This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross

The King’s Messengers

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”

William Shakespeare - Henry V

Able to trace its origins back to 1485, before the Twilight War the Corps of King’s Messengers (or Queen’s Messengers when the Sovereign is female) were diplomatic couriers, many of whom were retired military personnel, who were employed by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to hand carry secret and important messages from London to British Embassies and Consulates around the globe.

By the outbreak of the War improved forms of secure communication had reduced the importance of the Messengers, however the 1997 nuclear exchanges and the subsequent breakdown of the majority of global communications meant a resurgence in the need for important documents to be hand carried, and at the start of 1998 the King’s Messengers were reformed in Southern England, with a number of men – and a few women - being recruited to carry messages both within the UK and overseas.

A King’s Messenger photographed in Southern England in mid 1999. Her beret is that of the Adjutant General Corps.

Most of these new Messengers came from the military, although unlike their pre war predecessors, they were not retirees.

predecessors they were not retirees. All were volunteers; the majority had previously been senior NCO’s and many had already seen active service in the opening months of the War (a significant number were recovering from wounds, and it was relatively common to see King’s Messengers missing an eye or an arm, or with faces scarred by burns, etc). A small number were civilians. With the exception of a handful who already held equivalent or higher rank, all were commissioned into the British Army with the rank of Captain.

Whilst they are few in number by the summer of 2000, it is possible to encounter a King’s Messenger virtually anywhere in the UK, carrying communiqués from Southern England to HMG’s enclaves and allies elsewhere in Britain. Several Messengers have also made their way to Europe, particularly Germany and Poland, and there have even been unconfirmed reports of the presence of King’s Messengers in North America, although their purpose there is unclear. Experienced and resourceful individuals, they usually travel alone, although they may occasionally have a small escort of military personnel, usually consisting of two to three men, often Gurkhas.

From a distance, Messengers are indistinguishable from regular British soldiers, wearing normal British Army uniforms, including the beret of their previous Regiment or Corps. The only thing that makes them stand out is their cap badge, which consists of a cloth Crown and greyhound (a silver greyhound having been the symbol of the King’s Messengers since the 17th Century). They carry standard British small ms

arms– usually an L85A1 assault rifle, although L22A1’s (the carbine version of the L85, also known as the SA80K) or L2A3 Sterling submachine guns are also common and a small number of Messengers have armed themselves with the L1A1 SLR. Most also carry a Browning 9mm automatic.  Messengers operating outside the UK often have locally acquired weapons such as M16’s or AK’s. Inside the UK they usually travel by Land Rover (or, occasionally motor cycle), although they will occasionally travel incognito, in plain clothes and using civilian transport. Outside the UK, they must rely on locally acquired transport.

King’s Messenger’s Identification Letter

“The bearer of this letter is about the King’s business. His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of His Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.”

The documents themselves are usually carried in red leather boxes of varying sizes that bear the Royal Coat of Arms (though if travelling incognito these boxes may be replaced by something less distinctive). Dependent on their sensitivity, documents can be in either plain text or encoded. In the latter case, two Messengers would normally be used, each travelling independently of the other, with one carrying the documents and the other the decryption key.

Each Messenger also carries with them a letter bearing the Royal Cypher which requires anyone that they may encounter to assist them if required (whilst initially many Messengers privately scoffed about what use such a letter would be, several have found that producing a document stating they are “about the King’s business” has a startling effect in soliciting cooperation).

A version of this article appeared in the 1st Edition of the “Good Luck, You’re On Your Own” Twilight 2000 Fanzine