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PC Recess Summaries (Summer 1678)


Blackguard
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Catriona McGregor

 

Upon arrival at Alyth, she was notified that there were possibly wolves nearby as they had found at least 8 carcasses of sheep over the time she was gone, ripped open and partially eaten.   It had been some time since wolves were seen in the lower areas of Scotland.  They were more likely to exist up in the Highlands.  Still, this was a problem.  The sheep farmed on the property and surrounding areas were used primarily for their wool, which was sold at the markets established in town when the drovers were coming through.  There were goats and cattle, but they were not the main funding.  Cat had plenty of money to keep things going for some time, but the income from the wool was a great help in off-setting costs.  She authorized the purchase of more dogs for protection of the animals as well as enlisted a few soldiers to patrol farther out.  More expenditures, but with a view of the future, they were necessary.  Such was the life of agriculture and livestock raising.  While no howls could be heard at night other than the dogs sometimes, there were still deaths, but only a few.

 

She approached the blacksmith who had made the blades for her original dagger fan and commissioned another 4 sets.  The man grumbled, but the price was right and he set to work.  Two of the former Scottish soldiers from the Veterans Hospital, who had been discharged, had experience in blacksmithing as apprentices, and had been attached to the smith shop as help, so it would take less time than last time.  She had enough fabric for the coverings.  It never hurt to have back up and if she could just get one of her sisters interested in self-defense…

 

With Shona and Aileen set up with tutors and art instructors and dance instructors and whatever else they wanted to learn, she set about getting Nessie set with a permanent governess.  One of good Scottish stock.  She interviewed a couple, mostly daughters from local gentry who didn’t have a betrothal and/or a dowry.  None of them seemed quite the right fit.  Her housekeeper told her of an older lady who had natural healing knowledge that might fit.  A cousin of her husband’s brother-in-law.  She’d had her bairns and they had grown and left as they do.  Her husband passed several years back and she had no particular ties to the area  Cat agreed to meet her.

 

Immediately, Cat decided she'd work out just fine.  With a calm demeanor but spine of steal, after raising 5 rambunctious boys, she was both good with Nessie and had a vast knowledge of herbal lore that Cat wanted to learn.  Never hurt to know more about local plants and their uses.  Agnes MacDonald knew both the ones that healed and the ones that killed.  Being who she was, she dove into learning all she could, Shona joining in.  She had always had a leaning towards learning healing.  

 

Also during that time, she had a long sitdown with herself concerning her refusal to fully move on after Adam’s death.  Their romance had been a whirlwind and she knew she loved him, but he wouldn’t want her to mourn him for the rest of her life.  He’d be pushing her to find someone else who made her happy.  Someone who would give her more children.  Someone who might, and these were the hardest words to think, help her with her family.  The word marriage was not mentioned, but life never did what you planned.  When she went back to London, she’d order a whole new wardrobe with brighter colors.  Oh, no pastels or such that the virginal misses wore about.  Bold colors again.  Colors that showed she was alive.  Hmmm…

 

Next, she found one of the guards, a former cavalry soldier who had lost an eye in battle who came from the soldiers’ ward at Chelsea hospital, who was willing to help her with her sword mastery.  He was French on his mother’s side but Scottish on his father’s, so she forgave the French part.  Jacque Fletcher, known to his companions as Jack, might have lost some depth perception, but he lost none of his ability to wield a sword and teach how it should be used properly.  The physical exertion helped add some muscle beneath her curves, but no matter what she did, she remained more top heavy than before. 

 

About a month or two into their retreat at Alyth House, a letter arrived from Charles.  Its contents both chilled her and enraged her.  Someone was trying to kill her sister and threatening her and the younger girls?  And her daughter?  Someone had a death wish, because Cat wouldn’t think twice about killing in defense of those under her care.  In a whirlwind of silk and leather and cotton and whining (because what child likes packing or traveling), the household, with Agnes and Jack in tow, took to the roads three days later.  

 

This time, things did not go so smoothly.  A horse went lame and they had to wait a day to get a new one that wasn’t afraid of Scathach.  Then the wheel broke, causing another delay.  What might have been a normal travel of a week took 10 days.  A reply had been sent ahead by Cat to Charles, as well as one for the house to be prepared for the whole gaggle of girls.  By the time they finally reached London, Cat sending the younger girls and Nessie to the house under heavy guard, she was practically frothing at the mouth.  

 

Arriving at the Palace, she demands to see Charles and her sister.  Giving the soldier her name, she is finally escorted up.  Upon seeing Fiona, Cat wraps her in a tight, smothering hug, before pulling her back and demanding she head home.  This was the beginning of a spectacular sister fight.  There was screaming, crying, stomping, accusations flying, but they managed not to actually physically fight.  Finally, their tempers were sated and after a discussion, including Charles, who had been mostly ignored by the women, it was decided that Fiona would stay in the palace.  Did Cat like this outcome?  Of course not.  But she trusted Charles to keep her sister safe in all ways.  And if this person was lurking around her house, it was better Fiona wasn’t there.  

 

She thought about sending the girls back to Scotland, but simply couldn’t do it to them.  Besides, tutors and art and dance instructors lived in London too.  So she returned to the house, where everyone was getting settled in and pulled her master of the guard and let him know what was going on.  The Alyth guards were all former soldiers who had nowhere else to go after the war ended.  He knew who best to set where, as he had been her first hire and he was loyal.  

 

After a good night’s rest, she headed into town and to her shop, where she retreated to the tiny office and went over the books.  Something seemed off, but as distracted as she was with Fiona’s situation and the upcoming Windsor season, so she couldn’t find it.  But everything seemed to be moving smoothly, so she tucked that worry into the back of her mind.  She then made an appointment with the modiste to get her new wardrobe started.  Along with the dresses and all the bits and bobs that go with it, she added the additions that she required.  Corsets with a space for a dagger between the bosom and garters that could double as knife sheaths.  A lady could never be too prepared.

 

So her routine would begin.  Knife practice and baking in the morning followed by breakfast with her youngest sisters and Nessie.  Report from her guards.  Look for other women who know the beneficial uses of plants (for health and revenge).  Stop by the shop every so often to keep an eye on things.  Butt her nose where it doesn’t belong in the name of her family’s safety.  Sword practice with Jack.  Join the girls for afternoon play then dinner.  Dressing up in her masculine disguise to sneak about if any good information is obtained some evenings, sharing information with Charles either in person or via note.  Generally getting ready for the next season as any other lady would do.  Except some of her clue chasing led her to rather uncomfortable situations, like a bordello where a prostitute graphically propositioned her and the time she stumbled into a room where two men were greatly enjoying each other.  She was considered a libertine, but she wasn’t THAT libertine.  She knew there were those who preferred members of their own gender, but she never thought to see it in action.

 

A month before the nobility would gather at Windsor for the season, Cat decided to send her younger sisters and Nessia back to Scotland with most of the guard who had followed them to England.  Would she suffer from separation anxiety?  More than likely.  Mother hens aren’t known for letting their chicks out of sight.  But, did she feel it was necessary?  Yes.  Alyth would have better security, as strangers would be noticed by not only the guards and soldiers of Alyth, but by the townspeople and merchants.  

