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Chatham Family

Charles Audley

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Charles Audley

Nationality: English

Title: Earl of Chatham

Estate Name: Bosworth Lodge, Chatham

Age: 26 (born 1651)

Hair Colour: Black

Eye Colour: Blue


The First Impression & Physical Appearance:

Striking, rather than handsome, is the word most use to describe Charles and, indeed, his features are much too severe for beauty. He stands some five foot ten inches in height and possesses broad shoulders, long, lean limbs and a supple waist. This athletic figure and his intense blue eye are rendered utterly moot by a gaunt face, overly sharp cheek bones, an over bold, slightly hooked nose, a chin that would not be out of place on a Hapsburg and, most strikingly, the patch covering the scarred, empty socket of his left eye. The overall effect leaves him looking as sharp and hard as a sabre blade. He attempts to soften this by wearing his black hair in long, artless curls, often scorning a periwig.

He goes to some lengths to add a dashing, roguish air to his appearance, maintaining a slight tan and growing a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, all for that corsair touch. He is immensely vain, bathing frequently and taking incredible (and visible) care of his skin, hair and teeth.

In the company of peers his behaviour is confident, forthright and amiable, though he does take an impish delight in straining the bounds of propriety. Among those he sees as lesser, he is perhaps slightly less amiable and more prone to show the sharp edge of his tongue.


Born the second son of Henry and Catherine Audley on the 22nd of March, 1651, Charles’ early years gave no hint of his future potential. His boyhood was dominated by two figures. The first, his grandfather Richard, a man tormented by dementia, terrified the child with his episodes. This, along with the old man’s subsequent crippling and death by stroke, inspired a lifelong terror of losing his faculties in Charles.

The second, and perhaps more influential, figure was his older brother, also Richard. Charles idolised his brother and followed his lead in everything. Indeed, his habit of being reduced to a silent follower in his brother’s presence and the fact that Charles would frequently abandon his lessons to seek his brother’s company often lead his father to fits of towering despair and rage. Only his mother could protect Charles from punishment when such occurred.

This lazy pattern was irrevocably shattered in the summer of 1660, when a small smallpox outbreak killed thirteen people on the estate. Two of these were Catherine and Richard. The deaths of both his idol and his protector had a profound effect on Charles. Forced into confronting the reality of mortality, the young boy swore to make his brother and mother proud, to experience all life had to offer, to live before he died. He set to his studies with a will, soon receiving glowing reports from his tutors, and swiftly claimed Richard’s place as the dominant personality among the boys of the estate.

It was only after his mother's death that Charles met the third formative influence of his boyhood: his uncle William, who left on a grand tour of the continent after quarreling violently with his brother shortly after the birth of Charles. A true cavalier, William fostered his nephew's new found adventurous spirit, teaching the boy fencing and taking him riding around the estate.

Life changed again shortly before his twelfth birthday, when Charles was sent away to London, to attend St Paul’s School. It was here that the man could at last be clearly seen in the boy. The school masters spoke of his intellect, drive, charm and excellence in physical pursuits. They also spoke of his riotous behaviour, his reckless risk-taking, his habit of cheeking them and his seemingly miraculous ability to uncover the secrets of others. He was a fey, almost uncontrollable youth, always the first to set his horse to the jump, no matter how high, the first to make a witty remark, no matter how inappropriate, and always the first to let fists fly, though win or lose he seldom if ever held a grudge. His most frequent partner in crime was his friend John Churchill, who accompanied him on many mischief making expeditions. On other occasions, however, Charles would act alone, such as when he escaped the school to confront his father over the latter’s remarriage. Only the direct intercession of his father saved him from expulsion.

Charles left St.Pauls at the age of fifteen, having received a solid grounding in all the subjects appropriate for a gentleman of his standing and having acquired a deep interest in and wide knowledge of history and the classics. He returned to Bosworth Lodge to find that he could no longer call it home. His father had taken to drink, his stepmother was a cold, distant woman, his uncle had left to live in London and his two half sisters were strangers to him. Frustrated by this, and the lack of opportunities for mischief and merriment, he begged his father to allow him to further his education at Oxford. Eventually, the old man agreed and sent Charles to the university, accompanied by but a single manservant.

