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Francis Kirke

A Trip to Kingston for the Ladies | Mon 4th

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Accessed by Whitehall Gates on the one side and the Water Gate on the other side the Whalebone Court was the main access point to the palace. It was thus also know as the Great Court. It gave way to the Great Hall (Whitehall)Great Hall.
 
The most telling feature were the enormous large Whale bones that stood as decoration along the side of the courtyard, speaking of that dangerous profession of English Whalers.

 

Lord Kingston waited in the Whalebone Court for the ladies that were going on the trip Lady Dorothea had arranged with him to go to Kingston, see the Market there, and have refreshment at his Lady Mother's. He wore a brocade justacorps of mint green and gold, with matching breeches, and a navy blue waistcoat and cream-coloured hat with white and navy plumage. Buckingham was quite apt at outfitting him in finery, and Francis was now quite used to it all, enjoying the figure he cut in his clothing. It had been something of a journey to get there, from his first season's parrot coat, as it was now jokingly called. 

 

He had seen his lady mother the day before to speak of the arrangements from the Kingston side of things, and he had spoken to several of the townspeople who set up at the Market to let them know that such a grand thing (to them) was to occur. He was quite sure they would want to have their best wares and goods on display in larger amounts than normal. Francis had also made several advance purchases so that they might have some goodies from the town to eat and drink at his mother's estate later. 

 

Tommy was waiting with him to help serve as escort, and he had invited Sir George to come as well since it was always good to have notice come back to the Queen these days of deeds done. George did still have ambitions of gaining the title his father had humbly declined on the restoration of the King and every little bit helped, and it was smart to see one's sister now and again. Beyond that the escort and leaving arrangements were to have been made by Dorothea. 

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The ladies arrived in a cheery cluster; their garments rather more practical than those of their every day court attire.  Less ribbons and bows that might work free, bonnets instead of sprays of flowers in their hair, and leather boots on feet rather than prettily embroidered slippers.  But noticeably one and all were in riding habits.  It did not take much to guess that they had all discussed at length what the best clothing for this outing, it almost looked as though they'd dressed from the same wardrobe!  Young ladies were awfully inclined to mimic their peers. 

"Lord Kingston." Dorothea was bold to call out greeting to him first - she was feeling particularly buoyant being the instigator of this 'event'. Well, it was not so much of an event, but was the first arranging of her companions in England, and thus far it was going splendidly.  "You have breakfasted?  We have brought you a snack for the road, for everyone knows Buckingham’s kitchens rarely cook before noon!" 

Francis was certain to recognise one of the other young ladies with Dorothea, in his position within the Kings household he'd have bided out time with sobermined girl on numerous occasions.  Mousy haired Agnes; a extended family member of Duchess Monmouth and Buccleuch gave him a close-lipped smile from where she stood behind Dorothea.  The other young woman with reddish gold hair and bright eyes introduced herself (revealing a northern accent as she did) “I’m Mistress Elizabeth, Lawson, I believe you met my little brother Henry just yesterday.” 

And so there it happened again, another Villiers relative, though this far more distant on the tree.  (Elizabeth Lawson was the 3rd daughter of Sir John Lawson, who was married to Caroline, sister of Colonel Tom Howard.)

Gillis hung back, attending on duty. 

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Breakfast with His Grace was indeed a noon-time affair, for the duke was no early riser. Francis could, of course, order his own breakfast and he oft did eat something cold & simple early in the morning, but he generally waited for his uncle for the actual breakfasting. 

 

"Good morning, Lady Dorothea," he greeted with a pretty bow. "And friends." He smiled at the others who arrived with her to go on their little excursion. He did indeed recognize the quiet one from his own times attending. The other was far more bubbly and provided just the perfect introduction so that he would know her well enough by association.

 

"Ah yes, so you are a relative of Colonel Howard and Lord Carlisle as well! Your brother was run most ragged yesterday looking for me," he joked. "I heard he tried to run off to join the Navy." Clearly, he did not find such a desire a particular problem! 

 

"Welcome welcome, and thank you for thinking of my very needy stomach," he added to Dorothea with a wink. "Shall we mount up and be on our way?" 

 

Francis, of course, was sure to offer assistance to all the ladies and their horses before he would mount his own, in turn. He had selected one of the Duke's more predictable horses for the excursion, a tall grey mare, knowing Aithon was a bit too excitable to be in the company of (potentially) delicate ladies.

