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Your Stories Await Telling

The story of Francis' father and mother

Francis Kirke

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Fluff asked me for the story of Francis and Bess for the Crystal Ball, and I could not help but acquiesce. Without further ado, here it is.






The Story of the Forgotten Lord Francis Villiers



Her hand was warm, and soft, and comforting. It made Francis forget about weights on his shoulders and fears for a time.


As long as he could remember, he had felt something different for her. Most everyone when they first met him and his brother, it was George who everyone noticed and catered to. George, who had been a duke before he had even taken his first steps, before Francis had even been born.


Little cousin Bess, though, she had noticed him first even though he was the second son. She had always preferred his company, and she had never been afraid to tell George precisely what she was thinking. At age nine she had delivered a perfectly timed, “I would never marry you, George, not even to be the grandest duchess; you are just spoiled and haughty no matter how witty you are! If you were not duke, everyone would admit to liking Francis better!” George had been amazingly spoiled and haughty at age eleven or twelve and Francis had highly enjoyed the gobsmacked look on his brother’s face.


This pretty blond sitting with him had provided him with what every spare needed, especially one of a great father; she had told him every way in which he was as good as or better than George. She had been his greatest friend that was not one of his siblings. She was the first girl he had ever danced with aside from his sister. His thumb ran over her hand in his and looked at her light blue eyes, remembering every moment of holding her hand and looking at her eyes when they had learned to dance together as children and as the years had passed. He did not know what he felt. He was too young yet, but he was very attached to her. George would go off with her elder brother, but Francis oft sat with Bess.


There were tears in her eyes now.


He had left her once for Cambridge, and they had shared letters. He had always been encouraged to form relationships with what family he had since he had no real parents, no aunts or uncles, no grandparents. In a world where intrigue necessitated familial alliances, both he and George had grown up with a net of people meant to help protect them, especially through their childhood. Bess’ father had gotten taken prisoner helping to protect them in the Siege at Lichfield and who knew when or if he would escape.


Now he was being sent away, because the King could not trust he and George to be obedient and not run headlong into “foolishly giving their lives” without any sort of permission. Rupert and Gerard had attempted to intervene, citing how bravely and honourably they had fought, and that they should have a troop of horse each and have their cause be the better for it: “the more danger, the more honour!” What followed had been so loud and nearly devoid of the King’s stutter that George and Francis had heard it in the anteroom clear as anything.


Their mother had complained of their involvement with the fighting. Their mother? She was responsible for all this misery of being sent away, and she had left them, abandoned them, herself. Now she appealed to the King! Now she cared for their lives?


But the edict was as clear as day and the words resounded through his head: “Parliament blocks me sending any of my children away to safety; you, my boys, I can send, and I will. You will go to Italy and finish your studies in peace, not tempted to repay me with your blood. That was a debt long ago repaid. Remember, though, how they seek to force my hand by threatening the safety of your royal brothers and sisters. Mongrels.” The idealistic and brave youth of just fourteen did not yet realize those would be among the last words Charles I would ever speak to them. Nor did he know that those words would surface in his mind again in his last moments, a last and final disobedience. He would pay the debt with his blood anyway, but the only pain in his youthful face at this juncture was in being sent to Italy.


“We swore we would not run off to fight again without permission, but it did no good. His Majesty did not wish to listen to us beg leave to fight once a fortnight nor to be distracted from the betterment of our minds,” he told the pretty blond and sighed.


He did not know how he was supposed to think of bettering his mind when he should be fighting for the man who had seen to their very raising. They owed everything to the King, and they were to just leave? They were to just receive intermittent news? They were to be separated from everyone?


“I do not wish you to leave. I have not even seen you in months. Charles has been gone too,” she said, of her elder brother, who was George’s age. “Shall I eternally be in the society of my mother?” At thirteen, Bess clearly was feeling the burden of an over-powering, Villiers-blooded woman as a mother.


“I shall write you, I promise. At least once a week if you wish, even if I cannot send them that often. And I shall translate some great Roman book into English and send it to you. And songs. I will send you songs.” He was nervous. He did not wish to leave either. It showed in his face. His cheeks pushed up. His eyebrows drew ever so slightly closer. Cambridge had been as far away as he had ever been from the royal family, and they were back numerous times for events, holidays, and ceremonies of state. He could write as many letters as he wished. Italy was a great deal further. This was not a short trip


He often had unspoken anxieties about separation from people. He overcame it because it was expected, but it would not have surprised anyone after the atypical life he shared with his brother that he did not wish to be alone.


