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Opening Reception


Prince Rupert
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Windsor.  The royal residence stands on a ridge in the county of Berkshire. The castle occupies 13 acres above the banks of the River Thames.  Two quadrilateral-shaped courts are separated by the massive Round Tower. The court west of the Round Tower is called the lower ward while the court to the east is called the upper ward.

It was in the upper ward that the Constable of Windsor Castle, Prince Rupert the Duke of Cumberland, chose to host a welcome session for the newly arrive guests at the castle.  The accommodations and apartments were fewer in number than the amount of attendees.  Rupert knew there would be, as there always was, heated complaints of guests that envied and felt deserving of better quarters.  The Prince had little patience for drama over trivial slights.  Much thought had gone into the room allocations.  Fortunately, His Highness benefited from the administrative prowess of his aide Beverley.

The music of a quartet filled the air of the terrace outside the apartments while wine filled the goblets of the guests.  It was a rare moment for Cumberland not to be trapped in inane babble of sycophants, so he took advantage of the moment to look at the guests gathering.

The Duke of Lauderdale had arrived the week before from Scotland.  It was odd not to see him in the company of Murray, a man known to be his right hand.  Cumberland and Lauderdale went back many years.  While Cumberland viewed his own service as that benefitting the Crown, the Prince viewed the Scot as a man more interested in benefitting himself.  He had built a fiefdom in Scotland with an iron fist, making many enemies, but keeping the Scots in line, mostly.  It was interesting to see the older man standing aloof from the crowd.  Could he sense his own demise?  His days were numbered, but was Lauderdale aware of it?

Nearby was the Earl of Arlington, another old-timer. He had fallen far, but not into oblivion.  Once he had been one of the King's closest advisors, as well as the Northern Secretary, with his daughter engaged to the King's bastard son.  He had been impeached by Parliament, stripped of offices, yet saved by the King with the token office of Chamberlain.  It gave the pompous ass a white staff of office to wield as if it were anointed by God.  Thought to be thoroughly corrupt, Rupert had no time for the man.  He was surprised to see the Earl in the company of Aubrey de Vere, the 20th Earl of Oxford, a lord of similar vintage.  Oxford had his own military unit.  He was said to have secretly married an actress, not unlike Rupert, was a favorite of Barbara Villiers, who had fallen from the King's favor, and was a rival to Buckingham.  Needless to say, the Earl had picked the wrong horses to bet upon in 1678.  Nevertheless, he had the respect of Rupert.

There was a loud noise from a group nearby.  It was the gathering of the Cavendishes, a clan that seemed to grow like weeds.  The Duke and Duchess of Newcastle stood together laughing with family.  The eldest daughter, Elizabeth, had married the Duke of Ablemarle and was said to be one of the wealthiest ladies of the land, but it was said that she was barren and a bit mad about occult nonsense.  There was young Henry Cavendish, Lord Ogle, newly betrothed to Lady Percy, an extremely wealthy 11 year old heiress.  He was said to enjoy chasing skirts more than glory.  The second eldest daughter was in the group as well -- Frances.  There was all sorts of gossip about her betrothal being up in smoke with Dorset.  The Prince cared little for gossip, but his mate Peg Hughes loved it.

Speaking of Dorset, the normally effervescent double earl seemed muted with his group, commonly known as the Merry Gang.  It was said that Dorset had been beaten severely by the mad Earl of Pembrooke.  Rupert could tell that the man had lost weight from last season and had a different air about him.  He stood with the insufferable Earl of Rochester and Charles Sedley, no doubt laughing at the expense of someone present.

Bristol, something of a legend, at least in his own mind, stood with his son-in-law, the Earl of Sunderland and Northern Secretary.  They were speaking with the Earl of Arundel, a Howard at war with his father, the Duke of Norfolk, and his wife if gossip was to be believed.

Heneage Finch was a man who treated gossip with the same disdain as Cumberland.  He was the Chancellor of England and a man respected as not being thoroughly corrupt like so many other courtiers.  He had just arrived and was in the company of Richard Sterne, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Sterne had replaced Sheldon in '76, elevated from his position as Archbishop of York.  There was nothing remarkable about the man as far as Rupert was concerned.  He was something of an academic.

