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Fireside chats with Jack | An Anthology of Vignettes


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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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  • Defiance changed the title to Fireside chats with Jack | An Anthology of Vignettes

(OOC - I have decided to resurrect these inside looks into His Royal Majesty's mind!)


Fall 1678


Up popped on of the King's brows as the door opened and Jack appeared. The young man was not supposed to have another rotation attending - at least formally - for a few days. It was...odd.


"Where is Tom?" he asked, simply, not yet dressed for dinner and not particularly ready to be so. Recess from court life always made the transition back to being on royal display unsavory in many ways. Dining in State or at the least not privately. Larger household. High-ranking peers cast back into the rotation of attendance and with it, favors and squabbles. 


"He is...indisposed...Your Majesty," Jack replied. 


Up went the other royal brow. Not with consternation but with surprise, he said, "Indisposed for his King?"


"Well, Sir. I say he is indisposed but I did not give him the choice. In fact, I did not speak with him at all."


The King's head pulled back some, his brow furrowed. "Do I even wish to know, Jack?"


Ashburnham smiled wryly, "I am very convinced Your Majesty does not wish to know."


A worried groan escaped the King. 


"Do you wish me to send for someone else to attend you, Sir?" he asked. 


The list of people the King enjoyed attending on him was a fairly small one during the season. Out of the court season those were the only ones that mostly stayed with him. The high-ranking peers had estates and Lord Lieutenancies to deal with then, and he enjoyed that excuse to rid himself of many of them for a time. 


"Are you displeased to lose a free night?" It was amiably asked. As if he cared about the youth's experience of life. That was not true of most. 


"I would not be displeased if I had no free nights, Your Majesty." 


The King sighed. "You are Majestying me too many Majesties." He paused. "Then you can stay."


Knowing the King's habits and after delivering ambiguous news about Captain Herbert, Jack poured a huge measure of cognac and handed it to his royal master. 


Patting the young man's arm, he said, "Have a drink with me, Jack."


Whilst Ashburnham poured himself a much smaller drink, for the King could do as he pleased, but Jack could not let himself get drunk, His Majesty tossed an opulent thick pillow onto the stool by his feet. Only because if Lord Arlington came by he would have a heart-attack if he saw Ashburnham drinking in an armchair next to him, and he wished to save Jack the lecture. He could hear it in his head "It does not matter if His Majesty offers, it is not proper, it is not done!" 


A stool wasn't really done either, but that would just get a stern look for Jack and that the boy was used to after so long.


He chuckled about that White Staff, thinking of Dorset and the others and what they had done. 


"Since I do not wish to know about Captain Herbert. Tell me about something else I do wish to know..."


"I am not sure there is much to deliver that Your Majesty wishes to know, other than the inane expected things. Talk is abloom of the royal heir and speculating on your soon-to-be-prowess producing legitimate children."


The King snorted and then chuckled. Give him a fertile lady, and his entire court knew he could populate a small town with children. It seemed, at last, they had managed that. Portugal had never been his choice; he had Hyde to thank for the late Queen. It was prickling to think that perhaps George had been right about that choice being pushed so hard, for a barren wife for him meant a line to the throne for the old schoolmaster's potential grandchildren through his erstwhile brother. At the time it had been hard to know what words sprung from deep rivalry with Clarendon, and what words sprang from duty to him. Buckingham's perceived slights before his Restoration had been fresh and infected then. Clarendon had been equally skilled at attempting to make sure those festered. He was long gone and George remained. 


"What else is my court talking about?"


Jack sighed and then sat on the pillow on the stool. Was it really so bleak other than his heir! The court clearly needed fodder to talk about some good things... "Just tell me, Jack."


"As expected...the gossip about Lord Kingston is...prolific. New sheets are still appearing."


The King sighed in annoyance but, knowing Jack, he could sense more. "And?"


"You know Lord Arlington dislikes Kingston."


Arlington would not write broadsheets, the King did not think, but that did not mean he would not try to take advantage of them. He had never approved of the cub's appointment as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber.


"I know Lord Arlington was bold enough to suggest I should dismiss him from my household, and I told him I don't give a fucking fig about pamphlets. I am the one who gifted Kingston what he has been given that caused all this. He just wishes to curb Buckingham's influence. I told him he's allowed to exercise his office but not tell me how to compose my household, and after he gives Kingston the expected talking-to about his deportment in the face of the gossip and how he reflects on his King, I will tell the boy to ignore it as I know better."


