Jump to content


Your Stories Await Telling

A Little Swordplay | 12/27 AM- Xmas 1677

Francis Kirke

Recommended Posts

At the end of the Pall Mall street, wedged between St. James Park and St. James Square, stood a large mansion that in centuries to come would evolve to become far bigger with addition after addition until it was to be called Buckingham Palace.


Such a lofty name however was far in the future. The Buckingham mansion as it was now known was drawn up of fine white marble and sandstone, with clear Baroque geometry. Inside cherubs in a blue sky was fitted over the white plaster. Each room held a different color and nothing was short of lavish. The mansion was square, but inside the servants still had the habit to refer to the left as the west and right as the east wing; the west wing dedicated to the Duke's chambers, and the east wing deserted for he had send his wife to her father in the country, long since grown bored with her behavior which was an impediment on his fun. Paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt and Lely were displayed in the large hallway, created to impress the visitor, an enormous marble staircase drawing in the eye.


The front garden was filled with various flowers, although it was mostly greenery now. In the back there is a long walk designed by a garden architect, so that the duke could walk and find intimacy with his private guests at every turn. A large fountain in the middle sprouted moist into the air.


Francis was used to having mornings mostly to himself, the duke rarely rose before 10 or 11 of the clock, but this morning his (secret) uncle had been up and out the door by half past 8. Buckingham had been rather grumpy. However, that changed little about Francis' routines, and he almost always took sword or baton practice in the mornings with Tommy. The physical exertion did a lot to keep control of his own restlessness.


Almost every morning he was not attending the King, he was found in Buckingham's front garden or in St. James Park just outside the duke's. Today he and his sixteen year old ward were practicing rapier in the park area, with two of the duke's servants looming with all the grandiose accoutrements that went along with everything now that he lived under the duke's auspices. Beyond drinks, there was even a small, ornate metal firepit that had been moved from the garden.


Any number of his friends was always welcomed to join him, and he had any number of lady-friends who masqueraded as men who tended to drop by on his morning sparring. Nobody had yet appeared today although he was always happy for he or Tommy to have a novel partner, even someone new to him.


(OOC - any stragglers or newcomers looking for a Monday thread, feel free to join)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Edmund, passing by


Edmund was at a loose end. This was one of the things one didn’t really consider when one made a big move to a new place. In his mind he had it all planned out – find lodgings, find friends, find gainful means of spending ones time. He had imagined a whirlwind carousel of activities, soirees, jaunts, japes and general activity which would allow little time to pause. The reality was rather different. A green newcomer, all these things had to be sought after and would surely come in time but, until then, there was a disproportionate amount of heel-kicking. The Christmas Ball had been an exhilarating experience – which he now came to look upon as his baptism in London Society, albeit perhaps brief as occasioned by his late arrival. Yet the event had left him with a veritable ‘to-do’ list! He was intent on taking Lord Chichester’s advice and finding himself a London-savvy man-servant to replace his drunken Northern drolling fellow from home. Better clothes too – must find recommendations for a decent tailor. Find opportunities to invest in down here (urgh, work! How his managers up in Newcastle would rejoice). Keep a weather eye out for new lodgings to call ones own. These and many things besides. All of these thoughts had raced through his head that morning as he lay away, staring at the ceiling.


Unable to sleep, he had decided to continue his exploration of the City, determined to come to know where everything that mattered was. That, plus the thought of having to write to his Mother or younger brother vexed him inordinately. As his manservant (likely deep in a Yuletide drunken stupor) had not responded to his calls, he had been forced to rise and dress by himself – perhaps not the worst fate in the World but certainly not a good start to the day. The morning being chilly and brisk, sharply biting the throat on the intake of breath, he threw his riding cape about him and clapped his hat, complete with single white ostrich feather (a little battered) tightly on his head. Suitably attired for the weather, he stepped out and saw where his feet would carry him.


After an hour or so of idle walking here and there, he found himself upon Pall Mall. Fine houses seemed to colonnade it, often set behind their own elaborate gardens. As he walked further down, towards a particularly large edifice, he became aware of a small gathering of people out the front. Several liveried servants were in attendance, there was even what looked like a firepit brought out – a particularly good idea on this cold morning. The two main protagonists, for wont of a better word, appeared to be a dashing young man and a slightly younger one, although both were clearly well born from their bearing. From this distance Edmund could make out the glitter of steel – some al fresco fencing! A social voyeur, he decided to take a closer look.