Italy, though? Going to the continent with some lord he barely even knew held no appeal to him. He had felt the desire to throw himself on his knees, cry, and beg the King not to send them away, but George being steady by his side had kept him from a ridiculousness that probably would have gotten him nothing but a good birching for his trouble.


“You will have George,” she reminded him, as if she knew precisely what he was thinking. She pat his hand.


“I wish you and your brother Charles could come,” he said, looking down, wanting to take some bit of comfort with him. He might have had to mature quickly but not that quickly. He was still a boy.




Francis came in with a few servants following him and was promptly handed a packet of letters. George looked up from some parchment and an old text, raising a blond brow mockingly and said, “More silly letters? Are you going to read them with a funny grin on your face?”


“You act more like a disgrace than a grace,” Francis said back, with disinterest, as he plopped down on a cushioned bench, already breaking the packet open. He knew how to annoy his brother, not rise to his liberal baiting. Besides, he did not want to think about and exchange quips, he wanted to read his letters from Bess.


“She is going to make her father poor with all these letters.” He ignored the all to frequent commentary on his grace or lack thereof.


“I gave her a purse of coin before we left.”


“You did not!” The Duke laughed out, putting inky fingers to his face and getting some on the corner of his lips. “You are pathetic, Francis. We don’t even write Mall that often.”


Well, Francis was not in love with his sister, so that would explain that, but he surely was not going to share that with George. Not when he had to cohabitate with him for at least until George was of age and probably until they both were. Even then they could not return without the King’s permission, of age or not.


“Perhaps we should write her more often then.” He knew his brother would not go for the idea of writing their sister more.


“I doubt she finds our letters interesting anyway. I have no idea what you and Bess find to write about. Neither of your lives are that interesting.” Buckingham paused for dramatic effect. “I know you aren’t writing to her about our trip to the brothel or the lovely courtesans that are our night-cap, courtesy of the Archduke.” He grinned.


“We send music,” he stated. It was a truth in a lie. Then he thought to change the subject away from himself and his correspondence. “What are you doing then? Actually using your wits and writing something interesting and novel or just doing more translations to send His Majesty?”


“Shall you have me write love letters to a girl over writing the King?”


“I’ll have you write what you wish, George. I wish you would let me do the same in peace.”


“So they are love letters!” Buckingham declared gleefully, turning his chair around and abandoning his quill, enjoying the sport of teasing his younger brother.


“They are not love letters,” the sixteen year old declared, rolling his eyes at his blond brother. They were love letters, and George had probably read them, the sneaky bastard.


“After nearly two years of these packets going in and out at least once a month, you are absolutely daft if you think I believe that.” The seventeen year old Buckingham chuckled. Passions ran deep in their blood. He understood that.



“She is our relation and friend. Of course I have affection for her. She tells me in detail what is going on at home, without censoring it. That’s more than what you can say about what His Majesty or Holland or Newcastle writes to us.” He tried to set his jaw but could not. “I…I miss being around people we know,” Francis said, pursing his lips and trying not to betray that he felt very lonely aside from his brother. He wanted to go home. He was not afraid of what would wait him there. He was afraid of never seeing his makeshift family ever again. He was afraid of it being torn apart in his absence.


“Try not to think about it,” George advised, always having liked his protective eldest brother role and not just with Francis. But he was not wishing to tread down that slippery slope himself, the one that would lead him to wishing to be incomprehensibly drunk. The Archduke was a fun host and very diverting, and they need much diverting much of the time.


“What if we never go home, George,” Francis whispered.


“Write your letters if it makes you feel better,” Buckingham sighed, feeling a bit guilty for teasing Francis about his solace. He had his own forms of solace and the same fears.


“Just as you write your translations and send them to the King. It makes you still feel a part of it all and it keeps you busy.”


“Indeed.” He and his brother were connected enough to know and understand each other. They had spent every moment of their life together. He pursed his lips.


Francis stood up and faced the hearth, trying not to sniffle. “We are old enough now to fight, why won’t he let us come home?”


George felt himself sliding down to where Francis was dwelling in his thoughts, a pit forming in his stomach. He faced his brother and put a hand on his shoulder.


“Because he loves us, and he loved our father, and he promised our mother to be our father. He swore to God he would protect us as a father. He would send Charles, James, Henry, and the girls away if he could; he would send all of his family away. He has tried to do so numerous times, but Parliament will not allow it. Charles and James would be here with us if they could get out of England, the others with their mother in France.” He was speaking the truth, but he was just as upset about it as Francis. They should not be the ones saved.


