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Charles Blount

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About Charles Blount

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    Lord Mountjoy

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  • Title
    Hunting, Riding, The Law, Collecting Meissen Porcelain
    Solicitor General & Queen's Master of Horse

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  1. Mountjoy noted that in Kingston’s rejection of assuming the Legge surname he used the very same reason that Mountjoy put forward for making the Kirke name his and not his father’s. It appeared that Francis’ resolve stemmed more from stubbornness or emotion than from practicality but since he obviously had strong feeling on the subject and Charles was not in possession of all the facts it was not Charles’ place to press the issue so he accepted the reasons. As to the opinion of taking one’s wife’s name he responded “I believe that practice is done when there is a large discrepancy in the status of the families or a great deal of money to be inherited. I suppose the inducement of a large fortune can overcome many objections but I take your point nonetheless.” It was time for another story about the history of his family since Francis was reticent to elucidate upon his. “Something similar occurred in my family. A few generations after the conquest my forefather had the opportunity to wed the sole remaining heiress of a prominent Norman family with large estates in Derbyshire. At that time inheritance was defined by different customs so the estates were split between the two brothers thus my forefather, a younger son, inherited the estates of his mother and his elder brother the estates of their father. When the Edward III thought fit to ennoble my sire with a peerage he did so by writ in the name of her family thus creating the lordship of Mountjoy, her family name, instead of after the location of one of their estates. Thus, the name Mountjoy lives on as a singular honor distinct from a family name or territory. That is why although I ultimately inherited my great grandfather’s Barony I did not inherit his Earldom… or indeed my uncle’s Earldom. Apparently, my family and Earldoms do not mix well for twice now we have been raised to that dignity and twice now all the direct male heirs of the grantee have perished without issue. The creation of such peerages is interesting from a technical point of view but such things are generally no longer done. Three times may be the charm but I did not want to tempt fate so when His Majesty offered me an Earldom I politely declined but he was then good enough to raise me to a title equal to that of my wife so I cannot complain.” Moving on. “As a linguist one would have to be cunning to seduce in Latin.” He said with a straight face as he shuffled the cards for the next hand. Certainly a gentleman with a reputation for being a prim and proper sort could only have meant that last comment in the literal sense Francis could not be sure for Mountjoy could exhibit an eclectic sense of humor in private. “I am sure that your travels have taught you that the surest way to master a language is to immerse yourself in it and the culture. That method is much more comprehensive than pure academic study. I learned the classical languages at school naturally but my German, which has become quite passable I must say even if the Margravina snickers at my pronunciation from time to time, was learned almost entirely colloquially.” He chuckled at a fond memory. “If you ever find yourself involved with a German girl take care if you wish to call her the love of your life for in German liebe is love and lebe is life. I often get the two mixed up which at first perplexed the Margravina and now amuses her.” He though for a moment as he dealt a new hand and arranged his cards and let out an excited “Ah!” in an impish attempt to fool Francis into thinking he had a good hand. All was fair in life and cards… or was it love and cards? “I am glad to see that in my absence the margravine has settled into her position as Mistress of the Robes and believe that Her Majesty has come to rely upon her. She has always been a very organized and reliable Lady and I am pleased that she and the Queen get on so well. Both being German that is not surprising. Being close to several of the Queen’s Ladies are you in a position to speculate upon the opinions of the Ladies to the way the Margravinea interacts with them? Given the current circumstances I believe it is imperative that the Ladies feel comfortable in their interactions with her for she is our conduit into the inner reaches of the Queen’s chambers.” It was true that Ursula’s relationship to the Ladies and their opinions to her were germane to their task but he was also interested in how his wife was viewed at Court. He had no doubt she knew what she was doing but it would be likely things could be said to him that would not be said to her and knowing these things would be beneficial in both cases. It was then that Mountjoy became aware of a door being quietly opened then closed followed by soft muffled footsteps suggestive of Dutch commendare sneaking through the polders or perhaps Jesuit assassins sneaking Papally into the palace. He sought Kingston’s gaze his eyes, heretofore soft and amiable became steely and alert and his muscles lounging and languid became taught as his hand moved towards the pistol case. The sound of a woman’s voice sounding neither Dutch nor Papal broke the allusion and Mountjoy relaxed. He stood in an act of automatic courtesy and gave a small bow acutely aware that he was uncovered and in his shirtsleeves, relieved that royal protocol did not cover the required dress in this particular situation. “Duchess, all is quiet out here as I assume it is within.” He pulled up a nearby chair in case Mall wished to join them. “Nothing much to report other than the danger of Lord Kingston losing a fine pair of pistols.”
  2. Francis, to Charles’ mind, had proven himself to be a logical and reasonable gentleman who had views entirely understandable but he also had an unsettling habit of punctuating those conventional views with statements that ran so contrary to Charles’ Weltanschauung that it bewildered his comprehension. Charles did not stare at Francis in disbelief but he did everything but as he digested Kingston’s statement on his lineage. His statement was just as unfathomable and unexpected as if Francis had calmly stated that he planned to cut off both his legs and eat a baby. He reorganized his cards to give himself time to absorb the situation and just barely stopped himself from discarding the ace of clubs which might prove very useful if he could obtain another face card. To a man like Blount his family and ancestry was everything for although his family had had its share of reprobates and rapscallions it was to him a lineage deserving of respect and emulation and he took pride and purpose in his own life from standing on the shoulders of his forebearers. That someone would voluntarily wish to disassociate himself from his ancestry was utterly foreign to him. Even as much as Charles despised the actions of his Uncle, he still counted them as family and would not unilaterally act against their interests. But Charles also had the talent of listening to and dissecting what was actually being said and although it was expressed with such candor that he had no doubt of its veracity it was not as declarative as it first appeared to be and thought there could be nuance in Francis’s declaration. He said carefully. “Although I find it difficult to fully comprehend your reluctance to further your family name, I can begin to understand your motives if your attachment to your ancestry goes no further than your father. I do note however that your reluctance seems to be with the continuation of the lineage of the house of Kirke not necessarily with procreation and marriage in general.” Mountjoy’s legalistic mind had begun to analyze the situation and search for technicalities and stratagems to achieve one end without the necessity of a certain means. “If that is the case, why do you not change your name and start your own lineage? There are several ways that can be achieved although you will be tied with the Kirk family in one way or another as you carry your father’s blood.” He paused for a beat. “When you succeed your Lady Mother to the Viscounty… and I