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Mid Evening Thursday 15 September

The Duke of Buckingham’s Apartments


Mountjoy was in his chambers on the second floor of the main tower at a small desk reading several scurrilous pamphlets all seeming to take umbrage with the new Earl of Kingston. One stated that the Earl had an unnatural and sinful attraction to either boys or animals, the author never really specified beyond vague allusions. Another claimed that he had dastardly deflowered most of the unmarried women at court and also indecently pressed himself upon the married ones as well. Charles thought the accusations unlikely as he did not believe Kingston had that kind of time. Kingston had, at first glance, risen with inordinate rapidity and Blount as those of long pedigree were apt to do did look upon such advancement askance still thought the accusations scurrilous and bristled that a fellow peer, no matter how recent his rise, would be treated so. He had also come to some conclusions that would perfectly explain such an inexplicable rise.

Thinking back to the night they spent together guarding the Queen he had realized that Kingston showed himself to be a decent fellow and unlike many not as grasping for the laurels that so settled upon his flaxen head. His feelings in this area could also have been spurred on by the fact that he himself had been contemplating his own problems with relations and lines of decent.

Recalling that his lodgings were directly above those of the Duke’s he decided to descend to the Duck’s level and ‘push in’  to where, perhaps, he was not welcomed. Selecting an appropriate walking stick for the multi stories journey he made his way down the stares and over to Buckingham’s door. Noticing that the fruit bowl had been replenished since he had taken advantage of it earlier that day he helped himself to some grapes as he knocked on the door.

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The Duke's valet opened the door to his suite. While it was generously sized, Lord Mountjoy could still hear some noise from within.


"That infernal pup! Always pissing all over the floor!" It was Buckingham's voice. "Can you not control your master's dog in his absence, boy!"


"He's excitable, Your Grace, the door..." came the harried young voice in return. "I'm sorry, Your Grace."


"His Majesty gifted Kingston this pup just so he could take the piss out of me and have it piss all over my bearskin!" the Duke groused. 


"Good evening, Lord Mountjoy," the servant said, trying to ignore the sounds from within. It repeated almost every time someone knocked on the door. 


"Have him come," Buckingham called.


As Mountjoy entered, he would see a ginger youth picking up a spaniel under the armpits, who sprinkled again like a lewd fountain.


"I am going to piss on his bed if this keeps up," Buckingham said under his breath. Whether he meant the dog's, the boy's, Kingston's, or even the King's was ambiguous.


The Duke then faced Mountjoy and came further into the room toward him. "I would say good evening, Mountjoy, but this spaniel is using my rooms as a constant privy."

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Mountjoy entered the room being mindful of where he stepped. He had had dogs all his life so this situation was not foreign to him. He had lost count of the times he had to remove urine from a bearskin. “May I suggest placing a folded flannel over the stain and weighting it down with a heavy object. Any old textbooks from Cambridge would do nicely. After about 10 minutes re-wet the area with fresh water mixed with some sugar and orange peel. Repeat the process and it will be as good as new. It also works well on wool and Badger but I cannot answer for its use on beaver.” He was fairly certain that Buckingham did not care how such things were done but the information might be useful to the put-upon youth.

“I apologize for disturbing your… domestic bliss but there is something that I believe reflects upon your Grace and that has been weighing upon my mind. Might there be a place of less excitement where we may have a few words in private?”

He was on shaky ground and did not want anyone else privy to the allegations he was about to make.

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Tommy paused with the Spaniel, now done sprinkling, in order to listen to Mountjoy's advice. Although a servant could do that, it was good information to know as the duke could not bring his entire entourage of servants to Windsor, so it oft fell to him to act the part. Francis had even told him that such things were just a matter of course, as even his cousin had to carry about handkerchiefs in case the King stepped in spaniel poop.


Done hearing that part, he deposited the spaniel into Francis' room. 