The young gentleman swiftly settled into life at Oxford. When not devouring books in the libraries he could be found drinking, gaming and wenching in the taverns and bawdyhouses of the town. Charles was a popular figure at the university, known for his sporting attitude and nimble wits, though there were many put off by his vanity and arrogance.

Alas, this idyllic period of his life was not to last. Shortly after his sixteenth birthday Charles was discovered in the bed of the daughter of one of the college Fellows. The Fellow, outraged, challenged the young cavalier to a duel. Seeing no other option, and in any case outraged at being used so by a man of no blood, Charles accepted.

The duelists met at dawn three days after the incident. The exact details of what happened are unclear but what is known is that the Fellow died upon the blade of the young nobleman. Sadly for Charles, however, his problems did not die with him. The dead man's family made accusations of murder. While Charles would ordinarily have brazened it out and trusted in his position to protect him, it transpired that the dead man was an old friend of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, then a baron and member of the Cabal ministry. He had the status to make such charges stick. Judging it unwise to remain in Oxford, Charles fled home to Chatham.

There, after his father had sobered up, it was decided that it would be best for Charles to leave the country and wait for the scandal to die down. An ensign’s commission in the first regiment of Foot Guards was purchased and Charles left England for service in the garrison of Tangiers. It was a fateful decision.

Determined to make the best of his lot, Charles set about mastering his new profession with a will and was gratified to discover that he had both a gift and a passion for soldiering. He was equally gratified to discover, upon arrival in Tangiers, that John Churchill was also serving in the garrison. The two young men renewed their friendship almost immediately.

For the first time he could remember, Charles found difficulty fitting in. His vanity, fastidiousness and arrogance led to him being dubbed "Narcissus" by his fellow officers and his licentiousness was soon the talk of the garrison. Some even whispered of sodomy. To make matters worse, Charles began to suffer from migraines, occasionally finding himself unable to so much as rise from bed. At the recommendation of the garrison doctor, Charles took to using opium and laudanum to combat his ferocious headaches. He soon found himself dependent on the drug to quell the crippling pain. Gradually, however, the young man's bravery and undoubted competence won the garrison over. He was even commissioned as a lieutenant without purchase after saving his captain from a Moorish ambush.

Shortly after turning nineteen Charles was struck down by malaria. He spent several days raving in his quarters, calling out to God for succor and receiving no answer. His faith, never strong, was shattered by the incident. He now knew that God was not in His Heaven and all was not right with the world. After his recovery he was sent back to England.

His arrival on his native shores was greeted by the news that his stepmother had just given birth to a son, Francis. Loathe to return to Chatham, Charles took lodgings with his uncle in London and set about making himself part of the social set there, rebuilding his strength with frequent exercise, balls and fencing bouts. He soon learned that Ashley-Cooper had not forgotten him or the events in Oxford some three years ago. The young man found rumours and ill reputation dogging him, barring him almost completely from polite society.He even heard whispers that the royal minister still intended to have him prosecuted for murder. Venomously angry, Charles found himself powerless to retaliate in any manner save cutting insults. Worse, his career had stalled, with his father unwilling to purchase a promotion and his reputation denying him the more lucrative and interesting assignments.

Opportunity finally arrived in 1672. Frustrated beyond belief and thwarted in all his efforts, Charles volunteered as one of the soldiers the 1st Foot Guards were sending to serve aboard the fleet sent against the Dutch.Though the expedition was a failure, Charles achieved his ends: after the bloody battle of Southwold Bay he prevailed upon his father to purchase him a captaincy in the Lord Admiral’s Regiment.

It was in this capacity that Charles served in Flanders under the Duke of Monmouth, where he fought at the siege of Maastricht. Charles gloried in his first taste of proper, European war and (just as exhilarating) his freedom from Shaftesbury's (as Ashley-Cooper was now) spite. No one in the army gave a damn about his reputation and, unpleasant as the Dutch were, at least he was allowed to fight back! After the garrison surrendered (and realising that he was likely to see far more action in French service), Charles accepted a commission as a French colonel and went to Alsace as part of the Anglo-French brigade, where he fought in the battles of Sinsheim, Ensheim and Turckheim under the command of the Vicomte de Turenne. It was at Turckheim that Charles lost his eye, to shrapnel kicked up by Austrian cannon fire. To compound his misery, he soon learned that his beloved uncle had died in a riding accident.