sincerely wish that Lady Kingston enjoys her title for many years yet to come… a private bill submitted to the Lords could allow you to ascend to your mother’s name as well as dignity. It is a request that is not all that uncommon and as long as there are no objections from the King, which is unlikely, or from the Leggs’, which I deem to be also unlikely, it would be a simple and routine matter for the Lords to approve. It would also be possible for you to marry an heiress and take her name. That is something that is also not uncommon and it also has the benefit of marrying into money. And lastly, I hasten to point out, if it is a Kirke you are bound to stay, and if it is you who raises the name in dignity and prominence, it will be to you that the Kirke name attributed. Take His Grace of Buckingham. It is to his father the first Duke that posterity turns to when the Villiers name is remembered not his forefathers who were respectable and honorable but still but minor country gentleman and prosperous sheep farmers. Or indeed you may look to our first King who was a Bastard and created his own dynasty. There is much that could be done to assuage your apprehension of undeservedly raising the status of your legitimate father.” It was Kingston’s family and Kingston’s life. He had proffered advise which he hoped provided Francis options he may not have thought of and would provide counsel if asked but he would not belabor the point or impinge upon Francis’ private prerogatives as head of his family to act as he saw fit. He smiled back, this time in amusement, as Francis responded in perfect French. He replied in English. “My French is more academic and while conversationally fluent, no one would mistake me for a native of Paris. As for the other application for French when I find myself in that situation, I tend to use German. To my ear Teutonic tongue is a bit guttural for romantic utterances but the Margravine seems to like it so I indulge.” Then considering the laxness of keeping to strict marital vows among the nobility he saw fit to add. “As the Margravina and I have yet to be blessed with a son I feel it would be ungallant of me to indulge elsewhere therefore I limit myself to one lingua franca at a time.” Before continuing. “The one thing I can say about German is that they do have the best swear words. I must say the number of expletives I can shout at the stableboys without offending the female staff has doubled. I would recommend to you German for your swearing but I have found that sailors seldom need and help in that area.” In reminiscing about their language studies, he supplied. “Greek was my Achilles heel… Oh… that was good…Ha! I was unwittingly droll.” Pleased with his unintended pun he continued. “To this day I still speak it like a drunken Corinthian arguing with an Athenian fishmonger. I find reading it more of a chore than a pleasure but as you said many of the old scholarly things are not to be had in a more convenient language. Latin has never been a hindrance to me, which is a blessing considering my occupation, and reading the old stories in the original can often provide nuances unavailable in translations. I of course did have the advantage of uninterrupted schooling. One detriment I have found from having a reputation for fluency in Latin is that when at dinner parties I am often sat next to a Bishop or a foreign Ambassador.” As their conversation moved on, he again misinterpreted the statement that their postings could cause competition as he initially thought that Francis was referring to them working together and not of their possible opposing positions at Cambridge and Oxford. He returned the smile in commiseration with the poor delusional fellow for actually thinking that Cambridge could ever compete with the likes of Oxford. Still, he could respect the man for his loyalty. “I would wish that such an eventuality remains far into the future for there is still much to do in the present.” Indeed, their very presence here proved that they had more service to offer than shuffling about the corridors of higher learning. As to Francis’ actual reply to the possibility in them working together to facilitate relations between the King and Queen he had no objections and indeed seemed to welcome the opportunity. There obviously would be issues of substance that would come between their Majesties but hopefully this newly created avenue for dialogue might prevent small issues from becoming large ones. He arraigned his cards and was rather pleased with his draw as he showed his hand. “I have a run of clubs led by the Queen. I believe you will need a King in your pocket to overturn such a hand. How apt.” He looked over to the armament sitting on a side table. “I must congratulate you on your taste in firearms. You certainly chose a fine pair for us to play for.”
  3. Charles lifted his own finger and said just as suavely. “Marriage and children? Post hoc ergo propter hoc My dear Kingston.” He smiled sweetly before saying… “Do you wish me to translate?” and then chuckling. But I do take your point. You say your life has so recently changed and that you are still getting the lay of the land so to speak so it is only prudent that you establish your foundations but I do assume that eventually you will wish for a second Lord Kingston to carry on your family name.” “Other than if engaged in a few learned occupations that require Latin I tend to find that most educated gentlemen’s fluency tends to atrophy due to lack of use. I find it is much the same with French for once one settles down there is no longer a pressing need for le langage de l’amour. Oft times older men without mistresses become notoriously deficient in their French. Hmmm… I do believe Rochester and Buckingham are noted for their proficiency.” “You bring to mind an occasion when our rhetoric society was stood to a debate at Cambridge, Magdalene I believe. We were put up near the Porter’s entrance During the night someone painted on the door of our lodgings a rendition of the old Roman graffito ‘Romani ite domum’ but in their haste they failed their grammar and actually wrote ‘Oxoniensis eunt domus!’ “ He was so filled with mirth at the recollection he needed to wipe a tear from his eye. “If we would have ever mixed up the accusative and dative like that our Latin master would have had our balls off.” He regained control of himself. “We won the debate naturally. That was the first time that I had ever been to Cambridgeshire. And I do have to admit that it was not as desolate and savage as I had imagined.” When recollecting his university days Charles seemed to speak with a lighter more carefree air. “I have thought that in the autumn of my life when my joints creek and I have left public life that I might relive my halcyon days as Chancellor of Oxford as I have a great attachment for the institution. I have the impression, and do please correct me if I am mistaken, that your appointment at Cambridge is more out of duty than desire. Do you have a desire to take an active guiding hand in the institution? Making it more like Oxford would certainly be an improvement do you not think?” Kingston seemed to take Blount’s suggestions in stride acknowledging them when they aligned with his views and politely explaining when they did not. He also did not bristle or take offence when Mountjoy touched on matters within Kingston’s official capacity. “Ah, capitol. I see that my apprehensions have already been forestalled. It is good that we have the ability to speak of such things in a companionable manner. May I offer to you that, within the bounds of our service, that if there ever is a potential matter that would disrupt the felicity between the King and the Queen I would welcome discrete contact to avoid any discontent between their Majesties for an open unofficial backchannel could be advantageous for all concerned in certain circumstances.” In regards to Kingston’s concern for his personal behavior he hastened to add. “Oh no not at all. However, I do recommend that it may prove beneficial if you advertise your marital views less specifically for your views may change in time. Perhaps a position of not being quite ready to settle down at this time might allow for an ambiguity sufficient to meet both needs.” He thought for a moment. “Although it does seem that when a lady gets an idea into her head that she known what a gentleman truly wants it matters little what the opinion of the gentleman is.”
