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Machinations before Lords 6/5


Defiance
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(Before Lords this week)

 

It was then that the door creaked open, and for a moment Charles feared Buckingham may have heard that he could not compare to James. It would start the meeting off with nothing but salient rivalry, and he did not want that. While the King could not know either way, Buckingham had heard nothing but the King’s last statement as he came up from the backstairs.

 

How could he not like that statement? And he already knew James did not care for him as much as Charles did, and he cared not one whit, because he cared less for James than he did for Charles too.

 

The page announced him needlessly. Buckingham bowed, and Charles had not waved it off, merely because he knew it would keep James quieter.

 

“George, I see I did not wake you.”

 

James gave the other Duke a nod. He preferred Buckingham when Charles was not around, honestly. It made him feel like the youngest and most expendable whenever the three of them were alone.

 

“You know how I keep hours with the antipodes and all manner of slippery night creatures that everyone likes to defame me about.” He was not fully dressed. No periwig. In his shirtsleeves untied and not laced with a jacket thrown over.

 

Charles snorted at the comment. James, however, did not. He proved the point without even knowing it.

 

“He was probably up plotting with someone. He loves when Parliament is so actionable,” James spat quietly.

 

“Yes, James, I was having Titus Oates and his little friends over for a night cap,” Buckingham replied to the Prince with his easy air of drama and wit.

 

“Can we not?” The King growled. All he needed was these two to harp at each other.

 

The Duke sat down and draped himself in a very ascendant manner for so casual a pose.

 

“You have acted against me before,” James retorted, hotly, to Buckingham, eager to have the last word.

 

“The mob acts against you and through no fault of mine. You do that well enough on your own,” Buckingham said, baitingly. He had nothing to do with acting against James for being a Catholic; he only acted against him for being an idiot.

 

“George!” The King said, louder this time, wondering which of the two would leave off first.

 

“Yes,” the Duke replied to his name, as if the King had just said his name in a normal fashion, “I am here to be of service am I not?” He clearly invited the reason for his summons.

 

Charles sighed.

James crossed his arms and leaned back again. He hated needing Buckingham. It made him more petulant than usual towards him.

 

“I have a favor to ask of you, George,” the King said.

 

“You do? You have not called on me before when you should have for such favors.” George knew precisely what the King wanted. Now that things were about to throw chamberpots in the world of his royal life, he would turn to George to clean up the mess. Ever the humble servant and always forgotten until all the others failed.

 

“You owe me this, George.” His royal head tilted, his chin moved out, as if to secure his point.

 

“One perpetually owes the King everything,” Buckingham replied, with a smirk, and a little faux bow from his seated position, draped . “So that hardly works for cashing in a favor.” The Duke’s silvery-blond eyebrow rose, and he smiled again.

 

“I need for you to block this intoleration.” The King would not be lured into pretty prose with Buckingham and Buckingham’s ego.

 

Buckingham pressed his lips together and nodded, knowing the time to be direct, “So, you wish for me to block the passage of a distraction that is meant to make everyone forget about Danby and your secret treaty?” Buckingham was no fool. “So you wish me to fight a measure that you are allowing, because you know that you cannot make neither the Upper nor Lower house forget about France.” He tapped his lips. “And France has shown you much gratitude, I see. I suppose that is what happens when you ask a man with no allegiances, who hates both Catholics and French, to manage a secret treaty with the French.” The Duke looked at the King pointedly and let out an ironic chuckle and added sarcastically, “King Louis is so easy to fool and so free from vanity. Danby is so very elegant and gentlemanly.” He laid on the sarcasm thick. Danby was more a country bumpkin. Buckingham sighed and continued seriously but yet with some theaterical quality of tragedy, “Well you have helped James this time, with your secret treaty. And what did you get for it? Some coin and some bullets and arrows.” He had gotten little but trouble from it.

 

This was a mistake, the King thought. The truth was, though, that heneeded Buckingham and not for his fun, laughs, mimicry, and stories. As ever, George would somehow take advantage of that to settle scores, even things back out, and prove how he had been right.

