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A Mother's Gift


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Baptist May was a busy man collecting and paying royal debts, as well as engaging in creative fundraising.  A calendar of minor meetings was pushed aside to accommodate the Duchess of Norfolk.  She was the Duke's second wife and former mistress. Though many showed her little respect, the Norfolk lineage was proud and powerful.

"Your Grace, please have a seat.  May I offer you mulled wine?  I am honored you wish to see me."

"No thank you Master May.  I am here on business rather than pleasure."

"I suspected as much." May admitted as he pretended to not know why she was here.

"I'll not bandy words sir.  I am here on behalf of the Howard family and my son George."  She smoothed her expensive skirts as she launched into her speech.  "George is the natural son of the Duke and me.  The Duke, my husband, is willing to give George one of our many estates and we would like him to gain a title with it.  I was thinking an earl but the Duke indicated that a barony would be a good first step."

May played well the ignorance card for a time.  "Have you spoken to Finch?  He is the Royal Chancellor and the one who could pass legal judgement on it."

"I have consulted the Chamberlain and the Church.  They have each expressed understanding and have vowed to not have it within their power to accomplish anything without the King's blessing.  That is why I am here sir.  April 23rd is rapidly approaching and I know well that the King has used St. George's Day or his own birthday in May to grant new titles.  Never has there been a son of England more deserving of a title from His Majesty.  I am no ninny sir.  I know there is a cost and we are prepared to pay it.  You sir are the man to see.  I have yet to negotiate the proper ... gratuity to the Privy Purse.  You have but to name it."

"I am flattered that you think me so important your Grace.  I am but a simple adviser to the King  and help him achieve his financial goals.  This will be very difficult and complicated you see.  There is little time and these things do take time.  It could take years, even if it were possible."

"Cut to the quick sir," she bade him.  "The price?"

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"And so my Lord Chancellor. that is why I have come to see you," Lady Norfolk explained.  She had explained so much already.  "You are so difficult to see in London, so I waited for the Windsor season to seek you out."

Heneage Finch did not have a large desk to hide behind in the chapel.  Nor did he have impressive stacks of books behind him to add the illusion of scholarly pursuits.  She had caught him in the open.

"Your Grace, these legal matters are delicate.  It takes the approval of the King, the House of Lords, as well as the judiciary.  I am but one tile in the mosaic of the picture you wish to see," he added.

"You sir, are the Chancellor of England.  You are the most powerful lord in the realm save the King.  I daresay that one letter from you supporting this transfer could complete the deed.  Now then, my husband the Duke has many subsidiary titles.  His eldest has the title Arundel by right.  His other son Thomas could have the earldom of Surrey I suppose.  My George only needs one of the baronies of Beaumont, Fitzalan, Clun or Oswaldestre.  I know his grandson will have the title Maltravers.  I am asking for one modest accommodation.  You can pick the one the law supports," she insisted.

"You flattery me Your Grace.  Things are more difficult for children born out of wedlock, as you must know."

"There are plenty of bastards running about the Three Kingdoms and the Continent with titles Lord Chancellor.  Do not think me naive."

"Yes, but most all have royal blood," he pointed out in response, not seeking to be diplomatic necessarily.  "The law is more flexible for children of royalty."

The Duchess turned red and held her tongue for a change.  The King had populated the realm with plenty of bastards with titles, he married a bastard of a bigamist, and mistresses with no royal blood received titles sometimes.  "It should not be a major thing to give but one minor title to a son.  We are now married and surely the law must recognize a distinction," she pressed.

"I shall instruct one of my clerks to do some research on this issue Your Grace.  Perhaps we might have an answer by the time we return to London."

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