Others were beginning to arrive now.  The King and Queen were scheduled to arrive later, if they might.  Rupert sighed as he readied himself for the prattle and banter that typically accompanied events such as this.

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Lady Lucas, while being part of the larger assembly of Family, stood a bit apart as it allowed her a better perspective. Her gazed traveled over and lightly rested on each face then stopped to linger on that of Lady Frances. Gossip would have Everyone believing that she was bedridden and weeping in anguish as her betrothal with the Earl of Dorset had literally gone up in smoke or some such thing. Personally she thinks that Lady Frances was looking anything but downtrodden. Now whether it was a front of sheer Bravado she could not say by either way she approved of the girl showing herself here right from the start. Best to get it out of the way and tongues will wag and eyes will watch no matter what she did. Moving on she searched out that now single Gentleman - the Earl of Dorset himself. He too if talk was to be trusted had been severely trounced by another Earl namely Pembroke but the Company he kept was his usual and she knew not enough to understand if he was out of character to not.

She took a delicate sip from her goblet admiring the way the cream lace fell from her elbow and complemented the gown of taffeta that was the color of Blueberries with an undertone of red that showed as she moved. It was new and she had had to go without some things for the last part of the summer months but it was worth it. This was a new Season and she was about to launch herself with it so justification was an easy thing. Her 'Plans' were not that many yet two were the most important and as such she felt much like a General surveying the field and planing her maneuvers. She moved on from Dorset and took in the other groupings nodding or passing a smile to those she knew as she waited for more arrivals.

She wondered if the Basildon's would appear with that Dutch girl even tho she had said to the Countess that further talks were needed before she was "Officially' introduced. But then she had no real control she supposed as some months had passed without any contact. It might mean a re-building to where they last had been and then actually time spent with she and the younger girl. She knew only what Lady Basildon had told her and that tableau that had been presented for her initial meeting. She doubted very much that was the actual fact and so it was now that she, Lady Lucas, must begin to introduce her ways. She would begin by asking for a private meeting with the girl and see how things progressed.

She decided to take a slow stroll for two reasons - one was so that she might be admired and secondly to see what things she might 'overhear' in passing   .......

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Dundarg liked Cumberland, they were both militarily minded. It had been quite some time since he'd last been at Windsor, but Douglas recalled vividly when Buckingham's little Welsh mistress had arrived late, having been accosted by brigands and all her things stolen. Douglas had taken a couple of ornate coaches, loaded them up with Lifeguards and set a trap for the brigands, which had worked perfectly. Well, except for Hale getting his leg injured, but that shot had cost the brigand leader his life at the end of Douglas's blade. They'd retrieved Gwen's things along with assorted other prizes of brigandry, including a diplomatic package which included some very odd, elongated glass drops. One of his men had recognised the glass as Prince Rupert's Drops, so on the theory that they should probably be returned to him, Douglas had taken the packet to Cumberland. He'd watched in shocked fascination as the Prince had demonstrated one of the drops for him, breaking off the tail only for the entire thing to shatter and explode. He'd wondered aloud whether there was any application of the drops as a weapon, and he and Cumberland had fallen to talking about weaponry advances. Rupert was heavily into developing guns and canons for Naval use and had shown him his latest experiment, a long range rifle. Douglas had expressed his admiration of the concept, and Cumberland had generously given him one of the prototypes to trial in the field. It was heavier and more unwieldy than a standard rifle, and a pain in the butt to load due to it's length, but it had a range previously unheard of and there were times when that was what was needed. His Rupertinoe Rifle was still one of Douglas's most prized possessions. 

Some people sought to be fashionably late, but as a Life Guard Douglas tended to arrive early if he possibly could. He took his duty to protect the Royal Family very seriously, though he knew there would be guards on duty at Windsor already. This was Cumberland's power base and favourite haunt after all. Resplendent in his best uniform, Dundarg cut quite the figure in red velvet, copious lace and gold edging, silk sash and enough fluffy white feathers to cover the brim of his hat. He felt properly dressed in his uniform, as he never did in courtly clothes. Douglas had long known he was a military man before anything else. 