When peace broke out in 1674, Charles found himself once again reluctant to return home. He continued to serve in the French army until the spring of 1675, when he sold his commission and, using his service in French arms to provide him with an entrée to high society, headed to the court of Versailles. He did not stay long before departing on a grand tour of the continent in emulation of his late uncle. Over the next two and a half years he visited Munich, Vienna, Trieste, all the great cities of Italy, Turin, Athens, Constantinople, Madrid and Lisbon, searching for pleasure, adventure and a cure for the migraines that continued to torment him. Rumour spoke of him as a rake and libertine and somewhat unsavoury stories drifted back to England- brawls in Austria, public lewdness in Venice, an arrest in Rome, public drunkenness in Savoy, even suspicions of murder in Naples and Lisbon. The increasingly extreme methods he looked to for a cure for his head pains also drew censure- there were even whispers of black magic. Rumour also spoke of his rapidly growing fortune, though not of the methods he used to acquire it.

After a messy duel in Oporto, and the realisation that his reputation on the continent might soon become unsalvageable, Charles signed on as a supercargo with an English slaver making the trip to the Slave Coast and thence to the colonies. His intention was to lay low and perhaps expand his fortune through vaguely respectable means. It was a vain hope.


Charles fled for France, chastened by the experience and terrified that news of his misadventures would follow -or worse, precede- him. So shaken was he that he actually managed to live quietly in Paris.

It was in mid 1677 that Charles was summoned home by his father with the news that he was dying. Charles swiftly settled his affairs in Paris and travelled without halt to Bosworth Lodge. He arrived a bare hour after his father’s death. It soon emerged that, as well as a drunk, Henry Audley had been a bad gambler and a worse businessman. The family fortune was all but gone and massive debts remained due. It would take all of the wealth Charles had gathered on the continent and the colonies to stabilise and secure the family’s finances. Having done so, however, Charles deemed the family incomes insufficient to maintain them in the requisite manner.

While searching through his father's papers, however, Charles made a shocking discovery, one that threatened to ruin him entirely...

Left with no recourse, Charles purchased a majority in his old regiment and began preparing to leave for London.


Grandfather (Deceased): Richard Audley (1594-1656)

Father (Deceased): Henry Audley (1621-1677)

Mother (Deceased): Catherine Audley (nee Wolsey) (1631-1660)

Paternal Uncle (Deceased): William Audley (1625-1674)

Stepmother: Mary Audley (nee Fletcher) Age 32 (1645- )

Brother (Deceased): Richard Audley (1648-1660)

Half-sister: Sarah Audley Age 13 (1664- )

Half-sister: Catherine Audley Age 12 (1665- )

Half-brother: Francis Audley Age 8 (1669- )

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  • 3 years later...

Mary Audley

Title: Countess, Lady Chatham                                                                      

Nationality: English

Age: 32

Gender: Female

Eye Colour: Hazel

Height: 5’6”

Hair Colour: Honey Blonde


Physique: Buxom, with "quite pretty" features, according to Charles.

Personality:  Forceful, energetic and outgoing.  Easily peeved and prone to complaining, with a volcanic temper. Snobbish.  Vain.  Devoted to, and immensely ambitious for, her children.  


The late Earl of Chatham had been at least 20 years  her senior. This was not such an issue to Mary in the initial years, where the wealth had flowed and life was easy. But when all those things changed, so to did her attitude.  Obliged to care for her ailing husband, Mary felt trapped in a life of dutiful monotony, and it did not help at all that there was some sort of trouble with the accounts.   

It came a guilty relief when her husband finally expired.  She was freed.  And as soon as a sufficient (aka bare minimum!)  grieving period had passed, she was bound for the bright lights and parties of London!

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