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Cavendish Conversation (End of Summer 1678)


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"William, you look hale," the 48 year old Duke of Newcastle greeted his 60 year old cousin, William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire.  "I had worried after your health last Christmas.  You seem to have made a full recovery."

"And you Henry,  I feel well." Devonshire replied as he adjusted his seat in the impressive gardens of Newcastle.  Servants had provided refreshment and discreetly disappeared so the two lords could engage in court gossip.  "My family is doing well, though my son has fallen in with the Country Party.  Other than that, I have few complaints."

"My son, Henry, is now betrothed to Lady Elizabeth Percy.  She seems to be a beauty like her mother.  Next year she turns 12 and Henry can wed her."

"Congratulations Henry," the Earl uttered honestly.  "The Percy lands belong in the hands of the North.  Your potential grandchildren will be the most desirable matches in all of the three kingdoms."  Taking a sip of mulled wine, he touched upon a more sensitive topic.  "What is this I hear bout your Frances?"

The Duke's smile vanished.  This was becoming something of a family scandal.  Already her betrothal with Henry Howard had been annulled, and now ... . "She was betrothed to Dorset.  Quite the coup as well," the Duke began.  "A double earl."  He needed something stronger to drink.

"Dorset was beaten near to death by that lunatic Pembrooke over some litigation.  There was an unexplained fire at the offices of our solicitor and all of the betrothal papers were destroyed.  When we asked to re-execute the papers, Dorset declined, saying his near death experience had changed his view.  I had thought he meant more religious in orientation of course; but, the man became all the more the libertine, if that be possible.  We talk no more."

"Most curious," Devonshire ventured.  "Your next daughter Margaret debuted last season."  It was the delicate way to point out the dilemma of a twice rejected daughter blocking the progress of the next daughter.

"Yes, my lady wife has her eye on two earls for Frances," Henry revealed.

"Let's hope it is not Rochester," William laughed hoarsely.  The Duke joined in "Heavens no!"

William went on as he eyed the gardeners in the distance.  "The Howards fare poorly.  Norfolk found a pup of a viscount to marry one of his bastards."  the old man chuckled as the rivalry between the Cavendishes and Howards was legendary.  "Arundel hates his wife who is untrue to him, and his father-in-law Petersborough is a Catholic spy they say.  And then Arundel and his father hate each other as well.  It is so amusing to see clever Norfolk in disarray."

"We need to keep it that way William.  Norfolk has been trying to purchase a title for his bastard and I continue to thwart it with my own well-placed bribes.  We need to play up the tales of Catholic intrigues about Norfolk, Arundel and Petersborough.  They are like dry wood waiting for the match."  Henry smiled in a conspiratorial way.

"Why Henry, are we to play at this game when we go to Windsor?" Devonshire displayed mock surprise.  "Rest assured that Norfolk will be trying to make matters worse for our family as well.  He is a grand schemer."

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