 

“I am King, George.” It was a useless reminder, he knew.

 

“And you have always asked for me to be honest with you, ever since I had the honour of being raised with Your Majesty.” It was a useless reminder, Buckingham knew.

 

“Then let us be honest. I will not give you Danby,” Charles said. “There is no hope of it. He did nothing but obey me.”

 

“And the King can not be wrong,” George replied, knowingly. “And now, because he obeyed you instead of fighting you, because he has not the education and knowledge to guide you, you wish me to save you from your mistake and entirely ignore his slight to me. And you will not punish him.”

 

The King cursed that George also know how to make him feel guilty. George knew that Charles did not like being at odds with people, and he had always taken advantage of it in many ways.

 

“I cannot have you, George, you know that. And I cannot give you Danby, not because I wish you no satisfaction, but because you know it was one of the last things Father ever conveyed to me: do not send a good servant to his death. I have kept that, one of the few things, and I will not give it up now. I have protected you before too. Do not ask me this, do not be the one to threaten me by method of making me give up one of Father’s last words to me.” It was almost entirely true. He could wish Buckingham’s vengeance on no one, and especially not a servant who had dug a hole for his obedience to Charles himself.

 

“Protect me! You have cut me adrift every time I needed your interference!” Buckingham said, throwing his hands up before his chest. “You have trusted others over me!” His voice rose.

 

“I have protected you by doing so,” the King replied, leaning forward as if to reinforce his logic by advancing physical space on the Duke, despite them remaining seated. “The higher you rose, the more dangerous. How many times have you used that same reason for when you did things James did not like? Hm? ‘I’m sorry you do not like it, but I would rather you hate me and be alive then love me from Heaven.’ Where is that mantra now? Or does that only work for you?”

 

“I will block Danby’s test act, that is easily done, but even my skills are not enough to move the mob from their blame for the treaty,” Buckingham set his jaw, his lips pursing. He rose his chin up, preparing for the blow as he stared at the King.

 

“You blame Charles for the treaty too. You are punishing him, and it is not your place to!” James suddenly burst out, observing the confusing posturing between the two and attempting to play referee in a game he did not have the wits for.

 

“I blame Danby for being too obedient and for caring more about his money, his power, and his precious position than for Charles. This is what you get when you surround yourself with sycophants,” the Duke growled at the Prince, rounding his blue eyes on the youngest of them. “He has done this to all of us. He and Arlington. And Arlington’s protégé has now made it look as if you have been flirting with the Catholics in Ireland now too. You allow the priest Talbot back and then Williamson allows Catholic commissions there. Have you angered Ormonde and Brooke with your lenience, hmm, but no they are for toleration too, are they not? I am sure activity in Ireland makes both of them nervous and potential targets of the mob. You are oft too nice to be King, too soft on those who have wronged you, and do not look ahead to how these little things add up and give rise to the mob.”

 

“Danby cannot take the blame. I will not allow it,” Charles declared, dismissively, and setting his jaw.

 

“Neither can the King. Someone must. The mob will not have it otherwise,” Buckingham said, crossing a leg and putting his fingers under his chin and raising his brows.

 

“You have never refused me, George.” The King had to push lightly, more to pet the Duke’s ego than to actually convince him. Charles knew Buckingham would do what was needed. It was how much was needed and how best to move forward that he needed.

 

“I am not refusing you,” the Duke said, with a heartfelt gesture of the hand as he dipped his head in a fashion even Charles knew was alluring. Buckingham knew how to act. The silver-blond continued, “I am saying let justice be done, and then you must do as you must do, as King. You did not need ask me a favour.” His voice was more soothing now. And here was his coup de grace, “I will block the attacks on Lords because it is right. I would ever have done it anyway. Exclude a lord for his faith and excluding a King will be next. I will hand them neither precedent. I will protect you,” then he gave a stare at York, “and James, but I will not protect Danby.” He flattened his hand and swept it in front of him, before leaning forward and putting an elbow on his leg.