Those proficient in that sport were well respected by him. His late father, a veteran of Marston Moor and Naseby, had been an officer, albeit of the hack and slash, life and death kind. A Roundhead too, best not to mention. Still, he had done his duty as a provincial lesser nobleman to ensure that his sons received the appropriate education which, of course, required a dash of martial arts. Of the three brothers, Edmund was not the worst yet not the best – placing him firmly middle of the road. His sea-faring younger brother would likely have more cause to wield a blade in anger. He remembered their teacher well – a grim, grizzled former Ironside of Cromwells who had served with his father, distributing cuffs and rebukes when he was too slow to parry, too quick to lunge. As he had rejoiced in telling the young boys it was not simply good enough to be a passable swordsman – the mass graves of the war were full of passable swordsmen. Yet, as Edmund passed from childhood to adulthood, his father had taken him away from this sort of education in favour of education based on managing the family estates and business. Passing from the tutelage of warriors to clerks. With that, any hope of him cutting a swathe through society for the prowess of his fencing was foiled. So, all the more respect then for those who managed to achieve it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The ridiculous largesse of Buckingham was a rather obvious symbol of status, one Francis had long since resigned himself to. Servants were becoming increasingly less obvious to him, or perhaps that was just the skill of the duke's staff. They were supposed to be figuratively invisible.


Neither the blond nor the ginger noticed Torrington's approach, so focused they were in their sparring. Francis was taller and more skilled, and Tom was impatient. Such was youth, and Francis always baited, waiting for one day to come where the youth would have a more focused control.


The duke's servants noticed the other gentleman's approach and would not assume whether or not he was a friend of the young master's. They wordlessly offered him a glass of warm, mulled wine.


"Recognize your moment, do not force the moment," Francis cajoled as Tommy had to move steadily backward after a poorly timed attack.


Francis had a graceful ease with a rapier. He might yet be learning the intricacies of court, but he had the Villiers gift for swordsmanship.


Finally he pressed his position against the younger one and hit the capped point to Tom's gut.


Francis handed the hilt of his rapier to Tom and then wiped his face on his shirt. He had a thought the boy might be slacking in this new, luxurious place. When he turned around to say so, he noticed Torrington.


"Good morning," he said with a nod and a smile, holding his own hand out for his cup, quickly provided. His mouth was quite dry from the exertion in the cold air. "Swordsman?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, it was clear from this who was the master and who was the apprentice. That said, from what he had seen, the younger man was certainly not bad at all. Rather, he had the misfortune to be faced against a teacher with imposing natural skill. It was almost frightening to see with what ease and apparent lack of effort the blonde man managed to repulse the youth’s lunge and riposte with what would have been, had it been real, a killing blow. Like most young men, Edmund had, at times, flirted with the fancy of a military career – the flags and drums and hangovers of chivalric romance on foreign fields. His father’s grim war stories hadn’t done half as much to dispel that notion as watching this effortless display here. Imagine if, called upon to fight for one’s life, one came up against one as practiced as this? Middling swordsmen have short lifespans.


He was so curious and engrossed in the display that he did not realise that he had wandered perhaps impertinently close on what was private property. The older of the two men’s greeting took him out of his reverie and he suddenly became very much aware of where he was. Good God, they must think him rude! The man’s ease within the surroundings indicated that he was likely a resident here – if so, he must be a man of some standing indeed!


“Good morning to you too,” he said, pulling off his hat and giving as sweeping a bow as his cloak, wrapped around him tightly, would allow. “Forgive me, I was passing and couldn’t help watch.”


How to respond to his question? He couldn’t hold himself out as something he was not! Yet this was London and in London appearances were often more important than reality. Confidence was the key and people respected that. “Well, I know which end to hold and which to try not to be on the receiving end of! Sadly, I cannot match that display of skill, but I think I could do enough to hold my own against a brigand or Frenchman!” As soon as he’d said the latter he was instantly struck by a fear that the man may somehow be French – he didn’t sound it, but you never could tell!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I would have stayed within the yard and not out in the park if I minded," Francis replied to the apology, pausing to take another long sip of his drink. His chest still heaving some with the exertion.


"Ah," he smiled. "I see you have the court skill of flattery." The compliment might be true but he was humble enough not to be ostentatious. A man who boasted of his skill with a sword was oft found to not have any of it. "That is very good. I doubt you shall need to worry of more than that in London unless you are a very insulting drunk."


He gestured toward the servants, "Speaking of, mulled wine?"


Francis might have a bit of an atypical accent, but he thankfully did not sound French. At least he didn't when he was speaking English. He had been born in France and learned both languages simultaneously.


"I am Francis, Lord Kingston, cousin of the Duke of Buckingham," he added, flipping a hand toward the house in the background. "And my cousin, Thomas Sprague," he said, gesturing toward the ginger youth he had been sparring.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Who knows what one might find insulting?" Edmund said with a light chuckle, "up North the people are touchy, the wrong look can do as much as a wrong word. Same the world over, I suppose, when drink's involved."


"That said," he continued, smiling, "if it is on offer, I could certainly do with a dram against this cold. Mighty gracious of you," he said as he took a cup passed to him by a servant.