 

Plus, she planned on making herself available during the Season, so if someone was out to hurt one of Fiona’s sisters, she’d be a prime target.  Of course, that would be if the individual was unaware of Cat’s martial skills.  It had been a while since the Dutch banquet and sword contest.  For all she was aware, most people only knew her as a former mistress of the King and mother of another of his bastards.  Not a knife wielding woman who could defend herself and others.  In addition, her lessons with Agnes and a few other herbalists had given her a solid foundation on both good and bad uses of plants.  She’d even gotten her hands on a book full of recipes, though she hadn’t had the nerve to try any of them out yet.  

 

She was going to pen a letter to the Chamberlain, inquiring if there might be rooms across from each other, though if a suite was available, she’d greatly appreciate it, with her sister still being across the hall.  The two couldn’t stay in the same rooms together.  Fiona’s stalker would be late for the murder party, as the two women would likely tear each other apart, no matter how much they loved each other.  They just were too stubborn.  

But before she put pen to paper, her Mother Hen genes reared up and bit her.  She knew she had lost her mind when she wrote her solicitor to rent a house in Windsor, with at least 4 bedrooms.  There were too many females to place in such small quarters in the palace.  Luckily, one was found quickly and close by.  A pretty Tudor style home with four bedrooms, a dining room, parlor, and library.  A small stable that can hold 3 horses and tack and carriage resides on the property as well.  A walled garden, most of it settling down to slumber for the winter, completes the rental. Perfect for 5 females.

 

When the day came to leave, Cat went to Somerset Palace to pick up her sister, who’s wardrobe and accessories were already packed and being sent forth with Cat’s and the other girls.  Fiona wasn’t happy, as she would have preferred to travel with Charles and his soldiers, but the impropriety would send the wrong message.  Plus, if her little sister’s attempted murderer was watching, it would possibly make him or her more willing to take chances with Fiona’s seeming vulnerable away from Charles’ guards.  If he attempted to accost them in the carriage, she was well armed.  Besides the dagger in her bosom, knives attached by garters and a special sheath up her sleeves, there was a small bottle of indeterminate contents stashed in her pocket.  It was one that Agnes had given her after a bit of bribery on Cat’s part. 

So Countess Alyth, Viscountess Lochend, the younger MacBains and Nessia took to the road to Windsor.  Five females.  One carriage.  How bad could it be?

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Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy

Taking the King’s concern for the Queen’s safety to heart, Mountjoy decides to forgo retiring from Court for the summer and accompany Their Majesties to Windsor. Given the Queen’s condition and subsequent recovery his duties as Master of Horse were trivial and, in light of being away at Windsor and the Parliament in summer recess, his obligations as Solicitor General were similarly reduced permitting him the opportunity to structure his activities without the usual professional calls upon his time.

He increased greatly the time he spent among the Queen’s household and the remaining Ladies attending Her Majesty allowing him to not only enjoy their company in a social setting but enabling him to keep a watchful eye out for any harm that might befall the Queen. He found a copy of the Chanson de geste in the bookshop of Windsor Town and took it upon himself to entertain the Ladies in the afternoon by reading passages of the poem and creating other diversions for their enjoyment. One such occasion for the Court was an outing to Windsor Great Park to ‘observe the Great Tits’ which was uncommonly well attended. The Ladies were delighted with the sight of the bright plumage and pleasant song of the birds which had gathered in great number but some of the gentlemen in attendance were heard to mutter in disappointment that the expedition was entirely not what they expected at all. Another highlight which pleased the Ladies was a plaster fountain which he had commissioned that dispensed wine into a clamshell bowl from a comely and entirely naked satyr that bore an uncommon resemblance to Lord Kingston.

He made it a habit, as he did in London, to accompany the King on his morning constitutionals when his Majesty felt so inclined to exert himself. In cultivating this sociability, he was mindful not to discuss business or anything that would be contentious for Charles Rex often found such topics burdensome and Blount, knowing that the King preferred diverting company tried not to mix business with pleasure whenever he could avoid to do so.

The extensive parks surrounding Windsor provided Mountjoy with the convenience of being able to escape for an hour or two during the days for a bit of hunting, a spot of shooting or even a simple gallop amongst the countryside whenever the fancy took him. He could always be obliged upon if the Gamekeeper was in need of a dear or other wildlife for the kitchens. He also took this opportunity to take some of the Queen’s horses out for runs to gage their fitness and make notes in case new acquisitions needed to be made. And engaged in correspondence with his friends particularly Heneage committing to seeing him during the regular season.     

This time attending the Queen also allowed him to spend much more time with Ursula than they were able to do in London as they were able to perform many of their reduced duties together. This was the most time they had been able to spend together in years and went a great way in reestablishing the closeness they originally shared when first married. Their time together was mostly filled not with grand social occasions but more with commonplace pleasurable matters. Wile the Ladies were gathered doing needlepoint they could draw off to the side and speak candidly without interruptions about the little things in their lives that they customarily had not the opportunity to do so before. The Court being technically in recess allowed them the informality to involve themselves in each other’s duties and share such familial domesticity not customarily accorded to those of their class and station. This heretofore unachievable state of mingling together in both time and quality began to erode the walls they had set up between themselves. This newfound intimacy not surprisingly manifested itself in an additional way, as Charles’s legal friends might have put it ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ or perhaps more precisely ‘Cum hoc ergo propter hoc’ in a situation that was to alter their relationship even more profoundly. 

One morning, after a few days of Ursula seeming to be preoccupied and pensive she took Charles aside and informed him that the Doctors had confirmed that, although it was still in the early stages, she was with child. This news was joyously received by Charles who was ecstatic at the prospect. Being so pleased he redoubled his attentiveness on Ursula and in a state of unaccustomed boastfulness, could not help himself from announcing the occasion throughout the Court. It was rumored that the King who, being the jovial monarch that he was, commented to his gentlemen that ‘It appears hunting is not the only pastime Lord Mountjoy enjoys. 

Originally not planning to quit Court these altered circumstances altered his plans and he requested leave for he and his Ladywife to travel to their country seat in Dorset to inform their family of the joyous news. Their Majesties had no objections so he wrote to his Mother that they would be arriving shortly. The trip to Dorset was not overly taxing as the Queen put one of the Royal coaches at their disposal which ensured they received priority remounts and services along the turnpikes and with the minimum inconvenience they were soon ensconced at the Mountjoy seat of Athelhampton about six miles from Dorchester.

His Mother, who still resided at the estate, was there to greet them and his two sisters who were in the area visited with their families. Charles eagerly spread the news of his impending heir as he hosted several house parties for the local gentry. He did need to spend some time engaged in the affairs of running the estate but as his mother had in effect been running the estate since he was off at school there was not an overabundance of matters that needed his attention. The Local Vicar, sensing an opportunity, sought an audience to request twenty pounds in order to fix the church roof to which, in his continuing good mood, was readily donated and the few tenants that had issues found their landlord to be markedly obliging in his terms and decisions. Such distractions as these were dealt with early leaving most of his time for leisurely pursuits. Charles was exceedingly attentive and obliging to Ursula during their stay going so far as to forgoing any hunting opportunities in order to stay by her side.

They spent three idyllic summer weeks without a seeming care in the world.

