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Defiance

Ridding the muddy aftermath | Ranelagh & Nicci Monday AM

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The kiss to her forehead was a fatherly gesture, not that shed been raised by father but grandfather instead.  In any case their relationship was something quite different. But it felt nice, like a mutual care for the other. 

Softly she replied, "Duty is a far tougher master than His Highness is.  I would guess that He would prefer to have you at his side right now too."  Male duty was unlike anything that existed in the female realm, with nuances to it that she found hard to understand.  That the Duke explained he had a role to play that required him to remain here, suggested that there were plans already in place - perhaps in case of just such a thing as todays attempt. 

Perhaps the meetings at Windsor last recess hadn’t only been about the Hill boys and deciding to call in closer the King’s bastards.

"I understand you carry burdens of responsibility and care, and of secrets you must keep. It must be draining... the only way I can think I might help is to be a soft voice of support.  A vote of confidence I suppose, of knowledge that your savvy shall foil those who work against us," she lowered eyes and amended, "forgive me -  I mean against the Royal family."

 

 

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Buckingham would have preferred brotherly rather than fatherly, for he did not wish to recognize that he was well-enough old to be her father! So, it was thankful that he was blissfully unaware of the particulars of her appreciation.

 

He snickered softly at her comment, "Most of the time." He chuckled more. "And some of the time the two are in contradiction."

 

"And my master the King oft has no idea what is best for either him or his kingship." Because no matter what anyone thought appropriate, the two of them still existed as both Charlie and Georgie and the King of England and Duke of Buckingham. Said Duke felt close enough with Nicci to share that sentiment. "The first duty I ever had in life was to protect him; I probably swore it most solemnly when I was four or five..." 

 

To date, it was one duty he had not failed. Charles might not always agree that he had not. In fact, he oft did not agree with the methods or reasons, but Buckingham's own conscience could be the only dictator of fulfilling that duty. He had sworn it to Charles I not Charles II, so Charles II could complain all he wished. 

 

Annoyingly, he was obligated to feel similarly of James, because he did not want to live to see the dolt getting his head chopped off by the mob, no matter how much they argued. 

 

"But I do think you are correct, that if he did not have greater concerns for you and a need for me to be a gathering point of intelligence away from court, I would yet be with him. That is why Herbert came to wake me this morning." He chuckled. "If only to keep Arlington at bay from fussing about him like a woman. He does not like to be fathered to and that happens a lot in these sorts of times." 

 

Ultimately, it was that which had finally seen Schoolmaster Hyde thrust from court; Charles had been done with being fathered to by the man, political reasons and foibles aside. 

 

"He has directed Francis to be a surreptitious guardian of his Queen with Lord Mountjoy or shortly will do so, and while that is a great accomplishment and honour for the boy, I would feel better if he was with the King." He smiled, "That is my own emotion in the matter, for I rationally know the child the Queen carries is more important." But to him, it was Charles. It would always be. "You had best not tell anyone how maudlin I am being right now..." He smiled at her teasingly. "I have not even had that much liquor in my coffee yet today!"

 

Considering his candor of the moment, he said, "You were correct the first time. It is against us, all of us."

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Nicci smiled at the mental image he drew, "Ah the charm of little boy at their most earnest, a charm that is still upon you this day." There was affection in her tone, the relationship shed grown with the duke was surprising at many turns, and always treasured. It had grown little by little, shed managed to disarm him somehow and hed revealed depth far greater than his glittering appearance suggested. Father, brother, lover. any and all she would be happy with.

"Then let us repair that," Nicci motioned a servant. a gesture that was likly un-needed, as the dukes attentive staff stood at the ready to provide his every whim. Neeverthe less she signaled a tippled drink to be brought, and yes shed have another too. Unlike george, this would be her fourth or fifth this morning.

"Lord kingston might be pleased to serve as her majesties protector, he seems to have some attachments in her household mmm?" Nicci mused, brushing a lighter topic, before continuing "Though the assassin cannot have been after the queen in the wee hours of the morning."