They should be there staking their lives to save the others.


“I know,” Francis replied, but it felt no more fair. Being powerless was horrible. “Our being safe is a minor solace for the King.”


Even if it is our torment, George finished in his mind.


“Why are we always the ones separated from people?” Francis whispered.


Indeed, it was true. They had always been separated from whatever family they had. First their father to an assassin’s blade. Then their mother to religion when she abandoned them to remarry as a Catholic in Ireland. Then finally now separated from the royal family too.


George could not say any more while looking at Francis. Neither could Francis. They moved to embrace each other at the same time.


“I promise, Francis, we will go home. We will see them again.” They had never seen their mother again, and this would not be like that.


The Duke could never know that he would only be able to keep one half of that promise and not the other. His younger brother never would see the royal family ever again. He would give his life trying to save everything that had been and would never be again.




(OOC – not my best piece of writing, but with posting and vignettes to write, I can’t be a perfectionist )

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Bess had been staring out the window, as she usually did, until she saw them and flew down the stairs, holding up her skirts. The door was opened and she flew passed the servant at the door, forgot all courtesies, and completely ignored George.




It was a collision of an embrace, and as Francis pressed her tightly, George stood there blinking, perhaps a bit jealous over such a welcome. Perhaps he should have written more letters. Bess had grown quite curvy and beautiful in a few years!


“Come, your grace,” Bess’ blond mother took his hand gently to guide him more inside. She dropped a curtsy and then pressed a hand to his cheek, standing on the tips of her toes to then kiss his other.


“Thank you, cousin,” the Duke said, putting on his charming smile while his brother was still busy swaying with an embrace.


“My you have grown very handsome, George, and very, very tall!” The elder woman cleared her throat to encourage the other two to at least have a bit more politeness. “And Francis, you look much like your father.”


“Who is-----.” The Colonel stopped on the landing of the steps, shocked at seeing the two boys in his house after years in Italy. Surely if the enemy knew they had returned, they would attempt to detain them. What were they doing in England?


Getting them cleaned up and supping distracted them for the evening and kept the Colonel from saying what was sorely on his mind: it was dangerous from them to be in England. He would allow them a good night’s rest first even if he wished to bang their daft heads together.







“YOU SHOULD NOT EVEN BE HERE!” the Colonel bellowed. “It is treason to return without his permission no matter why you were sent away!”


Elizabeth could hear it through the door, her eyes at the crack where it met the doorframe. She had only missed the very beginning of the conversation late that morning.


“He is imprisoned. We can no longer know the King’s true will,” Buckingham replied. “That is why we have returned. We cannot be expected to stay in Italy when we may never hear from him.”


She could hear the petulance in his voice. He had used such hauteur at age twelve to Lord Newcastle too, she had heard him.


“You waited for the first excuse you could muster to return, but you know good and well, boy, that it is against His Majesty’s will!” the Colonel contested.


“We will garner supporters and join Lord Holland,” Buckingham insisted.


Bess could hear the set of his jaw in his words. He would go to fight, and he would take Francis with him. Francis would never leave his brother.


“We wish to fight for the King; without His Majesty, we have nothing, we are nothing,” Francis voice came, a bit softer, a bit more reasonable than his elder brother.


“A noble and loyal desire, no doubt. I do not blame you for it, but it is not what the King wishes. He wishes you and your brother safe. The end,” the elder, barrel-chested man said.


“We will fight with Lord Holland,” George insisted again.


“You will do no such thing! I should take you both by the ear and put you back on a ship!”


“I am the Duke of Buckingham. You will do no such thing. You will not tell me what to do!”


Elizabeth heard the slap through the door and put a hand to her mouth. Oh you didn’t, Papa!


That is what His Majesty would have given you!”


He had. He had clearly slapped the young duke.


“Join us, or do not. I care not. Francis and I are going. Your son is going. You will prevent none of us,” came his last words before Elizabeth heard footsteps coming toward the door.


George flung it open and strode right out the foyer and out the front door, a nice red handprint on his cheek, not even noticing her pressed on the other side of the doorframe.


She chanced peeking in the open study and saw her father sit down and put his head in his hands on his desk, Francis and her brother Charles had their back to her.


“I will go with George,” Francis said, although there was some sort of apology in his voice. He was not afraid of battle nor did he wish to avoid it, but he was sorry he knew it would cause others pain. He had no choice but to go with George.


“And you are resolved too, Charles?”