 

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Dorothea responded with a curtsy just as prettily, and her friends did so too (she did like how it sounded as Francis called them that!)   

"My father is 1st baronet of Brough Hall, North Riding, you wil never have heard of it before." Elizabeth chattered, "the most remarkable thing to ever happen there was that Henry Jenkins lived to be 169 years old." 

"Was it the boredom that got him in the end?" Dorothea grinned. 

"Pish." Lawson laughed, even quietly spoken Agnes grinned too.  

"In any case, I hardly blame Henry for wanting to run away for an adventure!"  

Dorothea moved near to pass Francis a cloth wrapped bundle that held a still warm bacon and egg sandwich, and with a smile added, "I’ve already said grace for you." The task of mounting their horses was a small thrill - one that Elizabeth was entirely happy to avail Francis services for.  Dorothea however made a point of being able to manage it herself, while bookish Agnes tried to do so also (but eventually accepted assistance!)   

Meanwhile Gillis moved to join George and Tommy, with general intents to follow Francis lead today.

 

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"I cannot say that I know that particular home, for I've never been that far north, but I know the North Ridings is where Helmsley is, which is one of the Duke's estates." And he had heard enough about the North Ridings now that Buckingham had the Lord Lieutenancy again. And he seriously doubted Buckingham would be the one to rush north on horseback if something happened. Francis had realized his own utility in these tasks better suited to younger men, though Buckingham would never voice it. 

 

"I would surely be bored by that point, I think!" Francis jested, giggling in his tenor laughlet. 

 

"You surely know how to make a man happy," he replied to Dorothea, chuckling a bit more as she informed him she had already graced the breakfast. "Lest I forget?" he asked, with a cheeky grin. He crossed himself for good measure. 

 

Once the ladies were safely mounted, he mounted with the gents and took a generous bite. "Why don't you take the front, Gillis? I'm sure you have a good eye for trouble," he said, if only because that was what the Life Guard was good for, keeping an eye out for anything strange. Tom can bring up the rear." He might be young, but age did not much matter in a skirmish on a ship. You learned to fight early or you did not survive, and Francis had practiced swordsmanship with him for most mornings for all his life, so the youth was far from helpless. "Have you all met Sir George Legge before? He is my uncle," Francis said, with a snort, for they looked like brothers and were close in age. "And this is our cousin, Thomas Spragge." 

 

"Want some?" he asked, George, with an eyebrow lift, holding up his sandwich with a glint in his eye. 

 

 

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So Francis was not unaware of North ridings after all.

“England is quite a small place really, even after you get out of the small places.”  Elizabeth was one of those naturally flirtatious girls, the sort that was bound to do well at court.  She distracted herself for a moment adjusting the fall of her riding habit after mounting the horse, her eyes flitting towards the other gentlemen there.  (She was very pleased there were enough to go around.)

Meanwhile Dorothea positively glowed with Francis words.  “You’d surely not forget Lord Kingston, I’ve noted you to be a man of great diligence.  But really, it was a joke, that I might save you time.”  She might have spoiled the joke by then explaining it, the German lass still had a bit to go in her learning the ins and outs of English customs.  

Gillis was more than content to lead the group, he was never such a socialiser anyhow.  Legge meanwhile turned his smile to the ladies when introduced, and sweeping off his hat performed what passed as a bow while on horseback. “My Ladies, such a treat to share your company...” the gallant then made a snatch towards Francis faux-offered sandwich.

“Oh I am so sorry my lords.” Dorothea belatedly realised that her consideration for one gentlman doubled as lack of consideration for the rest.  “If you don’t mind waiting I could send for more sandwiches!”

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Francis laughed, "You joked so well, you fooled me entirely which is a whole other sort of humor!" The sort where you didn't know if it was a joke or not a joke. He also employed that often (though even he knew that he was quite better at it for having far more practice and opportunity). 

 

George saw his ploy from far away and Francis pulled it back with an unrepentant grin.

 

"Do not worry, my lady. He claims that I was and am the coddled one, regardless, so he is  used to it," he quipped, of her offer for more sandwiches. "I think Sir George well fed no matter where he wakes, for his master was a man of the sea as well and few are known for keeping as late of hours as our cousin the Duke of Buckingham." All of court knew that it was far more likely to see the duke's house active at 2am rather than 7am! "And with his lady wife with child, I am sure there is much food around constantly, as I have learned is necessary. First hand." He was, of course, alluding to all the strange foodstuffs he had run about to various places to find for the Queen. 