 

 

 

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Buckingham's tired visage brightened as Nicci said that he yet had his boyish charms. For a man of his age, he yet felt rather lithe; it was the afterward where the aches and pains came out that was inconvenient! George Villiers would never concede to being an old man. 

 

"I shall only relinquish it to the grave," he replied with a grin. "The charm and the vow," he added.

 

The household was quick to attend to their drinks as Nicci wished, and the Duke was all too happy to let her rule the house so that he might be lazy at the moment. Francis was like that, and Buckingham very much liked to be catered to in that way; one of the benefits of age and experience was also that he realized it was their care that made it so. The same thing done in sycophancy was not the same at all, and any great man need learn recognize it right away or get utterly swindled; he oft reminded Charles of that plainly. 

 

Buckingham burst with amusement at Nicci's proclamation. "Of course Kingston would be pleased to play Protector to the first lady of the land, for I do believe Kingston's favoured role in life is protector of ladies!" Something Buckingham was fairly certain said Kingston did not even realize about himself. The Duke roled his eyes, "It might be his master's favoured role in life as well!"  He chuckled more. Truly, that might apply both to Charles and himself, and he was master of his kind-hearted nephew as much as the King was in his mind!

 

"I used to wonder at how he did that at sea for all those years...no ladies on most voyages...but I have concluded with the King that the cub was protecting his dear mother by doing so." Buckingham chuckled more, as such things were rare for a man as they were oft separated from mothers early, but...it did remind him very much of his brother, so it was an endearing trait. 

 

"Does he have an attachment in her household?" Buckingham asked, blue eyes widening some. "Of course, you know Lady Susan Herbert is his cousin? And His Majesty oft posts Kingston there on his accord?" Buckingham wished to make sure it was not Francis' conversations with Susan that were being interpreted as something more.

 

While he understood Francis' position on marriage, Buckingham was certain it was also a temporary one; for Buckingham was certain, one way or another, his objection on passing on Kirke's name was not a permanent state, for he saw Kingston's position as a temporary one. Once it was not, Buckingham was positive he could have Kingston married quickly, and he had a match-making King in his corner, too. 

 

"I think since His Majesty was supposed to be in that very location shortly, that we can assume that particular assassin was not after the Queen."

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The Dukes cheer at talking of Francis being a protector of ladies, and further comment on himself, bought a large smile to Nicolette's face. "You most certainly have been that for me I was really quite lost before I came into your company."

"I treasure the memory of when I first saw you, that night in the ballroom, when you danced so magnificently. You stole the floor. There was no one who could hold a candle to you. I think it was then, that night, that I thought there might be a place for me in England."

Ah but they talked of Francis, their voices fond. "Lady Susan Herbert is his cousin is she? I did not think of that. I've only noticed that he does seem to be delivering pickles terribly often.  And these pickle deliveries take rather longer in most deliveries do!" 

Yes Nicky hoped that there was someone Francis really fancied. She and he were close of course, but they would not make a future together, they would never be matched. She had hoped he'd found a possible prospect, someone's whose fortunes he could unite with, like how she had her plans for the witty and clever Ranelagh.

The lighter talk and the enhanced coffee drink relaxed and eased conversation, while always present in minds was the murder of that morning. 

The Dukes agreement on the unlikely risk to the Queen came with its own suggestion. Nicci pressed hand to her lips with thought. "Then who else new of our planned rendezvous? The message only arrived Sunday after church, delivered by servant in livery. Perhaps that servant was bribed? Or who else was aware of His Majesty's plans."

"I still think that one of the oddest things about it was that whoever killed that  Dutchman did not stick around to claim the victory of it." Nicci had concluded the body was from the seven provinces, partly due to being French with a natural distaste for those sorts. "Has anyone been able to identify the body yet?"

