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Fireside chats with Jack #1 | 28/4/1677


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"Send for Jack," the king said to one of his ushers. It was clear that the man knew precisely who 'Jack' was, as he should, because these days His Majesty often sent for Jack for various things especially those of a closer and more personal nature both insignificant and more potent. While it had often been said that His Majesty could favor many ladies in one night, it was also true that the king showed fondness for youth especially as he grew older and needed some capability of living vicariously through those who still had such graces, wiles, and stamina. That was not to mention the additional comfort of a legacy of trust he could have for the young man.


Jack made his appearance in due time, clearly having already begun to retire for only being in a shirt and waistcoat which amused Charles for how well the young man dressed usually.


"Come sit with me, Jack," he said informally as he did with some in private. His dark eyes looked toward the fireplace, turning to look at the dark-haired youth only as he moved forward to sit. "And peel this." He tossed the boy an orange from the bowl next to him and regarded him as he sat and diligently went about peeling the orange, placing the aromatic rind bits on the table between them.


"What has been going on since the meeting of the Lords on Thursday last? I am sure the pieces are moving with frenzy just as well as tongues wagging."


Jack smiled and let out an exhale of slight amusement through his nose, "Much, Your Majesty. It might have been apropos to adopt that similar stance to your royal cousin that absolutely all talk about politics at court would have one on the king's very naughty list."


The wit earned a chuckle, another reason Jack was special to him as had the Jack before him in a different way.


"But then they would quibble about every little matter of precedence possible and there would then be intrigues started over who sat in a stool with how many legs, who had both doors opened for them instead of one, bahhh." The king waved the idea off for it would give him other headaches and would just take the talk further into the blasted coffee houses.


"True, Sire, and you would have to wear six wigs in one day," Jack joked of the French royal habits. Charles Rex was far more sedate and far less concerned about fashion. "Who do you want to know of first?"


The king accepted the peeled orange from the boy and tossed him another for himself. His mind had been on Buckingham after their picnic and so his choice was not surprising. "Tell me what the Duke of Bucks has been up to. Such atmospheres generally get him excitable."


"Well he has met with Shaftesbury, of course, who is taking full advantage of His Grace's record of effectively disposing of spent first ministers," Jack said with a bit of a grimace. "Danby has dealt the duke a great slight, and Shaftesbury seems keen to use it to pull His Grace even more firmly to the opposition party. I have heard no tale of how Shaftesbury intends to weave this out so know little other than what I observed from the gallery to be honest although I have an engagement with Ashley’s friend Howe who is in Shaftesbury’s inner circle."


"The Blond Villain," Charles cut in. "Alderman Shaftesbury and Alderman George, playing to the passions of the people each to a different purpose." He sighed. "Go to see the duke, he is fond of you and feels responsibility for you as well. Attempt to dispel some of this betrayal in natural conversation asking for his opinions and advices in matters. We must pull back on those passions. He shall not agree with what has been done; there is too much of what happened in the past in talk of using foreign armies."


It was a 'mistake' his father had made which had enraged the people, but his royal father had not been very covert, and in the end neither had he been, had he? At his age, it was a lesson he must come out of better. At the very least, he was more well-liked that the previous Charles had ever been; that, and the country had no desire to be covered in blood again. Both sides had learned their lessons. No matter what, the King was never to be blamed and Charles’ head would stay firmly on his shoulders.


"Stroke his ego with your best flattery. Remind him that the secret treaty is over now. What he hates and would have spoken vehemently against is no more and is now simply what he did negotiate. What remains only is that I did not wrap him up in the wrong end of the affair." The puzzled look on the youth's face caused Charles to continue. "Imagine, Jack, what would be the state of things if it had been the duke whose signature was on that secret paper: a man who was born into the state of others' princely jealousy rather than a man who rose from nothing."


That seemed to give Jack insight as his young eyes went wide.


“Well I am sure much worse…As it is Lord Basildon went and spoke to Lord Danby afterward whilst Lords Mountjoy and Brynfield went and had some words with my lord Buckingham and Shaftesbury.”


