The Lord High President’s Spring Ball was one of the highlights of the Society Calendar on Gallifrey. Everyone who mattered attended. The men, the Lords and Patriarchs of all the Houses, were in their finest regalia, and their ladies worked hard to ensure they matched them for glamour.

That is to say that their seamstresses worked hard. Marion spent several pleasant afternoons planning her dress with Rosanda, who made the gown from a length of fabric Marion bought herself on Earth during a brief trip to colonial India with Kristoph. The fabric was red satin, but it was decorated with delicate hand embroidery in black and gold. The finished result, influenced by the Indian tradition the material came from, had a lightly sculptured bodice with a scooped neckline and fitted sleeves, and a lightly gathered skirt that swished faintly when she moved.

To go with the Indian look, Marion had some of her personal collection of diamonds made up into an ornament that went around her forehead, with one teardrop shaped diamond hanging down in the middle. Kristoph was warmly appreciative of her efforts, and more importantly, Rosanda’s.

“My butler’s wife will be a very busy woman when your friends all place orders with her,” he teased as they travelled to the Capitol by fast private shuttle. “Nothing anyone else will be wearing will come close.”

And Marion had to agree with him about that when they stepped into the grand hall of the Citadel, the place where she and Kristoph, and more recently, Calliope and Jarod had enjoyed their wedding receptions. It looked just as magnificent this evening. There was a full orchestra and choir installed at one end and there were tables groaning under the weight of a buffet for when hunger overtook anyone.

And nobody had a gown that was more beautiful than Marion’s. In fact, she thought some of them looked quite clumsy and dull. The fashion seemed to tend towards what looked, to her eyes, like Elizabethan costumes, with stiffened skirts and overskirts and very tight waistlines. She felt much freer in her own gown and knew that many of the ladies were envious. She was ready to tell them who had designed it and was pleased when they said they would seek out her, as yet, exclusive couturier. Rosanda would be happy to have a private income of her own from dressmaking.

Lady Lily, of course, was the one exception to the rule, as she almost always was. She was in white and silver embroidered voile in cheongsam style that was obviously influenced by another trip to the orient with Li.

Lily was always the centre of a group of people who sought her opinion on everything from fashion to politics at gatherings such as this. But Marion, to her surprise, was in the middle of a similar group. She was amazed to find that her taste in clothes led people to assume she had original opinions on other topics, too. As Kristoph mingled with the important men of government she found herself being asked her thoughts on the probable presidential resignation and the nominations for his replacement.

That really did surprise her. She wondered what she could safely say about it. She knew for a fact that the president WAS going to retire soon. And she knew the name of at least one nominee – Kristoph. But it was meant to be a secret.

Kristoph’s name was mentioned by some as they listed possible choices. She was pleased by that.

But she noticed one obvious thing about the choices.

“They’re all men,” she said. “There are women in the High Council, and in high positions in the government. The High Inquisitor, for example. And Madam Cerelux, the Kalan of the Council.” Kalan, of course, was something similar to the ‘Speaker’ in the London parliament that Marion knew of.

“A woman as Lord High President?” A young man who was attending the Ball as Valena Arpexia’s escort scoffed at the idea. “Lady de Lœngbærrow, you still have much to learn about Gallifrey. A woman would never be considered for the senior position.”

“That’s not true,” Marion answered. “In the years 583R/E to 653R.E. Madam Gellian Dvoratre held the post of Lord High President unopposed. It was only three thousand years ago. There are men here in this room who must remember that.”

“Madam Dvoratre wasn’t elected, though,” Hesthor Lundar pointed out, smiling as she casually reminded all present that she was of the House of Dvoratre and they were speaking of one of her ancestors. “Her husband was assassinated and she took the Presidency using a sub-clause of an old and obscure law that everyone had forgotten about.”

“And which was repealed as soon as she left office,” added Lady Arpexia, Valena’s mother. Everyone laughed, even Marion, though she did find the chauvinism of Gallifreyan politics astounding.

“If women were allowed to vote,” she said. “It might be different.”

There was more laughter and the young man with Valena made a very caustic comment about the reasons women were rarely involved in politics.

“Oh, really,” Marion replied. “I’m afraid that only proves that you need to travel beyond Gallifrey a little more often. I could name a dozen planets where women have an equal political status with men and which work perfectly well. On my own planet, many women have held high office in governments. And women have never, on any of those worlds, voted for the candidate who had the best clothes, or at least no more than the men have.”

“I think Lady de Lœngbærrow is right,” said a voice that Marion didn’t recognise. She turned to see a man in black and green robes and an elaborate collar. “Our women should have more say in the government of our world.”

“Lord Cerulean!” Valena Arpexia saved Marion from the embarrassment of not remembering the name of the High Councillor who had addressed her. “Are you siding with the cause of female emancipation on Gallifrey?”

“Indeed, I am,” he answered. “I hope the cause of the Caretaker franchise might also get a hearing one day in the Panopticon. But I’m afraid the majority of Councillors think of both ideas as ‘diversions’. The last time the issue was brought up in the Chamber it was merely used as a filibuster to prevent a more important piece of legislation from being passed. Of course, if a Lord High President was chosen who was in favour of such drastic changes to our society it might be possible. But it is unlikely.”