The gardens of Athelhampton were not extensive but they were quite fine and in full bloom thus providing a pleasant backdrop for many a leisurely stroll where he and Ursula could converse casually without distractions or provide warm sweetly scented breezes to lighten the drawing rooms in the evenings. The river piddle bordering the estate provided the opportunity for punting along its scenic banks or picnicking in one of its bordering water meadows. Charles arranged for leisurely carriage excursions sometimes including the entire family to some of the more picturesque local landmarks or to visit the local gentry. Being around familiar surroundings Charles often spoke nostalgically about his boyhood adventures and pointed out his childhood haunts wile musing on plans for his son if he was to be so blessed with an heir. Their son, naturally, was to attend Oxford but he was malleable on his initial education asking Ursula’s opinion on the pros and cons of sending him to boarding school vs. engaging a private tutor and the advantages of raising him in London or the country and various other musings on the boy’s life and career. Being a practical man Charles realized it was too early to buy a pony for his son.

This time in Dorset would be looked back upon fondly by Charles as a halcyon summer when everything was right and their path forward was clear and bright. But like all ideals this one had to fade as all too soon these pleasant days fleeted by and it was time to load up the coach and make their way back to Windsor. On the way down they took two days to leisurely travel the distance but with a steady change of post horses if one traveled with alacrity one could make the trip in one long day of travel and as Mountjoy wished to prolong their sojourn as much as possible he left it till late to return so opted to push the coach and horses to make the trip in one stage. All went well until somewhere outside Basingstoke the wheel splintered and their carriage overturned. They were jostled about a bit but there were no injuries other than to their schedule as they were delayed as the postillion rode ahead to summon assistance to right the carriage and replace the wheel. Thus, they did not arrive in Windsor until late in the evening.

 Back in Windsor with the Queen they both resume their duties. The blissful time at Athelhamption had come to a close but Charles was still very attentive to Ursula and although their duties did take them apart from time-to-time Charles was able to spend at least every evening with Ursula so their reproachment continued. He did resume the reciting poetry to the Ladies in the afternoon, this time from ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’, a copy of which he found in the Library at Athelhampton and only a little dented from the carriage upset. Things were still going very well for Charles.

With the reconvening of the Court only weeks away one afternoon when Charles was reciting the rather saucy tale of ‘Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’ Ursula excused herself claiming she felt a little indisposed but it was just a trifle and there was nothing to be concerned about. After a time, the Queen was called away but commanded Mountjoy to continue his reading to the Ladies. As more time passed a sense of unease began to manifest itself which greatly increased when the Queen returned and abruptly commanded her Ladies to accompany her to her bedchamber, thanked Lord Mountjoy for his attention, released him from further service for the day and asked if he would be so good as to wait to address a matter. 

This was very curious and at first he thought that there may be a security issue but it was the Queen’s Doctor who next entered and very softly and conciliatorily explained that there was no cause to be alarmed, which immediately alarmed Charles, and that Lady Mountjoy was in no danger, which in turn caused Charles to fear that she was indeed in danger. The Doctor continued, stressing how sorry he was to inform him, but that Lady Mountjoy had suffered an irregularity causing her to cease to quicken thereby resulting in a miscarriage of the child. The Doctor hastened to add that at such an early stage of pregnancy there was little risk to the mother but then went on to explain that Ursula has reached ‘The end of her childbearing age and now suffers from…’ as he explained ‘…an inhospitable womb’ and it would be unlikely that she would be able to bear any more children.   

The Doctor went on to explain that, other than a regular regimen of bloodletting and purges which was always to be advisable, with a bit of rest Lady Mountjoy would suffer no lasting ill effects from her barren status. The Doctor added in an attempt to put a positive spin in the diagnosis that, after about a fortnight to allow the humors to rebalance, he should redouble his husbandly attentions for it was commonly known within the medical profession that constant sexual satisfaction prevented womanly hysterics. Charles hardly heard the Doctor’s instruction do devastated as he was by the news.

Ursula did indeed recover fairly quickly, at least physically, and couple went back to a semblance of normality but their newfound intimacy was now marred by a sense of loss, guilt and self-recrimination. They both needed time to themselves before they would be able to come to grips with the new reality between them and at present they both retreated back into their traditional roles of erecting walls between them to shield each other from the hurt and blame they both felt and it would take time for those walls to be eroded.

Thus as the Courtiers began to reassemble the tales of Lord and Lady Mountjoy’s most gregarious and jovial demeanor during the recess were scarce believed when confronted with the formidable punctiliousness which was the hallmark of the pair.   

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Cordelia Lucas 

The Season ended with some things left unfinished and yet to even begin. The two families that had asked for her experiences were worlds apart even tho they inhabited the same space.

The Newcastle’s were Dukes while Basildon just an Earldom but neither could be discounted for their respective power bases. And while Newcastle had several daughters to contract Basildon had an illegitimate Dutch Ward of his wife’s that held connections to the Royal House - or so the story was. 

She had only progressed to discussion stages with both but her thoughts tell her that the Basildon contract will be the hardest. The Countess was set to aim high for that girl but had not put forth any names. It would be a hard sell to those eligible English Gentlemen but then her ‘Royal’ connection would be the sweeter as well as the real possibilities of advancing career and family positions.

She wonders if she should widen the interest by seeking out those Foreign Gentlemen at Court that might be interested but she suspects that the Countess might well not approve of that direction. But what of the Earl? Would he, like most husbands, leave the searching to the wives and only attend for the contract signings? She had seen him about Court but no real interaction.  What the relationship was between husband and wife was also important for she did not enjoy the interferences of husbands with ‘ideas’ that did not match with her own.

Newcastle had its second daughter contracted to an Earl and the next was just barley out of the schoolroom.  Any candidates would have to be second sons for that sister could not outshine the the older. Here too was the possibility for insurrection as that young miss clearly had a mind of her own as she had demonstrated but them played remorseful. Plans had been made to take her for outings but that now was to be planned for September..

June came and with it the emptying of those she knew as some went to country estates or made visits or simply progressed from friend to friend in emulation of Monarch’s past and present. She remained and took the time to be at leisure. It was rare for it and yet she found to her surprise that she enjoyed the time spent in thinking how to change this or that about the house or the garden which needed a gentler hand. Of her son she saw little. Old enough to not need to report and with his own Lifestyle it would still have been welcomed by her if he had attended. She understood that he may have a fondness for her but still harbored resentments either for her or his late father. 

And then it was July and the heat made her lazy and somewhat Melancholiac and she felt the stabs of loneliness despite going out and about and listening to all the gossips. The absence of a husband was on many fronts a delight but it was also a reminder of how much one can miss the presence of another and the companionship that they provided. Perhaps she ought to think of herself and look about for a Gentleman of means and consequences that could fill that void? She laughed at that thought but it lingered in her mind just out of sight but ever there. She remembered that there had been several “Societies” from the Season past and so resolves to seek then out come September.

A broadening of ones horizons, no matter the age, was after all a good thing!

News reached her of the marriages of two families that had engaged her assistance but they were country-related and not in London. And London was where she had to establish herself. This then led to other thoughts of those that she ‘knew’ about Court who had yet to marry. Cavendish and Basildon were just two of many families that had daughters and sons to marry off and she had been foolish to have overlooked that. There were also many single Gentlemen about London and Court who obviously needed her services as well!