 

"And nor did I say how many our party of gentlemen would be, so you are hardly to blame. There will be things to sample in Kingston and it is not that long of a ride." Then he added to George, "I really would share if you actually were hungry." He raised a brow. "I would not wish your physique to suffer." He grinned again and they were on their way.

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Francis laughed and explained his own reactions to Dorothea's joke; which set the young lady laughing too. 

"Well I am glad we got that straight." said Elizabeth Lawson with a look between the two, it was rather plain that they were fond of each other (Her own interest in Francis thus waned).  And then there was the revelation that the elder cavalier was married, so her eyes turned with thoughts of flirting with Gillis at the front or  perhaps Tommy at the rear...

Off they set. 

"It's not a claim, it is fact!" George chipped in with a wink to the sandwich-offerer.  "But it as Lord Kingston says Lady Dorothea, I shall not perish from hunger. We had a fine snack around about one last night that shall see me through, fried kippers, bread and cheese, though I don’t know what you call a meal at that hour."  he huffed a laugh and returned to Francis sally, "Speaking of physiques, isn't that jacket tighter on you than it was last week?"

Agnes meanwhile was listening in quietly, getting the measure of the gentlemen in their company, trying to think of something to add into conversation.  It was not that she was not clever, infact she was quite an intelluctal, but banter did not come natrually. 

"Oh, congratulations Lord Legge." Dorothea offered hearing that his wife was with child, "Is your Lady Wife like Queen Karoline, and with urges for unlikely foodstuffs.

"Supfast." Agnes interjected, then blushed, "a meal between supper and breakfast I mean."

 

 

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Francis chuckled at the sound of that late night fare. "Surely such a meal would give one vile breath in the morning!" He waved a hand in front of his nose. Teasing a sibling was something rarely outgrown. Apparently it was also a family trait. 

 

"Court has given me a healthier physique, true, but you have had at least a decade off the fare of ships in advance of me," Francis joked in return. There was a reason there were not many fat sailors or pirates. 

 

"I see what I have to look forward too if I am not careful! You should come do rapier or baton with Tommy  and I in the mornings." He grinned, wondering if George would actually come. Just to be contrary. He gave the ladies a wink. 

 

"Sir George has quite the budding brood of children. If he keeps up with his grandfather, he shall have a horde!" Colonel Legge, George's father, had a mess of siblings who were still alive. There seemed to be more girls than boys, though. "It keeps me busy buying presents and spoiling them." 

 

(OOC - Shall we zip forward to the arrival in Kingston?)

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Which was the beginning of much cheery banter for the ride to Kingston

Agnes slowly warmed to the group and eventually managed to find a place within it.  Francis might see how the quieter lady had become friends with the lady better known to him, Dorothea.  While Elizabeth Lawson was the odd one out of the feminine trio, though not odd by court standards, she was entirely happy to flirt with the gentlemen in a way that society even expected! 

"Are we there yet?" Mistress Lawson mock-complained (yet again) with a grin.

"Do you think if I gift the ladies maps, we shall remove ourselves of that question?!" Legge laughed towards Francis.  Truth was, the complaint was no longer funny. 

This time however, Kingston was actually come into view, and a few minutes later the trooper was clippity-clopping into the mainstreet, towards the market square.  The young lord of this place, passed though the street without any recognition – being a week day, and a Monday (washday!) at that, it was a somewhat sleepy version of Kingston that the group of nobles entered into. 

 

OOC: permission given to create a couple of relevant stalls - or alternatively I'll get onto that in my next post! 

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"I asked my grandfather that question once..." Francis began, with a wink to George, who likely remembered precisely how this story ended. "Or should I amend it that I asked him that question but once and never again." He chuckled. 

 

The answer to his question had been a nice birching. 

 

That had been the answer to any nonsense question, actually. 

 

Finally, though, Kingston came into view and would put an end to that question! "It is quaint but quite pretty and historic," Francis said. "It is the place of old where kings were crowned and from that it gets its name. There is still the Coronation Stone there."