"A pleasure, my Lord, and to you too, young Master Sprague. My congratulations for your performance against your mentor - you plan to make a King's Lifeguard of him, eh?"


Mindful of his own lack of introduction, Edmund passed his cup from one hand to the other and, with his free hand, pulled his hat off and flourished it as he bowed. "Sir Edmund Torrington, at your service gentleman. A newcomer to Court and inveterate sight-seer!"


"Is this something of a regular fixture then, my Lord, if this display is put on publicly? It has certainly made me feel like I am in need of distinct improvement! Surely this cannot all be from pleasant practice - I am guessing there has been a more practical aspect to your study? A soldier perhaps? "

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Francis looked from the newcomer to Tommy and back again. He had not particularly thought of setting the youth to the Life Guard, and neither had the boy ever expressed a particular interest in it. Perhaps his distaste in thinking of it came from FitzJames, who Francis did not approve of in the least. Gentlemen should be led by gentlemen, not partially literate Scottish bastards, but Francis was content just to avoid the tall, loping dolt. Thankfully, as one of the King's Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, he was above such positions regardless or at least needn't answer to them at all.


"He far prefers the sea to land and already has fought in the last Dutch War on my ships with me," he replied, diplomatically. "If I wished him a land command, he needn't any Life Guard training for it, my other uncle Sir George has command as Colonel of a foot regiment."


"I'd rather be on a ship with you than with George," Tom replied with a nod. Not that he did not like George, but he had gone with Francis of his own choice to begin with.


"Yes, I'd rather be on a ship with me too than with George," Francis replied to the boy. "That is why we haven't served on the same ship since our first service," he chuckled. George was, in fact, not even three years older than Francis and they had more of an elder brother-younger brother relationship.


"Most mornings we spar at something just for the practice and exertion of it. I'm a rather restless fellow," Francis conceded. "Sometimes I have visitors, sometimes not. When it is this cold, mostly not I think." With a hearty laugh he added. "I did receive schooling in it, but I have also had many misadventures at sea and in port, affairs of honour, two naval wars, and also a family gift for the ability I am told."


"And you, Sir Edmund, no soldierly ambitions?" he asked, considering the commentary on swordsmanship did not seem congruent with such a thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Edmund returned the laugh. “Well it’s good to have family traditions and there are many worse than that! That sounds like a bevy of stories right there, never thought to have someone write them up – anonymised, of course, or maybe not! Everyone loves tales of swashbuckling – good English pluck! I’d read it for one!”


So, he was a sailor by vocation! All the more envious then! As a lad, Edmund had been reared on the stories of the great Protestant naval heroes, thumped into him again and again through repetition by his soldierly father. The great Francis Drake, singing King Philip’s beard in the Caribbean and stealing the Papist bells of Cadiz from under the Spaniard’s nose. Lord Howard, leading the plucky few against the Armada. Sir William Penn stealing Jamaica from the Spaniards in Cromwell’s godly navy. Then, of course, there were the ballads and scurrilous pamphlets, bought avidly in the port of Newcastle, of buccaneers, privateers and pirates, cruising the Spanish Main, stealing gold, wenching, drinking, gambling, generally living a merry life between crescendos of high danger and excitement. Edmund could remember very well, several years ago, when his aging father had returned from a trip to Newcastle and announced over dinner that his youngest son was to go to sea. The articles had been signed – he was to learn the ropes, the skills and arts of navigation and commerce aboard a merchantman that made the East India run. Not a man-of-war, certainly, but there would be opportunity for affairs of honour, misadventures and fights in foreign cities and seas, for sure. He was still jealous of it. Whilst he was kept on terra firma to see to the running of the estates and business, his youngest brother would be seeing the world.


A passing frown crossed his face but drifted off again.


“My father, rest his soul was a soldier and filled me with enough stories of the toil and slog of life in the field to put me off a career in that service. That said, I do think red becomes me and the opportunity to preen around in uniform would help with the ladies,” he assayed some light humour. “Now a life at sea, though, that has always interested me! Our family have interests in a couple of ships, although they’re hulking colliers, not the stuff dreams are made of! The pair of you served in the late war, my my! Now that I would like to hear about! The lad served with you, you say? What I’d give to do a cadetship like that! Who knows, if things go they way some people say, perhaps the two of you will be putting to sea again and the call will go out for volunteers, even if only to fund a leaky tub and call it a privateer! My younger brother does the East India run – again, not so glamorous, although I would like to see the realms of the Great Mughal. Rubies as big as apples, diamonds as big as your fist, if they’re to be believed.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Truly?" Francis asked, raising a blond brow. "Well there are quite the number of entertaining tales from my years at sea. None I would wish to tell out in the snow. Either the stories are long or I am long winded." His smile suggested that he liked to poke fun at himself.