This train of thought then led her to start to comprise a list of those Families that had eligible children ….. there were many that she ‘knew of’ but had not been introduced so she would have to get creative. She would make use of her own Cavendish connection naturally and that might well open up a few doors as well. She would start at the TOP which was the Dukes then on down the Precedence list. She should think about Baronets as well and possibly even dip into the Gentry for they had daughters and would be delighted to see one marry a Baronet or Baron. 

She understood all to well the “Class System’ but times had changed from her own youth so to refuse a match based on that when the groom had money enough would be foolish!

This was indeed a great opportunity and she must plan it well. It was unfortunate that most of Court seemed to have decamped but she went out none the less to observe and look over best she could. Norfolk was a prime candidate for he had marriageable sons and daughters but that family seemed to have left The City she had been told. Guessing that it would prove to be somewhat difficult to make herself known now she drew back. She remained firm that once September came she would begin her Campaign in earnest. 

August was quick to follow and she set about inspecting her wardrobe adding and discarding and remaking. The purchase of some new fabrics was an expense she allowed herself and was well pleased with the results that would blossom in the coming months. Fashions were ever changing and the designs she had been shown would allow for her to be seen at the best advantage. And she must look her best for first impression were important and all the Ladies she intended to address would notice that at once!

Soon her street would be bustling as families returned and acquaintances renewed. And this made her sit up in surprise for she had overlooked the fact that right on her very own street there were SIX houses that held eligible men and women that needed her assistance! 

She also had a few things that would soon come to a boil once she reached London ..... She had received a rather curt letter from the Duchess of Newcastle that spelt out the unfortunate news that her daughter Frances' marriage to the Earl of Dorset was called off and this had resulted in all manner of unpleasantness for everyone concerned. Cordelia was now to turn her attentions from the young Margaret to her elder sister Frances as SHE must be married before the younger naturally. The Duchess apparently already had someone in the running and she would say more on this to Cordelia once she was in London. Then came a slew of scribble letters from that younger sister near to bursting with how  'Frances could marry just about ANYONE  even someone unsuitable and quickly as Lady Lucas was, after all, supposed to be finding her a husband after all and poor Margaret wasn't getting any younger plus she was not too happy at the idea that she might only have her sister''s rejects to choose from ...'

Cordelia had given several long sighs but refrained from answering back.

Then had come a letter from Lady Basildon with the information that she and the Earl were aiming for a son of Norfolk's and that the Earl will broker that personally. What Lady Basildon expected Cordelia to do she wondered at. She supposed her part was to go to the Duchess and speak on the merits and benefits of being married to a Dutch girl who maybe had some Royal connections .....

Oh September could not arrive fast enough!!

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Davina Wellsley 

Everything had turned upside down. Nothing was as before.

She had known but had been so unprepared for the Realities of her decision and with no one save for Poppy by her side she had spent a month in the confines of The Tower where she had been subjected to an increased watchful presence. No one had come after Lord Langdon had in the first few days. Not one told her anything. She was allowed ‘freedoms’ but now she had two guards that watched her rather than just the young guard at the start. Her monies still allowed for then to buy things but then the guards were suddenly changed and in their place were dark and sour faces who’s eyes held nothing but coldness.

The Earl of Sunderland, the Northern Secretary, came to see her shortly before her release. He asked about her friends and why had Lord Langdon paid her a visit .... 

She answered honestly enough as he might well be able to see. Her friends were many but she had seen none of them - as he well knew. And as for Lord Langdon, well, he was merely there out of surprise as he had heard she was there. He had asked but she had evaded and never told him anything directly. That it was just a misunderstanding. If he had doubted her she had no clue and nothing more had come from him. 

He also gave her information that she needed to take to heart. Redemption might well be at hand proving that SHE could deliver what was asked of her. 

It was only natural that she had begun to fade a bit and by the time she was released at the start of June her clothes hung far looser of her frame and her lightness of being was no longer on display. She had been told that her brother would vouch for her and so she was going to the Townhouse on Piccadilly. It seemed that she had simply exchanged one prison for another as here too she was watched but by an elderly woman she had never seen before but was employed by her brother to ‘assist’ her in any of her wants and needs. Things that Poppy would do but even her maid was watched. Yet she could not help feeling that all ‘eyes’ were indeed upon her.

Relations with her brother were polite but nothing else. She did not ask if he had gone to see Norfolk as he had said and he volunteered nothing. He said that she was free to go about but never without one of his men that followed at a distance. Another set of eyes that watched.

Just what they all thought she would do escaped her.

She went out and those she encountered had believed her story of going away but all commented that she should go back as she obviously needed more rest! She smiled and brushed things off but was not as adept at concealing her unhappiness. Some imagined that she suffered love-sickness and pinned for a Gentleman offering to introduce her to another more suited and various other suggestions.

June gave way to July and she asked to go to Matching as remaining in London offered no comforts. Traveling down took several days and once arrived she took to her apartments going to bed and staying there for days. Poppy attended but could not really do much of anything save for making sure her Lady ate what appealed and kept a supply of wine at hand. Halfway thru that month she sat up and threw off her Melancholia. Dressing and asking for her horse she took to the hills and trails spending hours out in the clean country air and after some time managed to replace the paleness with color. Her mind became busy and she put words to paper - no matter how silly or unrealizable they sounded - it was a Battle Plan of sorts and she was determined to see it thru. She had no idea regarding Buckingham and what his own plans for her might be but knew that he would not be involved directly. Nothing had been explained to her on just how being an 'agent' was supposed to be done. Common sense said that she had but to act as always and that she would be contacted in some way. This was a serious matter and she could not afford to take it lightly for her Life was still in danger from either side.

August came and brought the wedding of her brother to Norfolks illegitimate daughter Catherine. He had been in London when she had gone there first but had not stayed long. He would 'summer' in Norfolk he had told her and then soon departed. She did not travel to Norfolk and some excuse would be made she thinks. Her presence there would have caused her brother to be unlike his usual self and if the Duke indeed knew of her perils he would also not welcome her presence. Surprisingly she was not bothered by the missing of it but drank a toast to the Bride and Groom  as was proper and wished them happiness and many children. 

This subject then brought her the memory of her and Charles and how he had told her Sedley was pregnant - she must be soon to have the child she thinks and wonders if he has promised to wed but then she dismisses that for it would not be a suitable match and she even less fit to be a Countess! That rejection still hurt but then he HAD come to her in The Tower and had said he would help even tho she would not involve him directly.

Plans to return back to London were made and it was decided to travel the third week of that month to allow for her to resettle and take stock of her things. Her new sister-in-law would also take up residence and she had no true desire to make nice but there would be no choice there. It was not her house but her brothers and so the idea was born to perhaps seek out a place of her own. Would such a thing even be possible? Allowed even? It would also be a perfect place for those that needed to engage her from that organization she so wanted to find. There was also her own position with The Queen.  Her badge she still had but once back she must go to Lady Mountjoy and give it back. This would be the hardest thing of all for her to do.

It was doubtful that she would ever again hold a position at Court and some explanation would have to be made. She supposes that the simpler the better - to say that she had ‘committed some offense’ to Lady Mountjoy which then resulted in her dismissal - she would have to make it convincing for it was hardly a believable thing for All knew that she had a reputation of Loyalty and put great store on being amongst those who had a place.