“I am, Father. I do not wish to sit while they take away everything. This life is not worth living this way.”


Elizabeth could not understand it, but she was not surprised by her brother, nor by Francis. Her brother had a father who had always given and risked everything of his life. That was his example, and of course Charles would follow it. Francis had never left George’s side, and she knew that he never would.


“Then I must go with you all,” the Colonel replied with a heavy sigh. “I swore to the King when I married your cousin, I would always do all I could for you,” he said to Francis. “You do all know that Lord Holland is the most inept military commander I have ever met? This is utter folly.”


“Then it shall be the better to have you, and us, there, sir,” Charles replied.


Bess moved away before they would all file out and then, feigning ignorance, turned the corner again as they all exited. Her father and Charles said nothing to her, but Francis stopped and locked eyes with her.


“You heard?” he asked, reading the fear in her eyes.


“You will leave me again after just returning…”


“Even if loyalty and honour would allow me not to fight, I cannot let George go alone. I have kept my promises to you. I have come back for you every other time.” He smiled at her as if nothing could ever go wrong.


“What if this is the time you do not, Francis?” She felt tears sting at her cheeks. “What if none of you do?” Her father, brother, Francis, and George. What if they all died? What if they were executed?


He squeezed her hand and did not reply. He guided her into the parlour, looked around, and closed the door. He generally left it open when he was sitting with her, but he wished a bit more privacy than usual, even if nobody usually bothered them.


He sat her down and knelt in front of her drying her cheeks with his thumbs. “Do not cry, please. You shall make this much harder than it already is. I do not wish to rush off. It is my duty.”


“You should not even be here,” she protested. “The King…” she trailed off, sniffling.


“You are upset that I am here?”


“No but…”


“A disobedience to be with you is okay but a disobedience to fight for the only father I have ever had is not?”


“No…” She knew better.


“You wish to command me?” he asked, quirking his brow and smiling. He, at least, got her to laugh.


“I wish that I could,” she joked back, trying to will the tears to stop.


“And you shall, one day,” he told her. “You know I wish to marry you.” He had said as much in his letters. It was just difficult when he was underaged and needed the King’s permission. The King was not precisely available. He kissed her hand. “You will marry me, Bess, will you not?” His brows knit. “As soon as this battle is over, I shall ask the King. It should be done by the end of summer. Then we won’t be parted.” Youthful optimism.


“And if it is not?” she squeaked.


“Then I shall just ask your father and be very discourteous by trying to send to His Majesty for his permission in a most presumptuous manner, given the circumstances. Your father shall not refuse me.” He paused. “So you will, will you not?”


“You know that I will,” she replied, her corset feeling far, far too tight. "I have, I have always wanted to."


They had stolen kisses before, when younger, but this stolen kiss felt as if it was not stolen. She would be his wife, Francis was sure of it. Nothing mattered if she wished it, he wished it, and her father would never object. The King’s blessing was more of a formality. She was worthy of him, and they were clearly not thirteen and fourteen anymore. Francis was certain the King would allow it too.


He had waited years for this kiss. Long, lonely years.


He paused only long enough to look at her, smile, and then kiss her again. His personal mission for coming home had been completed, and now he could go with his brother to fight without any regrets.


“Will you let me come to you tonight?” he whispered. “Every night until I have to leave? Just so we can be alone? We don’t have to…” He trailed off. She would know what he meant. He just wanted to be with her. He wanted to be with her in person like they could be in their letters, completely candid. He did not wish his last few days to be filled with propriety and distance. He was somewhat aware that he might not come back at all. He had already resolved to make a will and had brought his plate with to give her. It was the only thing of value he had to promise himself to her with.


“H-how?” she asked, leaning forward into his arms. "Mother will never allow it."


“Let me worry about that.”



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  • 2 months later...

I'll never be happy with this either LOL, but here it is, the end of it. I may write a little epilogue sort of thing but otherwise this will be it. As a historical FYI, this is what actually happened to Francis, and he did leave his lady love with a plate, and she did send him away with hair that was found sewn to his doublet by his heart. Obviously Andrew Marvell's poem is not mine, it was actually written.





George was already on his horse. Francis was the last one. He had made excuse to run back inside for something to steal one kiss with Bess, her mother giving him a sharp look in the action. He did not care, though; he knew he was not harming her, because he knew his own desires and intentions.