“Kristoph would support it, I am sure,” Marion said.

“Lord de Lœngbærrow has always been in favour of Caretaker voting rights,” Lord Cerulean said. “But, my dear lady, I think you will find he would not support female suffrage.”

“You’re wrong about that,” Marion insisted. She would have pressed her point further, but she was distracted by Lady Dúccesci and Madam Hext, two ladies she knew well from afternoon teas and luncheons at the Conservatory. They asked her about her dressmaker and then talked to her about a musical evening that they expected to see her at next week. When she was done with that, Lord Cerulean had moved on to speak to Lord Mírraflaex and most of her other friends were pairing off with their menfolk to dance. Kristoph came to her side and drew her onto the dance floor. He smiled warmly at her and passed on the Lord High President’s compliments as he danced with her. She smiled happily to be in his arms and almost forgot about everything else.

On their way home, much later, though, as she sat in the limousine, travelling from the shuttle port to Mount Lœng House, she remembered what Lord Cerulean said.

“You would support the women of Gallifrey being allowed to vote, wouldn’t you?” she asked. “Surely he was wrong.”

“I’m not a High Councillor,” Kristoph answered. “So the point is academic.”

“I know, but if you were chosen as President… what then?”

“Probably not,” he admitted, much to her surprise.


“Marion,” he said with a sigh. “We’re not talking about universal adult suffrage here, not by a long shot. Votes for women in Gallifreyan elections, such as they are, would mean votes for the wives of the Oldblood and Newblood Houses, maybe five thousand women in total. And the vast majority of those… You know very well, most of your friends… with a few exceptions… Hesthor, Lady Lily, Madam Arpexia… they were educated to be wives and mothers and luncheon hostesses. They don’t have a political bone in their bodies. It would be a pointless exercise.”

Marion was surprised at such remarks from Kristoph.

“But… you’ve lived on Earth. You know how it ought to be…”

“Marion… what works on Earth isn’t necessarily right for Gallifrey. We are a different kind of society.”

“An unequal society,” she pointed out.

“Yes. But so is Earth, despite voting rights. For that matter I honestly don’t know a society that isn’t. As far as it goes, we’re not the worst. The Caretaker class are far from slaves. They enjoy a good standard of living. But if I was in a position to change the way our system works, I would aim for giving hard working men of that class a real say in the government, not the likes of Selene Borussalan or Callina Maxic. I think Cerulean is right. They really would vote for the High Councillor who wore their favourite colours.”

He was joking, she was sure. He didn’t want them to be at odds over such a thing. He kissed her cheek and whispered something to her that made her blush even though their driver could not possibly have heard. But she felt more than a little stung that her husband, who she thought of as one of the more enlightened thinkers of his society, should be so short-sighted about this matter. It spoiled the journey for her, and when they reached home, she told Kristoph that she was tired and wanted to go to bed.

She went up to their room alone, while he spoke to Caolin about some domestic matter. She was already in bed by the time he joined her. She wasn’t asleep, though, and he knew it. He reached out to her.

“You’re upset with me, aren’t you?” he said.

“Yes,” she answered. “What do you expect?”

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I mean… it’s not as if this is a new issue. You knew about our political system long before you came to live here. Why are you surprised by it now?”

“I’m surprised at you, supporting the status quo in such a way,” she answered. “And what you said… about Selene and Callina… I mean… ok, it probably is true. But that’s not the point. The point is… you said it… they were educated to be wives and mothers and hostesses. And their brothers were educated to be… anything they want to be. Is it any wonder they are that way? Your misogynist society makes sure women never have a chance to be anything else.”

“That isn’t completely true. Many women go to the academies alongside the men. Valena Arpexia is one of them. She is an accomplished woman. But it still isn’t the point. Marion… politics… on Gallifrey is a dirty business. It’s not something we would want our females to be involved in.”

That didn’t help much. Marion glared at him.

“So you think we should be protected? We should be sheltered from the murky stuff so that we can be good wives to you men!”

“I’m not going to win this argument, am I?” Kristoph sighed. “I don’t want a row with you. And I don’t want you to go to sleep mad at me. So…”


“So… As I said before, I’m not on the High Council. If I am nominated for the presidency, if I accept, if I am elected… that’s three very big if’s there, remember… but if that happened… my first priority would be to fight for the Caretaker vote. I consider that more important. But if that could be achieved, then I would consider the female vote next. Because I do care about what you think. And if you want me to do that, then I will. But you have to be patient. Nothing happens fast in Gallifreyan politics. But is that good enough?”

“It’s a start,” she conceded.

“Then will you forgive me for being a chauvinistic, misogynist, pig-headed Time Lord?”

“Yes,” Marion told him. “But don’t push your luck. A lot of the women agree with me, you know. We might just all get together one day and overthrow you all.”

“That would be an interesting day,” Kristoph answered her. “I hope I live to see it.”

Meanwhile, she had forgiven him. And in their bed she didn’t mind him being her lord and master in every way.