 

Though that was not why it was of importance to Francis' history. It was here that his true father had been killed. Hacked up by Roundhead murderers before he was even of age.

 

The town was not busy with visitors and bustling with buyers on a Monday, but he had given warning to his people that they would have special guests the next day when he had visited his lady mother on Sunday*  so he was hoping the market stalls would have their best offerings on display. Having made his early life on sea-faring and trade, Kingston was quite supportive of the town's mercantile component, even if it was simply a little market! 

 

"There is a very pretty Church that was begun by Henry I too, with some older structures from the earlier church too."

 

(OOC - He mentioned this IC and left the whole day of Sunday with his mother in Kingston, to make sure things were all good ;) )

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Francis provided details of the townships history to the ladies as they entered; the ladies all three had drawn their horse to walk alongside his at this time, and looked around the place with newly enlightened eyes.  “I would like to see the Coronation stone.” Agnes asked, which was perhaps the most forthright of anything she’d yet said that day.

“It must feel pleasant to have your title relate in such a tangible way to a place. Why Kingstone is practically the foundation stone for England.” Dorothea commended with her very warm view upon just about anything to do with Francis.

George chuckled and looked at his fair friend at that, could there be more to Francis bringing Dorothea to meet his mother? Surely not. Surely Francis would had mentioned something to him first!

The village square was unmissable; and in it’s midst was a gathering of a dozen stalls with colourful bunting draped between them; the effect was somewhat unifying, though each stall was it’s own separate business.   

At the further end of the square was the four bell tower Church he’d mentioned. Further beyond that again was the Parks; lower and upper, that they would later pass through on the way to the Manor House*

On this sleepy Monday the arrival of a group of plainly affluent prospective customers raised stallholders notice. One of the vendors came out and approached: "Good day to you fair travlers! Might you wish for a mug of cider?!” yes, he’d just come from an apple cider stall. 

Dorothea's eyes were upon yonder church,  Elizabeth Lawson was already dismounting, Agnes had moved her horse nearer to Gillis and was saying something beyond others hearing.   "Now that is what I call a welcome!" crowed Legge cheerily. 

 

* I did a little research on this, what I found was a speculation that the disappeared manor house must have had these parks as it’s gardens, though the exact location of the manor house is lost. Apart from that I genericed the town layout for my own ease, hope you dont mind. 

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"There shall be time to see everything that you wish to see, I am sure," Francis replied, to Agnes' eager request. 

 

"Truly, it is the one talking point," he replied to Dorothea's compliment. He almost said that the history made up for the size, but he rather thought George would never let him live down a comment about anything of his own being small, for it would forever be wrongly ascribed to the size of his manhood.

 

"Let us see to the horses and walk some, shall we?" he asked the ladies. 

 

"Sir George and I shall surely take a mug of cider," he told he man. "Would you ladies like one too?"

 

Kingston looked about for any children he could pay to see to their horses, for he was quite generous in spreading his coins around when he came to the town. In the meantime, he gave his reins to Tommy to that he could help the ladies down. 

 

"You must all bring something back with you, on my generosity, of course. Something for yourself and something for Her Majesty, so look carefully." Then he cheekily added with a pointed look to the eager and saucy Mistress Lawson, "Within reason, of course. I trust you to use your good sense." He might have also given Dorothea a look, one of those 'keep an eye on her' looks, for Dorothea did have much sense! 

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"I hope so.” Agnes replied. She was one of those easy-to-overlook sorts, and if they did forget later she was not likely to remind anyone of an oversight.  

But for now it was first things first: the little market promised to be it’s own sort of fun – right from the start there would be cider to sample.   Unanimously the ladies wanted drinks too, and shortly were presented with rustic mugs full of the sweet fermented beverage.

“I’m sure there are more talking points too.”  Dorothea imagined as she passed her reins to one of the children that Francis has summoned to mind their horses.  The gleam of a shiny coin made for some very happy youngsters! (and quite possibly their families too) 

“Is Kingstone one of those towns that have a cup, or a plate, or something like that? I’ve heard people talking about one of those things, and seemingly it’s rather an important honour.” Dorothea went on to ask.

“None for me, not while “Im on duty.” Gillis abstained.  George took advantage of the troopers ‘allotment’ as his own second mug of cider  (this second one sipped more slowly than the thirst-quenching first).  Little did he know that Francis had narrowly avoided giving him some most excellent teasing material.  Instead, he was mentally praising The Cub for his idea for the ladies.