His blue eyes bored into Charles, his head tilted and his opposite brow went up in promise, “I will go to the Tower and be no help at all before I say one word in his defense. You have said that you have acted to protect me before, but you will fault me for protecting myself? If I defend Danby, I will be next on the Mob’s list.” He pointed a finger out and down in seriousness, before pointing to his chest, “ I cannot be the one to do that, even if I wished to. Find someone else to protect your precious minister if he is so good at finance.” Lord knew the Duke was no good with finance. “They will think I knew of the treaty all along if I back off. You ask me to forgive a man who made an enemy of me and hang myself for slaughter in the same breath. Will you ask that of me, Charles, despite all your words that you care for me?”

 

Charles grimaced. Buckingham was persuasive. He could create words that made you think the world was indeed that way, but there was no way of knowing if the mob would turn to tear Buckingham apart next. He was unsure if Buckingham was throwing his words back at him or being truthful.

 

“I told you that I did not tell you about the secret treaty to protect you from the mob if it ever came out,” he said, fishing to see if Buckingham would play his cards more. “I endure this, this lecture right now, because I protected you before protecting your precious ego,” the King said in defense of himself. It was not this one-sided love affair the Duke would make it seem. Charles had done plenty for the Duke.

 

“Forgive me for my few hours of making you uncomfortable for the many hundreds of hours I have seen to your happiness,” Buckingham rolled his eyes and put his fingers to his cheek, leaning against the arm of his chair.

 

“Pity Danby his obedience then,” the King asked, in a tone that might have hinted at a plea.

 

“I will not.” The Duke would not give in so easily as another might to their King.

 

“Abandon Danby, Charles,” York said, agreeing with Buckingham’s sentiments. He would have that Catholic hater gone before anything happened to Charles and James took the throne. He seemed to have no qualm with George in that moment despite his earlier deprecation.

 

“Danby will betray you,” Buckingham added, sensing a good opportunity for agreeing with James. How quickly James changed his tunes when he wished something Buckingham wished that Charles did not. Habits from childhood were hard to escape. An odd number meant two almost invariably came against one.

 

“George, you would lead him to the block just to hear him betray me and thus enable you to say you were right yet again, but you lose sight of the fact of what that will do to my appearance as King!” Charles barked.

 

“You should have thought of that before you sold us to France,” Buckingham said, the fury evident only in the strange way he said it, as if he had just asked the King to tea. It was potent in its bizarre nature.

 

“I am King! I had no intentions of converting. I was taking his money because none of you could give me a Parliament I could work with! What was I to do, George?”

 

“You should have asked me that THEN and not NOW! If you had not wasted your time giving your favour to all these imbeciles, my lessers, and had allowed me to serve you as my real father had served your royal father, you would not be in this mess to begin with!”

 

Voices were rising. The contest was descending into a long rivalry despite their love. It was what happened when the King had the impossible: an elder brother.

 

“I COULD NOT GIVE SUCH FAVOUR TO YOU WITHOUT PUTTING YOU IN DANGER!” Charles bellowed, in a way not characteristic of him.

 

“IT WAS WHAT I WAS RAISED TO DO!” Buckingham met the King head on, staring right at him, nostrils flaring.

 

The King could not rise to Buckingham’s temper. It would do nothing to defeat it, and he did need the duke right now, just not his grandiosity. Instead he said, his voice quieter, “Must we rehash in how many ways my royal father made judgments of things that would be ideal but could never happen? Reality is reality, George. If you are to do what you were raised to do, you must do it in this way, from behind the scenes. Just as James must. As my oldest friend, as my family, no more. I can give you no more,” the King said, his voice quieting as he sighed and rubbed his temples.

 

“You are quick to criticize your father in some instances and yet quick to grab at that absolute rule he grabbed for, Charles. You must work with the people, not buy them and manipulate them and have ministers who threaten them and make themselves rich at your expense, all while asking the people for more money. That is all I would have you see. They do not help you though they appear to,” the Duke’s demeanor calmed as well.

 

“I have sent for you when I need you. Is that not enough to show my regard for your service besides our kinship?”

 

“After you spoke to Danby, Arlington, and Finch,” Buckingham gave an empty smile.