“Ah, meet the bull head on, so like Mountjoy. This Brynfield fellow is oft heard in his company; Mountjoy made recommendation for him for Saint George’s Day,” the king reflected. “And Basildon owes much to Danby, but let us see if Basildon learned from Danby how to treat a patron who helps you on your way,” the dark monarch added sardonically. He trusted little from people. Danby had betrayed Buckingham, after all, and Basildon had learned from Danby.


"And what of Monmouth," the King asked, a certain worried tinge to his voice. If his son passively campaigned against his uncle continually, it would end in nothing good. It was a worry he often spoke of with Sprat. Why God would put him in such a situation, having to make peace between a much-loved brother and a much-loved son.


"He was at the house the other day to call on the General," Jack said, the ‘general’ spoke of being a relation of his. "He complained of having nothing to do and not being important, and they spoke of battles and such, from the old days. He knows Your Majesty has blocked him from having any way of controlling either the Army or the Navy with His Grace of Cumberland remaining."


"It is the only way from stopping an all out war in my house, until I either father a legitimate heir or die," the King retorted with annoyance. "I shall not be troubled over my royal brother and my bastard son fighting over my crown and ruining my last good years with a matter that I will be good and dead for, thank God. Nor will I be part and party of setting a precedent for such things or of the people fighting over which king they would like better. It is another way of accepting that what happened to us was right and just." He squeezed the arms of his chair. The execution was still fresh in his mind.


"And then there's Shaftesbury..." the young man continued. Jack knew this to be the worst piece of all they were talking about. "Of course, he is meeting with Shaftesbury, and he's frequenting the King's Head with the Country Party."


"Shaftesbury is going to get him killed." And that was how Shaftesbury had truly become such a bitter enemy of the King. The villain had come between his family. "Filling his head! And is he spending any time with the Princess Mary?"


"Of course, Sire. Sometimes."


"But more concerned with his own matters than his King and Father's matters?"


Jack nodded. The King growled looking off at the wall. He hated speaking of these things, but if he had to speak of them, he was happier to speak of them with someone who would never deign attempt to give him advice or have an agenda. It was less painful and far quicker. He was very fond of this dark-haired lad.


"Do something with Jamie, help to keep him occupied. If his mind has no time to wander, perhaps it will wander less to Shaftesbury's drivel. I shall talk to the general and further thank him and enlist his aide. As one of Jamie’s former guardians, he still has some sway and obviously has the boy’s affections that he visits."


Monmouth was older than Jack, but his family had been linked with Monmouth since the eldest son of the King had come to England and even before that. The old general had been one of Monmouth’s guardians, and Jack had known Monmouth a long time. The King always chose purposefully with his decisions and was rarely given full credit for his craftiness.


To be continued...


[This has been a joint Defiance|Fluff production ]

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"Dare I ask of my brother?"


"His Highness is happily swiving Lady O'Roarke so far as I can tell," Jack said with a chuckle.


"How does he get his mistress in the palace and the King does not?" The royal mood seemed to improve with the topic and a hearty chuckle came out. "One instance of it being better to be a prince. Not forever, not forever; although I do admit to it being quieter." Crying, feuding women were never pleasant to him. He always got cajoled out of so much but he could not resist making them happy where he could. "It is a convenient excuse for awhile." He was still King. "And is he making an attempt at being quieter about his Pope?" the King asked wearily.


"Seems to be, Your Majesty. The loudest cry at it is the statue in his suite." Jack chuckled and amended his sentiment, “Or it is said he has a castrato from Avignon sent from some prelate as some sort of present. He might be louder.”


"At least my brother listens to me even if he rails about his passions." It was clear that in some ways, he felt that his son did not.


"At least he carries on correspondence with all non-conformists and dissenters, not just Catholics. I should think it would send a fairly clear message that His Highness is not the Catholic tyrant everyone imagines he would be."


