The Domnaeni in April 2015
Domnaeni of the Royal
Reign: 31 March 2009 - present
Predecessor: Ffeysis III
Heir apparent: Gyrdrid of Selgovae
Mon'gaeltyn: Riagán of Damnoni
Born: 1 December 1994
Full name: Alsa of Selgovae
Father: Veldrig of Selgovae (née Hraldig)
Mother: Ffeysis III
Religion: Shalotte Pantheon
Born on 1 December 1994 in Alauna, Alsa is the only daughter of the previous Domnaeni, Ffeysis III, and Veldrig of Selgovae (née Hraldig). Her father died of influenza in 1997, when she was three years old. She was privately educated in her home, Domnaeni House in Alauna, until the death of her mother in 2009. This period was marked by intense protectiveness by her mother, who kept her from the public eye and rarely let her leave her home. For many people, the first time they saw the young Domnaeni was when she acceded to the throne.
Like most Domnaeni before her, Alsa's reign has been characterised by little societal or technological change in Shalotte, though under her reign the country has become somewhat more active in international affairs, and for the first time in decades Shalotte's economy has grown, albeit marginally.
Alsa is unmarried and childless, meaning her aunt, Gyrdrid of Selgovae, is heir apparent for the time being.
Birth and early life
Alsa was born at 3pm, on 1 December 1994, while her mother was already nine years into her reign as Domnaeni. Ffeysis delivered Alsa naturally in the private quarters of Domnaeni House, with the assistance (and spiritual blessing) of two medically-trained draér, who quickly prayed to the gods of the Pantheon for her good health and performed the traditional protective incantations.
As is often the case when a Domnaeni has a child, it became a day of national celebrations in Shalotte, whose citizens braved the storm that was raging during that afternoon to hold several street parties. Mercadean Street, the principle commercial street in Alauna, is said to have been filled with the deafening sound of hundreds of people singing a traditional prayer to Turea, the goddess of fertility, in unison.
Her father announced his child's name - Alsa, a Shalotte name which means "fair one" - to the public two hours later, and told the assembled crowd that the draér had declared her healthy and 'spiritually whole'. Due to the inclement weather that was prevalent in Shalotte at the time, the usual tradition of showing the Domnaeni's baby to the crowds was not done, for the sake of Alsa's health.
In these early few years, Alsa became a public darling, taken with Ffeysis wherever she went (weather permitting), and featured regularly in the island's newspaper, The Islander. The Gaeltyn even had a commemorative coin minted which pictured the young Alsa on the obverse, an unusual act given that Shalotte's currency takes the form of rings and not coins.
However, on the death of her father in 1997, a distraught Ffeysis III became more reclusive, and her overly protective stance towards her daughter meant that Alsa was rarely seen in public.
From the age of three Alsa was kept out of the public eye by her mother, and spent the majority of her time in Domnaeni House. The only people she interacted with regularly besides her mother were the tutors who began visiting her when she was five. Some of the most educated draér in Shalotte were seconded to become her full-time teachers, visiting Domnaeni House every day to deliver her education.
News of the young heir was sparse during this time, as her mother prevented anybody but her tutors from spending time with her daughter, and even Ffeysis herself rarely interacted with the public - Alsa later explained that her mother was terrified that she might contract an illness which she might pass on to her daughter. Alsa has revealed in interviews that her childhood was a lonely and dull experience, dominated almost entirely by study, while her mother secluded herself in her private chambers. Her tutors imparted her with extensive knowledge of Shalotte history, to the point that she is now considered one of the foremost experts in the field. She was also schooled in politics, educated in Hebrédan language and literature, and is even a fluent speaker of English (though she professes that she cannot read or write in this language very well).
Among her favourite subjects as a child was the study of astronomy. The draér tried to explain this subject to her in a theological manner, but she became fascinated by the science of the field. She later explained that one of the reasons she was so fond of astronomy lessons was because it was one of the few times she was permitted outside the walls of Domnaeni House, as the draér took her outside at nights to view the night's sky through an imported telescope.
Despite her scientific curiosity, the draér successfully imparted her with a great deal of knowledge of, and respect for, the tenets of the Shalotte Pantheon, and she remains a faithful adherent to those beliefs to this day.
In early 2009, Ffeysis III contracted pneumonia, and passed away in February that year. Alsa, only 15 years old by this point, suddenly found herself inundated by new faces, as then-incumbent members of the Gaeltyn began visiting Domnaeni House, and leading members of the Draéryn began preparing her to accede the throne. She was thrust into public life in a matter of days, finding herself being interviewed by The Islander several times, and being expected to appear at various formal - and very public - events, including her own coronation. Alsa has said this was one of the most traumatic experiences of her life, as she had to deal with both the death of her mother and the abrupt end to the isolation she had experienced for her entire life by that point. Despite her reservations, on 30 March she was able to deliver a speech to the Gaeltyn in front of all the Tyrrns and a crowd of public, which Alsa cites as the moment when she knew she would be able to handle her new role.