Quite a few of court's upper echelon's were already present, including the Cavendishes in all their extensive glory, some of the Merry Gang, and some of the King's inner circle. He noted the Duke of Lauderdale, but glancing around could see no evidence of Murray, the young man who seemed to be ever in his presence. Lauderdale looked vaguely tired to Douglas's eyes; perhaps his age was catching up to him. Despite two wives and countless ladies taken advantage of, to Douglas's knowledge he had only one child and that a daughter; he wondered whether Lauderdale contemplated the future. 

Dundarg certainly had been, at least his own future, and he was looking forward to reuniting with his sisters at court and seeing those there whom he called friends. A lady drifted past, one of the extended Cavendishes; Lady Cordelia Lucas. It had been some time since they'd spoken but she'd once been kind enough to give him some good advice during the Christmas Ball at the end of the last year, and even deigned to dance with him, proving to be surprisingly enjoyable company. 

"Lairdy Lucas." He tipped his hat to her politely as she passed. 

 

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She had spotted the tall Scot earlier for he did indeed stand above everyone else and wearing his splendid red uniform he was quite a dashing figure.

"Baron Dundarg." She returned his salute with her own curtsey. "Have you been well?"

Her gaze traveled over his face noting his still sharp features and those amazing blue eyes .....

"Have you come with your sisters then or traveled alone? So many had thought to remain in London - the new baby and all- so it was a surprise when it was said Windsor for this Season."

"We should start to fill up pretty quickly and I do not envy those that have not the foresight to arrange lodgings!"

"Yet we all shall feel safer knowing that the Life Guards are well represented."

"The last time we spoke twas Christmas. I hope things have gone well for you."

She smiled up at him her mind jumping ahead with the idea that he would indeed make a fine husband he just need the right girl sent in his direction!

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Dundarg smiled warmly at her as Lady Lucas paused to speak with him. Perhaps not an obvious combination, Douglas found her somewhat motherly ways quite comforting - he'd not known his own mother - and she seemed more than happy to oblige. Her cheery disposition was pleasant and she seemed possessed of the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger lady. 

"Aye m'Lairdy, verra weel, thank ye fer askin'." He replied mildly. "An' yersel? I trust the year's been guid tae ye?"* He asked, since it had been at least two thirds of said year since they'd last spoken. It was good to see that she was at Windsor. 

It wasn't surprising that people would expect this season to be at London again, what with the arrival of the Royal heir. At last; the country could breath a sigh of relief. He did wonder whether or not Queen Katherine would travel up to Windsor; the assumption was that the King would of course. What would be, would be. They'd find out soon enough exactly which Royals would be in attendance. Certainly Lady Lucas didn't need to worry about her family's attendance, there were copious Cavendishes already in present, though whether or not it was all who should be, he couldn't say. He lost track of their more rambling branches.

"I cammed doon frae Aberdeen." He replied, when she asked after his own family and their arrivals. "The girls weel be arrivin' in thair ain time, if they haevnae alrairdy."** He wasn't quite certain where Cat and the tribe had been last, they seemed to be moving around a lot of late. He was looking forward to seeing them; the disadvantage of throwing himself into his duties up north was that he missed out on the excitement and family time down south. 

Had things gone well for Douglas? He felt that they had. "I tak my duties as Laird Lieutenant verra seriously, which is why I hae been in Aberdeen. That an' managin' my estate." He smiled at the thought. "But I'd day things hae gane weel, thank ye."*** Very well. Extraordinarily well really, for the bastard son of a Scottish Viscount. Fate and sense should have had him continue to serve in the Regiment du Dumbarton, eventually marrying and settling down somewhere with a little plot of land or some small business, and disappearing into mediocrity. But a skill in soldiering had seen him recommended to the Life Guards, and a refusal to settle for any less than he absolutely had to had seen him progress from there. Yes he'd made some fairly spectacular stuff-ups and a few enemies, but he'd also made a lot of friends, and achieved some things he never should all. Some time to himself over the last year had given him a chance to meditate on the subject, and realise just how good his life was looking right now. 

"Whit aboot yersel' m'Lairdy?" He asked, a little curious. He tried to think of what he knew of her family, but beyond the fact that she was a widow and had some distant connection to the Cavendishes, he didn't know much. "I hope ye dinnae mind me askin'," he said a little more diffidently, "but do ye hae ony children? Haps a fine lad or lassie at coort?"+ He really couldn't place anyone in his mind. 