Indeed, the ladies all loved the idea, and flocked with increased interest upon the stalls, hunting for a treasure for themselves and also a gift, with eagers stall holders brightly hawking their wares. Dorothea kept to Elizabeth Lawson's side following Francis unspoken prompt, she was already regretting inviting the bolder girl!  

Legge, sipping on his drink, walked alongside Francis and quietly spoke. “I’d not known you have learnt the art of the management of a flock of ladies, colour me impressed.  Where did your Lady Dorothea discover her friend Mistress Elizabeth, she would seem to be the odd one out, would seem a more likely companion for your ex-ward.  Trouble, just waiting to happen.”  It might seem tht George was also keeping an eye on the Lawson girl.  

Gillis was meanwhile keeping an eye on the periphery of the market square, and talking to cider drinking Tommy meanwhile on how the duty was being done.

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"A what?" Francis asked. He had a plate that was significant to him, but he was quite sure that was not what she referred to. "I am not sure that I know what such a thing is. The only cup of significance I know, is that which our Saviour used and I very much doubt that is in Kingston." He grinned.

 

He was quite chuffed that his idea seemed to please all the ladies and gave he and George a break from all the queries! He exhaled and then took a deep breath.

 

"Apparently, having been raised by two women has its benefits for me, but I wonder what is your excuse for your utter lack of charm, for they were the same two women who raised you?" he teased, keeping his attention on the ladies while chuckling at George. 

 

"And she is not my Lady Dorothea," Francis added, quietly. "You should be careful of saying such things, she is a close childhood friend of Her Majesty and far grander than baroness material. Her brother is some sort of prince, or something." Francis had little understanding of German titles and ranks. 

 

"And Mistress Lawson is some relation of our Duchess of Richmond, of Colonel Howard," Francis added. Our duchess was his current was of describing the elder duchess, rather than his friend the duchess. "I am quite sure she likely did the equivalent of invited herself when hearing of it," Francis further speculated in quiet tones, keeping a brotherly eye on the young group whilst talking. 

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Dorothea could see she had baffled him.  "Ah, it was a cup or a plate, that was something to do with meaning it was allowed to have a market, um, it might have been something to do with horse racing.  I wish I'd paid more attention. I think I was reading about Haymarket at the time?" would these additions jog his mind so he'd work out what she was talking about?!  Meanwhile she regretted mentioning it. 

 

But then the Ladies were looking with interest at all the stalls, one of the stalls had felted items; from hats to decorative pieces on hair pins and brooch claps, which resulted in a lot a trying things on and off. 

 

Francis meanwhile with George:  "Ouch!" he put hand to his heart. "Put away your gherkin fork Sir Pickles, or I'll tell Mummy on you!"

 

Kingston’s advice on Dorothea was nodded however, and George gave a nod at that.  "So, not at all practical." he was sober in making the comment, for the sad fact was clear that even if Francis did have an interest in the German girl, her station was so far above his that nothing could come of it.  George gave Francis a close lipped smile of a sort, appreciating that Francis needed to sacrifice any private feelings on that. 

 

"Besides, I am still living vicariously a bachelor though you!" he chuckled, looking across at the cluster of ladies. The precocious one was their next topic. "That sounds likely," he commented, while personally not immune to the flirtatious style of the Lawson girl, "Our Duchess seems to have taken on a few projects this season as I've heard." the conversation swung, "I heard a curious whisper regarding Her Grace, The rechristening of your ship, and Cumberland*." he rose an eyebrow. 

 

 

 

* as previously cleared with BG!

 

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Francis did eventually land on Newmarket and horse racing trophies and a good laugh was had.

 

Snickering at George's retort, he replied, "But I am the baby, thus you know I shall win regardless." He fluttered his eyelashes. That was not entirely true, even in the past, but he had oft been the smallest of the three growing up, so there had been some degree of protection. George, being the eldest, had oft been the recipient of the 'should know better' and 'be an example' speeches in comparison. 

 

As to Dorothea, he nodded. Kingston was not delusional. Newly minted barons did not marry German princesses, or whatever it was that she was...And he was not even playing at it. 