Jack snickered and nodded. After all, half the Merry Gang was still in his household and every one of them but Dorset was rather wild in their deportment and ignored at least half the household rules. Mostly because they knew the King did not care about half the household rules. No gambling whilst attending! Everyone but Arlington broke that rule.


"And then there is Mistress Wellesley. There is quite a bit of talk about her as well."


The King gave him a dark look. He was still displeased with the actions that could have cost him both his Queen and his heir. 


"Do you not wish to hear it, Sir?"


The King sighed and rolled his hand as if to say out with it.


"All know that she was in the Tower under suspicion and that she was cast out of the Queen's household. There is gossip about why she is still at court. Some speculate that Norfolk spoke for her." Jack paused. "Norfolk is not pleased that anyone thinks that. It will bring back talk of his Catholic connections and former religion with his enemies."


"Well her brother did marry into his family, what did he expect! I do not care if he is displeased. He is a duke and experienced courtier, he can deal with it." There was a pause. "Or solve the problem himself. I do not care." 


Jack was almost surprised about the darkness of that statement, but he recalled the dispassion with which the King had exiled Monmouth, as much as it pained his heart. Monmouth had threatened the one thing he had been told never to threaten. Jack had tried his hardest to prevent it, but at the crux had simply ended up soaking wet for his troubles. 


"Then there is Dorset-."


"Not Pembroke. I do not wish to speak of Pembroke." He was in an impossible position with the deadly cherub. Cat, the double-earl's mother, was not his lover anymore, but he still loved her. She caused him no troubles. He did not wish to be the cause of her heartache. No matter how much the blond twit deserved a life sentence in the Tower or a death sentence. Tom would never forgive him either, and he wouldn't forgive his own failure in not keeping his brother under control.


Why could no one control him? Not even Buckingham. 


There was the business His Majesty had used Pembroke for with the Titus Oates affair, and none could ever know of it. Never. He had also used Pembroke's flair for violence the once in Lords to control affairs. He did not wish that known either.


"I have promised Dorset this has secured his property dispute and Pembroke has forfeited his claim by his behavior. He is exiled from court and not to go near Dorset."


Jack licked his lips and nodded, clearly unsure Pembroke would obey that in the entirety. Especially not with what was going on with Lady Susan. He didn't dare speak of that.


"Speaking of Norfolk, has anyone realized that he has secreted Sir John Trevor away for me?" the King asked.


"Other than my Lord Buckingham? Or those Norfolk can trust? I do not think so."


"I will know who has been plotting with the Dutch, other than Danby. I will know." If there was one thing he could entirely trust, it was that Buckingham would not plot with the Dutch or Danby nor plot to do anything which would have James on the throne. He was one of few that could be trusted with that matter. It was in George's best interest for Charles to have legitimate children and to live a good, long, happy life, and Buckingham never forgave a mortal enemy like Danby or Clarendon. "Does the court still think that Danby is at large?"


"Some do and some don't, Sir. Some think Le Roi has him in a dungeon somewhere. Some think my Lord Buckingham killed him. Some think he escaped to the Dutch. Some think he's still hiding about England or in the Tower or quietly executed."


The important thing was that Charles knew. He knew what had happened to Danby. He had never reached the Dutch. But the King was still curious what everyone else thought, because it would determine the chess moves of his court.


"And what is the prevailing thought about the Dutch?" the King asked.


"That they are not to be trusted. Courtiers are distancing from that position. At court, the French alliances are more of fashion politically. Even the mob is defining an English spirit, rather than supporting all things Protestant. They will never like the French but there is a toleration of the strength of being their ally. For now. There are buds of Toleration, Sir." Jack smiled, knowing the importance of that to him and his own political desires. 


"Finally," the King said, a ghost of a smile appearing on his lips as he downed the rest of his cognac. "And whilst we are speaking of the Dutch, what of Shaftesbury?"


"As he promised Your Majesty, he is assisting to find your assassins and has aided in the shift of the Commons and the views of the Mob. He vows that a legitimate, Protestant heir gives him no cause to quarrel with you, Sir. As does Danby's removal. He wishes only to serve as he once did."


"In other words, he is taking full advantage that I know he would never cooperate in any scheme of Danby's too, but I shall allow it, Jack. As I said, I will know who was involved in these plots with Danby. Even if it is my nephew. Especially if it is my nephew."

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