Subtitles
* "Yes my Lady, very well, thank you for asking. And yourself? I trust the year's been good to you?"
** "I came down from Aberdeen. The girls will be arriving in their own time, if they haven't already."
*** "I take my duties as Lord Lieutenant very seriously, which is why I have been in Aberdeen. That and managing my estate. But I'd say things have gone well, thank you."
+ "What about yourself, my Lady? I hope you don't mind me asking, but do you have any children? Perhaps a fine son or daughter at court?"

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Cat never cared for the fashion of being late.  You might miss something interesting.  So it was not that long after her punctual brother that she made her entrance.  She opted to go with her newest sapphire blue dress.  The blue base color worked well with the silver thread work for the brocade of the stomacher and over skirt.  Silver lace edged the skirt while seed pearls dotted the neckline which ran low but not threatening any escape of female flesh.  Around her neck and upon her ears, she wore pearls.  An ornamental fan was held in her hand.  This was not one of her ‘special’ fans, but a regular fan, but with a ocean scene embroidered across it.

 

Looking over those already assembled, she debated on who to approach first.  She was known to the Merry Gang, but they weren’t quite to her taste right now.  Oh lord, Lord Lauderdale.  Definitely a direction to avoid.  How was the man still living?  Obviously, the Devil was taking his time calling him home.  Prince Rupert would be interesting as he didn’t run to gossip and light talk, but maybe if she greeted him in his native tongue.  It always surprised people that she spoke multiple languages.  

 

And there, impossible to miss as always, stood her brother chatting with an older woman whom she wasn’t quite certain she had met before.  Maybe she had stayed away from court too long.  She bit her lip for a moment, pondering approaching.  Was now the time to tell him of Fiona’s troubles?  She hadn’t wanted to bother him while he was getting settled in his new position.  She was perfectly capable of taking care of their siblings.  But he was part of that bunch, so he should be made aware of what their little sister got herself info.  Even though he was a soldier, that didn’t mean he was invulnerable.  She hesitated.  Was now REALLY the time?

 

Fiona stopped next to her, dressed in her own signature color.  There had been almost a calm discussion (as close as Cat and Fiona could get to one) about Fiona joining her, but Fiona was the victor in this discussion.  Cat leaned close and whispered into Fiona's ear.  "Unless you wrote to Dougie about the threats, he doesn't know and I don't think this is the time or place to inform him," she said, nodding towards their only male sibling. 

Edited by Catriona MacGregor
Needed to add the danger prone sibling into the mix
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"No I do not mind." She assured him. 

"I have a son, John, and I now reside in his house in Piccadilly. My Recess was spent without much fanfare and I am glad to be back here."

"And have you a fondness for mince still?" She smiled up at him her eyes twinkling. "But in all seriousness I hope that you were successful on the topic that we spoke of last Christmas."

"I have wondered if you had found Happiness and now comfortable in a wedded state."

She had noted that he stood alone but that was not any indication that he had no wife for most spouses tended to separate at Functions and regroup later.

Her earlier thought that he was available might now be squashed. 

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Cordelia and Douglas

"Ah, a bonnie laddie. Ye mun be main proud o' him."* Douglas replied as Cordelia answered his question. She had a son, who would have inherited whatever title her husband had had. Memory was hesitantly waving a card with 'baronet' on it. And she was living with him in Piccadilly. It was good to know that she was being taken care of. He knew from his sister's experiences - and Heather's - that the life of a widow contained many freedoms but they included the freedom to get into difficulty with no one to rescue you. Family were important. 

Speaking of which, the appearance of a splash of colour heralded the arrival of two more to the reception, and Douglas focused beyond Cordelia for a moment to recognise his two eldest sisters; Catriona and Fiona. Looked at objectively they really were beautiful women, especially deckout out in full court finery, though having grown up with them Douglas saw the strong personalities and penchant for mischief that categorised them in his eyes. One of the reasons those two fought so much, in his opinion, was that they were so alike. The big difference was the responsibilities that Catriona had had to shoulder at a young age, which Fiona hadn't. He waited until at least Cat's gaze turned in his direction, and gave the pair a nod to indicate that he'd seen them. 

