This teenage portrait is my favourite;
favoured child, last child, Die Einzige …
Three siblings denied maternal ministrations,
then a decade on, the music of your name –
Marie Valerie Mathilde Amalie –
conceived after coronation, the first royal
born in Hungary in over a century.
News of your arrival filling the streets
like homecoming, awakening in your mother
a fierce and unexpected doting.
I have poured over other images:
you with dolls in meticulous dress,
with royal cats and dogs,
seated formally at a tiny table,
silver cutlery poised just so, a prescient
almost-frown on your infant face
and much later dwarfed by your own brood,
ten children and the infidel husband.
Why is this the image I return to ?
Perhaps it is the slightly crooked fringe
I like to imagine as homespun,
the closed book in your lap, fingers resting
lightly on some other to-be-continued life,
the lines of a poem vying for space
in your head as you balance the great weight
of multiple crowns and ordinary womanhood.
I think it must be the smallness of your smile
that wins me over, vaguely guarded
as if holding promises only to self and God:
that you would marry for love but prize
common sense over vanity, exercise
your mind before your body, paint
the flowers and defend the poor, that faith
would complete you and on your deathbed
make clear to those who knew you
that in the end only unexpected recovery
could let you down.