Alsa was proclaimed Alsa, Second of Her Name, Domnaeni of Shalotte, in Faithful Service to the Gods, Head of Clan Selgovae, Beloved Mother of the People in a ceremony on the steps of Domnaeni House on 31 March 2009. The public, eager for the winds of change after the reign of the reclusive Ffeysis III, congregated in record numbers and cheered for ten minutes. According to the article in The Islander from that day, the young Domnaeni was visibly scared by the attention, though nevertheless announced her intentions to be an "active and compassionate ruler, working to benefit all Shalottes" and to "serve the [gods] faithfully".
Similarly to her first three years of life, Alsa quickly became a public darling once more, as she forced herself to spend as much time as she could "among the people" despite her social anxiety. Several days after her coronation, she embarked upon an unprecedented tour of Shalotte, visiting every single settlement - both major and minor - and attending a session of each town's local parliament. She told The Islander during an early interview: "I feel like I have never met the islands I am to rule; this is me getting to know Shalotte."
During this tour was a heavily publicised visit to an elderly woman's home on the northern coast of Hiort island, a visit that came to symbolise her reign. Stumbling upon the house by mistake as she travelled on foot to Hadarin Bay, Alsa knocked on the door and met the elderly woman who lived there alone. A widower with no living relatives, the woman was impoverished, even by Shalotte standards, and wearing rags. When the elderly woman said that she could barely afford food, let alone new clothes, Alsa ordered that half of her own wardrobe be delivered to the house, and ensured that the woman received a regular payment, sufficient to live well on, from her own personal finances. While similarly philanthropic gestures were made during this first tour, and subsequent tours, this instance became the most famous.
While Shalotte has remained typically unchanging during Alsa's reign, and Alsa has upheld the 'hands-off' tradition of most of her predecessors, she has nevertheless been credited with presiding over the first traces of economic growth in decades, as well as more activity in international affairs than at any time before she acceded the throne. While Alsa downplays her significance to these changes, and credits them to her Gaeltyn, analysts believe that her popularity and the inspirational effect she has on the public have, at least in part, had something of an impact.
Alsa II rarely expresses political views, and has yet to use her royal right to overrule any of the Gaeltyn's bills. As with most of her recent predecessors, she has continued to allow the Gaeltyn to govern 'in trust' while she devotes herself to public and spiritual service.
In this regard, Alsa is one of the most popular Domnaeni for centuries, certainly more popular than her reclusive mother. According to a poll conducted by The Islander two years ago, she has an approval rating of more than 90%. Many people, both in the press and in government, have noted frequently how she is clearly very nervous and uncomfortable when around people, even after nearly six years as Domnaeni. This has played into her favour, however, as the fact that she forces herself to spend so much time actively engaged with the populace despite her discomfort is seen positively.
Alsa is a devout adherent to the Shalotte Pantheon, and attends services at least once a week in Alauna (or at a local temple, if she is not in the capital and cannot easily return there). During times of hardship she will often lead public prayers to the gods.
She is unmarried and has never courted, and according to an interview she has no immediate plans to change this state of affairs. In that interview she explained that she "[has] enough people on [her] mind, without worrying about a spouse", referring to her devotion to her subjects. Speculation regarding her future in this regard is a common topic in The Islander newspaper, with some suspecting that the death of her father, and the subsequent reaction of her mother, has made her wary of marriage in general.
In what limited spare time she has, Alsa has continued her studies of history and astronomy. So extensive was her childhood education that she is considered to be the preeminent expert on Shalotte history, and has published two textbooks on the subject. Both have become academic standards. She also pursues her interest in astronomy using an expensive imported telescope, though she considers this interest to be deeply personal and has neither written books nor shared her views on the topic.
By Shalotte custom, the Domnaeni has only two formal titles. As Domnaeni, she is formally styled (in English): Alsa, Second of Her Name, Domnaeni of Shalotte, in Faithful Service to the Gods, Head of Clan Selgovae, Beloved Mother of the People. In most situations it is customary to refer to her as Your Faithful Grace.
Additionally, she is the Matriarch of Clan Selgovae. As head of her clan, she receives a regular stipend (which forms her only source of income), and is required to direct their affairs and resolve both internal and external clan disputes. However, she regards her duties to the people of Shalotte as paramount, and her aunt, Gyrdrid of Selgovae, acts as her regent in clan affairs.