Cordelia drew his attention back with a question about mince, and it took Douglas a moment to understand her meaning. He was a young man, and a big once, he loved food in general, and meat in particular, but as she continued he realised she meant fruit mince, referring to the handful - and Douglas had large hands - of mince pies he'd swiped at the Christmas Ball before the food had been cleared away. Ah, she wanted to know how his pursuit of the ladies had gone, after their little conversation and her sage and motherly advice. His expression turned wry, almost chargrinned, but not without a rueful smile. "My sister weel tell ye I like aw food." He said, with a nod in Cat's direction across the gathering space, unsure whether Cordelia knew of his family. "I did attract a fine lairdy fer the last dance" and rather more afterwards, to his delight "but t'wasnae the lassie I was hopin' fer." He admitted. "Haps I was tae 'aloof', but more I think the young lairdy's mind wasnae in the game, sae tae speak."** Brigit had had other things on her mind then. He'd been quite distracted by the German princess, and that had been that. 

Not that he'd had a great deal of luck with ladies that season. He didn't know whether the Doolittles would be at Windsor, but if they were he owed Ellen and apology for his forwardness. Oh well. Not that he'd had a great deal of fortune overall. He attracted fanciers, which was always nice, but no real marriage prospects. Probably because he aimed too high. Mulgrave's sister had been his best prospect, but he'd found her a more highly placed husband, and good for him. Sophia had been married to that Spaniard. Even the young Scottish lass who played the hurdy-gurdy so well seemed to have gone back to Scotland. 

So no, he wasn't married. "Some happiness aye, but I'm nae wed." He admitted to Cordelia, since she asked. "Why do ye want tae ken?"*** He asked her, looking more amused than anything else. She'd only mentioned a son so surely she wasn't lining him up for her daughter. 

Subtitles
* "A, a handsome son. You must be very proud of him."
** "My sister will tell you I like all food. I did attract a fine lady for the last dance, but it wasn't the lady I was hoping for. Perhaps I was too 'aloof', but more I think the young lady's mind wasn't in the game, so to speak."
*** "Some happiness yes, but I'm not wed. Why do you want to know?"

Edited by Douglas FitzJames
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She gave him no reply regarding her son allowing him to form his own conclusions.

"You sister ...."

She followed the direction of his nod and saw a woman who was quite lovely and her memory did a little dance but she was left unsure.

"So you are the older then or is she? it does make a difference as children but now that you both are grown up it will cease to be an issue. But if you are the elder I think, based just upon her appearance, you will not have an easy time of it!"

She had turned back to face him her countenance a bit more serious as he had spoke of not having obtained his Quest from last year.

"Ah. Well I am sorry to hear it. But you must not let that have any affect for you are indeed a fine figure of a man and my offer made then still holds."

She saw his look so could not help the teasing as she added

"Have no fear for I have no daughter but I am well acquainted with many that DO. You will not find yourself lacking for company this Season if you wish it."

"You must introduce your sister to me as well - I mean if she too has a similar desire."

"You will find I am full of surprises!" 

She teased him again so that he would not take her with too much seriousness but yet still be curious.

She hoped.

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Charles Blount arriving then approaching Catriona McGregor.

 

The Marquis entered the reception and briefly stopped and crooked his left arm for his wife to hold before realizing that the Margravina was not accompanying him, she being in attendance of the Queen. They had spent much time together during the recess but now with the formalities of Court resuming they were likely to see much less of each other.  

The recess had allowed him the time to order patterns from France and have his Taylor Mr. Dalliard cut him several coats in the new fashion for the season at Windsor. He wore a closed justacorps of red velvet lavishly embroidered with gold and silver arabesques accenting the button in a ladder pattern. The sleves were longer this season and reached almost to the wrists with large turned back cuffs of black velvet almost hidden underneath a profusion of embroidery and lace. Chantilly lace ballooned around the cuffs and a matching cravat fell like a waterfall capped by a Chinese silk bowtie in Persian blue held by a splay of diamonds. Likely white silk culotts were hidden underneath the skirts of his coat but one would need to be very adventuresome to be able to confirm that detail. Visible to the more timid were a pair of black silk hose with Hungarian knots in gold about the ankles and black court shoes with red heels and red leather kilties. He also wore a new wig of auburn curls directly commissioned from the nunnery of Notre-Dam de Soissons* scented with parfum de Provence. They might be at war with France but one could still appreciate their sense of fashion.

