The book is written, but what is it called?
A title is often a confluence of ideas played out in the story. Three things influenced my choice, heredity, clothes, and how a word sounds when you say it.
Blue is associated with royalty, as in the term 'blue blood'. It was first coined by the medieval Spanish, 'sangre azul', by the House of Castile, who claimed never to have intermarried with Moors or Jews, when there were lots of Moors and Jews in Spain. Apparently, you could see the blue veins in posh Castilian’s wrists. I also found out that the term ‘blue blood’ was not used in Britain until the early 19th century. A fact I have studiously ignored in my narrative.
Clothes also form an important theme in my story. Who wears what sort and who makes them. There was an opportunity to link blue blood, and the colour Royal Blue. Then I discovered something interesting; Royal Blue, which has actually changed shade over the centuries, is said to have been created by clothiers who won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III (mad George).
While I have written Queen Charlotte and that particular George out of history, the timing could not be better. I wanted to write a contemporary story with an established multi-racial monarchy in Britain.
Before our current, slightly more enlightened, times, I think the latest period that a person of colour could realistically become a member of the Royal family in Britain would be at the turn of the 18th century, when mad George was on the throne. That was before the idea of skin colour as denoting an inherent superiority or inferiority, Racism as we know it, had really taken hold.
Prior to the 19th Century, Europeans derided people with dark skin for their culture, religion and ways of living more than believing there were any physical or cognitive differences. Indeed, poor white people were referred to as negroes as late as 1831. There was an obsession with being ‘fair’ skinned of course. At a time when most Europeans were agricultural labourers of one sort or another, being fair skinned showed one was rich enough not to work outdoors.
It is hard to imagine that the global slave trade existed at a time when slavers saw their captives as people just like them. My lifetime has been involved in overcoming the idea that there is more than our one human race. But other social divisions were more important to people prior to the invention of Scientific Racism. One of those divisions was the idea of birth, being superior to others because one belonged to a particular family. So, as long as the African in my story was of royal birth, I reckoned it would be plausible.
but where would that African royal person hail from? It had to be from a kingdom that existed in the 1790s. I know a little of the slave trade as practiced by the British and knew that British ‘involvement’ with Africa began in the West of that continent.
There were many West African kingdoms of the late 18th century that dyed cloth using indigo, which is a plant, to make blue cloth. The Hausa kingdom was actually on the wane but still in existence at that time. And there are cloth dying pits in the city of Kato that have been operating since 1498 at least, they still do.
Also, the word Hausa feels and sounds pleasant to say, making a ‘h’ is only just a little more effort that breathing out, the ‘ow’ in it makes one’s mouth open up, the corners of one’s lips brush softly against each other to make the gentle ‘s’ and the hint of a ‘w’. And who doesn’t like an ‘a’ at the end of a word?
So, Hausa Blue it is.