“Let us hope we do not get stopped on the way out of the city,” the Colonel said, still in ill-temper about this endeavor. Holland was foolish and this entire thing was foolish. Every moment he had been around their king taught him how much the king thought of the safety of his family and this threat against them. It did not take a smart man to know that King Charles was not going to be happy with these boys going off to join with Holland when he thought they were safe in Italy.





It was not many days later that their forces were intercepted and thundering hooves surrounded them like a great earthquake. It vibrated up Francis horse and right through his body. His gloved hands were thrust as far forward as possible, buried in the mane of his horse, reaching toward the ears. Their troops were fleeing, the Roundhead soldiers having come upon them faster than they had anticipated. The choice had been to flee North and prepare to engage.


It was unlike Lichfield where there had been Rupert, Gerard, the Colonel, and a great army. Holland was no Cumberland, and the proof was in this frantic flight, musket and pistol shot ringing out left and right.


His blue eyes searched through the moving riders and thrown up dirt for George but could not find him. They had not been together when the flight had started.


Suddenly he plowed forward, the ground speeding at him. He pulled his feet from the stirrups automatically, but when his horse crashed into the mud, Francis crashed with it. The air knocked from him, he scrambled when his horse heaved to try and rise, freeing himself from getting a leg caught underneath. He crouched as riders whizzed by. There was no time for thinking, only breathing. He grabbed his pistols from the saddle and shoved one in his belt. Looking around for the nearest cover, the only thing that stood was a large oak with a few bushes.


Deep breath and run.


He kept his eyes on the tree as he ran. Instinct told him he would be pursued by some of those chasing the other Cavaliers, and he could not defend himself in an open field.


One...two…four… he counted them.


There was barely time to draw his pistols and get off both shots before tossing them to his feet and drawing his sword and dagger, planting his back against the great oak tree.


One down…six…seven…too many.


He set his jaw, crossed himself, and held his sword in guard.


“Surrender yourself, my lord.”


Whether it had been the arms on his saddle blanket or something in the finery of his chest plate or attire, they knew he was not a common soldier.


“No,” he replied and licked his lips, taking a breath through his nose. He could not. He would not. There was no honour in asking quarter from men like them, from bowing to men like them. The King had ordered many deaths for cowardice, for those giving up things they were to hold, and Francis found he could not surrender to his enemies. His sense of honour simply would not allow it. They might take him, but it would not be willingly.


“You are out-numbered, my lord. Ask quarter, and we shall give it,” the leader repeated. He was no slaughterer of boys.


“God’s Will be done,” Francis retorted, hotly. What else did you say to a zealot to make them think twice about crossing blades with you when you were barely nineteen and grossly alone.


“God is not with you, my lord.”


Some of the others tittered.


“We shall see.” His body was on alert, but he felt calm and like everything was moving slowly. Not able to take the apprehension anymore, he took a lunge forward at one of them with his sword. Those that were gentlemen enough to have swords engaged, but none had the skill and experienced that Francis had and for a long time, it seemed he might endure.


Combatant after combatant yelped as he cut this or that. He could not even feel what damage, if any, they were doing to him.


“Just shoot him,” one barked as it seemed one of his fellows he was close to died on the end of Francis’ sword.


Francis snarled as a cut went across his thigh.


“We are not barbarians,” the leader refuted, somewhat weakly to the suggestion of shooting the insistent boy, but the battle continued.


Francis hair was soaked with sweat as seven turned into four and four into three. His limbs were shaking with exertion and with cuts. He was very hot.


Just three left. Perhaps it was a minor miracle, or perhaps there was something to be said for breeding and youthful determination. He might just get out of this mess before more soldiers happened along.


He stuck his blade deep into the leader, and there was a moment where he looked in that man’s eyes and knew something was wrong. He knew he had made a mistake, lunged too far forward away from his tree. He pulled his sword out and went to pull back but never had the chance.


The blow to his helm came as a surprise from behind him and to the left. Unbeknownst to Francis, the one who had ignobly suggested shooting him had crept around the tree and bush in order to hit him unaware in the back of the head. He fell onto his knees and barely was able to raise his sword up to protect his neck, but the action provided an opening to a vital weakness under his arm which was then struck from behind.


The pain, at first, was not as bad as he expected it to be, even as the blade went into the seam under his armpit and off his rib into his lung on his right. He never saw the assailant who delivered this fatal blow dishonourably from behind. He switched his sword to his other hand, and even managed to pull off his helmet so he could see from the ground, as he tried to rise. He poked the blade into one man’s thigh even as another blade swiped right down his face.