Buckingham had zero interest in how to clean anything. He had never deigned clean a thing by himself, not even his own hands when full of ink from his writings. So it was that he listened to the discourse with a delicate arch of blond brow. He blinked twice when Mountjoy was done, then looked at his valet and then Francis' young ward to make sure they heard. Seeing he need not make one hint of instruction, he turned his attention back to Mountjoy.


"Only an Oxfordian would think to soak up piss with a book of any kind," he replied, spryly. Buckingham, of course, did not miss the dig. Mountjoy was known to be quite vociferous about his alma mater. If he found it licentious to say such a thing to him, there seemed to be no indication of it in his reply. 


"Domestic bliss, indeed," Buckingham said, with a derisive snort. 


"Clear off my correspondence," the Duke said to the ginger. His valet was cleaning up the piss.


He gave the boy a forty-five second head start, for there was not much to do, before he turned and led Lord Mountjoy to the bedchamber. There were two comfortable chairs around the fire. 


"Cognac, then take...little Sprinkles...for a long walk. And send my valet for some clove to throw on the fire, so my chambers don't smell like a chamberpot," he instructed, with a flourish of the hand. 


The ginger bowed and then poured the drinks as Buckingham sat and gestured Mountjoy to do likewise if he wished.


Once alone and then doors closed, he waited to hear the outer door close before he said, "Well, my lord, we are in as privacy as can be expected. What is it you wished to speak to me about?"



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Mountjoy nodded his head in acknowledgment of the riposte of his quip. It would have been amusing to spar good naturedly on the subject but that was not his aim today so he let the subject drop.

Following the Duke he took the offered seat. “Thank you.” He said taking a sniff and then a sip of the cognac. Looking at the drink appreciatingly he opined “His Majesty’s Excise confiscated and destroyed fifty barrels of contraband Sprits in Dover last month, such a waste. But… appearances must be upheld.” He set the drink down and gave Buckingham his undivided attention.

“I trust to Your Grace that if I dispense with the customary pleasantries you regard it in no way a slight to the courtesy due to your station but rather an acknowledgement that you are a man with many demands upon his time.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “I am not in the habit of intruding into matters that do not directly involve myself, family, friends or matters concerning the Crown but I am broadening that restriction today. I justify my interest by my kinship with the Legges and with your aunt Elizabeth and by the fact that that I have come to know the character of Francis Kirke.”

“Lord Kingston’s rise has been both lofty and swift and to many people enigmatic as evidenced by the uncouth pamphlets being circulated by the more resentful of disposition. He is handling it well I think but it still must be an unwelcome distraction and an annoyance to your Grace. I feel for his predicament and would ease it if I were able.”

 “At the risk of being impertinent I will direct to you several questions. If you do not wish to answer these questions you need not obfuscate the reply but may simply decline to do so and I will no longer peruse such an inquiry.”

He took a sip of his cognac. The Duke was likely unused to persons asking him direct and possibly uncomfortable questions but Mountjoy was a serious man and felt he could do so within the grounds of property. “Does Lord Kingston, Francis if I may be so informal to address him so, know the truth of his parentage?”

He let that question drop and waited, observing the Duke closely. The manner of Buckingham’s reply would be telling.  

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The preamble was very characteristic of Mountjoy's oratory, and Buckingham listened carefully noting the demeanor in which this was all delivered. 


His brows narrowed slightly at the mention of the Legges and of his aunt. One went up went Mountjoy said that he did not generally insert himself into family matters, but that he felt his own level of kinship. Buckingham had not known Mountjoy himself to have called upon that kinship with either Sir George, the Late Colonel, or the Colonel's wife. 


And there it was. It was about Francis. 




Though he was practiced enough courtier not to show it on his face or demeanor, the surname simply made him seethe with anger that had nowhere to go. If he could call the man up from the dead and kill him again, the Duke would do so, 


"I did not realize you knew much of Kingston other than the vigil performed in the Queen's antechamber. Nor of his uncles, mother, or grandmother on the Legge side," Buckingham said carefully. 