 

"I think there would be some vicariousness whether I were a bachelor or not," Francis replied to George. He seriously doubted they would turn into a pair (or trio) of clergymen. "Though I have little desire to test the theory," he added, with a wink.

 

At mention of his ship and the duchess, he nodded but also raised the other eyebrow, "Yes, His Majesty renamed my flagship and is going to Christen her. The duchess came with me to see her progress yesterday. But what did you hear of Cumberland? She was intent to work her magic with him, I know, but I have not heard anything to that myself." Words and whispers traveled fast at court!

 

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George and Francis converse while the overseeing the ladies at the stalls.

And as the eldest George had the ‘benefit’ of believing himself the best director of the trios exploits, a ringmaster of a sorts, you might say.

“Baby indeed.” He snorted at Francis, “All my efforts to yank you from the teet, and now at every turn I see you surrounded by them - meaning women more specifically. All men of court would be jealous of it, except for the fact that they are all rather constrained.” He chuckled in a low tone at this last point.  The undergarments of Her Majesties ladies in waiting, maids too, were secured by more than just the physical drawstrings! 

"Well it's little surprise that Cumberland would conceded to any request put forth by Our Duchess." he chuckled of that.  Who could resist Mall when she was motivated, particularly the men that had been the boys of her youth.  "Apparently the Lord Admiral has approved some manner of Naval fund raising project that sees your ships renaming at the focus." he looked at Francis then with one eyebrow raised and one lowered, which Francis was sure to recognise as his 'why dont you tell me about it!' expression. 

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"Yes, well, I have spent more time separated from female company than you have; here, at court, surrounded by women and a wife. And sisters and mothers and aunts and cousins. You have had posh appointments away from smelling sailors, the occasional whore, and food that is more shoe-leather and rock biscuits, so don't begrudge me finding much wonder in the softness and finery of court ladies. Mister made-his-first-court-appearance-at-thirteen!" 

 

Their lives had been together but different after exile, and after the war, they had become different altogether. He and Will were one sort of person. George a different sort of one, a better one. Now, he and George were one sort of person, and Will was the other sort now. Actually, he, Little Frank, was now one sort of person, George another, and Will was the only one who remained (blissfully) outside of court life. It was all rather strange.

 

"As to the ship and the Lord Admiral...I did not wish to put forth the suggestion myself to the prince myself, but the duchess was quite pleased to do so. She is far more comfortable with aggrandizing than I am, but such is the great prerogative of royal duchesses with royal dukes?" Francis had yet to learn how to be self-important. Besides, it was not his event, truly, to begin with for it was meant to be fun for His Majesty more than anything else. Francis did not mind sharing the light with the Navy or Cumberland. "Afterall, anywhere His Majesty goes is sure to bring a lot of attention and thus much opportunity for funding."

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"Oh, so you are catching up?” Legge rolled his eyes at Francis ‘claim’ though then broke into jovial laughter.  It was true, he’d had a fairly indulged existence, and if he’d ever gone without it was because he’d  been too comfortable to get out of his bed to get it.

Meanwhile Francis still had some raw and hungriness in his manner, but even he was starting to loose it; silk and satin burnished away rough edges with surprising speed.

“Well how about that.” Words that revealed he understood the explanation given, but with the tone that said he still didn’t understand it. 

“Has our Duchess become interested in Ships and the Navy then? It does not seem quite her usual ‘thing’.  I had been fairly sure that it wouldn’t have been that you put her up to it, but putting ladies up to things isn’t really your 'thing' either, expecially not Duchesses!”  

 

 

 

 

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Francis chuckled at George's joke. Putting up, indeed! He had yet to put any ladies up to anything of his that season! He then contemplated the question about the Duchess' interest, but in reality he had rather contemplated the same too. 

 

His voice dropped down further, his brow furrowing cutely, "Once upon a time, I might have thought the interest in such would be because of her closeness with Cumberland, but I suspect her interest is in me, too." His tone was somewhat surprised. To Francis, it was still somewhat fresh that Buckingham had such a devoted interest in him. It was something of a "pinch me to make certain this is real" situation.  "Perhaps she wishes her brother to know he cannot have me all to himself, who knows."

 

Francis chuckled at this thought. For everything, the duke's sister actually outranked him, and their natures were both quite competitive. But somewhere he knew that the interest was not superficial. It just seemed odd to say that out loud. Men did not talk about such things very often.