  4. He cocked his head at Kirk’s view generosity and taking advantage. Perhaps dealing with ships, they being more intangible than real estate, gave a sailor a different prospective. It was not his place to judge but he did offer a bit of advice and hoped it would be received as a lecture. “Being grasping and ungrateful are ugly qualities that are not fit for a gentleman that is true. But for Kings… and men such as Buckingham, generosity can also be payment. If you risk your wealth and ship to transport a cargo of sugar and a London merchant pays you a premium for it, would you call that charity or fairly earned? There is an order to things. It is our duty to help and reward those who serve us. It is no less our duty to serve those above us and be helped and rewarded in turn. Your youth was nomadic, conceivably your children’s youth will not be.” Maybe he was just being melancholy about his own situation. All this fuss about the King’s heir had got him to thinking that he had yet to produce an heir of his own and unlike with the King there was not a convenient brother to step up and secure his titles. “Bah… it is getting late and I may be rambling. Take my advice for what it is worth for it and a sixpence will get you a pork pie from a peddler on the Strand.” He tapped the cards and dealt another hand as he teased his partner. “I give you joy for your abilities with Venus for they must be better than your facility at cards for otherwise you would be very lonely indeed.” He chuckled. Whatever else Kingston was or was not he was an easy man to get along with as Blount only teased those he took a liking to. He did however not much like what Kingston said when he lowered his voice about possible motivations behind the plots against the King. “The brashness of it all.” He said disgusted at the possibility. “Louis is a Machiavellian creature that would do whatever it takes to advance his interests but he is also an anointed King and would not stoop so low as to commit regicide as that would lessen his own majesty.” He though but did not voice that Princes were adept at causing actions without assuming responsibility for those actions. “The Dutch labor under no such restraint. I do not think he would be a good King but York, sans deliverance of a son, is the rightful heir and acceptance of that fact is moot as it is so by the grace of God and by our laws.” Mountjoy was rather severe in matters such as these for in addition to his loyalty to the Crown, as Solicitor General, if such treasons were to take place it would be up to men like him to see justice done and punishment meted out. “I have no desire to be part of a new Star Chamber but if that is what it takes to root out this hornet’s nest I will not shirk from the prospect.” The conversation certainly had turned away from the lighter topics of hobbies and hunting which under the circumstances was something not entirely unwarranted. He mulled whether to bring up another topic. A topic he had not planned to discuss but had been on his mind. It was a tricky subject to broach but Francis had given him every impression that he would be inclined to receive the topic in the sprit it was intended. Blount shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “Concerning that other skill of yours that does not concern cards may I speak with you frankly as a member of the Queen’s Household to a member of the Kings Household?” He had to frame this delicately. “The King can do as he wishes. It is our duty to facilitate those wishes but also guide them and to provide honest and true counsel. His Majesty is a man of free appetites with the will and ability to satisfy them. I have no doubt that you have and will continue to serve him well in accordance with your abilities.” He looked at Kingston to verify that it was understood that it was the Kings penchant for dalliances with females that were not his wife. “Her Majesty does not approve of certain indulgences but with the appropriate discretion and moderation is reconciled to looking the other way from such behavior. I hasten to add that Her Majesty has expressed no recent displeasure with the way things are in Mutatis mutandis.” He caught himself and added lightheartedly as most gentlemen had been tutored in Latin but were not fluent. “That is, in case your mind was yearning for the sea instead of attending to your Latin studies, there is no complaint about the arrangement between their Majesties. It is rather an unfortunate consequence, justifiable or not, of your recent interest in the Queen’s Ladies may be more than personal.” He continued before any objection could be made. “You, as well as His Majesty himself have explained the situation and I do not doubt your veracity or question the Kings but gossip will be gossip and perception can create its own truth. An interest, unfulfilled, of a young gentleman is easily explained away and is soon forgotten. It is only natural that young men will search out the Queen’s Ladies as they are desirable prospects but a loftier interest might be a thorny bush to jump and I would urge you, if such a thing were to occur, to nudge the Kings gaze away from such a field if it were so inclined to wonder.” He looked on in anticipation to the way Kingston would receive his suggestion and how he would respond.
  5. “What I have found particularly enjoyable, and this may be of interest for someone in your position.” he said referring to his work at Epping and Kirks economic interest. 'Is to create something new for myself and by myself. “What I have so far at Epping I have created. what I have at Athelhampton, my ancestral estate in Dorset, is what I have inherited. At Epping if I wish to alter a room, I can do so without having to worry that Richard III once slept there or make do with the yew hedge because it has been there for three hundred years. This may not be something that you are interested in at present but a house of your own making is more likely to endear the feeling of a home when you are in a position to settle down.” “I can also attest that if one forgoes Italian plasterers and French Masons and use local woodcarvers and bricklayers one can build a substantial building at quite a reasonable cost. True the House I have built is not of the stature of something Buckingham would build. It is more designed for comfort and convenience and is fit more for hunting parties rather than balls but I think it a perfect retreat for a group of gentlemen or a convenient refuge from the City. In fact, the timber yards, saw mill and brick works I established to provide building materials have paid for themselves and in a year or two the estate will be able to turn a small profit.” He rearranged his hand as Francis took but one card. He would have had a formidable run of spades if it were not for that pesky four of clubs that left him with an anemic two queens worth only a few ticks. He laid down his cards with more elan than the hand warranted allowing some time for Francis to reconcile his emotion towards his grandfather. “We English are not a demonstrative people but a certain laxity is allowed for relatives and those that are close. With my actual father dying so early my grandfather was more of a father figure to me.” He nodded at the acceptance of his offer making a note to include Francis in his next outing and accepted the reciprocal offer in return. “That sounds like splendid fun. I have a barge that takes me up and down the Thames but that is merely transportation and no matter how much one whips the oarsmen never go very fast” he smiled to ensure Francis that he was being droll and did not actually whip his crew. 'A turn on a speedy shallop would be a welcome diversion to be sure. My last outing afloat did not end very well.” He reflected. Mountjoy happened to be standing next to the King at the regatta when the assassination attempt was made. Then, after the amusingly naive political statement Francis expressed another that hinted at a sublime understanding about personal interactions. “Your understanding of the dynamics of Royal interactions are astute and demonstrate an innate suitability to be a Kings gentleman. I myself subscribe to the creed that one should endeavor to bring solutions to His Majesty not problems. As a Minister in His Majesty's government, I do not always have the option to follow my own advice but I have always striven to be perceived by His Majesty as one that removes rather than adds complications. It has also not hurt my reputation that two of my earlier political accomplishments substantially increased the flow of coins into His Majesty's privy purse. That is always something His Majesty appreciates and I believe I have both my Marquisate and title to Epping to thank for following that tenet for his Majesty is generous to those who ably serve his interests.” It seemed that Francis and Charles were like minded when it came to service, obligations and status although Charles had none of the misgivings of his, only slightly, younger counterpart as he had had the advantage of growing up with a long-established family name and an expectation of position. “I find these machinations incongruous.” Although in the short term it may be to the advantage of the French to have the King without an heir but then they risk increasing the influence of the Dutch. By the same token an heir would remove any trepidation of increased Catholic influence and should strengthen our alliance with the Dutch. That is unless the Prince of Orange has greater personal designs, that would be a serious threat. I understand that it may be in the interests of some domestic and foreign parties to stir up anti catholic sentiments but attempting to murder the King and possibly the Queen to do so seems absurd.” He did not understand the motives behind these events and he was one who liked to understand others motives.” To Blount's mind the Queen giving birth of a healthy son to rein after his father was the answer to all of the crown's problems... well... most of them anyway. Peace and stability is what the realm needed for the wounds of the Civil War were still fresh enough to be torn open. Sectarian conflicts would only diminish the influence of the Monarchy. “Do Catholics truly believe that if York was on the throne he could reverse the Reformation? Do the Non-Conformists so detest the Catholics that they would risk their ow suppression? “These were rhetorical questions as Mountjoy was voicing his frustrations. “This is beginning to remind me of one of those Greek tragedies where everyone ends up either poisoned or stabbed.”
  6. Charles Blount

    Away & Here Notices

    Life can be tough without an opposable thumb, hope it heals quickly and does not hurt much. Is there an exciting hitchhiking story for you to tell us about?