She received a surprising piece of news before returning to London from the Earl of Bristol. She would, so he wrote, be going to Windsor and there to take up a position as Lady of The Gardens where she would work with Prince Rupert (in whose Household she would take her protection from) and she was to supervise the design for the garden or gardens. Head gardeners' would seek her out and she was being allowed to recruit any Lady or Ladies that she likes to 'assist' her.

Well.

To say that she had been caught totally unprepared was true. Her knowledge was not much in the realm of this but she knew enough about what would look pleasing to the eye and what colors went together best. So it was not so far fetched that any Courtier would not find it believable. As to the WHY she was now there and not in the Queen household she would make something up that would also be believed.

It would seem that her deceptive means were to be put to the test far sooner than she had imagined.

She knew that there was more to this and it was left unsaid but she could read between the lines and guessed that this was a way for her to be easily approached by either side as the case may be.

And so she made ready to leave. She would miss this place but now London and then Windsor awaited and that was where her Fate rested.

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John Palliser, Lord Silverbridge

He was a man torn in two directions.

Just a few months previous he was planning this trip to London as well as finding a husband for his sister - two things not without problems. He had been selected to be a delegate of sorts to get a meeting with the Lords of Trade to present a petition as well as some discourse about the growing frustrations of the State of Virginia’s non attending Governor. That Gentleman preferred to stay on the Isle of Wright and sending commands and orders thru their parties had not gone over at all well with the not only the House of Burgesses but the larger plantations owners as well. It would not be an easy task to placate them much longer even if word had recently come that the Governor ‘planned’ to arrive sometime soon. The appointment was obtained but twas no member of the Lords of Trade but an office clerk no matter his title that had him give his speech. Frustrations mounted but John knew he would have to try again come his return for the ‘causes’ were too significant to be tossed aside or buried beneath mounds of paperwork.

London had present him with several surprises - his inheritance and the discovery of an illegitimate half brother along with his mother. He had no time to delve into that matter but had left instructions with the Lawyers to make discreet enquiry and he expected to have information at the ready for his next trip back. This had the potential to be a powder keg if left untouched and there was no telling just what kind of demand and/or mischief that boy and his mother might cause. Naturally the idea of buying them off with sufficient monies would suit best but John had a gut feeling that things would not be a smooth as he thinks.

The other had been the quality and forwardness of those Ladies he had made acquaintance of. One in particular had indeed and she was just as willing as he. He was delighted with her finding her exotic personage and mindset so opposite of those women in his immediate circle as well as those common ones. He had let her have the assumption that SHE had caught him but there would never be any doubt about who was in control. He was no pushover when it came to women and he had expectations for behaviors despite the newness and if she stepped the mark then he would have no hesitation in reeling her in. Their time together had not been long enough but he had said she may write and he would reply. She was a dalliance he had enjoyed and would again but would he marry her?

Those thoughts followed him even in his sleep and he knew the reason for it - he must marry and soon.

There was no legal reason as he had the inheritance and he owned his own Plantation in Virginia as well as the family one in Massachusetts under his name but it was because of that title that he felt pressure to find himself a wife. He needed a son to inherit plus a few more for just in case. It would be better all round if he took from the small crop of Ladies in his Social Circle rather than marry an Imported Bride who may or may not adapt to Plantation Life. The return journey would give him time to think of those daughters and sisters that might best suit. Could he return here to London and remain? Possibly. He could trust his brother-in-law as well as a few other reliable men to manage but it would not be the same. The idea of marrying an English girl was not objectionable in the least. He had only meet a handful and it was Anne Elizabeth that had him currently. His wife would need to be understanding of him having a split life and being gone for long periods of time when he needed to.

May came and with that he and his sister - who had confessed that she was, actually, much enamored of a man on home turf and she had simply come along with him to cause some friction to better get his attention - a thing that he was glad of for he had had no time to even begin to search out a Gentleman for her in London - booked passage home on a ship called Patience and sailed from London the third week of that month. They arrived back into Massachusetts at the beginning of July without any harm to either he or his sister and made their way to the Plantation where his Mother and family eagerly awaited their return. He lingered there but a week as he needed to return to Virginia as the tobacco was just about ready to harvest. On this return voyage he also brought four indentured men to serve as field workers who would serve out their prison sentences as “rented slaves” a title bestowed upon them by His Majesty’s Government. Well bodied and eager to escape from the confines of cells they understood their Luck and hopefully would give him no grief.

His fields of tobacco would all develop at different times and he had two fields that were ready. The leaves would have by now been hung or ‘strung’ in the tobacco barns and next they would all be taken down and laid out on the floors to sweat for a week or two. Next, all depending on the weather for they required dampness, the leaves would then be sorted. If the tobacco had absorbed just the right amount of moisture it could be stretched like leather and was glossy and moist. If he miscalculated and it was all too damp it would rot in transit; if too dry, it would crumble and be unsalable. The tobacco leaves would be twisted and rolled, then spun into rope, which was wound into balls weighing as much as a hundred pounds. Theses balls were then put into large barrels called a “hogshead” and the average weight of the tobacco stored in those barrels was about a thousand pounds.

John’s Plantation grew two kinds of tobacco - the milder sweet-scented that was unique to Virginia and which the English considered to be the finest in the World and  Orinoco which was light colored aromatic and mild and one that appealed to the European markets.

By the the end of August his ‘hogsheads’ branded with his initials within a double circle were ready for transport to London. John’s late Father had established a direct relationship with an English tobacco merchant named Richard Lee who’s shop was on Panton Street near Leicester Fields and Piccadilly. Many Planters preferred this method as it allowed for them to receive payment immediately instead of waiting for the tobacco to arrive in London where consignement agents sold it in exchange for a cut of the profits.

By August’s end he had made plans to accompany his tobacco barrels to London. Tobacco was a good traveler, and, barring leakage of the ship or bursting of the hogshead it would survive well enough the weeks or months at sea. He would use this time to map out his plans for his return. He wondered if Anne Elizabeth had another lover - he could not begrudge her for it for he himself had reacquainted himself to his own woman that he frequented at one of the better Establishments. He hoped that she would be eager for his return and the thought of her as ‘wife’ still was a question he had no answer for. He also had come to the conclusion that IF he did make the decision to remain in London then he had to broaden his horizons and dip into the pool of those eligible daughters for a wife. That was enough to set him to his cups and the picture of demanding Mothers caused many a restless night.

Soon he would set foot on English soil once again. He would see to his tobacco and the selling of it for what he thinks will be an excellent profit. From that he will then seek out a place to live for he could not return to The Red Lion no matter how convent it had been.

There was the question of his Huntington relatives that needed to be looked into as well. And he would visit his Lawyers to see just what had been discovered about his half brother and what next was to be done. The Lords of Trade would also occupy his time for he fully intended to seek out another appointment.

But for now he would bask in the clean air and the sunshine. Hoping for calm seas and no illnesses. London and all that awaited was still weeks away but he would arrive at the start of September.

God willing.

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Anne-Elisabeth, Countess Cambray

 

After the success of their first assignation, Anne-Elisabeth and Dorset ‘drank’ together often, sometimes at his place and sometimes at hers as they lived down the street from each other. They were like a married couple on their honeymoon, unable to get enough of one another. They often had dinner together as well, though their days were spent apart. The dashing double Earl was engaged after all, and it would be unseemly to be seen together. But they ‘accidentally’ ran into each other from time to time and took walks in the gardens or rode in the park. They never ran out of things to talk and laugh about and their conversations were usually punctuated with suggestive innuendo, sometimes in the form of impromptu limericks.