 

"And did not you see her shoot at the shooting event? She does as she likes. She probably has her own yacht and can steer it too!"

 

He gave a look around at the ladies browsing and then added, "Let us keep some watch over what is going on, or I might end up broke by the end of the trip!" 

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George’s eyes followed Francis own – it was only good sense to keep a watch when women were shopping.  Though in this instance there was less risk, these were not the fancy stalls of Londons, most of the goods on sale were hand crafted by the locals.  That said, Lady Kingston had seen they were forewarned (to be on best behaviour) and one or two of the merchants might have seen that fair reason to try hawk their more expensive commodities.  

Currently one such fellow was trying to show Elizabeth a recently polished stein (to her scant interest), said lady had a pretty pink shawl hooked over one arm, and a hat on head that had not been there previously.  In fact all three had different hats, meanwhile Agnes and Dorothea were poring over something small that captivated.

“Well you are damned fascinating after all.” George said this with a heavy tone of sarcasm (was that jealousy?)  “More than likely it’s some sort of dare going on, you’ll be let in on it eventually.”   Yes, definitely jealousy!  With a sigh and shrug he continued, “Whatever it is, she seems to be taking it pretty seriously.  So, good for you Frank.”

Guffaws of laugher followed at the image of Mall manning her own yacht – true enough, it would surprise nobody if it turned out.   

The ladies seemed to have settled upon their purchases, and with a beckoning motion Dorothea signalled she wanted to show what they had found.  “He says he can have them delivered to us, for they are hardly to survive being carried on horseback.”  She and Agnes had selected some glass flowers.  However they were not actually glass at all!  With marvel in voices the ladies revealed, “These are made from sugar.”   The craftsman on the other side of his table had a restrained smile, very happy that held managed to impress.

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"I am so pleased that you noticed!" Francis replied with a smarmy grin. He really was not that damned interesting if you asked him. 

 

Could he be the butt end of a joke between them? He did not think so. He raised a blond brow at George. Was he jealous?

 

"Well, what is good for any of us, is good for all of us, I say." They had all done quite well for themselves. Even Will was a baronet, so there was not a one of them that was a plain old mister anymore. 

 

"It seems we are beckoned," he said to George. He spared a look at Tom and Gillis before heading to join the ladies at that particular booth.

 

"Oh, now those are quite pretty! You ladies have a good eye." Glass flowers. Ladies enjoyed such things. The craftsmanship was quite good. "Sugar, you say?" He inspected a bit closer. "And what is your name, friend?" he asked, the man, always keen to be kind to the locals. 

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"And I've been telling you that for years." George adjusted his shoulders and tipped up his nose, with the manner of a an elder brother that being proved right, and seeing his younger siblings flourish, had mixed feelings over that.  He wanted them to succeed, but did not want his own importance to Francis & Williams to dwindle. 

"Let us look." in agreement he moved forwards with Francis to see the ladies. Meanwhile Gillis had barred the approach of a chap with a cart, being overcautious, or was he just demonstrating for Tommy? 

The flowers were crafted from melted sugar, and had a slightly brown tinge where clear, while the petals and leaves had colourings of red and green respectively.  The ladies were pleased that the men were also impressed with their find.   "My name is Carl milordship Kingston, Carl Nash.  Honoured."  he made a bow of a sorts, not at all practised at the movement. "If it pleases you, I could deliver the Ladies their flowers personally."

Which was a big deal for the craftsman, while London was not truly so far away, it was far further than his life usually took him.  

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Francis smirked as he saw Gillis and Tom. He would be interested to see what the youth thought of the whole thing. He had seen far scarier things than men with carts! And probably men far more dangerous than what one found on the streets of Kingston! Foreign ports and markets were not precisely the safest places for foreigners. Nevertheless, he trusted the two had matters under control.

 

"Well, Mr. Nash, having recently had an entire shipment of actual glass break, I do very much understand the need for delicacy!" Francis said, with a chuckle. "I should not wish you fine work to be wasted, so tell me how best might you transport them? I can send a cart or carriage and shall receive you at the Duke of Buckingham's, it is then a very short walk to the palace?" 

 

He realized such an offer was very grand indeed, but he had learned from Buckingham the value of such extreme kindness, of seeing the value of common people.