  7. Mountjoy returned brushing some imaginary lint from his shirtsleeves and sat back down. He, like Kingston did not even ponder the possibility of cheating his absence had created. He picked up his hand noting that it had not gotten better with age so the distraction of a complement from Kirke was welcome. Although not quite so modest as Francis seemed to be he was a modest gentleman in a proud sort of way. “I thank you for the compliment. I would not be so bold as to say that ‘I’ am an impressive figure but I am immodest enough to concede that I some of my achievements have been impressive.” The old Royal Forest had been neglected for years as the Stuarts were not inclined to be huntsmen. The areas near the various settlements had been over pollarded and degraded or cleared and the more remote locations had been left to rot and ruin. He had reversed that trend as a healthy forest meant more animals and more animals meant more hunting and to Mountjoy more hunting meant more pleasure so he was rightfully proud of his efforts. “Hunting has always been a passion of mine and I have had to put in a hand at running an estate… as one has to do…but my efforts at Epping have allowed me to merge the two. It has always been a pleasure to hunt along the pathways and discover the landmarks indicating game but now I have been involved with design those pathways and developing the land to facilitate game has become equally enjoyable. As The Queen’s lodge is only about and hour or two’s ride from London I am able to be more involved and it is easier to sneak away for an afternoon of sport without being absent from Court for several days.” He could go on for hours about hunting and now about facilitating hunting but he spared Francis an intricate account. “I find that hunting is similar but more stimulating than riding and tends to balance the humors and facilitate a sound hale constitution. Alas, with my increasing responsibilities at Court I find myself behind a desk than atop a horse. If you are so inclined I could keep you in mind for the next chase or go dogging.*” Previously he would have assumed that everyone wished to hunt and expected them to appreciate his offer. His wife Ursula had gently explained to him the mind boggling concept that not everyone was enthused by hunting so he now tended to ask rather than take it for granted that they wished to accept such invitations. As he suspected Francis explained the difficulties of transporting moose type animals and although possible it did not seem practical. “The King of France once sent Henry III an Elephante so I am sure such a thing is possible but as you point out it is likely to be fraught with difficulties and thus prohibitively expensive. As to the verasity of the chronicler, he was a fellow of the Royal Society so I doubt predisposed to exaggeration.” He sounded a bit disappointed but did not allow the prospect of a moose-less future distract him from his current situation. He did chuckle at Kirke’s jest about their Villiers relations. “In the intervening years since the conquest we Blount’s have mingled with many families both great and small but I must admit the Villiers do stand apart from the mundane and average. The Legge’s are more like simple soldiers, generous during plenty and stalwart during adversity. My grandfather, St. John, who was really more of a father to me thought Colonel Legge second only to Prince Rupert as a comrade and told me many a tale of their exploits against the Roundheads.” All this talk of family was interesting but it did nothing to improve his hand and he saw no practical strategy to improve it so instead relied on the old legal proverb ‘If the facts are against you trust the law, if the law is against you trust the facts and if both the law and the facts are against you trust to luck.’ “I bid two ticks and take four cards.” A clear indication that he had a weak hand but it at least gave the possibility that he could draw something useful. Kirke’s explanations of his aspirations were informative yet again confirming that he had yet no overarching political ambitions content to be guided by Buckingham, only natural, and the King, which was also wise. He had been wary of Kingston’s interactions with the Queen’s Ladies suspecting that he might be an adventurer desiring to take advantage of the ladies or an agent of the King attempting to encroach upon the Queen’s household. The former misgivings had been allayed and the latter, while not totally dismissed, had been diminished. Charles almost fleered at Francis’ amusingly naïve comment that a lack of understanding should prevent him from sitting on the Board of Trade. “My dear Kingston, if you think a lack of understanding is a bar to any position in Government you are woefully mistaken.” He chuckled. “Why half the members of governments are idiots, incompetent or ingrates.” He then smiled self-servingly. “Of course those in the legal profession tend to be less so. My grandfather used to say the best person to give responsibility over others is someone who does not want it.” “I do see your point about the Admiralty. A Letter of Marque does provide you the freedom to act as you please but the costs and risks of those actions are also upon you for if your ships are damaged you do not have the Royal Dockyards at your disposal and if captured it will not be replaced. But I do see the allure of emulating the exploits of Sir Walter Raleigh. Naval service might also take you away from London and it appears that, unlike before, you have some ties that bind you. After all as a Gentleman of the King you are no longer able to wander as you see fit.” The sound of a distant clock could be heard striking a late hour, or to some an early hour which brought back the reason for their sojourn. He shifted in his chair. “I do hope there will be more intelligence uncovered concerning the reason for our task. All I was told so far was that there was a suspicious murder close enough within the Palace to cause concern to His Majesty for the safety of his Queen. The longer this goes on the more difficult it will be to keep quiet and if this threat becomes general knowledge there could be unintended political consequences. The Lords and I daresay even the Commons would bay like hounds after a fox. And woe be it for the Catholics if any harm is done to the Queen or her babe.” He finished quite ominously. Mountjoy had been a moderate voice in the Lords and had often spoken in opposition to anti Catholic proposals but if any harm came from this threat he would be hard pressed to continue such moderation. (* dogging in this case is used like beagling or hunting on foot not in the English slang term that means something entirely different. I caution you if you google it don’t hit images.)
  8. “Staffordshire has some good deer.” He stated meaning that there was good deer hunting to be had in Staffordshire. If you have a mind to create a park on your estate fallow, roe or red would all do very nicely there and might give you an incentive to visit more.” He naturally assumed that every gentleman wanted to hunt. I have a nice park in Dorset but do not get back there as much as I would like. In fact the Margravina and I have only visited there once in the past three years as our duties have kept us close to the Royal Household. My Mother is still in residence and a sister and her family is nearby but the estate is not as lively as it once was.” “I am creating quite an interesting hunting preserve in Epping Forest which is much more convenient to access from London. I have all kinds of deer and boar and rabbits and hare and more birds than you can shake a stick at if you are inclined to fowling. There are also bats, they make very poor shooting but they do help keep the biting flies away. I also tried to introduce bear but the neighboring villagers put up such a clamor that I relented. There are many pathways throughout the woods for riding and meadows for strolling and prospects to take in the scenery. It also borders the River Lea so there is punting and fishing to be had as well. Indeed it has everything an active gentleman could wish for.” He was very proud of the improvements he had made to the neglected former royal forest. “Tell me, as you appear to be knowledgeable in the intricacies of trade and shipping. Would it be practicable to import a breeding group of animals from North America? I have heard tell of a type of deer or ant-of-lope called a Moose that stands seven foot at the shoulder. A heard of such beasts would be the envy of the sporting set.” He reflected on Kirke’s view of his obligations. “I suppose you are correct. A ships company is in many ways like a small village. Or perhaps I should say two small villages as one also has the actual company and then the dependants of that company remaining on land.” He surveyed his hand and discarded three cards and drew three more before advancing a token and looking at Francis to see how many cards he would discard. He listened in silence as Francis explained his humble opinions as to his standing and his rather selfless regard for the Lady’s future and almost overlooked his comment about being thirty within the year. He could not comment upon that pronouncement directly for he did not want to appear rude but he did look at his face more closely. …No… he still looked barely in his twenties and it was not just youthful mannerisms that gave that impression. He thought to himself that Francis might bemoan his youthful appearance now as he was still young but he would come to appreciate it when he became older. Having the responsibilities of his family’s future and dealing with Judges, Lawyers and Politicians since an early age made Charles act older than he actually was… something that he knew he would not appreciate when he actually was older. As Francis clarified his ancestry, for there was more than one branch of the Legge family it became clear. “How interesting. It appears that your maternal grandfather is my 4th cousin via my connection to the Legge family and your maternal grandmother is my great grand aunt by marriage as she was the daughter of Elizabeth Villers sister to your grandmother Ann.” He chuckled now that the particulars were sorted and jested. “Well I can not say that we are closely related but our great grandfathers seemed to have viewed each other as kin. I imagine it is only appropriate for me now to offer you and your Mother the hospitality of Athelhamption if you ever find yourselves in Dorset. But mind you, if you lose another hand at cards, our relations are not so close for me to stand surety for your gambling debts.” He sorted his cards wondering how he could make a good hand out of the mess he was dealt. He bid aggressively to give him time to build up his hand. Their conversation had been relaxed and Kingston appeared to be at ease and forthright, at least as much as he was willing to be. It could be that he was just reluctant about speaking about personal details or perhaps he did not know those personal details that Blount suspected. He was a tough nut to crack. He tried a different tack, as sailors were wont to do. “And what course would you wish to chart once you have the wind at your back?” He inquired using a nautical metaphor. He found nautical metaphors almost as amusing as hunting metaphors. “Do you see yourself hoisting your flag as Admiral of the Blue? A Privy Councilor? A position on the Board of Trade? Or do you prefer the carefree life of a bone vivant ?” He listened to Kirke’s reply nodding and taking it in before he put down his cards and excused himself. “I beg your indulgence for I must, as you sailors so vernacularly put it, pump the bilge. Pray, I shall only be a moment” He said as he rose. Despite the opulence of Whitehall it was an older palace and aside from some jakes overhanging the Thames one had to do with chamber pots. As these were the Queen’s apartments one had the luxury of retreating to a screen off in a corner and Charles made his way there to relieve himself. As he took his business in hand, so to speak, he peeked out the window to see if anyone was luring out in the shadows still mindful of his task and reflected that if any would be assassins took this moment to strike he would be at a distinct advantage with only, as he used to refer to it in school, his ‘blunt object’ in his hands. Hs mission completed he made ready to rejoin Kingston and continue their game and conversation. (OOC- No worries. Although you did not say if Francis wanted a refill of wine thus preventing me from going off on a two paragraph exposition of how Henry VIII once offered Charles’ ancestor a sip of wine after a joust… I may have been frightened by Proust as a child as I tend to go off on comma laced narratives.)
