long as it pleases me, and may it please me for as long as we both shall live.

On those nights she feels quite, quite sure that he must feel the same way, that it must heat his blood to submit to her as wildly as it thrills her to have his submission.

She will never ask, and would not wish to hear his answer. It might shatter her thoughts, her perfect glass castles in the air. She have nothing of it. Things will stay as they are: he as master of the house and she as master of the Crown.