Picture by bbcbob: District line arrives
His name was Christian Frederick Charles Alexander. It was quite a long name: longer than his father’s, and his mother’s, and his sister’s. It wasn’t quite so long as his older brother’s, but his older brother was dead.
It was, however, a shorter name than Caroline Friederike von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, and since Caroline Friederike von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld was his wife, he found this troubling. He dealt with the problem by maintaining several mistresses, each with a name significantly shorter than his own, and by starting a bank named the Hochfürstlich-Brandenburg-Anspach-Bayreuthische Hofbanco.
“The… the what?” his wife asked.
“The Hochfürstlich-Brandenburg-Anspach-Bayreuthische Hofbanco,” he said, and nodded firmly. “Caroline.”
When his wife died he married Elizabeth Craven, the mistress with the shortest name, and enjoined her to never again speak of the satirical novel she had written (unfortunately titled Modern Anecdotes of the Ancient Family of the Kinkvervankotsdarsprakengotchderns). Shortly afterwards he moved with her to England, where his long name was even more remarkable — especially as he was a Margrave, a title longer than any widely employed in Britain (women’s titles didn’t count, “viscount” was technically the same length but didn’t take so much space to write, and “baronet”, the next longest, barely counted as a title at all).
So his name was long, and he was happy, and then he died. And then, after a while, Barons Court tube station was built, just down the road from where he used to live, and it all went wrong.
Christian Frederick Charles Alexander is now, some say, the grumpiest ghost in all of London.
“Margrave’s Court,” he says in a Brandenburg accent that has only grown stronger since his death. “What would have been wrong with that? I’m not even asking for Christian Frederick Charles Alexander Court, not that it wouldn’t be nice of course but Margrave would have been perfectly fine. If they had to anglicise I could even have tolerated “Marquess’s Court”; perfectly acceptable English word, leaves me my eight letters.”
“I thought the place wasn’t, strictly speaking,” says Aubrey de Vere, “named after you in the first place.” Aubrey de Vere haunts Earl’s Court — which actually is named after him, more or less — but he takes in the rest of the District Line on weekends.
“Of course it was named after me. I lived right over there! I died here! I died for their tube station, and this is how the people of London repay me?”
Aubrey de Vere sighs. They’ve had this conversation before (it’s the only conversation they ever have), but he persists. “I can’t help but feel,” he says, “that if you could learn to let go of this, you might find yourself freed from the bonds that tie you to earth, no longer condemned to pace this lowly world as an impotent ghost.”
“I am not,” Christian Frederick Charles Alexander says, “an impotent ghost.”
“Oh look,” Aubrey de Vere says, “that’s my train.”
“I am an impotent apparition!” Christian Frederick Charles Alexander shouts after him, and puts his fist through the BARONS COURT sign for the third time that day. The sign doesn’t seem to mind.