  9. Francis was rightly aghast at the conduct described by Charles who was not one to air dirty family secrets but as it was he who very publicly and very scandalously dragged his uncle through the courts to regain his property it could hardly be considered a secret hence he elaborated as he still felt the sting of his uncle’s actions. “It is unfortunately very true. When the Commonwealth usurped control, I was still in school so even with our history of support for the Crown it was deemed with my Grandfather in exile, my Father killed during the war and with only a Mother and two sisters as direct family it would be safe enough for us to stay in England trusting that my Mother’s Brother, who had made accommodation with the usurpers, could be relied upon to look after the interests of his kin and shield them from harsher excess of the so called Commonwealth. Indeed he was very diligent in securing the lands and income confiscated from us at very advantageous terms…for him at least. But despite this great windfall he, being an inveterate gambler, was still in financial difficulties and came to look upon my property as his rightful due even going so far as to call me ungrateful when I requested the return of my estates.” “As he was very influential in the County he was able to have his friends thwart the Kings directives and deny me the influence and resources to press my claims. As you know that old canard of ‘possession is nine tenths of the law’ is not totally unfounded. By that time I was at Oxford and this perceived injustice awoke in me a determination to gather the wherewithal to protect my own interests and that of my family. It is not common for a young gentleman already in possession of a peerage to take up the law but that is what I did. I devoted myself to mastering the intricacies of English jurisprudence l and in so doing discovered a passion and affinity for the intricacies and pre-eminence of English law. I had a flair for it and did well enough that after receiving my degree I was accepted at the Inner Temple and quite quickly for a person of my age called to the Bar.” He bid a few ticks and continued with his story. “I became intimately familiar with title law, in fact I even wrote a book on the subject, and with the cockiness of youth brought suit against my uncle. As I knew I would have no chance in the Shire courts I very publicly filed suit with the Court of Chancery here in London. It was quite the scandal at the time for the press devoured the details of two peers going at each other. I do have to say that it would have been more regular and much less public and rancorous if I had pressed my case through the House of Lords but the House moves very slow in these matters and that would have given him the time to squander my fortune as he had done his own. Additionally the glaring light of public opinion made my Uncle’s position untenable and forced him to settle to avoid his reputation from being irredeemably destroyed. It was a rather nasty affair and it brought me no pleasure but justice was done and in so doing I was able to acquire an advantageous reputation within the legal community as a diligent and meticulous litigator which has done quite a bit to advance my career. Where is it that your seat is located? My own seat is at Athelhampton in Dorset but it is attached to my Barony. Mountjoy Fort which is technically the caput of my Marquisate is a muddy village in Ireland of less than 70 souls and Mountjoy Castle is but a collection of rubble walls. Although I do not complain His Majesty is at times more generous with titles than estates.” The Nobility did not have careers in general for it was thought to be a common practice but tradition did allow exceptions for the Church, Law and Military. He gave a wistful look as Francis explained his own type of poverty. “Yes. There is an accepted nobility in a form of gentile poverty suffered for the sake of principle or duty. I would imagine that being a seafaring man would not inculcate an attachment to a specific landed estate. I come from a family with deep roots to the land and it has been pressed upon me since a very early age that we have a noblesse oblige to our servants and tenants for our estates provide for the livelihood of many families. It might be looked upon as an extravagance to employ a dozen gardeners but in so doing one averts a dozen families from destitution. When our finances were strained I was in school so was able to engage in a certain economy as my lack of hounds and horses could be explained away by my devotion to my studies but my distressed Mother was obliged to go hungry and cold in the big house for the sake of providing for as many servants as she could. She was reduced to selling her jewels and family furniture in order to keep up appearances and shield me from the realization of our plight.” His gaze drew far away as he recalled that time. “That is what truly caused the inseparable rift between my Uncle and me. For him to allow his avarice to cause distress for my mother and sisters is truly unforgivable. I am also not on good terms with his son, my cousin. You may be acquainted with him as he is Lord Avon His Majesty’s Master of Horse. He is a gentleman and can be an affable fellow if he so chooses but if you are inclined to take advice from me I would advise you have a care in your dealings with him.” He drew his final card, a diamond which allowed him to discard a useless club. “Well I have belabored you enough with my family’s skeletons. Next time, when we are truly at leisure, if you offer me drink and let me win I might tell you some tales from my great grandfather and his escapades with Essex during the rein of Elizabeth. Times were truly different back then. He and Essex fought a duel over the Queen’s attentions but ended up good friends.” He showed his cards. “Four hearts.” He stated. It was a decent but hardly a strong hand and easy enough to beat. He scoffed at Francis’ demurral of his status and eligibility. “Oh come now… humility is one of the heavenly virtues but it is of limited utility for a Peer. Unless you have your own family secrete and have persuaded a country Vicar to marry you to a Shepherdess you are unattached. You are a peer in your own right with remainder to a Viscounty so by anyone’s marriage standards you are appropriate. And as for reputable, I do not judge what is in your heart but you are a Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber and the protégée of a Duke so even refraining from taking your other qualities into account anyone would strain to call you disreputable.” Mountjoy had ascended to his father’s title when he was a young boy and growing up with the tales of the exploits of his ancestors had no experience with the feelings of being thrust into unfamiliar positions or expectations or at least it had been so long since he had to deal with such feelings that it could be understandable if he did not share Kingston’s insecurities. “Knowing one’s place is a good thing but it is also a two way street.” He gathered up the cards, shuffled them and as he dealt out the cards for the next round he turned the focus on Francis. “So you have no interest in marrying at this time? That is not unusual for those that are either young enough to not know marriage or those old enough to know marriage all too well. What is it that you do want from Court? Do you wish to follow in the footsteps of Buckingham or forge an entirely different path?” He put his cards down and reached for the decanter gesturing to Francis to inquire if he wished his glass to be refilled before pouring his own. It was now that he commented on something that he found a bit strange. “You say that His Grace would disassociate you from the Kirke name. How would that be so? Kirke is from your father obviously and your ties to the Villiers are through your Mother and the Legges’ if I am not mistaken.” It would be interesting to hear how Francis explained the correlation and if it would impart any intelligence to confirm or dissuade his suspicions. “Are your people any relation to the Irish branch of the Legges’? The progenitor of that line, Sir Edward, was a protégée of and served with my great-grandfather Charles in Ireland as Sir Edward was nephew once removed. My grandfather and father also served with his son William under Prince Rupert in the war. If our obligations here do not interfere I have been invited by Lord Beverly to go riding this Wednesday with Sir George Legge and a countryman of the Margravina Baron von Bruhl.”