 

 

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The Duke blinked and then tittered as Nicci mentioned pickles and taking far too longer than usual to deliver the pickles. The titter went into a rumble of the chest imagining Francis with an over-large, swollen gerkhin for a cock. After the worries of the day, it felt rather good to have a moment's respite. It did not matter if Nicci meant the double entendre or not!

 

"Let us hope he is not delivering any of his own design to the Queen's household, but only those of His Majesty, for the Queen otherwise finds pickles altogether unacceptable there!"

 

Buckingham, himself, could never perform this duty his master asked of the cub. He could not control himself for long in the face of potential humour, and he would find far, far too much of it in such company. Francis was still awed and also appropriately conscious of his reputation; his tendency toward humility more than outward vanity made him particularly suited to bridge to the proper and staunchy German Queen. 

 

The Duke was the staunchest royalist in his mind, but he was not awed by royalty in the least. Some of the mystique of kingship was ruined by the fact that you had brotherly boyhood conversations about masturbation with one before he was one...

 

"Have you heard of any particular lady he has shown interest in?" Buckingham asked, curious what was spoken about amongst the ladies of Nicci's acquaintance.

 

"As to who else knew of the meeting...the summons was not one of a private nature, so any of the invitees might have mentioned it to anyone; plus, all of their servants. I knew of it because Francis was summoned. It is his practice to tell me when he's attending the night before, so that I know he will be gone and not likely to be back when I rise. Everyone has routines like that. People speak about people summoned by the King, so word travels quickly." Buckingham paused for a drink, savoring the warmth of it before adding, "That is if it was related at all. Assignations in the darkness of late evening and early morning are not uncommon in the gardens of any palace. If you had not arrived early, nobody would have been very likely to see it take place."

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Nicci had not thought of pickles in that way, and burst into laughter as Buckingham put a naughty spin on it. "Poor Francis would turn as bright red as a beet if he heard this conversation, under some circumstances is really rather prim! It must be highly unlikely he's trying to debauche any of Her Majesties household!"

"... hmm what I'd really thought, was that if one was thinking of choosing a wife, there is a fine array of respectable ones on offer there. So you were right to guess he's never mentioned anyone to me - and I certainly have asked, and I certainly have watched him!"

"No I do not think he will be causing any pickles there." And though the Duke might tease, he surely also knew that Francis thought far too highly of his duty then to malign it with rouge-ish behaviour.

Finally losing a sigh Nicci added "...on that count he's a blinkered horse, a confirmed batchelor, to the best of my estimation."

Ruminating possible leads, Nikki had wondered if the field was narrowed by knowledge of them meeting.  But the King's movements at Whitehall was anything but secret.  "So many? Then that is no help at all."

Talking openly as they were, Nicci thought to ask something she had wondered about. "Your grace, when Lord Monmouth sent away to Holland, was he sent supervised? I wonder because my cousins offhand suggestions result is in so much trouble due to Lord Monmouths ready enthuse; that should his impressionable ears be whispered into by someone truly deceitful, a whole world of problems might be created."

"Please know that I do not suggest any lack of love for his father, for certainty His Majesty is loved especially by all his sons. I have rarely witnessed a man who adores his children so much. They are the most blessed youths."

 

 

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"He surely would!" the Duke chuckled warmly. Francis' tendency for blushing easily reminded him of his brother, who had shared the more feminine trait. "Ironic considering he can say and do the raunchiest of things and not blush a whit." He shook his head. "The setting makes a difference in a man; at least an intelligent one."

 

Buckingham continued, "If the King vowed to stay away from fucking the Queen's Household, he surely doesn't want his gentlemen doing it. If the King cannot do a thing, et cetera." I'Faith, if the Queen started producing boys, Buckingham would fully endorse keeping the Queen happy too. 

 

"One day, perhaps. Francis is feral, yet, you see," the Duke said with a snort of amusement. "He is not completely accustomed to the finery and opportunity of courtly society. Noble ladies were an untouchable thing from were he began, and it will take time for him to settle himself, let alone be ready to make a family." The rest was a temporary inconvenience, so Buckingham figured the cub's other qualms would be resolved some day. "Though I would only say that to you."