 

It was an idyllic time for the young Countess of Cambray, but it lasted only about a month. She arrived at Dorset’s house one evening and was told that he had been beaten to within an inch of his life by the mad Lord Pembroke. Anne-Elisabeth insisted on seeing him and was horrified by his condition. She returned every day to assist in nursing him, which was unusual for her. Taking care of the sick and injured was something she generally avoided, but Dorset was different. She wanted to tend to him.

 

As he improved, she brought him treats made by her Barbadian chef as well as books to keep him occupied. She tried to cheer him up with funny stories and limericks, but he rarely smiled and she began to believe that he was uncomfortable being seen in such a weakened estate. Eventually his doctor recommended that he retire to the country to recover. He suggested that she return to her estate as well and they could exchange letters using fake names. Anne-Elisabeth didn’t want to leave him, but she didn’t want him to resent her either, and absence often did make the heart grow fonder.

 

Before she left, she met a woman called Ellen Doolittle, whose father owned a shipping company. Anne-Elisabeth liked her at once. Like her, Ellen was a progressive thinker who believed that women could succeed in business. She gave her a bottle of her coconut rum and told her that she would like to make a profit from it. Maybe she could enter into a partnership with Ellen and her father to have it distributed far and wide. And in the process, Ellen could prove that she could be an asset to the family business. Ellen agreed to assist her.

 

As always, the journey to Cornwall was long and tedious, but this time she had the company of the white kitten that Lord Silverbridge had given her. There was no way she would have left the adorable bundle of fun behind. Her house by the sea was just as she had left it and it wasn’t long before she was visiting friends, attending parties, and throwing soirees of her own. She got back in touch with the trader who supplied her coconut rum and ordered a new supply along with some other things she wanted from Barbados. Luckily, her evil harpy of a mother-in-law stayed on her own estate.

 

During the day, she continued working on her bawdy play and revised her novel. She also took long walks on the beach and gathered shells to decorate her house in London. The young Countess went skinny-dipping when the water was warm enough, and not always by herself. On clear nights she studied the stars under her telescope, usually in the company of other astronomy enthusiasts. She had an affair with a handsome gentleman who was visiting relatives, but ended it quickly as soon as commitment was mentioned. A telescope that was much more powerful than her old one was delivered to her house and the note claimed it was from a secret admirer. Anne-Elisabeth wondered if her admirer was her erstwhile lover hoping to buy her hand in marriage, but if so, he never came forward and admitted it. Nobody else did, either.

 

Dorset’s letters were short and casual at first, but as the summer wore on, they became longer and naughtier. He was obviously getting better and the fact that his betrothal had fallen through probably helped. Her missives were as suggestive as his and she hoped they had the desired effect on him. She began planning her return to court. Perhaps with a few more lessons, she would be able to pose as a man and sell her finished novel. She also actively intended to pursue investment opportunities this time around.

 

As the days began to grow shorter, she commissioned a new (and colorful) wardrobe for the autumn season, which would be held at Windsor. Anne-Elisabeth had never been there and looked forward to exploring new surroundings. There was always more excitement at court than in the country, no matter how wild the parties were in St. Ives. She could hardly wait to see her friends again and join in the shenanigans of the Merry Gang.She was also eager to show Lord Silverbridge how the kitten had grown. Anne-Elisabeth named her Crystal and she had thrived in the fresh sea air. She was now in the slender, long-legged adolescent stage and her fur was long and fluffy. Her eyes had been the blue of all baby felines, but while one had remained so, the other had turned gold. She had a sweet and playful personality and often tore through the house at full speed just because she could.

 

She also looked forward to seeing Dorset again. He was probably completely recovered now. And she would be able to meet with Ellen Doolittle again too. When it was time to go, she collected the things she had ordered from Barbados, bid her friends farewell with a wild party, and journeyed to Windsor with Crystal by her side.

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Sophia, Countess Toledo

 

Spring passed quite pleasantly for Sophia, particularly in the romance department. Using the excuse of discussing the production of Esteban’s play, she was able to meet with Henry quite often during the early months of her pregnancy. They often joked about the baby being his, but she didn’t believe it and she doubted that he did either.

 

She and Charles communicated by secret letters delivered and collected at the Red Lion Inn by their servants. They managed three exquisite trysts in the organ loft of the Queen’s Chapel. To Esteban, each visit was a step toward his wife converting to Catholicism. To Sophia, it was the safest venue in which to make love to her darling Eros. The music they made together was far more beautiful than anything that the organ was able to produce.

 

The little life growing inside her blossomed like the flowers in the palace garden. She was elated when she began to show and overjoyed when the baby quickened for the first time. Even the dour Esteban smiled when she placed his hand on her belly so he could feel it too. Juan’s baby was thriving and healthy and she looked forward to the day when her beloved Prince could hold his child in his arms.

 

Sophia corresponded often with her new friend Darlene. Her life seemed so fun and exciting. They discussed planning activities for the coming season. She wrote to Juan too, keeping him updated on her condition and telling him how much she loved him. One thing she related to him was that the baby seemed to respond to her singing. It was always more active during the two hours she practiced her music every morning. In that, she told him, it was like its father. It had been her voice that had brought them together, after all.

 

As spring passed into summer, Sophia occupied herself not only by singing, but by playing her harpsichord and the piano in the palace and improving her drawing and painting skills. Her thoughts ran wild during these preparations and she pondered why it had taken so long for Juan to father a child. He had been sexually active since before she herself had been conceived. What if he was sterile? What if the jokes she and Henry had shared were not jokes at all? What if this baby was truly his?

 

She began having nightmares that woke her up screaming. Anna asked her what was wrong but she refused to tell her. Esteban, too, was concerned, because being upset was not good for the baby. She didn’t have them all the time, but when she did, she found it difficult to eat and to go about her day. Sometimes she tried to stay up all night so they wouldn’t plague her. She paced around her room until she finally became so exhausted, she fell upon her bed and slept anyway.  Her fears that her baby was not Juan’s intensified.  She started making plans to deal with that possibility if it turned out to be true.  Some schemes improved with each passing day; others were eventually discarded.

 

Esteban found an estate close to Windsor where they would be able to stay during the season and where she would give birth. Sophia wasted no time in picking out a chamber for her lying-in that had large windows overlooking a pretty garden and a door that led straight into it. She ordered sheer curtains to cover the windows instead of the traditional opaque drapes that shut out the sun.  She wasn’t a fragile English rose who needed to lie in bed for months in a stuffy room. Germans were much stronger and sturdier, and she was determined to walk in the garden as long as she was able. As Esteban would not be allowed inside, he would never know that she went out every day to get a bit of fresh air.

 

Sophia hoped that new surroundings would end her nightmares, but they became more frequent instead. Dark circles appeared under her eyes and she found it difficult to concentrate. When she didn’t have them, she was able to function normally, or as normally as possible while becoming more ungainly with each passing day. She had looked forward to every change in her body, but her swollen ankles, constant fatigue, and the pain in her back were less than ideal. Her singing practice had to be cut down to an hour a day because it left her winded. Sophia tried to remain cheerful but those who knew her well could tell that she was not her usual effervescent self.