Perhaps that was not surprising considering whose house they were in front of; swordsmanship was not the only thing they were known for, although the duke had the ego of a king and wished no one to forget it. Francis did not quite share it in. He was not so grand as that.


"I would not be surprised if many a gentleman had a pseudonym. Court is rife with talented wordsmiths. Myself not among them." At least Francis did not see himself as any sort writer, wordsmith though he might be in his own way.


"The uniform does not help all that much. Confidence does. Ladies are ignorant enough to think a uniform means boldness and strength. In my experience it does not many a times." He smiled again, and then shook his head at his own sage advise, as if he was so old. "My grandfather was of the soldierly sort as well, and he raised me, so I know well what that is like."


The youth's exuberance was quite high. Francis was a horrible judge of age. Chuckling at the visions of the sea and the glory of war.


Oh yes, I remember that well.


"Well, I think if there were odds of hearing of that, you should come inside and take some refreshment with us?" He gestured toward Buckingham's house.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An invitation, inside that imposing building?! Buckingham truly must be the second man in the Kingdom if his city house would, to all intents and purposes, be called a palace by an ordinary man. Lord, he must look like such a hayseed, a fresh-off-the-cart yokel to be quite so struck by the grandeur and the easy good company of Lord Kingston for whom this was all so natural. Just another day.


"Well, only if it is of no imposition, my lord! When you stop moving you realise quite how bloody cold it is!"


This, of course, imposed its own challenges. He had already intruded through his own curiosity. He would have to prove charming or interesting or at least show some degree of promise so the dashing young lord didn't think him a bore. Besides, if he was close enough to reside with Buckingham then this was surely an acquaintance to cultivate.


"Yes, yes, most kind indeed. Don't let me force your stories from you, I'm sure you must find that tedious! How long have you lived here," he inquired, "and what do you do these days, Lord Kingston? Being of Buckingham's affinity must keep you busy if nothing else!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Buckingham was, in fact, the first gentleman of the kingdom behind royalty, and since he had been raised with the king like a sibling, the behind royalty was a fact the duke oft ignored. His house would become far bigger than its current size, but was quite enough for Francis to have felt quite lost in it at first.


"It is no imposition," he assured, and not in the way of polite society but more genuine in bravado. The ghost of his emphasis swirled upward in white on the cold air as a fine illustration. "As I have found learning at the knee of the grandest man of the kingdom, as His Grace might say, largesse equals noblesse, and he said that bit too."


There was never a time to pass up allowing others to bask in your splendor and then return to court to talk about it in the eyes of his uncle, and Francis wished to please him. Therefore as foreign as such largesse was to him, he was a student of it anyway.


"I do not find good conversation tedious, regardless of who is telling the stories." He smiled at the apologies of exuberant youth.


"I have been at court a little over a year, and I have only lived under the patronage of the duke since the late spring." He had already spoke of what he had done prior to coming to court. He had been on the sea. "And you, Sir Edmund. You said you were in business as well?"


The inside of the house had impressive marble and richly liveried servants to take their things. Tommy excused himself to his studies, and Francis waved him off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was not long before passing through the doorway that Edmund already developed a neck-ache, craning his head this way and that to take in the opulence, beauty of grandeur of the place. He hardly noticed the liveried servants who efficiently divested them of his outdoor wear. As an art and architecture lover, the building was a goldmine. In fact, it would likely require access to a goldmine in order to put all this together. “Good God, what a sight!” he said to himself rather than to anyone else.


“What great fortune to live here! The Duke has excellent taste! He must have access to all the best painters, sculptors and decorators in the kingdoms…” he allowed his voice to trail off as he examined the marblework. “There must be a host of great works here!”


The lad politely took his leave with a wave from Lord Kingston. “A very pleasant lad, that,” he said to Lord Kingston, “good of you to take him under your wing here. To have the Duke as your cousin! My, my. I fear my cousins are a slovenly lot in contrast!”


The question about being in business worried him a little. He was aware that, to many people, it was a bar to gentility. His father, the second baronet, ever a pragmatic and down to earth fellow, had scorned the pretension of those who sought to sully his nobility by the fact he managed a business. “Money doesn’t smell, horseshit does. If the latter was worth the former, you’d find Princes and Kings smearing themselves it in as readily as the next man,” he could remember him saying. There was a degree of truth in that – a man with money could always find himself friends. Was it better to have a pedigree going back to Charlemagne but not a penny in one’s pocket? Edmund was more prickly than his father was, devoid of his father’s grim, puritanical outlook and almost-Leveller-like sympathies. In any event, he decided to answer the question with as much care as he could.