 

“I needed to know their position before devising a strategy with you,” the King replied.

 

“Is that what you told each of them?” He knew Charles’ tactics.

 

“But it’s true when I say it to you,” the King countered.

 

“Did you say that to them too?” the Duke asked in a singsong voice.

 

James could not help himself, he chuckled.

 

“No, their spies are not as good as yours apparently,” the King objected.

 

“At least I am not duplicitous about it.” Buckingham smirked and took a sip of his wine.

 

“About what? That you spy on the King.”

 

“That I spy on others to protect you. There’s a difference.”

 

The King snorted. The way George wielded an argument, even with the King, as if it was a trifle, was why he needed Buckingham so desperately right now.

 

“So you will help us or not?” James asked, he was losing sight of what this was all meaning.

 

Charles was following it perfectly well. “I will not ask you to pull back from your attack on Danby. It may be both too dangerous for you and too obvious as to the cause now. If I am seen as pushing too hard to protect all the Catholics, I increase my risk as well. The Duke changing his mind would be obviously on my behalf, especially if he then also speaks against the Test. Who would keep an eye on Shaftesbury then.” No, he might not like it, but George was right even if it was somewhat self-serving that he was right. He had his doubts, but he had no one else he could trust more that could do the job.

 

“You must distance yourself from all these mistakes if all of this is to work. Williamson’s involvement with the Catholic commissions comes at an inopportune time. If this is all allowed to escalate, there will be no saving James or this ridiculous amendment of Danby’s,” Buckingham said, straight to the point. “Slowly the eye will go from Williamson to Ormonde, with these Irish and especially with the Talbot priest and his wailings. You know Ormonde has Catholic family, and there is little hope every member is careful in their correspondence.”

 

“I had already been advised to abandon Williamson,” Charles said, with a sigh. Too many bad coincidences for the Northern Secretary. The stars had aligned against him or the man had simply made one too many bad decisions, even small ones.

 

Buckingham could not help but think that Danby had advised cutting Williamson loose. Another end to a friendship and alliance by Danby, and yet Charles would still trust him. Danby and Williamson had worked together on several measures. Danby had loyalty to no man.

 

“Ormonde would be next to be attacked, as Lord Lieutenant, and to give more rise to the hysteria if this is not stopped quickly. And you know I personally have no qualms with Ormonde’s fall, but who knows who he will accuse to deflect attention from himself?” Buckingham commented.

 

“We need to assure this does not give rise to a greater Irish conspiracy or an Irish and French conspiracy,” the King said. The mob would not understand how much hard work was involved in keeping the peace in Ireland. “I will have Ormonde go with the sergeant-at-arms to arrest Williamson. It will appear as if he was involved in bringing the evidence to me and deflect any thoughts of his complicity in some scheme.”

 

“Williamson should be grateful you do not let the mob have his head,” Buckingham said. “It might be a great risk to aid him in keeping it, in more ways than one. It is best to tie the matter up quickly or sniffing about Williamson will lead also to your cousin Kat and Ibracken. The mob will make something very great over Williamson taking these actions when he is good friends the heir to the line of Irish Kings who happens to be married to your Stuart cousin. All the while the lower house will pile up evidence after evidence that will look like treachery from Popery. It will push more and more people against toleration, and it will give more fuel to the idea of moving to exclude James and create a paranoia in Lords that may make many less likely to attempt to save him.”

 

Buckingham might like to use Shaftesbury to get his revenge and also to influence politics to his agenda, but he did not blindly follow Shaftesbury positions. The idea of the revolting darling of the King potentially on the throne one day was enough to make him think of begging on his knees to Louis XIV to naturalize him as French in that eventuality. The day he would take a knee to Monmouth for England would never come; he would cease to be an Englishman first.

 

 

By the time the King’s evening was concluded, a messenger had been sent to Lords Ormonde & Pembroke. Several others were contacted early in the morning. His Majesty would be most grateful for Friday and Saturday, days packed with entertainments that would mostly keep him from petitioners and politics.

 

(Congratulations Piers, for your deduction of Pembroke during the Lords session! )

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