With a flourish of his hand, he said, "It is an annoyance, but it is a typical annoyance of one's enemies. One cannot be a courtier of any influence or station without being  broad-sheeted any number of times. You shall recall, I am simultaneously an Atheist, a Papist, a Non-Conformist Protestant, and - what was it - oh yes, sympathetic to Jews. Nonetheless, I am a foolish enemy to inspire and am making inquiries toward the source of these ridiculous slanders."


His brow evidenced a hint of a furrow for a split second. "You wish to ease his predicament? Do you know the source of the pamphlets?"


The Duke's sense that there was definitively impertinence about to come his way rose as Mountjoy prefaced his...questions.


And then, as the Italians might say, the young marquess evidenced his coglioni*. That was a dangerous question to ask to anyone, let alone to the Duke of Buckingham.


"I shall put to you a question or questions, Lord Mountjoy," Buckingham replied, simply. "You say you have come to know the character of Kingston. You say he is handling such slander well. I should like to hear you expound on those things for me. And pray tell, my lord, what do you believe his character to be that you ask such a question?"


After all, the vast majority of the nobility felt that noble character was inborn. Meaning, you had it or you did not, because you were born with it. To ask that question could, on its own, suggest Mountjoy did not believe Francis had that character. To question someone's birth was a slight to their being a gentleman, but he would give Mountjoy the benefit of expounding. Not everyone had the beauty of words and expression that Buckingham did himself; his ego could understand that quite well.


(OOC - Italian slang for Balls)

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He had thrown his millstone into the pond and it did create ripples but very controlled ripples that did not give anything away. A lesser man would have let something slip but of the many things said about Buckingham lessor was not one. He also noted that Buckingham did not answer the question. If he was in Court he would have pressed the issue but as this was not an adversarial conversation, at least on his part, he let it pass.

Mountjoy chose to answer the easiest of Buckingham’s questions. “No. I do not know the source of the pamphlets and can assure you that if I did, I would not keep it a secret.” The second question was not so succinctly to be addressed. “I do not claim a deep or intimate knowledge of the gentleman for as you observe my dealings with him have been few. I am in no way accusing Lord Kingston of being indiscreet but a prolonged, friendly conversation over cards and wine can be illuminating if one were an observant man with an inkling of something left unsaid.”

He sat back in his seat. He supposed it was unreasonable to assume a man in the position of Buckingham would be wary of traps and falsehoods. “I found Kingston to be a man worthy of my friendship.” He said almost conversationally. To get down to the tacks of brass as they say, we were speaking of our experiences coming of age during…” he paused as if he had a sour taste in his mouth. “…The Commonwealth…” he spat out “I, with resuming my station and the expectations therefrom as a matter of course. He doing so with much more difficulty and uncertainty. He confided his unease to me about his new lofty position and his perceived unsuitability to fulfill what was required of him. So many young gentlemen in such a position would look at their gifts as due them and not spare a though of what might be due for them.”

He was starting to veer of what he thought of Kingston onto what he thought of himself. “My family had a long and well-deserved reputation for loyalty to the Crown. I never knew my father as he died in the service of the King when I was very young and my grandfather who fought beside Sir William and Prince Rupert was hounded and imprisoned for his service to the King. Much was expected of me but, the young man that I was at the time did not know how to go about it. I was fortunate when at Oxford to come under the mentorship of Chancellor Finch who, to my great benefit, was able to instill in me a modicum of his own character and sense of duty and justice.”  He shook his head and came back to Kingston and Buckingham.

“I felt a kinship… metaphorically…” He added with a wry smile. “…with Kingston due to similar experiences. The fact that he was concerned that he would not be able to give as much as was given was proof to me that he was indeed a worthy gentleman in the true knightly tradition. That led me to the summation that the blood of his father did not flow strongly in his veins. That his character was not a replication of his father’s character. I believe I may say that the elder Kirke although a gentleman was no gentleman. But with continued close observation I cam to realize that I was possibly mistaken and that our Francis Kirke did indeed have the blood of his father flowing in his veins.”