When the searing pain hit, when he tried to take his first breath, he flopped from his knees onto his backside against the tree, still loosely holding up his sword threateningly in his left hand, even as the others knew what he was about to realize: it was over.


He needed to cough but could not. His mouth seemed suddenly swimming, and he could not see out of one eye and blood was dribbling over the other. He did not realize just how cut apart he was, nor realize how ghastly the scene would have appeared to an onlooker.


It was not a long time, but it seemed like a very long time. It was not what he expected it to be. He had not expected dying alone, even though he had expected enough of a possibility to die in battle to have made a will and discharge his debt. He had always thought it would be instantaneous if it happened in battle, and he would never know it to need to worry about it. He had thought it would be leading a charge, not from getting his horse shot out from underneath him, stuck against a tree. Alone.


Those words of the King floated back to him. I do not wish you foolishly to run headlong into giving your life for me. That was exactly and precisely what he had done. He had disobeyed, with George, and returned to fight. He had been eager to go home but not for all the same reasons as his brother. It was a shame that his last act in life was a disobedience to the only father-figure he had ever known.


He tried to pull the buckles of the cuirass frantically to open it, but he was instead forced to fold his left arm so that he could stick his hand inside the metal. He clutched at the spot where the hair was in his shirt, near to his heart. It was wet. He hoped that she would forgive him for what he had done to her, for being foolish and negligent because he loved her, for making her with child and then dying. He feared now that she would never know her note had made it to him before now. She would never know that he had known she was carrying his child before he died. His briefly penned reply would never make it to her, but he repeated it in his mind: Never fear that I will make it right with your father. He had never had the chance. He had thought there would be plenty of opportunity.


Another blade found its way through his neck, creating a fresh bubble of blood through his mouth. His sword finally slipped from his grasp.


He was lucky there was not enough time to feel fear and that the entire thing was but moments where his courage persisted like a man possessed with iron will. There was only enough time for one thought spoken aloud as his vision of the world faded to blotches and to black: “Please forgive me.”


He wished for so many people to forgive him before he suffocated on his own blood and died there against the great oak tree. His hand was wedged under his cuirass still clutching her hair and a pile of his opponents he had taken with him lay around him in homage to the only father he had ever known. It was a vision of those old cavalier values of chivalry: love and loyalty to the very end.


What the soldiers did next became the stuff filling pamphlets, for they cut off his nose and mangled his body with their blades, punished him for killing so many of their friends and fellows. By the time they were done he was nearly unrecognizable. They had butchered the fair youth that so many had loved so well, one that was known for being gentle and kind.






“I must look for him! I must go! He would not leave me! He would never leave me!” the young Duke yelled as if possessed.


“George, listen to me, he is either a prisoner or dead, and he would not wish for you to join him in either,” the Colonel said, holding his slim shoulders to hold him back from mounting his tired horse.


“He is my brother! I must! I must! I can’t leave him,” Buckingham protested, harsh in premature grief, for he knew the truth of it deep down. His face was red. He felt faint. Anything, anyone but my brother.


The Colonel shook him. “You are famous for having yelled at me that you are the Duke of Buckingham. Well, boy, you are the Duke of Buckingham, and you must be the Duke of Buckingham now. You must live with your choices like a man. You must address the town, comfort them or they will turn against us, and you must see your troop bedded and with orders unless you would like to be the cause of their deaths,” the Colonel said, not saving the boy from the dose of reality and cruelty. He had chosen war. He had disobeyed to choose war. He would live it now. There was no other choice.


The Duke looked as if he might fall down on his knees and cry. The Colonel looked at a far different boy than this morning or yesterday. Everything had changed in one retreat. It was oft that way for youths. One did not think of what one gambled with and if the loss could be born afterwards. The Colonel knew the boy would do it all differently now, but there was no way to turn back, to cheat time, to save his younger brother. Getting himself killed might take away his pain, but it would not help. It was a cowardly action to be so selfish. Many depended on the Duke now.


“I will take a few men, and I will look for Francis,” the Colonel promised him. “Charles…is gone too.” His voice faltered, but what was done, was done. His son had been of an age to decide and had decided. If he had given his life, so be it, the Colonel had a second son and another child on the way. He was no stranger to reality.


“Charles too?” the Duke sounded strangled. His brother and one of his closest and oldest friends in one swoop?


“Will you do as I said?” he asked, shaking the boy’s shoulder again.


“I will.” The Duke tried to breathe. It was hard. He felt like he was swallowing blood with every taste of bitter saliva in his mouth.


“You must. Look at me, do you swear it. On your father, on your brother, on the King?”


