Back in our hotel room we watched the speech carried live by all the international news networks. This was the breaking news. The broadcast begins with a shot of the Royal Standard flying atop the flag pole of Buckingham Palace, and the subdued playing of the national anthem which has become a convention since Queen Elizabeth died. Then the scene shifts to show His Majesty, dressed in His full dress uniform, sat in His state office at Buckingham Palace.
"My fellow Britons." He says in a sombre tone. "Today has been one of the gravest days of peril our United Kingdom has ever faced. Though we are not yet completely out of danger, this evening I can share some more hopeful news with you. Thanks to the good offices of the United Nations and the European Union I can announce a ceasefire is in effect between the armed forces of the United Kingdom and the Scottish secessionists. Given the risk of an exchange of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction it was the only course of action available to both parties to prevent a further escalation of the conflict with the consequent horrific loss of life, and the mutual ruination of all involved."
"But let me make this clear." His voice takes on a steely tone, and something flashes in His eyes. "This is not an acceptance of the illegal seizure of power in Edinburgh by a clique of unrepresentative outlaws. Scotland is and remains an integral part of the United Kingdom. It is my goal; a goal I will constantly pursue with the assistance of our international allies, to return the legitimate government of Scotland to power as soon as practically possible, and I make this personal pledge as your King to the Scottish people: You will not be abandoned or forgotten. Scotland will be returned to the Union.
But when legitimate government is returned to Scotland, and the Scottish people are once again safely reunited with us, I want the Union to be in a fit state to receive them. As recent events have so clearly proven the United Kingdom has suffered a fundamental crisis of confidence, and many people have asked: How could things have ever have gone this badly wrong?
The answers are complex; the debate about how our nation has fallen into this state wide ranging. But in my view it is clear that for decades the people of the United Kingdom have been badly let down by the political establishment. A political class has arisen who have grown ever more detached from the people they were supposed to serve. They have become arrogant, corrupt, uncaring, and above all, incompetent. It is their collective failure which has been the major contributory factor bringing us to this point.
Over the past few years, as Prince of Wales and then as your King, I have tried to make my concerns known to those who wield the powers which I as Sovereign vest to them. I found myself being fobbed-off with the same weasel words and slippery arguments; the same excuses they constantly gave to you. As a non-political Head of State I was able to offer them my thoughts and advice, but I was unable to influence their policies and actions. However I did not simply wring my hands and abandon all hope.
Over the last few years I have given a great amount of consideration as to the direction in which the UK was heading; and what might be done to save it from the future we all feared lay in store for us. A future of economic ruin, grinding poverty, social unrest, authoritarian government, and environmental destruction. I was concerned enough to confidentially seek advice from a number of well-respected and apolitical experts in economic, social, spiritual, and environmental matters as to what might be done to save our nation from that dread fate. As a result of their counsel I asked them to develop a policy programme for a sympathetic government of goodwill to implement.
Though much progress has been made by those experts and myself in drawing up that strategy, it is as yet incomplete. But events have moved on so swiftly, and our situation degenerated to such an extent, that the time has come when this plan for reconstruction - such as it is - must be enacted at once.
Our nation's constitution is an unwritten one. It has evolved over time to adapt to the changing circumstances of the political system. At its heart is the institution of the Monarchy, in who all state power is vested, and in whose name the government rules.
Most of the time the office of Monarch is an apolitical and ceremonial post, as it should be; yet the Monarch remains an integral part of the governmental process as they give the Royal Assent to all of the government's laws and actions. It is part of the series of understandings which are our constitution that there are times when the Monarch, as the ultimate guarantor of the state, is entitled and compelled to act beyond the scope of their usual role. I believe this is such a time, and I feel I must act in the interest of the nation.
Some may consider the measures I am announcing extraordinary, but these are extraordinary times. As Monarch it is both my right and my duty to act to save my kingdom from ruin.
I have signed a number of Royal Decrees to be published once this broadcast is over. They include the dismissal of the government, and the Dissolution of the House of Commons; as well as the House of Lords. There will be no general election as would be customary in such an event. Given the circumstances in which we find ourselves with a part of our Union under criminal occupation, and a widespread civil war in progress, organising an election is impracticable at this time.
In any case, under measures to become effective immediately; all political parties and associated organisations will be suspended until further notice. As they have been integral components of, and contributors to the current crisis I believe they have absolutely nothing to offer us at the moment; and it is in the national interest they are stood aside until they have undergone a long-overdue process of cleansing and reform.
Instead, the immediate day to day government of these islands will be undertaken by myself in consultation with the armed forces, the civil service, and a Transitional Council whose members I will initially appoint. Once a measure of stability has been restored the armed forces will withdraw from public administration but continue to aid the police in maintaining public order for as long as they are needed.
In due course the Transitional Council will be able to co-opt people of good standing to assist them in their task of national reconstruction. The Council will be charged not only with the day-to-day running of the nation; but also the radical reform of our political, economic, public, social, spiritual and moral spheres of life.
To this end I am also announcing the formation of a Royal Commission to investigate the underlying causes which have led our nation to this sorry state of affairs; and to advise the Council on what needs to be done; not only to stop the rot from setting in any further, but to reverse our headlong rush to disaster. Once the Commission's inquiry into the causes of our national malaise has been completed and its conclusions published, the Council will have the authority of my office to put into effect those measures which are needed to halt, and then reverse our slide towards the abyss.
