literature

The Blackheart Lacustrine Palace

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The Lacustrine Palace


Introduction

One of the old residences of Meridian’s royal family prior to their ascension to the throne, the Lacustrine Palace of House Blackheart was one of the most magnificent residences in the Imperial Capital City of Gestalt. Although not as huge or as old as that of the other palatial compounds of the noble houses of Anspach, it is definitely one of the most opulent—a wondrous blending of cultures that would help set the trend for all patrician residences and the architecture of the Meridian Empire for years to come.

Its history, from its construction as an urbane oasis within reach of the family’s namesake lake to its status as an official royal residence, is tied to that of the modern history of the Meridian Empire. The home was initially built as a townhome and retreat for the exclusive use of the Marquis, Patriarch of the House of Blackheart, and his family. It currently serves as one of many official royal residences, typically being used as the residence of heirs apparent and their families.

In the best of times and worst of times the Lacustrine Palace had been a safe haven, a base of operations, a royal residence, and a prison for the noble house that had a hand in the foundation of the modern Meridian state.  Despite its modest size compared with the Imperial Palace at the city center, the home has held a special place in the hearts of the many emperors who grew up there.

Construction

This home—modest in size by Imperial Meridian standards—was set close to the shores of the great lake that bears the name of the family that had called it home.  It was first conceptualized by Frederick IX, Marquis of Blackheart, and his wife, the Princess Makeda of the Sapirian Empire, eighty years before the advent of the first Steam Wars. Construction began shortly after the birth of their son, Elector Frederick Galliard X, Prince of Sapir, who would later complete the palace long after they had died.   The palace was built with the profits the family had made from the founding of the trade route between the Northern Meridian Empire and the Sapirian Empire of the West.

This beautiful residence, which fused together architectural styles from the Empires of Sapir and Gestalt, was meant to serve both as a town home and a retreat—a place to be closer to the city as the now-busy Marquis needed to be and as a quiet getaway for the couple and their family.  

To achieve this level of privacy and convenience, it was built on a small lake island close to the shore of Lake Blackheart, linked to the island by a small private causeway.  Located at the outskirts of Gestalt, itself an island at the center of the lake, the Lacustrine Palace was sufficiently distant from the busy capital to retain its serenity while being relatively accessible by boat or carriage to the city center.

Architecture

The palace was the couple’s pet project, and meant to be a private residence. Reclusive yet within sight of Gestalt, the palace harmoniously combined elements from all corners of the continent, carefully arranged and coordinated by many of greatest architects and artisans of Sapir and Gestalt (as well as the budding steel and glass industries that laid the foundation of Meridian’s industrial revolution) under the auspices of the Marquis and the Princess.

The materials were selected from among the finest that the two empires had to offer. Artisans from across the continent brought with them elegant glass and metalwork from Murphy and Whedonia, specially handcrafted chandeliers from the artisan shops of Gestalt, rugs and tapestries from Bechdel—all framed by an edifice faced by beige sandstone and marble from the quarries of the Wildlands, worked on by the finest masons of the two Meridian empires.

The completed palace was the center of a complex of buildings built around the small lake island. The main home was an elegantly decorated palace, modest compared with its contemporaries, that had over 50 spacious rooms, elegantly yet minimally decorated with trappings from throughout the continent. These included study rooms serving as offices for the Marquis and his family, bedrooms, nurseries for the children, several dining and reception rooms, two ballrooms, and an entire annex dedicated to the accommodation of guests.

The centerpiece of its interior is a massive staircase that led to the private chambers of the Marquis and his family. Framed by elegant steel and stained glass skylights that brought natural light into the hall, the Grand Staircase was crown jewel of the palace and would serve as a platform from which most of the family’s great milestones would be announced and celebrated.

Additions to the home would be built by later generations of Blackhearts; the first of these add-ons was built in the elder days of Frederick X—it was a lakeside mausoleum and Mapotherian shrine on the far end of the islet where the complex was located.  There, Frederick’s parents, as would Frederick himself, were interred.

As the technology of the Meridian Empire marched forward, so did the features of the Lacustrine Palace.  The palace was one of the first adopters of gas (and later electric) lighting as they became available.  However, the residents of the palace argue that the natural light that entered the home through its skylights provided the most spectacular lighting of all.

History

When the keystone of the insular palace was first laid, the Blackhearts, despite their influential role in the founding of the Meridian state, were still one of the poorly known “minor houses” of Anspach, barely holding their own in the shores of the lake that bore their name against the more prestigious lords.  

The adventurous Marquis of Blackheart, a frontiersman who had founded a small but immensely profitable outpost in the shores on the far edge of the great Peripheral Sea, had restored part of their dignity through his marriage to the youngest daughter of the Sapirian Emperor.  Their union paved the way for trade between the two Meridian empires, which brought in much riches and prestige for the Marquis and his family.  The Lacustrine Palace was commissioned to commemorate their union and celebrate the family’s newfound wealth and power.

In contrast to the political overtones of their union, the Marquis and his princess bride were very much in love. They designed the palace together as a symbol of their everlasting fondness for one another, and would fuse the details of their cultures as a reflection of both their union and that of their cultures.

