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Kids, home for Christmas, with parents at the family cabin.

However, as soon as the room was silent the Chief Justice called out:

"Minister of Justice H__shtukt! Are you present in this courtroom?"

"Yes Chief Justice, I am present!"

"Grand Duke M__dchatk XXIX! Are you present in this courtroom?"

"Yes Chief Justice, I am present!"

"Very well. Please step forward!"

The Chief Justice addressed the kneeling criminals next:

"You will kneel upright for the remainder of this hearing. Remember your Paths in Life as criminals and do not speak unless spoken to, and do not move until directed."

Silently the group of criminals knelt upright. Cecilia whispered the translation to Maria Elena, who followed the others.

Maria Elena was curious to see the Grand Duke. He was wearing simple Royal Attire: an embroidered suit from the late 1700's and a tri-corner hat of the style that had been popular in Europe before the French Revolution. He did not have his cape and crown, which would have constituted full Royal Attire. He appeared very subdued, in spite of the fact that, unlike his wife, he was not being forced to perform Public Penance.

The Grand Duke did something that at the moment did not mean anything to Maria Elena and Cecilia, but was very significant in the eyes of the Danubian people. When he approached the Chief Justice, he took off his hat. Throughout Danubia's history, no King or Grand Duke had ever taken off his hat before a civilian official. The Danubian sovereign was very aware of the break in protocol and nervously held the hat in his hands as he stood before the bench. The Chief Justice did not display any reaction, because he had been forewarned by the Prime Minister of the upcoming change in the role of the nation's Royal Family. However, the audience stared at their sovereign's bare head with wide eyes.

In a barely audible whisper Cecilia translated the remainder of the hearing into Maria Elena's ear...

"Grand Duke. This Court is honored by your presence. Our understanding is that you wish to address a matter of concern to your household and to the Ministry of Justice. Is that true, Grand Duke?"

"Yes Chief Justice. What you have said is true. I have come before you to address the issue of the criminals currently serving in my personal residence as Royal Servants."

"Yes, Grand Duke? How do you wish to address the issue of your servants?"

"Chief Justice, the Royal Family wishes to release control of all criminals currently assigned to serve in the Royal Residence. We request that this Court reassign formal custody of all the criminals kneeling before you, specifically that they be returned to the custody of the Ministry of Justice and cared for as stipulated by the National Constitution of the Republic of Danubia and the National Code of Criminal Justice. The Royal Family wishes to formally declare that these criminals have no further obligation to myself or to any other member of the Royal Family."

"May I ask why you are requesting the reassignment of your servants, Grand Duke?"

The Grand Duke took a deep breath.

"There is legislation pending in the National Parliament that will revise the role of the Royal Family and assure that our status meets the needs of modern society. One of those changes will be that everyone working in the Royal Residence will be a salaried public employee instead of a criminal servant. I have agreed that the change is appropriate for both the needs of the Royal Family and the needs of the Danubian Republic. The position of criminal servant will be abolished, and therefore it is inappropriate to retain such servants on any property being utilized by the Royal Family."

"Very well, Grand Duke. To make sure this Court and the nation understands exactly what you wish to do, I shall repeat my understanding of your desire for the Royal Servants. Your wish is for them to be reassigned to the Ministry of Justice and for them to permanently leave your service. Is that correct, Grand Duke?"

"That is correct, Chief Justice. The Royal Family is requesting they permanently be reassigned."

"Minister of Justice H__shtukt! Does your Min

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