“In a manner of speaking, I suppose, yes. I own lands up in Northumberland. My father, rest his Soul, was the one who found that, buried deep under these moors and hills were great seams of coal. So, he gathered the investment that paid for mines to be sunk and now, through a company I now own, we extracts tons of the stuff yearly and ship it down to London and bring back luxury goods for the provincial markets on the return journeys. In truth, the work of the company is mostly handled by managers out of Newcastle, I am just lucky enough to keep the profits and, from time to time, make executive decisions. But, however dirty the stuff itself. I praise God it brings me a healthy annual income which allows me to engage in the things I enjoy. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of visiting the North but there isn’t that much there to keep a man entertained after a while. So, I decided to shift my flag, to use a nautical term, and try to find for myself a calling in the capital. I have faith that providence shall throw something up! Patronage, quid pro quos and the like. Or, failing that, there are plenty of means in London to spend one’s money in a dissolute and irresponsible manner!”


“And you, Lord Kingston? I am sure that the Duke has cause to keep you busy?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Francis had thought something similar the first time he had seen this place. The sort of finery that was inside was, indeed, what set it far apart from typical. Once the king had been restored, Francis had lived in a very grand house that had been returned to his grandfather, who was a gentleman but not a lord and surely not a duke.


"His Grace can be a most fortunate relation or patron," Francis replied with a nod. His own blue eyes had a sparkle of understanding for sure. "My entire house on Picadilly would have fit into my rooms here." He chuckled at that thought.


Buckingham made up for much time by having him close at hand, and it allowed the duke to feel he was finally doing what he should have been doing all along.


"Thank you," Francis added, over the ginger. "Tom and I have been together since long before my fortunes increased in favourability with the duke. His father was not just my relation but of my closest friends." Kingston prided himself on his honor in a way that was more reminiscent of the old cavaliers twice his age, but that was the culture he was raised on in exile. Most courtiers and upstarts would easily sacrifice those things to advance.


"Never fear, His Grace thoroughly informs me that we have buckets of unsavory cousins who are quite beggarly. Some country squire of a man even once wrote the king complaining that he was deprived of some pittance of coin he was to inherit when His Majesty did not please to have the duke deprived of his head!"*


Northumberland allowed Francis to place the accent. "Why, that is nearly Scotland. I have no oft even had cause to go as far as Staffordshire, but I have seen less of England than many other places," he confessed. "No wonder you have come to court. There are plenty of opportunities to be profligate and gain many friends in the diversions presented here. I have many dissolute friends." His chuckle was warm like his tenor voice.


A servant opened a door for them as they spoke, and Francis led them into the library. It was always warm there and there was a nice spot with natural light most of the day.


"My income benefits from merchant ventures as well. I run ships and have land in the colonies. As for my life here, I am one of His Majesty's gentlemen of the bedchamber, so some of my time I am attending. Other time is spent being refined to the Villiers standard. Much of it I spend in seek of diversions not unlike yourself. The life of a lord is far less exciting than that of a captain with the horizon in sight."


(OOC - true story LOL )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The library was just the next in what had been something of a tour of wonders. If he could have spent a day simply analysing the magnificence of the hall, then he could easily spend a year, or two, or three simply taking his time and devouring the row after row of books on display. His father, a man not much given to expense with his puritanical streak, had only one frivolity and that was in buying books. The late Baronet Torrington had prided himself on having one of the best stocked libraries in the county but, compared with this treasure trove, it was a paltry affair. The Torringtons, a family of bibliophiles, would likely have swooned en masse at the sight. “I fear that if I had cause to live here I may run the risk of never stirring abroad. One of my loves is literature and, by the looks of it, there is enough here to overdose upon!”


He turned to Lord Kingston and nodded sombrely regarding his cousin. “Yes, it is very good of you to help raise the lad as you rise yourself. Blood is thicker than water, after all.” His mouth then curled into a smile. “But it is good to hear that even the great Villiers clan can contain a bevy of beggardly cousins – they make family affairs all the more interesting!”


He scanned the nearest row of books, all elaborately bound. “Well, for a man as travelled as yourself I would count it as perhaps a blessing that you have not seen the North. But I am glad you have made the distinction that we Northumbrian folk are not Scots. Most decidedly not. Several hundred years of bad blood there. Again, makes for an interesting setting! Most Scots I’ve met are perfectly pleasant. The odd thing is they all seem to agree that we are the ‘auld enemy’ but no one really knows why we keep it up, now we share the same monarch!”