He took the opportunity to survey the room and determine his next move. Prince Rupert was, obviously, in command of the room and somewhat surprisingly sans Beverly. Mountjoy was fond of the old cavalier as he was raised on stories of the prince’s exploits from his grandfather who served alongside the prince during the war. He thought about approaching him to discuss his lodgings. During the Recess he and his Ladywife had enjoyed a spacious suite of rooms but with the press of arriving courtiers they had been reassigned to less commodious quarters. As his wife’s duties required, their new lodgings were prestigiously close to the Royal apartments but with that location came decidedly inferior amenities to their chambers. Why his new bedchamber was little more than a closet without even a window. He decided against it however for he recognized the sacrifices required of courtiers and even as cramped as they were they were there would be many high-ranking personages with even less space. He was a trifle envious however for the Margravina’s bedchamber had I nice little window from which, if you looked off to the side, you could see a tree.

He therefore contented himself with catching the Prince’s eye from across the room and giving him a respectful bow. As for the rest, it was the usual crowd of important, even if some were less so, personages all deserving of social niceties but none stood out aside from Finch who was a particular acquaintance and Charles had just made up his mind to join the Chancellor and the Archbishop for a rousing discussion of cannon law when, out of the corner of his eye he espied a blue and silver dress, a colour that was favored by the Margravina. His attention was immediately diverted but instead of the fetching blond hair of his wife he was treated to a familiar rich chestnut main and immediately changed course and approached the tall beauty. Catriona was speaking to her younger sibling with whom Charles was not acquainted but he believed himself on sufficient terms that his interjection in their conversation would not be taken amiss.    

“Lady Alyth.” He greeted the taller of the two with an uncharacteristic familiarity. She was one of the first acquaintances he had made upon his initial arrival at Court and he had considered her late husband Adam a close friend. “It has been quite some time since I was last able to bow before you and express my solicitations.” He said before doing just that. “I daresay that you are as enchanting as ever as the epochs since we last encountered each other have apparently been very kind to you. Tell me is it the primordial Scottish mists that enhance your beauty so?”

He smiled and kindly glanced at Fiona awaiting an introduction.   

 

 

*The finest wigs were from nuns who shaved their heads as part of their investiture.   

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(OOC - Francis recess is approved, but I need to write the public knowledge version to post now that it's approved. It'll be there shortly ;) )

 

Francis arrives and moves about the room until approaching Cumberland

 

Francis was now a very self-conscious Lord Kingston given the copious amount of slanderous broadsheets that were currently making their way through London and Windsor calling him an undeserving upstart and calling attention to Charles Kirke's abhorrent behavior whilst alive, who everyone thought was his father. They postulated he was doing a very good job of fooling everyone himself and wondering why a veritable nobody had gone from simple gentleman to...Earl of Kingston...in less than 3 years. Upstarts who rose and came from nothing were not trustworthy or worthy, and all he had so far as everyone knew was being Buckingham's first cousin twice removed. 

 

Buckingham, though superbly perturbed that anyone dare attack Francis and thus himself that way, assured Francis that he was now fully a courtier, for one could not be a good one until one had at least one instance of scurrilous broadsheeting and pamphleting. He was also reminded that there was quite the family history of being called an underserving upstart, so it was a fine tradition to shoulder. 'Act as if nothing is wrong and that it is all beneath you, or make a joke of it,' Buckingham had advised. 

 

Still, Francis found it difficult considering how long and how hard he had worked to rid himself of Charles Kirke's reputation; indeed, of anything of Charles Kirke's at all. 

 

Taking Buckingham's advisement and wearing a fine ensemble of rich bronze, he arrived at the opening reception the Duke of Cumberland was hosting. Francis had arrived at Windsor early since he had duties to attend as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, but he had done a fine job of avoiding most people before that evening.