He looked Buckingham in the eyes. “The Villiers blood is strong and it flows readily from father to son. The character of the Villiers is well attested. When I look into his eyes, like I am looking in to yours I can tell a Villiers when I see one.”

He had plopped another bold statement onto Buckingham’s lap. One that would be a little harder to parry without the possibility of denigrating one or the other. He looked away and said in a softer voice. “And I bring up my admittingly slight ties to your family and kinship with the Legge’s to underscore that I am making these observations, for I would not classify them as accusations, from a sympathetic position.

The Duke was not taking this badly, cautiously could perhaps be an apt description. This was obviously a complicated situation and Charles had no desire to make it worse. “I do not have a dog in this hunt but I am predisposed to wish that things go well for Kingston. That is why I came to you and have not divulged any of my suspicions to him for I can tell you have his best interests at heart. I am here and I have been forthright to you. If you wish to claim this matter none of my business and wish me to desist, I will sit here, drink your cognac, make pleasant on some inane subject then bid you a good evening and speak no more of this.”    

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"Lord Mountjoy, I am not entirely certain I follow your circumlocution. Nor am I certain I understand what you are trying to convey about Kingston's birth, if - indeed - you believe him to be a gentleman as you say," Buckingham began. "Your compliments do not quite match your insinuation, one which would be a great threat to Kingston."


He huffed, almost delicately, before he took a healthy swig of cognac.


It was not that he disliked the notion that someone could think the cub his child, for he thought that was what was in Mountjoy's mind. Such a thing would mean he had done well in educating and polishing Francis for his new court life and that the boy reflected well on him whilst regarding him with such reverence on top of it. No, it was the way in which the marquess delivered it. Not that Francis was his son, whose birth had pre-dated his current marriage, but that he suspected Francis was a bastard, albeit a well-behaved one. It was an untenable position for a man like Mountjoy to have; no noble truly thought a bastard should be well-titled save a King's bastard. That was the only exception. 


Had the young lord approached it with researched finesse, such as speculating that Buckingham had made a disadvantageous and ill-advised marriage during the war or exile, resulting in Francis - or something that led more directly to some thought of legitimacy - the conversation might have taken a different turn. As it was, Buckingham was not a trusting fellow and perhaps insinuating that a family member was a bastard was not firm ground to stand on. If that was, indeed, what Mountjoy was saying.


So the position Buckingham had to take was clear. At least for now. At some point, select others would need to know the truth, but he was going to show the utmost care over that. Kingston's future depended upon it, and in that his family's future did as well.


"Francis, is my first cousin twice removed. He was raised by two Villiers-blooded ladies in exile. You speak of his eyes, and yes we Villiers all do mostly have blue eyes. His lady mother has them. His grandmother has them. Sir George has them. Sir William has them. They are all blond and tall, save for William, who takes after his father in height and shape. Surely you have seen both of the ladies before, not least when His Majesty gave the title to Lady Kingston, and know Sir George from a lifetime at court. Do you see the Villiers blood in Sir George, for I do. He and Francis share many qualities and both have given impeccable service to the royal family, no matter how they have been asked to do so. Should it be surprising that they know how to deport themselves? That they aspire to represent the Villiers side of their blood as much as Colonel Legge's?" 


Surely Mountjoy could not think he had bedded both his cousin Bess and his cousin her mother nearly simultaneously when he was but twenty-years-old. Looks and deportment and bearing were not everything for Francis, because he shared all those things with other family members of his too. Ones that were not his child.