 

To the King's most annoying of offspring, Buckingham said, "Someone like Monmouth is never unsupervised, even if he thinks that he is, but that doesn't mean he cannot get up to mischief. But I do believe the roots of this are from before he was sent away, if that is what you wish to know."

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Buckingham had seen other sides of Francis, Nicci was yet to witness his raunchy side.  That the Duke made that statement so freely, had her wonder if Frances had been on best behaviour with her? 

"Yes it must be the setting and company. Which is considerate of him really, I'm not terribly good at the 'English bawdy' thing, if I was to witness him doing it I think it would be me blushing!"

So the king had vowed not to Do his wife's household - which was more news to Nicci, and good to know. 

"Feral," she repeated with a grin, enjoying the mental image. "It might take many saucers of milk till he is ready." She came to agree, making a mental note to herself to simply stop worrying about that. Francis was different to her in that way (he did not need a marriage contract ultimately for his future security.) She did.

Her niggling question on Monmouth was finally asked of a person with the credentials for a qualified reply. "Well that is a relief, His Majesty's heart might be broken further still if he was missused again..."

"... It must take an innocent perspective on his part." She mused of James Scott, "I have never met him personally, but have heard also he's recklessly brave. The tale I heard was his using explosives to halt the fires from consuming more of the city.  Which was clever too, though also destructive."

"How long will His Majesty keep him away?" She had slipped well off the topic of the dead body in the garden. But this seemed important too, in it's own way it was like a precident that might one day apply to any number of the youngsters growing up around His Majesty's heels. Little Lord Ossory, for instance, was bound to make eager-accidental trouble.

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Buckingham chuckled and nodded his agreement on the milk and Francis. "At the very least, he is housebroken!" Francis had come fairly far in a year, but it had required considerable effort. He now bowed with a pristine turn of leg like a proper Villiers!

 

As to Monmouth, of whom Buckingham was no fan at all, the duke said, "Taking down adjacent buildings was no novel bright idea of Monmouth, but is something of standard practice in cities in fire, though he did aid in the execution of the deed. Though, even James did that." She might guess that "James" was the Duke of York. 

 

"His Majesty told the boy what would happen if he spoke or made moves against his uncle, the Duke of York, many times. It was far from the first time. His presence inflames the mob against the King's desire for religious toleration and inspires connivers to use him, even with Ashburnham keeping an eye on him. It will not be for some long time, perhaps not at all." It did not sound as if Buckingham cared in the very least, for he was happy to see Monmouth gone. He would not come between the king and his children, but he had his own views, and Charles had plenty of worthy offspring to focus on, after all. "York will vote for not at all, vociferously." 

 

It was hard to think that Monmouth was of an age with Francis. Monmouth forever would seem a boy and had a considerably childish streak.

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"La - so the standout fact that had me thinking more of him, was not 'standout' at all."

Which was disappointing to Nicolette's ears, she was one who prefered to think that everyone had some quality redeeming. Even now, with Duke Buckingham's viewpoint plain, in her heart she still believed the King's eldest bastard son had an unknown potential.

It was less of a surprise to hear that York did not share her opinion, no,  the surprise came from something else: "Vote?!" Nicci partly laughed, thinking this must be a turn of phrase not fact, "is there a vote to be made sure there was only one vote that decides!"

Perhaps it was her French upbringing under King Louis, that made the notion of voting seem remarkable. England really was a different place.

But speaking of CR's younger brother, "His Grace York keeps a low profile in recent times. I had wondered if he pined for Lady O'Rourke?  or perhaps it is with the approaching birth of a new heir he reassess his situation. Hmm... it might do his public image much good to be wholly supportive of the new entrant. 

"I have heard Duke York is a remarkable military strategist, yet in the arena of court we do not hear often of his victories. That is perhaps because he is Catholic? It is the thing defines him. Perhaps it is possible, if CR's efforts towards toleration are day successful, then that religious label shall mean less to all men." She mused in that half-cut way of solving all the world's troubles. "Oh. I wonder if Charles efforts in that way, a quite particularly towards Yorkss favour. He must surely want the people to love his brother also."