The King chuckled. That was true. Toleration was a better guise than Catholicism, at least for James. Then he could get out his blasted principles and agenda. He did not wish James to doubt his security; that would be another hitch that would create nothing but endless trouble even worse than now for the King. He understood his brother needed a power base, and he gave him that as best he could, choosing his appointments wisely, most especially those of a military nature. It was perhaps a false hope that Rupert would outlive him, because his cousin could be trusted to do what was right. It was unlikely and so he made certain to keep the balance of commissions tipped in James favor so that if things were split, James would at the least begin his reign with control of their military. Most all of the Naval officers were already in his brother's favor from his time as Lord High Admiral. Hopefully, in the event of his heirless death, his eldest son would know better than to quest after something with such odds.


Oh, that he did not have to worry about this matter. It was the one matter he could not avoid or trust to others. The way things moved in relation to his family would always be a concern he needed to see to himself.


“I grow weary of this arguing around me, Jack; things a decade ago seem now much simpler and not so long ago. You were just my page of the backstairs then and a spit of a lad too.” The King smiled fondly.


Jack smiled back, and one of the other endearing things about Jack was that he never asked for anything. Perhaps it was because he was spoiled already or knew the king would further spoil him. It did not really matter. Over the years Charles had decided that he realized why his own father had been as fond of his Jack, this one’s grandfather, and why he had always been so close at hand.


“Speaking of his grace of Cumberland, Your Majesty…Did you hear Miss Hughes is taking back up with the Duke’s Company for when the new Dorset Gardens opens? Perhaps there is a bit of voyeur left in his highness!”


“Actresses, Jack, there is little better, for they know when to control their thoughts and actions to play a part.” The king smiled fondly, chuckling lightly, thinking of Nell. She gave him less trouble and more amusement than the others. “I shall have to accompany Ru to see her, then, the old dog! Ha!”


It led his thoughts to thinking of his children and Ru’s children. One of Nelly’s sons would do well for Ru’s daughter. There had been a time when he was a boy at his father’s court that Rupert had been a knave with the ladies, garnering flocks of women trailing after him with his entourage. Rupert had been young and rowdy then, the leader of the well-bred lads at court and the favourite of the displaced brothers to his father. He had been in love with another man’s wife and it seemed that affliction was not singular to the one event. It made him think of dear Mall. How everyone had been in love with her! His father might have married her to Ru if Ru had not been penniless and dependent then, but instead had chosen their other cousin, fair-haired Jamie Stuart. It might have turned out better for them both if he had married them. No lady had been as unfortunate in life as Mall: three husbands and all her children dead young with a brother who was still angry over her covert marriage to that insignificant Howard cousin.


He would hear some of her stories and poetry sometime soon, and she had always had a cheering effect on him ever since he was a boy, and she was truly the last of those raised with him that gave him no trouble at all.


It only served to remind him of how very old they all were now where once they had been merry children. And it reminded him that he would need to endorse Lady Fiona for marriage this season. For a moment, his dark eyes looked speculatively at Jack. He would certainly be a candidate. The lad was very wealthy and a gentleman of long breeding and family standing. He was a cousin to the highest ranked men of court as well. Time would tell. Portsmouth was a more immediate concern, but his dear French lady seemed to be quite taken with that Mortimer fellow.


“A have heard of quite the witty play coming out, Your Majesty, by a newer playwright to London,” Jack continued, in the same lines they had been speaking, drawing the king back out of his thoughts. “But it is with Master Killigrew, not the Duke’s Company, and I am wondering where it will be held now after the accident.”


“There was some talk about the theater on my impromptu picnic on Monday with the agreeable Lady Kerr and Lady Gwendolyn where my precious babies ate their lunch and I was gallanty forced to provide another,” he chuckled, his spirits lifting. “I was hoping perhaps she would prevail upon George to put forth some money, but I wonder on how much he has even with his income.” His faux brother lived lavishly. If the king were truly feeling belligerent toward the duke, he could have asked him to host the entire French entourage. That would have cost a pretty sum.


“We shall see,” Jack said with a shrug, popping the last bit of orange into his mouth and wiping his hands on his shirt before dutifully handing his handkerchief to his royal master.


The two passed the time in more pleasant conversation for some while until the King stood and pat Jack on the head.


“Call in my ever-present throng, Jack, I think to prepare to retire for the night.”

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