 

He caught sight of Arlington first and began moving as far from the man as humanly possible. Arlington was not very fond of him most days having found his court naivete upon his first appointment to be unworthy of Gentleman of the King...and he had already endured a verbal banging of that stupid white stick for the rumors he'd brought upon himself when arriving at Windsor. While a good portion of the Merry Gang shared the same position as he and oft brought insane rumors to themselves, Francis - with his youthful looks - was far easier to dress down like a youth. Though he'd kept his own council, he had been sorely tempted to remind Arlington that it was His Majesty who had made him an "upstart" by giving him title and position, and that it was hardly his own doing! He had, in fact, not even asked for his new title, Buckingham had. 

 

His blue eyes then lighted upon said Merry Gang next, and while he was very tempted to find refuge among friends and those more likely to tease him about the broadsheets than spurn him, he feared that might only give credence to the rumors that he engaged in the same base sort of behaviors as Charles Kirke. He did need to speak to Dorset, for he had heard upon coming home from seeing to some affairs in the North Ridings for Buckingham that their other cousin, Pembroke, had beaten Dorset to a pulp. Had he been home, he would have visited his friend and tried to entertain him in his misfortune and didn't want Dorset to think he'd been ignored. 

 

The direction he moved happened to be nearer Cumberland, who was devoid of his little aide Beverley, and devoid of the meaningless small talk that the military-minded prince hated. Though his grandfather had been close with Cumberland, Francis had many dealings with the German prince of his own, and they had always gone well and been generous for a man known to dislike the machinations of court. Francis was not much of a machinator either. He had gained the Prince's goodwill and good opinion when he offered his ship to the naval cause in protecting the channel from the French after the attack of the last Windsor season, after he had apprehended Ruvigny's bastard as complicit along with one of the Prince's tears invention, but they had many dealings after that as well. He had spoken at lords, in entirely impromptu fashion, when Cumberland had asked it of him. He had brokered a letter of marque through the prince for Melville which had resulted in coin for Cumberland's cause. Last season the King renaming his ship was supposed to also be an event to raise funds for Cumberland and the navy, but the potential attack on their majesties and then the Queen's birth had interrupted that affair.

 

Francis had come up with a new idea to inspire the lords of court to fund the Prince's naval causes whilst at Windsor and felt it might be an opportune time to mention it. He directed his course toward Cumberland and waited to see if the prince would welcome his conversation.

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Beverley arrives and tries to avoid room complaints

 

Beverley arrived at the reception wearing a splendid light blue yellow costume with the look of a very annoyed deer whom the hunters were closing in on. He had been accosted in the hallways on his way there by no less than 4 people either looking for rooms or complaining about theirs. He had deftly put them off one by one, but he knew it was just the beginning. 

 

His lady wife was currently attending the Queen, so she had been saved of dealing with disgruntled courtiers even if she was a very capable lady even for her youth. The Marquess and Marchioness of Worcester had clearly done very well with their children, and Beverley thanked God every day that he had made a great match in Mary. 

 

He took up a glass of wine from a passing servant and surveyed the room.

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Catriona, Fiona and Lord Mountjoy

Cat had been nodding back at Douglas when the ever fashionable figure of Charles Blount joined her and her younger sister.  She had to smile fully as he made his bow, to which she responded with a curtsy.  "Too long, I might say, my lord," she replied.  Indeed, she had isolated herself in her dark times for too long.  Besides, while she was aware that his wife was part of the Queen's household, he had never turned away from her for her relationship with the King.  "Those mists must be good for something," she replied with a chuckle in her voice.  "It would definitely explain why most of my siblings are so fair.  I doubt Dundarg would appreciate being called a beauty, though."  Her eyes darted to where Douglas stood for a moment before returning. 

 

"Speaking of fair siblings, may I present my sister, Lady Fiona MacBain, Viscountess Lochend.  Fiona, this is Lord Charles Blount, Marquess Mountjoy.  He was friends with Adam and, most importantly, provided the recipe for the cjookies with the chocolate bits in them that you and Aileen like most.  For that alone," she turned back to Charles, "you stand head and shoulders above most men in England, in my opinion.  Royalty aside, of course."  She gave his outfit the visual perusal it was due.  "Have you and Lady Mountjoy been well?"