 

Sophia was surprised when a beautifully-carved wooden chest arrived from Ellen Doolittle. It contained four gorgeous maternity gowns in a style that was much more comfortable than the others that had been made for her. The fabrics were softer too. She immediately sent a reply inviting Ellen to visit her so she could thank her personally. Though they’d had their differences in the past, she had to admit that Ellen had good taste.

 

Her nightmares lessened and her bubbly personality returned as the new season approached. Sophia knew that Esteban would rather her not leave the house, but she was determined to get out as much as she could. She made plans to meet with Henry, for she felt that he should know about her suspicions and be involved in her plans, as the child might very well be his.  

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  • Charles Whitehurst, Earl of Langdon

 

May 1678:  He learns that the villain seeking the golden dagger has fled London, no doubt concerned that Charles was closing in.  As for Fiona's assassin, there were few leads, including a dead end as to who might have purchased a black asp snake.  Convinced that there could be but one snake merchant in London, his men could not find anyone dealing in poisonous snakes.  A few false leads were followed and no further attempts were made on her life.  Charles and Fiona go at it at every opportunity in Somerset Palace until her sister Catriona arrives in London.   Notwithstanding his dalliances, he sent a love letter to Darlene, but it was returned, though it appeared that the seal had been broken.  He sent her small gifts but they were all returned, opened before return.

June 1678:  Charles Sedley calls on the Earl in advance of the birth of Catherine's child.  He acknowledges his daughter was a whore but insisted that Charles could make Catherine an honest woman, which is what a gentleman should do.   He reminded the young officer that the poet/playwright was a wealthy Baronet and friend of the King and that Catherine was the granddaughter and niece of the 2nd and 3rd Earls River respectively.  Sedley made pleas, threats, and generous offers.   Charles offered to think on it (out of respect for the older man) but declined later.   Charles sent Darlene a golden necklace with red garnets.  A lunatic slaughters a merchant family who lived along the Strand.  The Langdon Regiment caught the criminal and killed him in a fight.  The house was later claimed to be haunted by the spirits of the murdered children, making it unable to sell.  The house was gifted by a relative to the Earl of Langdon for support of his regiment that had exacted justice.

July 1678:   Charles seeks to persuade his brother Bradley to marry Catherine Sedley, becoming a rich man in the process.  While Charles, as head of the family, could order Bradley to do so, he adopts a strategy to entice and persuade Bradley.   Catherine delivers a healthy baby boy at the end of the month.  He receives a letter from Susan Herbert apologizing profusely that, somehow, her brother Philip learned of some of their adventures together and got the wrong idea. Philip made a scene and threatened violence to Charles.  She begged her brother to do nothing since Charles had been honorable with her but her brother would hear none of it.  As such she warns Charles to stay clear of Philip and to speak to her or her other brother, Thomas first when court resumes.  Charles takes up fencing practice. 

August 1678:  Charles and his two wards travel to Langdon in Cornwall for a summer holiday.  Abigail hits her head in the coach and seems to recover from her fog somewhat and starts talking again.  There is hope that she might recover completely in time.  Time is spent with young Frances in the country visiting the shore.  The fencing practice increases, for fear of a duel with Pembrooke.  The christening gifts were sewn, a small army of stuffed plush soldiers for the princess to hug and display around her bed.  Abigail helped some of the local women with the stitching. 

September 1678:  Charles made plans to travel to Windsor.  He sent Elam to arrange to rent the cottage in the woods that he had rented in the prior Windsor seasons, in case he needs to tuck away a mistress there.  He receives word that the villain he is chasing may be at Windsor, and he hopes to draw Fiona's assassin there to be captured.  He leaves Bradley to look after Catherine and the babe, as well as his two wards, and look after his house while Charles is at Windsor.  Bradley and Catherine make plans to travel to Windsor on the first weekend after the start of court to discuss the marriage of Bradley and Catherine, and to raise it with her father.

He arrives at Windsor finding the castle overcrowded and he is asked to share a bed with his fellow officer Sam Gillis.  He finds himself unable to object without revealing Sam's secret.  He hears Silas Moorehead has been pardoned from Fleet Prison and he warns Bradley to be extra careful, and he stations two of his city watch soldiers at his residence during all hours for added security from all the possible threats.  Fencing practice continues.

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Francis, Earl of Kingston

 

After the plot uncovered to attempt harm to the Queen and the unborn heir did not come to fruition, court was recessed when the Queen began to show signs of labor earlier than expected. There was clearly a miscalculation on the part of the doctors, because the Queen gave birth to a healthy child who appeared to be full term to the joy of all involved. Francis continued attending the King for the duration still mindful that there might be some intending to do harm. During the happy times that followed the heir's survival, Francis took the time to deliver personal news to the King and Buckingham that had been delayed by the more important royal matters. 

 

Over St. George's day, Buckingham took full advantage of His Majesty's good mood by asking him to make his (still secret) nephew Earl of Kingston as befit his slain brother's son. The request was granted but even without court in session talk immediately began about this new title. Peers being jealous and envious sorts by nature, it was noteworthy in a negative way that Buckingham's young cousin was given so much royal attention and favor when he came from little more than gentry. 

 

Francis was blissfully unaware that the talk of him being an undeserving upstart began before he left for the North Ridings of Yorkshire on Buckingham's behest. The duke had too much business (and celebration with the king) to keep his attention than to want to travel north himself to deal with the duties of his Lord Lieutenancy or estates, so he sent Francis as his deputy to deal with it instead. During this time the pair conspired to pressure Francis to marry and produce heirs upon his return, knowing that Francis might not be the most willing participant in this scheme. 

 

For his part, Francis visited Cambridge on his way North to see to matters as the University's Chancellor. He then continued about Buckingham's bidden business, both overt and covert, spending much of the recess away from the south.

 

It was not until he arrived back in London to make preparations to rejoin the King at Windsor early, that Buckingham broke the news that he was being completely and thoroughly slandered by scurrilous broadsheets and pamphlets being circulated around Windsor and London. His reputation as an undeserving upstart was blazing a trail through both towns with the King's gift of a new title, and he was once again associated with Charles Kirke's horrific reputation  - as being a violent wastrel and dangerous to women - of which he had worked so hard to rid himself. Buckingham assured him that this was simply a sign that he was now truly a courtier, for one couldn't exist in any position of favor without being attacked virulently in print on the regular, and encouraged Francis to treat it with no attention or to make a joke of it. Francis doubted it was going to be that easy or simple, and his dislike of being associated or needing to hear the name Kirke rather soured the beginning of the Windsor season.

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Douglas FitzJames Recess

At the end of the Christmas Season of 1677, Douglas had left London frustrated. A certain degree of frustrated ambition seemed to be one of the defining characteristics of his life, but this had been worse than usual. For the man convinced that he would have been Viscount Lochend had his father not been an absolute arsehole and refused to marry his mother – with no regard as to whether his mother would have been a good match, because his father wouldn’t talk about her – to live the life of a bastard, scorned and stymied, rankled beyond belief. Especially as his hope of finding a good lass to marry that season had only resulted in multiple embarassments.