So, the lord was a gentleman of the bedchamber, eh? Well, as a Villiers relative that was hardly a surprise. Still, it gave him a privileged position at Court and, if what Edmund had heard was correct, access to the bright, young, louche coterie that tripped the light fantastic around Court. Although his father had surprised the World by marrying an openly Catholic, Irish former woman of ill-repute albeit of decent breeding, the Torrington household of Edmund’s youth had a decidedly puritanical atmosphere. On account of that, Edmund felt the frisson of excitement in indulging in all those sins and decadencies that his father and the local clergy had lambasted. Gluttony, lust, to name a few. Yes, part of his ‘mission’ (for wont of a better word) in London was to settle himself in a career which brought both advancement and financial benefit. However, he also harboured hopes of courting the insalubrious side of Court. “As a newcomer to London, I should be very grateful if ever there is occasion in meeting some of your like-minded friends! Perhaps toast arrival in London with several bottles of wine, courtesy of Newcastle’s coal?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, when you gain his introduction, you will have to compliment him on it. Like most such grandiose men, he is very vain." And enjoyed when his largesse was remarked upon. The duke could be most generous to people he liked as Francis friends had found out previously. He rather missed Master Greyson and Master Cole.


"As far as cousins go, I had to prove myself as well when I first came last year. He had known little of my existence other than what he had heard of family affairs from my grandfather, who died almost seven years ago. I think it spoke in my favor that I did not ask for coin," Francis said, chuckling. His first encounters with the duke were rather cool affairs.


It was rather fortuitous that he had not given his surname, as he tended to avoid it. The surname Kirke might have outed him as a Scot; the man whom everyone thought was his father came from a family that had left Scotland with King James. His true father, the duke's younger brother, would have had a property in Yorkshire. So he was technically of the Northern folk that had been fighting the Scots for centuries as well.


"Some Scots at court are quite tolerable but others are more barbarians. We Villiers have some northern stock. His Grace keeps his breeding horses at Helmsley in Yorkshire. His Majesty never goes that far north." In fact, the king had many misgivings about Scotland after his treatment when they made him king.


"My friend, Lady Kendishall, is having a party on Wednesday. You should come. She has given me leave to extend the invitation to any looking for fun and diversions," Francis said, saluting the young man with his cup as he sat in more of a draped fashion in his chair.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

“Helmsley! My, my, I know it well! Beautiful Castle, destroyed sadly by Parliament – another facet in their cultural vandalism,” his father has been party to such ‘cultural vandalism’ and had slighted a number of fortified manors and castles across the North with puritanical and military zeal. Thin ice, Edmund, more fool you for bringing it up. “Yes, now you mention it I do recall hearing the good Duke had interests in the region. But then again there are few regions which don’t have his interest!”


“I am sure that there was no need for coin and surely you must provide the Duke with more than enough recompense for his hospitality. As for our Scottish friends I hope you don’t think me some terrible bigot! I have no problems with our friends north of the Coldstream. Like you said, I know many who are perfectly pleasant. In fact, I know many Englishmen who are utterly barbarous! We are all of us different, are we not! In truth, my mother is of Irish extraction so I should not slander too much!” A Catholic Irishwoman, Edmund, and one with a ‘varied’ past – again, better to avoid going too much into that!”


“Why, if that is no imposition, I would be honoured! Like I said, I am still new to London but am very keen to make the place my home and there is no better way to do that than liberally drinking alcohol with good company. I confess I do not know of Lady Kendishall but would be very much obliged for your introduction to her and her set. I will, of course, ensure that I am no ghost at the feast and I hope you will not mind if I make a gift to the company of additional wine? I was always brought up to believe that, when a guest, you should never turn up empty handed and, as I have grown, I find that people are always more welcoming when you come bearing gifts of appropriate sort!”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Francis' jaw might seem to tighten considerably with talk of what was destroyed by Parliament. His life was destroyed by it; his mother's more. Those were not thoughts for that moment though, and he pushed them away.


"Yes, pity they took down the walls and part of the tower, but the mansion and stables went untouched which suits the duke's purposes well enough to facilitate his horses," Francis replied, perhaps a hint of clipped tones to his generally bright tenor voice.


He paused to take a long sip of his drink. Exhaling through his nose, Francis moved forward.


"His Grace assures me, so far as his plethora of cousins go, I am worth the effort." He chuckled. Whether he had need for coin or not, he had never asked the duke for such nor facilitated a presentation that he might need it. Odd to think of the circumstances which had brought him to court and that what he had found there was nothing that he thought it would be. "As for recompense, I entertain him whilst he's getting dressed and studiously allow him to be as pedantic as he wishes," Francis volunteered in a jesting sort of voice, but it truly was very little jest.


"It is no imposition. The more, the merrier." Perhaps even His Majesty would come. "Where are you staying? I shall send the address to you." If he knew that he was leaving alone from Buckingham's, he might have had Torrington meet him there to go together. He knew from some experience that if His Majesty decided to go to one of the libertine parties, there would likely be a need for Francis to aide in smuggling him unseen. Or the duke. The king enjoyed a good disguise now and again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, in which case, I shall be most glad to attend! I was sadly late to the Christmas Ball and so missed most of the merriment. It would do me good, I think, to have a proper social baptism during the festive season! One detriment of having come down South is finding out quite how behind the times we all are up there - I shall have to make it one of my goals today or tomorrow to find myself something far more suitable to wear, so I look less the hick straight off the cart!"