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Cordelia and Douglas

Douglas had to stifle a full laugh and instead allowed himself a chuckle as Lady Lucas asked whether he or Catriona were the elder. "I'll do ye a favour and nae tell her ye asked that." He told the motherly busybody in quiet but amused tones. "I'm th'elder, by five years."* He glanced again at Cat, now conversing with Lord Mountjoy. Was he babyfaced, was she careworn, or was Lady Lucas's eyesight going? Douglas didn't think his sharp features and rangy build would ever be described as youthful, so it had to be one of the other two. Certainly Cat had lived an eventful twenty years; She'd raised her three sisters, survived two husbands and bourne her Royal lover a child. It was a lot, for one so young. Perhaps her responsibilities did weigh on her. 

Cordelia's commiserations and assertion that he was a fine fellow were a little unexpected, but oddly welcome. He couldn't help but like the woman, even as others might find her interest in their personal lives stifling. He did indeed recall her offer during the Christmas season as she reminded him, then assured him in the same sentence that she did not have a daughter of her own she was trying to marry off. "I did wonder." He replied, amused. Her offer had been very kind, and he'd thought about it whilst in Scotland. He probably needed all the help he could get. "Yer verra kind tae offer yer expertise, an' I wuid gladly accept, thou' I fear I micht prove ocht o' a challenge." He observed honestly to the older woman in quiet tones. "Thairs nae genteel way tae sae't I fear, but few men weel want an illegimate son-in-law, whae'er decorated."** And that was the truth of it. He had some excellent friends, but court ran on lording it over others, and bastardy was seen as just another reason to do so. 

Not only was Cordelia keen to offer him her 'expertise' but she asked after his sisters as well. A faint smile curved the big Scotsman's lips for a moment. Cat was happy with her situation as far as he knew, but Fiona could use all the help she could get. "I weel introduce ye at the first opportunity." He promised, glancing over at the girls again. "The elder is widowed, an' content sae far as I ken." He admitted, though it sounded odd for one as young as Cat. "But the younger haes need o' a husband."*** And if Cordelia was up to that challenge, Douglas would be forever impressed.

Subtitles
* "I'll do you a favour and not tell her you asked that. I'm the elder, by five years."
** "I did wonder. You're very kind to offer your expertise, and I would gladly accept, though I fear I might prove something of a challenge. There's no genteel way to say it I fear, but few men will want an illegitimate son-in-low, however decorated."
*** "I will introduce you at the first opportunity. The elder, Countess Alyth, is widowed, and content so far as I know. But the younger has need of a husband."

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Catriona, Fiona and Mountjoy

 

Indeed there was a time when the Queen was insecure in her new position and the King a trifle overt in his indulgences that pressure was brough to bear on Mountjoy to distance himself from the libertine circle in general and Lady Alyth in particular. While he had no qualms about distancing himself from the libertines for he did not share their indulgent ways, he steadfastly resisted any suggestion that there was any cause for scorn against the Scottish Lady. Blount could at times be practical, calculating and diplomatic but he was also very loyal to those he considered his close family and friends.

Glancing at the Hibernian Lord as Cat included him in his observation he quipped back “I believe the Scottish mists have an entirely different effect upon the male genus. I do concede, and I trust you do not find it overly critical, if I acknowledge that beauty would not be the first compliment that would come to mind concerning Lord Dundrag.” He chuckled to punctuate that this was but genteel banter. He had only met Douglas a few times before they were both flung abroad on differing missions.  

“At your service Viscountess Lochend, très enchantée to make your acquaintance.” He said as he kissed Fiona’s hand. “In all modesty I must give credit for those delightful cjookies to my cook who is a wonder with sweets and baked goods but I am glad that you enjoy them. I daresay that I shall miss her confections here at Windsor… speaking of which, are we able to look forward to your presence for the whole of the season or will you be cruel and deny us your presence?”

Then came a question concerning Lady Mountjoy and he froze for a moment. He did not know why he froze for the question was an appropriate one, expected one even, but it did hit a nerve that was still exposed and vulnerable. ‘Why no, in fact she has faded and put into jeopardy my entire dynasty.’  Was the first thing that ran through his mind and the uncharitable thought made him immediately feel guilty but he could hardly blurt out such a sentiment. He recovered and responded politely “Oh yes, quite well. The Margravina and I find the air of Windsor most salubrious You know how oppressive summer in London can be.” 

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