  10. Blount expounded upon his view of gambling which they both seemed to be in agreement. “Indeed, although I believe it is our duty to live well and exhibit a generosity with our wealth I have never understood the obsession of gambling for outrageously high states. For me that does not alter the entertainment of play.” He shrugged. “Perhaps because when I was a young man I was not able to be free with my fortune. Much of my family’s lands and assets were confiscated by the Commonwealth and diverted to my uncle the Marquess of Sherborne, who although nominally a Royalist made accommodations with the Roundheads with unbecoming alacrity. Therefore I am somewhat conscious of the financial prudence so often exhibited by the merchant class. At times things were so bad that we had to make do with only half a dozen servants and even fewer gardeners.” He hoped he had not shocked Kingston with tales of his poverty. “With the return of the King my estates were restored but my dear Uncle was not inclined to return my property figuring that my inheritance was better spent on his heir and his gambling debts so I was obliged to take him to law to recover my property.” As a rule Charles would never disparage a family member in such a way but the affair with his Mother’s brother was a bitter one that had caused a rift with his DeCourtenay relatives that had never been bridged. He calculated his cards and contemplated bidding three tokens but then bid only two. “I now seek to play cards or other parlor games for the intellectual entertainment and camaraderie they offer rather than to make a name for myself a profligate gambler.” As the conversation moved on Francis furrowed his brow which led Blount to think that he may have drawn a difficult hand. Then, as he explained his reasons for frequenting the Queen’s rooms and his interest, or lake thereof, in Lady Dorothea the expression was understood. His account matched that given by the King which was eminently plausible but then again would be the very explanation one would give if that had an ulterior motive. That was the trouble when dealing with clever ambitious men. He let his eyebrows rise mirroring his partner. “You have no designs on the Lady? I do not accuse you of any frivolousness mind you for Lady Dorothea is a perfectly respectable prospect and worthy of the interest of any reputable unattached gentleman.” He then sought to leaven the question with some humor. “You are, in this instance I do believe, in a precarious situation. If you are not frivolous you run the risk of disappointing Buckingham and if you are frivolous I assume you run the risk of disappointing your Mother who if she is like most mothers believes it is high time for you to settle down and marry!” He nodded as Kirke made it clear that neither he nor the King had interests within the Queen’s household. That might very well be true, at least at this time, but if the King was daughtered would it continue to be the case? There was no way of knowing that. He felt that it was his and his wife’s duty to maintain a harmonious separation between the two households. For now it appeared that Kirke’s involvement was nothing more than a manifestation of his master’s concern for the wellbeing of his wife and future heir. He cocked his head and looked about as he heard soft footsteps but they turned out to be a servant trimming the wicks on the candles. He normally did not pay much attention to servants as they went about their duties. In fact aside from a specific few he could not recognize the faces of most of the Queens domestic servants and thought he should remedy that deficiency. “We can be thankful that her Majesty is lying in for it reduces her exposure.” He ruminated over the possible political… and personal reasons there could be for wishing to prevent a direct heir. There was the French and the Papacy who of course would prefer to see the Catholic Duke of York remain the heir presumptive. But Charles had an innate respect for the dignity of Monarchy and found it difficult to accept that King Louis, for all his faults, would act against a royal child. York himself stood to lose the most if the King were to produce an heir but again his blood ties to the King and future heir made it difficult for Charles to believe that York would have anything to do with such a plot. It could also be a possibility that the French or Yorkist factions could, without the knowledge of the principles, act. But all this was conjecture at this point. “I would have thought that we English would be past such deviousness after the woe of the Commonwealth.” He said voicing his thought of their current duty. “I find these shadowy threats disturbing.”
  11. Kingston continued to blunt Blount’s bounteous banter as to his status with the appearance of unassuming candor while at the same time managing to avoid revealing very few details while at the same time vexingly providing enough information to sustain further scrutiny. For example he endeavored to trivialize his appointment as Chancellor of Cambridge yet offer the tantalizing hint that Buckingham viewed Kirke’s election as still being ‘close at hand.’ There was more to the blond seraph than met the eye. Charles was no stranger to the arts of cross examination but this was not a court room and it would be impolite to continue to press the issue. Francis gave the impression of a begin neophyte going where the tide took him but Charles could see that there was much more to Francis than that. That Kingston was capable and loyal to the Crown he did not doubt and in their current task he was confidant he could rely upon and trust the man but Charles put great stock into the legal theory of motive and opportunity and he had thus far been unable to perceive Francis’s motive and opportunity thus it niggled at his sense of orderliness. His interest was not strictly personal for Blount was protective of the Queen and Kingston had rather recently and rapidly made inroads into the Queen’s circle so he felt it was his business to ultimately explain the motives and opportunities of his card partner. “Well then Ombre it is then.” He stated as Kingston deferred to his choice of game. He reached for the deck and, as was customary when there was only two players removed a suit from the deck. “As we are two gentlemen we shall dispense with hearts.” He said as he sorted out the details so they could begin. To Francis’s relief Charles proved likeminded in his opinion of stakes. “As our main attention should focus on our surroundings and not be fixated on the cards may I suggest we play for small stakes… say a crown* a point? I do not mean to be insulting regarding the stakes but in truth, given our task, we may not be able to play to our full potential. Besides the Queen and more importantly Lady Mountjoy tend to frown upon high stakes play and of course you were able to secure a set of His Majesty’s pistols so that is a prize greater than mere gold.” What he considered small stakes was relative but considering the stakes often played for by those more inclined to gamble it was about the minimum for those of their status. True to Ursula’s words there was everything they needed for there was a box of tokens for them to use to keep track of their bets. “Here you be fishes and I will be horses.” He chuckled thinking it was rather appropriate. He dealt the cards and played in silence for a draw or two giving Francis the opportunity to raise a subject of his own if he was so inclined before again broaching a subject for his own purposes. “As you have mentioned…” and even if he hadn’t mentioned it it was highly unlikely that Court gossip would have missed the fact of a young, handsome and single Peer lurking about the Queen’s Ladies and even if they hadn’t gossiped about it both he and Ursula would not have let such a thing pass without notice. “…you have adopted the habit of seeking out Lady Dorothea to satiate your yearnings for Latrones. His Majesty also intimated that having been raised in a house of females you understand the fairer sex and have proven adapt at fulfilling whatever whims Her Majesty or her Ladies could wish for. The latest request notwithstanding but then you can hardly be held accountable for that.” He mused. “You know I was raised in a house of females myself for I have but two sisters as my Father died when I was very young and in my youth the domestic situation necessitated my Grandfather removing to the continent.” Given the time period he assumed he did not need to elaborate on the reasons why. “But I cannot say that being raised amongst so much femininity imparted upon me any particular understanding of the ways of Venus. If you have any uncanny understanding of the female sex I can understand very well the value Buckingham sees in you.” He discarded two cards and picked up two more hoping to get a black 7. “Has your interest in the Queen’s household been at the direction of His Majesty or is it inappropriate for me to infer that you have other interests than Latrones for I would think your service to His Majesty leaves you little time for frivolous endeavors?” The question could be considered unduly invasive but Blount couched it as masculine conviviality. ( For comparison https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator estimates £1 in 1675 to be worth £206 in 2020 so a crown is worth about £50 or 69 American freedom dollars)