 

And...after all, he very well could have been one of them if the cards had fallen differently, or even worse-so. In that case, he thought that expectation of someone's worth did not always have much to do with their class. 

 

"Do you do things other than flowers? Fruits, perhaps? Grapes would be quite pretty done so," Kingston commented. 

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“Glass? Well then you understand!”

Carl’s eyes almost fell out of his head when Francis mentioned the Duke Buckingham.  “Well in a box packed with straw. Though to be honest milord, I though I’d just walk them there. They are not that big to need a cart, and I can easy step over any potholes, where a cart might not.”

This might be my big break! Was what he was thinking.  

“But I would very much appreciate the, ah, guide to the palace. And I’d rather guess that I wont be allowed to just walk in to deliver them to the ladies.  Or perhaps if I can just deliver them to you, at the Duke Buckinghams?”

“I am best at flowers, but have made convincing pairs of cherries on stems, and yes once made a bunch of purple grapes with a sugar dusting. I’ve made insects as well, though those were not good sellers. I’d be happy to attempt any piece you might like milord.” He earnestly offered .

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"That is at least twelves miles, man, and London is a jostling city. I shall send a cart or my lady mother shall. Or a boat, though the trip would be longer, but there shan't be any potholes that way. You decide. And you will come to the Duke's, and I will go with you to the palace to bring them to the ladies."

 

He did not wish to cut the man out of seeing all the sights. 

 

And Francis was already hatching further plans in his mind, as evidenced by his prior questions.

 

Leaning in, he said quietly, "And could you make pickles, the gherkin kind that the German so love? If so, we will talk about fruits and veg when you bring the flowers. How about Wednesday or Thursday?"

 

He smiled at Dorothea and the quiet lady, Agnes. "Are you going to be able to keep these secret until then?"

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He’d have happily walked a lot further than 12 miles to have a piece of his craft come to the Queens attention!   Flabbergasted, though trying to keep his cool, Carl replied, “by barge then Milord.”  (he should have thought of that himself! And if he’d not been caught on the hop probably would have.)

“I certainly shall do my very best. An assortment perhaps, in a jar for the ‘preserves’ effect.” While he thought pickles was a mighty odd choice, he was not about to question it. “Can you make it Thursday, it will give me more time to practise and perfect.”

Dorothea and Agnes (both) nodded then, it was Agnes who suggested, “perhaps we better not let Elizabeth know though.” 

Fortunately Elizabeth had abandoned the stalls at that point, having gone to watch the lifeguard and Tommy at the Carriage.  It was rather an anti-climax though, for there was nothing at all in the cart except cabbages.

Meanwhile Francis' grand total for the ladies little spree was one pound two shillings sixpence. He made a lot of stallholders happy as he paid it!

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"Thursday it is, then." Francis gave a nod of agreement. "But I have an engagement in the evening, so it must be earlier in the day." 

 

When it was time to pay, the youthful-looking Francis happily put forth the coin and some extra, with wishes of getting something special like sweetmeats for children (or wife!). He also got some flowers for his lady mother to spread the wealth around. 

 

Once mounted again, he led the way toward the house, passing by the grand royal oak tree in the parkland where his father was killed. There were now many flowers planted around and a bench, like a very remote garden. Any signs of the sad event were long since gone. 

 

When the estate came into view, it was in the Tudor design. Quaintly pretty more than gargantuan. There was quite the queue of staff there and ready to greet them and take their horses and parcels so that they could head inside.

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Plans were made for Thursday morning, Agnes and Dorothea being in on it too and with promises to be waiting for Francis and Carl. It was a optimistic scene, which was spread around further as various stall holders were paid. Even the under-feet youngsters got to celebrate with a bag of lollies to share between them.  Francis was loaded with a impressive bunch of flowers for him mother, which fortunately did not need to travel too far to be delivered. 

Passing the oak tree Legge and Tommy were silent.  The seat and small garden was not an obvious memorial, might have been a local picnic spot, but the men’s hush in passing it was odd.  Dorothea looked to her young friend then to Francis, lips parting to ask the question. But something made her stop, and instead she looked towards the looming great house. 

"Oh look the Kingston sigil." she remarked seeing the flag at full mast there.  

Arriving there was the flurry of to be expected activity of dismounting and horses being taken away - all under the watch of the Lady of the House, who stood at the top of the steps with a smile greeting her son and his guests.   

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