Edmund finished his glass and nodded appreciatively at Lord Kingston. "Ahh, perfect start to the morning, again very much obliged, my Lord, both for the drink and the kind reception."


"I was about to say that I am lodged at his Majesty's pleasure, but then I thought better of it, thinking that may make you think I am some debtor on day parole from Newgate! No, what I meant to say is that I am currently lodged at his Majesty's hospitality in St Mark's Hall. I am currently looking for a place of my own but, until I find my feet, I am very happy there. I am easily contactable there, although perhaps best to ensure that any notes go to the establishment's servants and not my own valet - sadly I was lumbered with a drunken, drolling fellow from back home who has taken to London life very well in that I think he already knows every alehouse and brothel in a 2 mile radius. Whilst I appreciate the 'street-smarts', I find it detracts from what he is actually paid to do! Any note delivered to me via him is likely to take several days to arrive, if at all. I do mean to replace him but I fear if that the collective hang-over he may have which will hit him as he sobers up on his return to Newcastle may well kill him and I could not have that on my conscience."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Francis enjoyed a gentleman who could poke fun of himself, for Francis was well-known for being amusingly self-deprecating too.


"You shall not hear me breathe such judgement, Sir Edmund. When I first came to court, I felt like I was being asked to dress like a rum-drunken parrot. Ironically, my best coat when I first came was quite green. His Grace was very anxious to rid me of it."


Fiddling with his shirtsleeves for a moment, the rather new baron added, "Now my cousin does not leave me to my own devices in my costuming. He inflicts the tailor upon me and guilts me into wearing all of it quite proudly in the guise of 'living up to the Villiers name.'"


He hardly looked very grand at the moment in his shirtsleeves and breeches.


"Making arrangements for letting or purchasing generally takes some time. Many made their start at court from Saint Marks. My first season was not a London season, and I confess I stayed on my yacht on the river and had no room with the small size of Windsor and Windsor town. It was, though, a far cry more private and roomier to the courtiers stuffed in ever corner of old castle." Francis lived at the pleasure of Buckingham and while it was a far grander sponsorship than simply being afforded space in Saint Marks, he bore no claim himself of being superbly grand.


"God's Blood. Set the man on a cart home then. A poor servant can easily ruin you. Best to have one that knows London and court life. My man served my grandfather at court."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

"A rum-drunken parrot," repeated Edmund, chuckling to himself, "a fine analogy! Yes, indeed!"


"Mind you, my Lord, there are worse things to have foisted upon oneself than a good tailor. Speaking from personal experience, one could have had the misfortune to have one's parents attempt to foist their ministers upon you and - God's blood - I would rather have a tailor any day rather than someone trying to straightjacket you into another's beliefs!"


He paused a little, then nodded with false solemnity. "I would rather be fitted in a shroud than wear some of the things I have seen my uncles in, so you must count your blessings!"


"You are, funnily enough, not the first person to make the very sensible suggestion that I should send the oaf back North to sober up, if nothing else. The inevitable tongue-bashing he will get from my mother would probably kill the poor hung-over fellow, and I am not sure I could have that upon my conscience! He is a fish out of water, I fear. Or perhaps a fish out of water and into grog? My father ran a very tight ship, perhaps he, like me, is now finding a little liberty in a new climate? A recent acquaintance of mine has offered to point me in the direction of an establishment which caters for servants who are more...seasoned?...to London. A mercy for us both. I may send the poor man back North to escort a trunk or two of these rural threads," he said, indicating his jacket.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

"Thankfully, Sir Edmund, the ministers you can tone out with a good daydream, but a tailor puts his hands on you and that simply cannot be ignored." He let out a guffaw. "At least by me. My lady mother and grandmother enjoy telling the story of my first proper tailoring when we returned from exile after His Majesty's great return. I apparently yelped and slapped the man's hand!"


While many young noblemen had never experienced the poverty of exile and were used to a cadre of servants dressing and touching them, Francis had not been so accustomed.


"There is enough to set tongues wagging at court aside from drunken servants. This is truly a place you do not wish your secrets to be accidentally spilled, for one wrong person overhears and all of court hears the story; the story which has likely escalated several times and picked up many eccentricies along the way."


Francis had never thought about the hardships of not having a trusted family servant who knew the ways of court. His man was more valuable than Francis had likely credited. One never knew what baggage new servants might bring, even if they also brought knowledge of court or London. Kingston had the benefit of a servant who had both been born to a man who had served the late Colonel Legge but had also grown to be one of the man's serving boys and then a proper valet on his own shortly before the Colonel's death.