The palace, though functional, was still halfway finished when Princess Makeda fell ill and died. Grief-stricken Frederick left the residence incomplete; his palace had become a self-imposed prison for the broken-hearted marquis. It fell up to his son to finish the palace to commemorate his parents’ memory.

Shortly before he himself died, Frederick Galliard X bore witness to his son, Frederick Galliard XI, become heir to the throne of Sapir upon the staircase where his father and mother had previously announced his coming of age as a Prince of Sapir.  Subsequent residents would add to the complex, but due to the size of the island, the Lacustrine Palace would remain small.

A Royal Residence

Intrigue and circumstances in the far-flung Western Meridian Empire would turn the completed palace—hitherto the city home and private retreat of the Marquis of Blackheart—into a royal residence. A massacre at Sapir ordered by unknown agents left Frederick Galliard XI, himself elected as the successor to the Latitudinal Throne, the sole blood heir to the Sapirian throne. Within months, the palace became the host and official royal residence of the Emperor of a united Meridian.  

It was the first time an emperor was born in the palace—a tradition that would be cemented in its use as the official residence of the heir apparent once he or she comes of age.

At present, the Lacustrine Palace of the Blackhearts is named one of the official royal residences of the Blackheart dynasty, acting as the de jure official residence of the crown prince or crown princess after they have come of age.  

Current Occupant

The current official occupant of the palace is Dikfliss, First Prince Blackheart and heir presumptive to the Blackheart throne, though he has since vacated the home upon his recent imperial appointments in government.

Prince Dikfliss, like his father Emperor Frederick III and grandfather prince Galliard Butkus II, was born and raised for some time in the palace, reflecting a century-old imperial family tradition followed for generations.  The palace became his personal residence upon the ascension of his father to the throne and subsequent move of the new imperial household to the Imperial Palace at Gestalt, and he began to occupy it at the age of 16. He has, in the duration of his occupancy of the residence, treated it as a place to satisfy his personal pleasures.  

The palace hosted of many of the prince's events, some of which were respectable affairs of national importance. Most remembered of these, however, were his many riotous parties, which frequently devolved into drunken frenzies. Ever the hedonist, the First Prince Blackheart had used the palace for his personal pleasure since his early childhood, where it functioned as a giant playhouse for him and his young friends.

Although rumors persist that Dikfliss' occupation had caused irreparable damage to the palace, the desk of the First Prince Blackheart has denied such allegations, saying that any damage had been minimal and was quickly addressed by the palace's maintenance staff.

Palace of Sentiment

The palace has served as both a national treasure for Meridian and a private jewel for the Blackheart royal family.  Far more significant, however, is its place in the hearts of many members of the Blackheart family, built out of love by the riches gained in a fairytale romance and completed by a son wanting to honor his parents’ memory.  

The emperors who were born there have often spoken of the fond memories they had in the Lacustrine Palace, having used the home as a private getaway and personal residence.  Familiar with their larger official homes, they would as children treat the palace as a simple getaway or play house, where they would invite their peers to all sorts of activities and, in their adolescence, all manner of youthful debauchery.  

Several emperors and one empress were born and named heirs apparent in the palace, and having grown attached to the palace that they’ve come to see as their first home, have used it as a place to raise their own families before they ascended the throne.

Architectural Legacy

Architectural additions to the Imperial Palace and later palaces and public buildings from the Blackheart era would draw inspiration from the Lacustrine Palace. Both the Blackheart family and the many noble houses that copied them agreed that the palace’s architecture reflected a union of styles between the two cultures of the continent that mirrored Meridian’s newfound national identity.  

Lacustrine architecture, the prevalent architectural style used in Meridian and her colonies, gets its name from the Lacustrine Palace and its imitators throughout the capital.
My official entry to the #WorldBuildersGuild's World Building with Worlds contest. I used The Staircase by ~Epar3D, which can be viewed here. It was selected the winner just two days ago.

About the World

The world was constructed for Sweatshirt Brigade, a humor series I had that was inspired in part by the Evil Overlord's List. While the pitch for the story was innately silly and runs on lampshade hanging, the world it was to be set in on was mostly a serious undertaking. The planet was an abandoned space colony that has rebuilt a civilization close to our own technological present in about 500 years, in which time the people had built multiple nations and cultures that went through the technological equivalents of the Renaissance and Industrial Revolutions.

The entry is a description of a royal residence in the Blackheart Meridian Empire, specifically a townhouse that served as the private residence of the Heirs Presumptive of Meridian.

Notes

The style I chose was influenced in part by the articles in National Geographic Magazine.

I chose the image because it came very close to how I envisioned Meridian's cultural and aesthetic milieu to be. The staircase was something I would probably expect to find in a comparatively modest wealthy Meridian home. I basically described the entire building the staircase was in, with the staircase being its most notable interior feature that summarized the interior aesthetic of the whole complex.

The name is taken from the word that describes things associated with lakes; this is due to its location in an islet close to the lake island capital of Meridian.
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Congrats on the win, and good luck with the rest of what you have going on for the Sweatshirt Brigade. I included a mini-feature on this during the most recent OPaaT newsletter [link]