The road to recovery will take some time to travel; so the Council's initial term will last for five years, and will be extended to ten years if required. But I am confident by the end of that time ours will be a better nation. One reconstructed; fit once more to resume our democratic traditions, and eager to embrace a future of renewed hope. A nation renewed and reunited.
Today many of us, myself included, suffered the apprehension of wondering whether we would live to see this evening. We have at least achieved that goal. From this point on I am determined we shall never suffer such fear again.
Working together we can make our common dreams a reality. Let us go forward as one from this moment and grasp a new future! One of hope, not of despair! I have every confidence we as a nation shall together rise to this challenge, and prove ourselves worthy of taking it on."
He pauses for a moment. "Following this programme there will be a number of Public Service Announcements regarding the State of Emergency, and the National Curfew which will remain in force until the situation has stabilised sufficiently for the measures to be lifted. You must continue to obey these instructions. The locations of Aid Centres will be announced for people who have evacuated themselves from their residences and lack the means to go back to obtain assistance to do so: I urge you to return to your homes as soon as possible."
Another pause, and this unscripted. "I want everyone to understand I have not taken these measures lightly. At all times during these recent crises, my overriding concern as your King has been your welfare. You are all constantly in my thoughts, especially those of you in Scotland." He looks as if He is about to burst into tears, but swiftly regains His composure. "May God bless all of us tonight, and in the difficult days which lie ahead. Good evening, and my best wishes to all of you."
Then it is back to a proudly flying Royal Standard and God Save The King plays once more, but this time it is a proud, stirring arrangement. As it finishes the scene fades slowly to black.
There are no crowds near the cordoned-off Buckingham Palace to respond, but after a few stunned seconds of silence the microphones of the live reporters elsewhere in the capital pick up faint cheering, which begins to grow in volume, along with sustained applause. Then comes the sporadic popping of distant gunshots; not in anger but in celebration. The single shots become crackling fusillades as whole magazines are emptied skywards. A relieved nation erupts in joy, forgetting for the moment their King has just announced a part of it has been abandoned to a criminal clique for the time being; and democracy as we knew it - as well as the democratic institutions - remains suspended for the foreseeable future in favour of a monarchical technocracy.
The studio pundits are dumbfounded. No one expected this; least of all the politicians who with the stroke of a Royal signature are declared redundant. As the media struggles to come to terms with the new reality constitutional experts are rushed into interviews to explain that yes; His Majesty is perfectly entitled to do as he has just done. After all the UK is a constitutional monarchy. There is no codified, written constitution; just a series of informal understandings as to how a Monarch should act.
Nor is this latest turn of events unprecedented. In 1834 King William IV dissolved Parliament, and as recently as 1975 Queen Elizabeth II's appointed representative in Australia dismissed the Whitlam government. Despite the widespread belief to the contrary the Monarchy still holds absolute power as all state power is vested in the Monarch, and all laws passed by parliament have to receive the Royal Assent. The Monarchy over time may have allowed governments to rule on their behalf, but that is a concession that could be - and just has been - revoked.
What do you mean you didn't know? You really should have paid more attention! You should have agitated for a real democracy and a constitutionally founded government which would have been resilient enough to cope with this crisis. Well it's too late now...
An astonished Downing Street put out a holding statement pledging its full cooperation with His Majesty's plans to get the UK back on an even keel. It was all they could do for the moment. Perhaps there would be ways of changing His mind later... A couple of junior ministers and a handful of republican MPs expressed their concern at the turn of events but their voices were drowned out in the ecstatic celebration of the sacking of the hated political class. At long last someone was finally going to do what needed to be done to sort this country out once and for all! And, unlike the cowardly politicians, the King hadn't run out on us when we were in peril. He'd shown true courage by staying put and remaining at His post. A modern day King Arthur had arisen to save His nation in its time of need.
And so what had passed for British democracy - supposedly envied and emulated around the world - died not with anger, but with jubilation at its passing. The majority of the population uncritically embraced the 'temporary' reversion to mediaeval governance in the hope things would at last begin to improve. If only they knew what their future held they might not have been so sanguine.
A week later, once the situation had stabilised, Karen and I were escorted from our hotel by a pair of gendarmes. As we spoke reasonable French and made it clear we wanted to return home they treated us well. After sixteen hours waiting in the departure terminal at Côte d'Azur airport while the knock on effects and the recent disruption were still being worked through, we were allocated a flight. I'll never forget speaking to the Scottish couple who were next to us in the slowly moving queue. Both were in tearful shock at the events that had taken place.
Although they were both in favour of Scottish independence, neither of them wanted it to happen in this way. They were flying back to an even more uncertain future than we. What sort of reception awaited them on their return? Would they be considered refugees or potential enemy sympathisers? Would they be allowed to cross the de-facto border to return to Motherwell or be interned for an indeterminate time? No one could say.
We couldn't return via Stanstead for 'operational reasons'. I think those in charge of UK airspace weren't entirely sure the smouldering conflict wouldn't reignite at any moment with the Albans taking the Sizewell Option again. For the same reason Manchester airport was closed and the airspace to the north restricted.
Eventually we landed at Bournemouth and returned to a country very much changed from the one we had left. Hamish and Kirsty were taken aside at passport control. I've no idea what happened to them since; my blurts to the address they flicked me remain unanswered.