The Duke licked his dry lips, “I do, I swear it.”


“Every one of these men is a father, a brother, or a son. Do not forget that. Do not ever forget it. They give their lives to you, to your decisions, for the King. You have a duty to them as much as they to you,” the Colonel said to him. Let him learn from this, by God, please let him not be stupid.


“I swore it, I will not forget,” he replied, and the Colonel noted the mild annoyance so characteristic of the boy when he was questioned. That was what a royal upbringing would do.


“And when you must, because it will happen, you will disperse and you must go North. Go to Leicester or Yorkshire to your family there, and stay off the roads, out of houses, certainly away from inns at all costs, and light no fires,” he instructed. The last thing Colonel Legge wished was to feel responsible for the death of both boys. One was lost and he had to go to insure that the other would not be foolish, as much as he did not wish to leave Buckingham alone.





The Colonel had to get captured to find Francis, and even he was not prepared to see what they had done to him, a boy not yet of age who had been laughing with his brother that very morning. He had failed his promise to keep them safe, and he shed tears for it along with those for his own son who was among those killed in the retreat.


He cleaned the boys of the blood, nothing could be done for what stained their clothes, and paid the ignoble slaughterers to send Francis’ body down the river to York Place on the strand where the Duke and Duchess of Richmond & Lennox were being held under house arrest in her father’s former home. He sent a note along for the Duke not to let the boy’s sister see his body, as it was not a fit sight for a woman.






Richmond received the note that came with the boat and had them lay the body inside their makeshift chapel there until arrangements could be made. Even James Stuart nearly lost his stomach when he saw it, such a pretty boy hacked apart.


“What is it, James,” his wife asked, as he came back down the hallway. Mall was the best wife a man could have asked for, but they did not have any children, though it was hardly her fault. The tender James, always one to feel emotions deeply, shook his head and sighed.


“It is your brother, Francis, Mall,” he paused and licked his lips, holding out a slender hand to her. “He was killed in Kingston yesterday afternoon.” He licked his lips again, “They have sent him to me so that I might see him buried with your father, at Westminster.”


The stun on her face drained it of all color, but she did not faint or fall as another woman might. She had always been strong, perhaps stronger than James, who was known for being gentle and not simply in character. He held her hand tightly.


“I wish to see him,” she exhaled.


James shook his head, “You musn’t. What they did to him…they are butchers and dogs, and they will all burn in Hell. You, you should not see him like that. You should remember him fair and happy.”


“James, if you think…If you think I shall leave my baby brother alone because of my female delicacy…you have absolutely lost your wits.” She steeled her jaw, “And if you think to prevent me, I will hit you, and you will sing like a castrato.”


In their family, they both wore the breeches, and so James knew to give when he was fighting a losing battle. He stayed with her as long as he could, but he had to make the arrangements for the funeral. As the story spread even Parliament would not prevent an honourable burial for the boy. Mall did not leave Francis the entire time, praying for him and for the safe return of George.


When Francis body was finally laid to rest three days after he died, and yet no word from or about George, she could do nothing other than give her husband a solemn truth.


“James, we must have a child. We must, or all this is for naught. You have lost many of your brothers, I may have lost both of mine. We cannot let the three grandest duchies die with us, for who knows how long they shall let us live, and I have the remainder to my father’s titles.” She took his hand and squeezed it. “We have known each other all our lives, Jamie, and if you have to bring a man to bed with me to be able to do so, then you must do so.”


A few days after the body was laid to rest, a young fellow of both her brothers who had been at Cambridge with them and then in Italy delivered an elegy for her brother, in thanks for his patronage and the affection he bore to him. It encouraged others to lay aside their words for him and to fight and kill as many men as words in his name. It read:






AN Elegy upon the Death of My Lord Francis Villiers


Tis true that he is dead : but yet to chuse,

Methinkes thou Fame should not have brought the news

Thou canst discourse at will and speak at large :

But wast not in the fight nor durst thou charge.

While he transported all with valiant rage

His Name eternizd, but cut short his age ;

On the safe battlements of Richmonds bowers

Thou wast espyd, and from the guilded Towers

Thy silver Trumpets sounded a Retreat,

Farre from the dust and battails sulphry heat.

Yet what couldst thou have done ? 'tis alwayes late

To struggle with inevitable fate.


Much rather thou I know expectst to tell

How heavy Cromwell gnasht the earth and fell.

Or how slow Death farre from the sight of day

The long-deceived Fairfax bore away.

