|The Two Georges|
|Cover artist||Bob Eggleton|
|Genre(s)||Alternate History, Mystery, Steampunk|
Hodder & Stoughton (U.K.)|
For more than two centuries, the present-day United States and Canada have been the North American Union, an integral part of the British Empire as a result of an agreement between George Washington and King George III of Great Britain. This event is commemorated in a Thomas Gainsborough painting titled The Two Georges and has itself become a symbol of national unity, much like the Stars and Stripes, which in this world is the "Jack and Stripes."
While being displayed in the great city of New Liverpool (formerly Los Angeles), the painting is stolen while a crowd is distracted by the murder of "Honest" Dick (a.k.a "Tricky" Dick), the Steamer King, a nationally-known used steamer (car) salesman - who, based on his nickname and description is clearly intended to be Richard Nixon. Colonel Thomas Bushell of the Royal American Mounted Police leads the search for the painting, accompanied by curator Kathleen Flannery and Captain Samuel Stanley. Some days later, a ransom note is received from the Sons of Liberty, a paramilitary organization that wants to see America independent of the British Empire.
The search takes Bushell, Flannery and Stanley across the North American Union via airship (an advanced form of dirigible), trains and steamer. Along the way, the trio's investigations bring them into contact with many suspected members of the Sons of Liberty, including Boston tabloid editor John Kennedy.
The Governor-General of the Union, Sir Martin Luther King, informs Bushell in confidence that the painting must be recovered in time for the impending state visit of King-Emperor Charles III, or the government will pay the Sons' ransom demand of 50 million pounds.
The searchers arrive at Victoria, the Union capital, and manage to discover The Two Georges an hour before the King-Emperor arrives and avert an assassination attempt by the Sons of Liberty; both on the dock where the King-Emperor lands and at the All-Union Art Museum where the King-Emperor is giving a speech in front of the recovered painting (an explosive is hidden in the picture frame).
Bushell and Stanley are both knighted by the King-Emperor for their efforts.
Similar Works by other writersEdit
It is noteworthy that L. Sprague de Camp's classic "The Wheels of If", to which Turtledove wrote his own sequel "The Pugnacious Peacemaker", includes a short scene in which the protagonist finds himself in a New York City where the streets are draped with Union Jack flags. Asking a policeman about it, he gets told that this is for the birthday of "His Majesty, David the First". He then reads a newspaper which gives the impression that the King is a decent sort and Americans don't mind being his subjects - and is then whisked off to another timeline, after a brief one page devoted to this one.
The ideas developed by Caleb Carr's essay "William Pitt the Elder and the avoidance of the American Revolution" (published in "What Ifs? of American History", New York, 2003) closely resemble those advanced by Turtledove and Dreyfuss in The Two Georges - i.e., the American Revolution could have been avoided by a compromise in the 1760s, that in that case most inhabitants of North America might have been content to remain British subjects, and that in that case the world as whole might have been more peaceful.
Carr goes into a far more detailed analysis than Turtledove of the Point of Departure leading to such an alternate timeline. His assumption is that the best time for a compromise was in the interval between the repeal of the Stamp Act, which created a reservoir of goodwill among the North American colonists, and the new series of measures by the British Government which once again alienated the colonists and escalated to the point of open rebellion. The person best placed to effect such a compromise was William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham PC, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and an outspoken advocate of a compromise. However, in OTL Pitt's health rapidly deteriorated in the critical period, and he also accepted a title of nobility which - while adding to his personal status - removed him from the House of Commons where the real decisions were taken to the more prestigious but less politically relevant House of Lords.
Carr's assumption is, therefore, that a bit slower deterioration in Pitt's health allowing him to retain control of British policies for another crucial year, plus his taking a decision to delay becoming a noble for the same year, might have sufficed to effect a lasting, mutually-satisfactory compromise with the American colonists, which would have been considered as the pinnacle of Pitt's career and which would have remained in force also after his departure from the scene.
Turtldove and Dreyfuss give far fewer details on the compromise, with their focus being on the world resulting two centuries later, but Pitt is one of the British participants seen in the painting "The Two Georges".
For the later history, Turtledove & Dreyfuss differ from Carr in many details. For example, in "The Two Georges" Germany never unites while in Carr's account it does become a European power - but never dares to challenge a British Empire which can rely on the resources of an industrialized North America. The end result of both is similar, however: the world is spared the horrors of the two World Wars.
In the Turtledove-edited Alternate Generals volume 1, S.M. Stirling's "The Charge of Lee's Brigade" is set in a similar world where the Americans are contented British subjects in the mid 19th century. The POV character, Brigadier General Sir Robert E. Lee, leads a charge against the Russians in the Crimean War. The POD is not even hinted at. Although Stirling may have intended "Charge" as a tribute to his friend Turtledove, it cannot be set in the same world as The Two Georges, as Mexico seems to be entirely conquered by Britain, which is emphatically not the case in the longer work.
- Annotations prepared by Kevin Lauderdale may be found here. Certain conclusions should not be considered canonical.
- Gunpowder Empire, first volume of Turtledove's Crosstime Traffic Series. In one of the alternates briefly mentioned in the opening chapters, North America remains a contented part of the British Empire in the 2090s. This alternate could very well be the world of The Two Georges a century after the events of the novel.