"I find nothing wrong with your jacket, but then again I have not been at court even two years." He grinned. It was his second winter season, though, so it seemed quite longer than it was in reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Only two years at Court, Edmund noted. Well, Lord Kingston had a suave and debonair manner had made him think he must surely be an old hand. “You are most kind and I dare say I am only being too hard on myself. Still, I have thought that a move to London can be a fresh start – become a new person, in a manner of speaking. Free from the bonds of parental instruction…”


There was a lot of truth in that. Edmund’s feelings regarding his father were conflicted to say the least. The late Baronet Torrington had been a cold, puritanical fellow as grim and forbidding as the Northumbrian vastness he had loved so much. He had made little secret of his Puritanical and Parliamentarian leanings, even after the Restoration and such had been a constant fear and worry to his son who found little joy in his father’s cold religion and radical politics. What Edmund had wanted was to enjoy the lifestyle of the Cavaliers his father had so ranted against after he had had a cup of three of wine. What was wrong with the festive, jovial Court of Charles II? What was wrong with plays, art, fashion, wine, women and fun? His father had allowed his younger sons much more liberty (all be it to a thin degree) than he had ever been allowed. Edmund would be the heir to the Torrington lands and Company. He was expected to marry a puritanical local worthy woman, sire children, tend to his lands, cultivate the Company, be a pillar of the community. That was not for him at all. Days spent going over ledgers with his managers did not appeal to him, no did arbitrating boundary disputes between his tenants. Certainly not the prospects of cold, loveless nights in a cold, loveless bed with a local damsel of sturdy, not beautiful stock. No! Give me wine, music, fast women and fast horses, the warmth of basking in the glow of powerful people.


“My late father was not the World’s most entertaining fellow. Perhaps I feel it is my duty to the realm to make up for his lost time as well as my own! Bah! Listen to me prattling on like a nun to her confessor!”


“You are, of course, quite right about the importance of one’s servants loyalties. I fear mine’s is to my mother and I cannot be doing with that. Particularly so as to spare her the grief of hearing about the manners of debaucheries I would see myself getting used to him the capital!” he said with a chuckle. Yes, it was quite clear to him that his current retainer would have to be returned to pastured northern. He would follow Lord Chichester’s recommendation and visit the necessary agency as a matter of urgency.


“I doubt my daydreams could outdo those of a minister’s – from what I hear they have the most insalubrious ones you could think of!”


So, Lord Kingston had been amongst the band of exiles – an honoured few in the Restoration Court. “I am sorry to hear of your exile amongst the worthy few. It is Providence, surely, that after such tribulation you should now find yourself amidst this deserved comfort?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Court is surely a place to become a new person. I am not the same gentleman that arrived then, not by far. If one might have told me of my life today, I would have laughed them deaf." Francis could not help but let the loudest laugh escape him at that. He truly would have as even the thought of it made him laugh loudly.


"I had never even been introduced to the Duke then, had never even truly seen him. None of my cousins, actually; I befriended one before I knew I was related," he added, with another bright laugh. "Do not concern, Sir Edmund, you will fit right in and have a grand time if that is what you wish."


He chuckled along with the other man's story of his servant, nodding at the thought of mothers. Indeed, mothers did not need to know much of what their sons were doing at the merry court. Far better that way.


"I was only a boy, so I did not know how poor the circumstance were in comparison to what I had been born to. I was born in France on the first day of the Republican experiment, so I never knew grand things before I was eleven and His Majesty was crowned as should have always been." His tribulations as a child had little to do with exile and more to do with a drunken, raged, would-be-murderer (in Francis' mind) of a 'father.' "I do bear a good deal of reverence for those who truly suffered for their martyred king and sacrificed families and estates, so your sentiment falls on fertile grounds either way."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Edmund finished the last sips in his cup as he dwelt on what Lord Kingston had said. Before he could respond, a clock somewhere in the grand library began to chime, making him reach into his pocket for his own time-piece. His eyebrows arched a little when he saw the hour - he was already behind on the schedule he had set himself of tasks to complete to assist in his settling in. Not to mention the amount of time he must have taken up of the good Lord Kingston's hospitality.


"Mercy," he said to himself, "you must forgive me, my Lord, for having imposed upon you for all this time! I am most grateful for the morning draught as well as your refreshing hospitality. For allowing me the privilege of that you must surely allow me the honour of doing you some service, however small, in future! But now I must leave you to your morning, if I may, for I think you have been kind enough in allowing me to savour the pleasures of Buckingham House and Villiers manners for this long already!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

"You are most welcome," Francis replied. He had enjoyed the distraction, honestly. He was used to having far more company about and sometimes the silence of being "home" with just Buckingham and Tom, mostly not even in the same room, was disconcerting. He preferred more activity.


"My man will show you the way back out."


(Fin! )

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...