After a slow opening, Harold MacGrath’s The Puppet Crown turns a geeky sovereign bond situation into a complex tale of political intrigue.
King Leopold of Osia, cousin of the late king, came to throne because a confederation disposed the king’s brother, Josef, and “placed him on [a] puppet throne, surrounded by enemies, menaced by his adopted people, rudderless and ignorant of statecraft. ”
The Diet authorizes Leopold to borrow for public projects; a departing British diplomat purchases the bonds.
When the loan is due 10 years later, in order to effectively foreclose on government of Osia shadowy political power brokers attempt to prevent the loan from being paid or extended.
The main character is Maurice Carewe, an American journalist turned diplomat. He arrives as Osia is preparing for the wedding of Princess Alexia to the crown prince of Carnavia. The prince will pay off the bonds as the bride’s dowry if the bond holder, Baronet Fitzgerald, does not extend the loan period. The prince, however, has disappeared. Maurice unwittingly identifies Fitzgerald, who is using an assumed name. Thus begin cloak-and-dagger, dark-of night adventures with skilled swordsmen and uncloaked, dark-of-night adventures with deceitful damsels.
The Puppet Crown ends in a shockingly unexpected manner: realistically, not novelistically.
The valiant hero does not get the princess.
The cruel, scheming duchess does not get her comeuppance.
And there’s no happily-ever-after with the Austrian Empire on the rise.
by Harold MacGrath
1901 bestseller #7
Project Gutenberg e-book #3239