  12. Kirke took Blount’s complements with the unassuming rectitude befitting of an English gentleman. “As a Gentleman of the King you are in a favored position, a position that can be used for the great benefit of His Majesty and for yourself. The real trick if one is to be truly effective, for there is no shame in benefiting from ones position, is to not let the latter overpower the former. Many honorable men have their judgment and character tainted by the succubus of personal aggrandizement and forgets that it is the service to the Crown that is the font of all honors. I would think that you would be well tutored in such courtly arts by His Grace of Buckingham for; after all, he is most accomplished in those arts and has shown you much preferment. And to your credit, tutored or not, you appear in my opinion to recognize that snare… at least for now. My family has a long tradition of service to the Crown which eased my introduction when I decided to join the Court but as my Father died when I was very young and I was not on good terms with my Mother’s family I had no close relative to rely upon to ease my assimilation into Court life. I was very fortunate to be able avail myself of the guidance of Chancellor Finch due to a family friendship. His Grace of Buckingham also provided a modicum support due to my Uncle’s relation to his family and I thank him for that but I can no way boast of the partiality he has exhibited in your direction. His Majesty is also less formal than some of his predecessors.” He smiled. The Nobility had so many complex webs of relationships and alliances that it was almost impossible to keep them all straight but if one could one it would go a long way to ease whom one could trust or should be wary of. Mountjoy always strove to understand the places of the numerous families within the Nobility. But in times like these family ties were tested and alliances shifted. Francis mention of the impending prince and the potential cost thereto brought forth a reflective “Hmmm…” and a look of concern on Blount’s face for Kirke had hit a nerve with Blount that preceeded their current mission. “Aye, there’s the rub.” He said seriously as he looked at Francis. “War with the French, dissension with Parliament and political plots are all to be expected in this age if intrigue we live in.” The lace of his shirtsleeve wafted about as he made a dismissive gesture. “They are not to be trifled with surely but they can be dealt with in the normal course of events for the French have always been well… French and the Parliament can not help themselves from acting like the they always do but at least we are saved from having a French Parliament.” He shook his head at the thought of such a travesty. “But what truly has me concerned and fills me with more than a bit of apprehension is the succession of the Crown. Indeed that has been the bane of my family since the sinking of the White Ship all these many years past. The importance of His Majesty siring a legitimate heir that has the temperament to justly rule, and the protection of that heir, cannot be overstated and is something I have sworn my name and fortune to see to fruition.” He had become more serious than he wanted to become and perhaps voiced his concerns more freely than he was wont to do for, although they both appeared to be on the same side in support of the King, they did not have much of a history together. This could be an opening for Kirke and Blount believed he would be unlikely to use such knowledge against him but he was not so sure of Buckingham motives if he were to find out how deep Mountjoy’s concerns were. To cover this revelation he pushed away his plate and dabbed his lips with his napkin. “But such musings are hardly conducive for a pleasant evening at cards.” When Francis declared that he had matriculated to Trinity Charles took notice. “Do you mean Trinity Hall or Trinity College? He asked to clarify which of the two similarly named but different institutions at Cambridge Kirke was referring to for one was a sister college of his beloved Christ Church and one was not. If an Alum of the College Charles would be obligated to show some restraint in teasing the poor Cantabrigian, and really in his mind the main purpose of Cambridge was to prove the superiority of Oxford. “Yes, I can understand how anxious you would be to shield your academics from such an exceptional institution as Oxford. And for your information the only quarters I ‘steeled into in the dead of night’ were my own after late nights at The Spotted Cow as we had a particularly disagreeable Porter who for some selfish reason was disinclined to facilitate entry to students who had stayed out after the gates were locked. I had a chum that was so adept at jumping over the garden wall we took to calling him Frog Legs.” He smiled as he reminisced about simpler times. “I should perhaps leave the tale there as good old Frog Legs now sits on the Kings Bench and one would not want to impinge upon the dignity of the judiciary.” “So the salt air had the greater pull on you than dusty parchment?” He asked when Francis explained that he had left school to go to sea. “I had always been enthralled by the tales of Drake and yearned to take ship to the Spanish Mane and plunder Maracabo as he did but during my studies I developed another much more feasible passion. I discovered the Law with all its intricacies and power to do good and shape society for the better. Most gentlemen of good family that take the silk are younger son’s that see it as an honorable way to establish themselves and perhaps obtain a knighthood. When I graduated and came into my inheritance I was a peer in my own right with a respectable income and had all the options of a landed Gentleman open to me yet I still chose the law. It may not have been as romantic as yielding to the call of the sea but it has been worthwhile and I believe has put me in a place where I am better able to serve my sovereign.” He also noted how in Francis’ explanation how deftly he acknowledged his election as Chancellor without providing any specific details. ‘Ah yes… Buckingham held the position previously as did his Father before him but gave it up in deference to the King’s Bastard son.” He used the term bastard descriptively rather than pejoratively. After the ah… departure… of Monmouth I would have thought he would take it up again but he deferred again for you.” He left it at that for Kirke to take as a statement or a question to deflect. “I find it interesting that you would desire such a post at such a point in your life. I myself have contemplated becoming Chancellor of Oxford but envision such an appointment after I retire from public life.” Time was moving on so he said. “Unfortunately we do not have the numbers to play Ruff and Honors so shall we try some Two-handed Ombre?” Charles was not much of a gambler and preferred games of strategy to luck.
  13. Charles Blount

    Away & Here Notices

    Hope you feel better... we are no longer spring chickens. As an aside I read Blackguard's post as "Set small goats." which I though was a unique way of reinvigorating oneself. I find popping in a DVD of "The Power and the Passion" a good way to get in the mood but I've been binge watching The Man in the High castle so I don't know if I am ready for Obergruppenfurer Charles II.