He’d headed north and thrown himself into the management of his estate, and his duties as the Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeen, far more comfortable there than at court, because he was, at heart, a military man. And he enjoyed it, bringing a military rigour to the training of the Aberdeenshire militia and ensuring that banditry and raiding were at their minimum. It gave him a sense of achievement, as did the management of Dundarg and the herd of Highland Cattle he’d established there. It was well placed for fishing in the Moray Firth, where mackerel and trout were plentiful, and he set up a smokehouse and drying shed near to Aberdour beach, where his tenants could pay to process their catches close to where they unloaded the boats. All of which served to occupy his attention and energy, so that he let the next few months slip by with no real desire to return to court.

Somewhat unexpectedly he ran into an old friend and brother in arms from his time in the Regiment du Dumbarton. Like himself, Angus MacCallum had been a minor officer, and was himself the fourth son of a Scottish Baron, and the two were of a similar age so they’d got along very well. Then Douglas had received his recommendation for the Life Guard and had gone to London; Angus MacCallum had stayed in Scotland. The man was married now, to the daughter of an Aberdeen merchant, with her dowry being a share in her father’s company. They had a nice house in town, two bouncing bairns and… that was it. He’d been invited to dinner and Angus had chattered happily about the business and his plans for his son’s education, and Douglas had watched the way he and his wife interacted; she seemed a pleasant woman but also quite canny.

It had been a very enjoyable evening, but Douglas had gone back to his lodgings in a thoughtful frame of mind. Angus MacCallum seemed quite content with his lot, even happy, and he might well live the comfortable life of a successful businessman. Douglas was happy for him. But from the point of view of court, he had disappeared into mediocrity. He thought back to when they’d served together, then glanced at the red uniform draped over the chair in the corner. There but for the grace of God, go I. That thought continued to percolate as he saw to his duties in Aberdeen, and started to drip through the following week as he returned to Dundarg, green and rich in the late Scottish spring.

The cup was served, rich and steaming, as he stood on a low hill, overlooking the rolling landscape to the sea cliffs that marked one border of his domain, the ruined castle on the most prominent promontory and busy boats out at sea. So much of his life had been defined why what he didn’t have, that he wasn’t fully appreciating what he did. Dundarg was his, and one day it would be his son’s. He was a Lord Lieutenant, a position reserved for those in the King’s esteem, the duties of which he enjoyed, with the added perk that he was allowed to fly the Lion Rampant instead of his own bastard’s arms, which he loathed. He was a Captain in the King’s Life Guard. He was a military hero. He’d had opportunities that others like Angus never had. Some of them he’d stuffed up, but others he’d taken full advantage of, and benefitted from, and that was life. There was no point in comparing himself to those in the positions he thought he should have had, rather he could look at the fates of his true peers, and know that he had achieved what none thought he would, or should, or could. It was a warming thought, and a shift in perspective that was long overdue.

He had his estate at Dundarg, and whilst he was illegitimate, he resolved that his son would not be. He would do what he could to ensure that his children could achieve more, and rise higher, than their father did. His line would not disappear into mediocrity. He had much, and perhaps more importantly he had friends, and family. Scots understood the importance of kith and kin. For the first time in months, Douglas felt the urge to return to court.

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Cadell Mortimer

 

Inspired by the words of his friend Lord Beverley and those of Baptist May, Athenry was to set about finding a means to pursue his purpose throughout the recess of court. That it would also, theoretically, preclude his mind from drifting towards his increased consternation on the matter of his marriage was merely a side benefit.

 

One that, of course, he was not to enjoy – for such was not the Catholic way.

 

Beverley and May were one source of motivation for Cadell, but it was Chichester who had implanted the strongest notion of what to do next in his mind. The Earl had offered to make introductions with regards to the royal chaplain, Thomas Sprat, and this was in and of itself a fine idea. So too was the man’s comment about hosting a salon – perhaps, the viscount considered, it could serve as a starting point to build connections in a manner that suited his particular aptitudes. After all, the salon was a French institution, and the grandeur of France lie in part due to their mastery of the arts and philosophies. If it would be at all successful, other friends of le Roi might become apparent – truthfully, a prospect more appealing than a false conversion in order to purchase an office.

 

A vision persisted in the back of his mind, one where, as in Paris, London had a counterpart to the Royal Society’s natural philosophers, an association of men in the humanist disciplines. But he had only just acquired the horse, let alone had time to put the cart in front of it.

 

At any rate, Athenry was exceedingly grateful for the introduction to Sprat, having obtained it early in the recess. The man was well-informed and gracious, for a Protestant, and Cadell would find himself pleased to no end to have another verbal sparring partner. It was not the end of his goings-on with his friend George, either: having not left Chelsea himself, a highlight of the break from court would be the earl’s mid-recess return from London – one particular night stands out as one in which wine and words flowed in equal measure, as topics from Aristotle to far Araby were picked apart and analyzed, followed by a day occupied by a slow, relaxing walk through Saint James…only for Cadell to immediately resume offering up his take on the local orators atop their soapboxes!

 

Domestically, similar pursuits were met with far more mixed results. Initially, as was promised to Baptist May, the viscount would do what he was in his power for his ever-mercurial wife, spending days in the garden of their Chelsea manor telling her of his vision for introducing the salon culture to England, lamenting the poor marriages of his sisters, made before he had acquired a meaningful title, and listening in turn to her tales of the French and English courts before he had attended either. There were Sunday carriage rides through the countryside after a private Mass, where the mob did not follow them.

 

Cadell grew passing acquainted with the inhabitants of Cadogan Pier, and closer to her son and brother-in-law, finding Pembroke to be something of an attack dog that was better to have at one’s side, and in general feeling – for once – that he had something of a place in this world. Of course, the joys of these preoccupation would find reason to subside, or perhaps, the viscount reason to let them.

 

Lesser was the matter of Pembroke: careful to play the sympathetic ear, Athenry heard the infamous half-Villiers out the best he could on a great number of subjects. The Earl’s vigorous thrashing of Dorset was sure to make the rounds, given the latter’s prominence among the Merry Gang, but this was an eventuality that was more uncomfortable than unexpected. That Pembroke would go on to request (in far less gentle terms) his aid in seeking justice for his sister Susan, apparently dishonored by the Earl of Langdon, was another matter entirely – both unexpected and uncomfortable, it was not a request to be turned down. Both as a matter of what was right by one’s family and, where Philip Herbert was concerned, potentially doing right by one’s life expectancy.

 

The second matter was by far the greater irritation. Time (or perhaps the King) was to reward Cadell’s loyalty with a signal that his marriage might finally become normal, a triumph if e’er there was, but Job’s tribulations were not quite over. It was now Louise’s turn to frustrate his efforts, taking the news from His Majesty with the characteristic practicality of a young child. Tantrums and tears, by now a not-unfamiliar sound in their Chelsea manor, made themselves present once more as the viscount found himself left with no other reasonable option than to let her rebuff him. In the end, Louise would retire to her bedroom, and he to his study, where the busts and masks lining the wall proved to be a poor substitute for her company.

 

But he would be a gentleman, true to his word and as faithful as he could be to his two kings and the cause they embodied. And there, as always, would be a light at the bottom of a glass. Cognac cared nothing for politics, marriage, or the Holy Mother Church. It could only soothe.

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