But untill then, let us young Francis praise :

And plant upon his hearse the bloody bayes,

Which we will water with our welling eyes.

Teares spring not still from spungy Cowardize.

The purer fountaines from the Rocks more steep

Destill and stony valour best doth weep.

Besides Revenge, if often quencht in teares,

Hardens like Steele and daily keener weares.


Great Buckingham, whose death doth freshly strike

Our memoryes, because to this so like ;

Ere that in the Eternall Court he shone,

And here a Favorite there found a throne ;

The fatall night before he hence did bleed,

Left to his Princess this immortall seed.


As the wise Chinese in the fertile wombe

Of Earth doth a more precious clay entombe,

Which dying by his will he leaves consignd :

Til by mature delay of time refind

The christall metall fit to be releast

Is taken forth to crowne each royall feast :

Such was the fate by which this Postume breathd,

Who scarcely seems begotten but bequeathd.


Never was any humane plant that grew

More faire then this and acceptably new.


Tis truth that beauty doth most men dispraise :

Prudence and valour their esteeme do raise.

But he that hath already these in store,

Can not be poorer sure for having more.

And his unimitable handsomenesse

Made him indeed be more then man, not lesse.

We do but faintly Gods resemblance beare

And like rough coyns of carelesse mints appeare :

But he of purpose made, did represent

In a rich Medall every lineament.


Lovely and admirable as he was,

Yet was his Sword or Armour all his Glasse.

Nor in his Mistris eyes that joy he tooke,

As in an Enemies himselfe to looke.

I know how well he did, with what delight

Those serious imitations of fight.

Still in the trialls of strong exercise

His was the first, and his the second prize.

Bright Lady, thou that rulest from above

The last and greatest Monarchy of Love :


Faire Richmond hold thy Brother or he goes.

Try if the Jasmin of thy hand or Rose

Of thy red Lip can keep him alwayes here.

For he loves danger and doth never feare.

Or may thy tears prevaile with him to stay ?

But he resolv'd breaks carelesly away.


Onely one argument could now prolong

His stay and that most faire and so most strong :

The matchlesse Chlora whose pure fires did warm

His soule and only could his passions charme.


You might with much more reason go reprove

The amorous Magnet which the North doth love.

Or preach divorce and say it is amisse

That with tall Elms the twining Vines should kisse

Then chide two such so fit, so equall faire

That in the world they have no other paire.


Whom it might seeme that Heaven did create

To restore man unto his first estate.

Yet she for honours tyrannous respect

Her own desires did and his neglect.

And like the Modest Plant at every touch

Shrunk in her leaves and feard it was too much


But who can paint the torments and that pain

Which he profest and now she could not faigne ?

He like the Sun but overcast and pale :

Shee like a Rainbow, that ere long must faile,

Whose rosiall cheek where Heaven it selfe did view

Begins to separate and dissolve to dew.


At last he leave obtaines though sad and slow,

First of her and then of himselfe to goe.


How comely and how terrible he sits

At once and Warre as well as Love befits !

Ride where thou wilt and bold adventures find :

But all the Ladies are got up behind.

Guard them, though not thy selfe : for in thy death

Th' Eleven thousand Virgins lose their breath.


So Hector issuing from the Trojan wall

The sad lliades to the Gods did call

With hands displayed and with dishevell'd haire

That they the Empire in his life would spare.


While he secure through all the field doth spy

Achilles for Achilles only cry.

Ah ignorant that yet e're night he must

Be drawn by him inglorious through the dust.


Such fell young Villiers in the chearfull heat

Of youth : his locks intangled ail with sweat

And those eyes which the Sentinell did keep

Of love closed up in an eternall sleep.

While Venus of Adonis thinks no more

Slaine by the harsh tuske of the Savage Boare.


Hither she runns and hath him hurried farre

Out of the noise and blood, and killing warre :

Where in her Gardens of Sweet myrtle laid

Shee kisses him in the immortall shade,


Yet dyed he not revengelesse : Much he did

Ere he could suffer. A whole Pyramid

Of Vulgar bodies he erected high :

Scorning without a Sepulcher to dye.

And with his steele which did whole troopes divide

He cut his Epitaph on either Side.


Till finding nothing to his courage fit

He rid up last to death and conquer 'd it.


Such are the Obsequies to Francis own :

He best the pompe of his owne death hath showne.

And we hereafter to his honour will

Not write so many, but so many kill.

Till the whole Army by just vengeance come

To be at once his Trophee and his Tombe.




By Andrew Marvell”

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