  14. Their conversation slowed as they both sat and availed themselves of the food so kindly provided. The interludes between bites and sips of wine were filled with lighter and more trivial banter. That is to say trivial by general perception of those who had not the good fortune to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge. To those educated few the rivalry between the two institutions, wile good natured, was anything but trivial. As tradition required Francis took up the cause of his alma mater, a brave, thorny and ultimately futile decision according to Charles due to the obvious and indisputable superiority of Oxford University over its closed rival. He smiled at Kirk’s opening riposte. “Given your youth and inexperience I did not wish for you to be ‘Taken Aback,’ if that is the proper nomenclature you nautical fellows like to use, so I presented a simple and well known peculiarity of those inhabiting the banks of the River Cam.” He said referencing the river that flowed through and gave its name to the town Cambridge and obliquely reaffirming the superiority of Oxford as that city could boast two rivers. He did not expect Francis to offer to divest himself of his own coat, an offer that indicated tact and belied youth and inexperience, which Charles thought to be quite gentlemanly. “I would not expect that of you but would not take it amiss if you were to do as you please. You are correct that it would provide more freedom of movement. It is for that exact reason I have my tailor cut my hunting clothes more generously. It is not quite as sharp but it is more comfortable and when out in the field even the strictest proponent of haute couture is willing to make some allowances. It may also help us play the part of two rakes intent on their cards to the exclusion of all else. And if I may add, the fireplace draws quite well so we are unlikely to find ourselves uncomfortable chilled like we would if we were afield the chase.” It was here that Charles was hoist on his own petard for now was the perfect opportunity to launch into one of his many stories of the chase. Perhaps the one when he and Heneage were out on the moors of Dorset and Hen strayed into a bog and got stubbornly stuck requiring Charles to pull him by the armpits for fully a half an hour to free his friend. To add insult to injury Heneage’s boots were pulled off during the rescue never to be seen again and the unfortunate younger Finch had to walk back a full three miles in his (wet and muddy) stocking feet complaining of his sore underarms and every pebble he trod on. But as tempting as the story was, and the fact that Francis was duty bound to stay and thus couldn’t flee as he was under the obligation to stay he declined and continued to tease his companion, who still would not be able to flee, for his regrettable choice of higher education. It would be a long night and perhaps there would be the opportunity to tell his muddy story at a later time. Kirk need not have worried about overly effusive compliments concerning the Margravina for although Charles could be tempted by the green eyed emotion, exampled by some of his conduct during the recent misunderstandings with his wife, he was not so possessive as to as to take umbrage at praise or admiration of his wife which he thought was deserving of from any discerning gentleman. But it was prudent not to overtly covet thy neighbor’s ass or thy neighbor’s wife. Francis then gave his own reply to the taunting about their alma maters. “Oh not at all my good fellow! My time in the learned halls of Christ Church taught me the value of determination, study and meticulousness. It was later at sport that I learned the value of guile and patience. The Chase… meeting your foes head on… offers great sport, pleasure and exercise which I recommend to all vigorous gentlemen but if one needed to hunt for sustenance, for efficiency, then one would do well to hunt by stealth and pitfall. Not as pleasurable as ballyhooing about the countryside but more likely to result in meat in the pot.” He thought for a moment weighing the possibilities and the remit of their charge. “Hmmm… if His Majesty simply wished for any would be assassins to be captured he has a plethora of discrete and nondescript characters at his disposal but he chose us. I believe it would be fair to describe us as discrete but one could hardly accuse us of being nondescript.” In fact Mountjoy would be horrified if anyone would have considered him nondescript. “Upon reflection I believe that, as you say, His Majesty would wish us to deter rather than apprehend. In Law the exact written word governs what and how a thing is to be done. When dealing with Princes it is often not what is actually said but how it was said and what was meant to be inferred which is truly of more significance. As a Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber I suspect discerning what the difference of what is said and what is meant is a skill you have learned to be quite adept at.” It was settled that they would ‘act normal’ and not take any outward steps at instigation. “Sneaking in and stealing all the secrets!” He reiterated in mock horror. “My dear Chap, One would never do such a thing to a fellow Oxonian and I inquire if there has been an academic work of a Cantabrigian worthy of theft?” he made a gesture as it to serve up the question and dabbed his lips with a napkin “As it was I did not learn such underhanded tactics as those until I joined the Court. The Law and politics my good fellow, nowhere else will one find such a collection of honorable villains.” He was a good enough sport to allow for some self deprecation along with his banter. By this time he had satiated the bulk of his hunger and was in the mellow state of ‘filling up the corners’ as his childhood Housekeeper Mrs Took used to say, so was not in the mood to belabor the subject of their inter-scholastic rivalry but he was interested nonetheless. “I seem to recall hearing that you have been appointed to a position at Cambridge. To which Collage did you matriculate?” Charles knew of his appointment and wished to see how Francis would frame it
  15. Ursula did not press the issue of the confections which he interpreted as her acquiescence. If she disagreed she certainly would have the fortitude to press the matter and if pressed would just as certainly have the support of her husband. Kingston likewise did not feel the need to address the matter further so it appeared that the issue was settled. He smiled at Ursula’s plea that she was still adjusting to the unusual situation they found themselves in but guessed that like his own recent explanation hers was also a polite offering for however fair she chose to be there was not much that could overwhelm her. His attention was momentarily distracted as he surveyed the assortment of victuals the servants provided but Ursula soon brought his attention back. As a traditional man he thought it only proper that a wife perform functions such as sewing on buttons and the like but her position and the demands on her time, for although they were to keep guard she would have to single handedly shepherd the Queen and her ladies, made her domestic offer unexpected as he had not meant for her to perform the task herself. He took the offer as an affirmation that even though they did have duties and obligations to the Crown they also had obligations to each other and he felt that it would do him good to remember that fact and not let his attention to his own wife suffer for it. “Thank you My Dear! That is very kind of you.” He said earnestly as he took off his coat and offered it to Ursula. As he did so he went to kiss her hand but missed and ended up kissing one of the buttons which was not as romantic as he had wished but hoped Ursula appreciated the effort. Kingston was forgotten for a moment as Ursula made her goodbyes. “Until the morning then… and call at the slightest inkling and I will be there.” He added concerned not only for the Queen but for Ursula herself. He had been having strong emotions concerning his wife since he had returned and he was glad that they now were the more familiar feelings of the past. Turning back to Kingston as the door clicked shut behind his wife he addressed Francis’ last statement concerning the sort of man that he was and took on a mildly surprised look. “Really? And here I thought you went to Cambridge… how odd.” As an Oxford man he had unwavering presuppositions of all who were unfortunate enough to have to settle for that other university and it was not only a duty but a joy to point out the superiority of his alma mater. But as fun as it was to tease a Cantabrigian they also had other issues to settle. “I feel like I am back at Athelhampton and about to be scolded by Nanny for running around in my birches and nightshirt like a savage Red Indian.” He said as he fluffed up his shirtsleeves somewhat ill at ease at now being even more inappropriately dressed. “I do not know where I will hide the marked cards now.” He added truly in jest for although it might be necessary to kill a person if duty required there was no justification for a gentleman to cheat at cards. He sat down at the table that had been provided and perused the victuals provided taking portions of this and that in preparation to set into an impromptu luncheon. “It was very thoughtful for the Margravina to see to our needs in such a thorough fashion but the Margravina is a very capable woman.” He of course gave every appearance of expecting Francis to join him if he wished. “One detail of our vigil I would like to discuss is its method. Do you recommend that we sit here throughout the night in the center of the room with candles blazing in an effort to dissuade any would be intruders with our mere presence or should we retreat with a candle or two into an alcove to be inconspicuous in the hopes of luring in any would be intruder? The former could prevent any occurrence at all, which would be the safest to the ladies, but it would also alert the perpetrators and allow them to flee or plan a more stealthy intrusion. The latter may lull the would be intruders into a false sense of complacency and increase the likelihood of gaining intelligence but would be riskier for all involved. Have you any views on the proposed stratagems?”