She realise belatedly that she'd used the king's Christian name, which while allowable for Buckingham, might be over familiar. But it was already said. And this was a quiet manner of conversation, far far from pomp and ceremony.

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Nicci was never going to get a stellar appraisal about Monmouth from Buckingham, no matter what the boy did. The Duke hated the King's eldest son with a passion. 

 

"It is not as simple as that. Yes, of course, there is only one vote that counts. If the King were any man that would be all that mattered, but there is one very important thing that my master holds to very fast; he will not have the order of things in his country disrupted whilst he is King.

 

"Monmouth has proven repeatedly to disrupt the order of things, and that is sometimes the problem with natural children born utterly common." And Monmouth's mother had been of no birth or consequence and had previously been the lover of more than one man. In Buckingham's opinion, Charles was utterly daft for ever making the boy a duke! "For a King, it is the worst problem when your heir presumptive is unpopular like York. The King has to support his brother over his natural son, Nicci, no matter how he feels as a father and a man. That is the order of things and that is the burden of being King. And that is why those that have forced him to hold that position by using Monmouth's common ambition have fallen so spectacularly. Danby was a fool to place the King in a position where he had to choose between his royalty and his eldest son."

 

Buckingham neglected to mention that there was a premonition a few years back that everything would crumble if Charles turned his back on James, and while it was never spoken about anymore (technically treasonous to have the King's fortune read...), Charles had felt its impact, superstitious or not.

 

"The Catholics, as you should know from France, take Lent to a very serious degree, and York has no shame over reminding us all how very Catholic he is..." Buckingham replied with a snort of amusement. "No doubt, more shall be seen of him soon, though I cannot say I have missed his presence so very much." He grinned boyishly. To him, James was like an annoying little brother who was always trying to play with the big kids and wasn't very good at it. 

 

"The King's position on Toleration is philosophical, but also a response to his life experiences. In his flight as a youth, there were numerous Catholic subjects who helped him leave the country. He does not believe that loyalty is tested by religion but by action. And he has never wished to be a King who harms anyone for undue reason; he has lived too much of that."

 

So much so that Buckingham felt the King was a little too predisposed to forgiveness; the Duke conveniently forgot that he had benefit numerous times from the King's forgiving nature. He might have topped the charts on the number of times to be accused of treason without living out his life in the Tower or losing his head! So there was that.

 

Buckingham did not even notice her calling Charles by his Christian name, for it seemed quite natural for her to do so. Just as he also used it in privacy and with certain company.

 

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Buckingham spoke of the Kings regard for the 'order of things', a reference she did not understand at first. Hers had been more of an accident for mentioning York so soon after Monmouth, but as Buckingham continued on she understood it was the order of succession that he spoke of.

"Ah, yes..." The brunette nodded slowly, "and there cannot be any higher topic on our minds at this time. So much unrest shall be settled with the birth of a new heir, it shall be a whole new era for England."

"I suppose therein is the wisdom of the King's keeping Monmouth away at this time, his son is even protected by his absence." Nicolette reasoned with herself out loud, though she still found it sad for Monmouth to be removed from his father. At least James Scott could not be blamed for any oddities in England at the moment. She like to imagine that that was a foresight the father provided him.

While the Dukes further words, thoughts on toleration and the suffering the King had been through, brought a fresh softness to Niccis tone, "Your Grace, Duke Buckingham, or George if I am so bold," she sat her hand upon his, "do you know what a conduit to love that you are? You make me suffer such a sweet confusion, is my adoration of your master - which you let me view through the reflection in your eyes, in fact a love of the storyteller? Please don't answer, for it is a happy bliss to feel both - my heart is content to be bursting with it."

Yet again Nicci rued the existence of Gwendolyn, and also Mary Fairfax for that matter.

 

 

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