Queen Victoria wanted a mangosteen, from India. It was her favourite fruit, and now that she could no longer leave the palace, she needed someone to bring one to her. She issued a proclamation from her throne, pale under the purplish crust of her mourning dress – she wanted a mangosteen, and she was prepared to award the sum of 100 pounds for it.
Victoria had torrid dreams, of putting a knife to the skin, exposing the perfectly white segments. The almost unbelievable sweetness of a fruit ripened under the oven sun of the Empire.
In virile, surging droves, young adventuring men went to the great subcontinent to find her the fruit. When in season it was ubiquitous, and triumphantly and one by one they returned with fruit which disintegrated on the journey home.
Victoria dreamed nightly of the mangosteen, and during her long days she thought of Albert, and burned with craving.
She sulked in those long, last days before her death, the black scowl of an unrequited Queen.
On her last day they had to cut off her thick, heavy dress with scissors. She was white and soft underneath, imagining her toes curling with ecstasy, as though she was a young girl again.