He took a sip of his cognac and continued. "My interest in Francis is thus. As a cousin, he came to me to pay his respects when he came to court, not to ask me for money or to demand it or to claim anything for himself. He was a gentleman of some success, on his own. He had achieved attention from His Majesty for his privateering and sacrifice, on his own. He had ability, a sound mind, and sharp wit. He aided York when the flotilla was attacked and apprehended Ruvigny's bastard who tried to assassinate the King. He offered the services of his ship in port to Cumberland when it was thought the French might have plans to cross the channel. He did not need me for any of that. All in his first season. That is who he is, that is as he had been taught by Colonel Legge, and that is his blood, his character. He knows service and sacrifice.


"He does not have a father now and barely even knew Charles Kirke. He never benefit from any of those things a father teaches his son about life at court. Nor even what a grandfather might teach, for the Colonel never brought him. As the family patriarch, that falls to me to oversee now, so I do see to the boy's best interests, that is my duty, and he wishes to honor the part of him that is my family. Can you blame him? He does not campaign for his laurels or ask for his raising: I do. So that I can show him how to be a great man. I have no children. Who else am I to mentor? My care over him and resemblance makes you think Francis must be, what, a bastard? Mine?"


In that way, Buckingham dared him to say the word aloud. He also congratulated himself that nothing which he had said was false.


If Mountjoy wished to be Francis' friend and wished his success, that was all well and good, but this suspicion...it could not be repeated to anyone.


(OOC - Just a mod side-note, bc I know how these threads can be, I'm not discouraging you or CB from continuing the conversation. Buckingham's position is adversarial but not angry, and that adversarial quality is to be expected with what CB is discussing with him. I, personally, encourage you to keep discussing Francis ;) , his Villiers qualities, and more clearly state what it is CB wishes to convey to the duke. Buckingham has made no indication of booting him out or ending the conversation, even if he's being pointed. He'd far rather suss CB out.)

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The conversation was not going as Charles had planned. Perhaps he should have known better as he and Buckingham were not intimate associates and a man in Buckingham’s position had to be wary. He swirled his drink in its glass as he contemplated. Everything Villiers told him was plausible but it did not add up to the entire truth. The subject was a distasteful one for two gentlemen and one he would not have pursued if it were not for a sense that Francis was struggling with it. In their conversation he had confided his qualms about marriage and having children and that sparked a feeling of concern in him for the man. But such thoughts uttered in private between two gentlemen conferred a confidentiality that Charles was not prepared to break even to that person’s benefactor.

“You have yet, Your Grace, to answer my question. Does Lord Kingston know the truth of his parentage?”

He went on trying to convey his motives to assuage Buckingham’s circumspection. “I cast no dispersions, and I convey no threats. What I have said has been said in private and will not be repeated by me to anyone with the possible exception of Lord Kingston himself. I have no proof of my suspicions and even if I did have direct information, it would not be mine to reveal.”

“I have studied law at Oxford…” He was about to add ‘the finest university in England’ but thought better of it. He was annoying Buckingham enough. “…And we are trained to look at truth in its entirety. I do not doubt that everything you have told me was true but it is unlikely the entire truth. Gossip is swirling because despite his accomplishments the rewards bestowed do not add up in people’s minds. And when things do not seem ‘right’ people will make things up and seek to destroy that which they do not understand. How many second cousins have you expressed this much interest in? It would not be gross speculation to believe that there is a closer tie. If I have come to that conclusion it is only a matter of time before others do. That is if they already have not done so and this current spate of slander is but a precursor to greater attacks.”

He thought of his position and what Buckingham might rightly think of someone making the accusations he was insinuating. He all but outright dared Mountjoy to call Francis his bastard. In fairness Mountjoy had effectively done just that but Mountjoy also could be prideful and the accusatory tone began to wear on his temper which sometimes he found difficult to control. “I am a gentleman sir. The kind of gentleman that I hope would have a reputation for integrity and probity. It would be distasteful for me to walk up to a man I admire and to his face call a man I respect a Bastard.”  He said somewhat snappishly. Mountjoy, although deferential to his superiors, would growl back if provoked.

Mountjoy’s conclusion was indeed that Francis was the bastard child of Buckingham as that would explain nicely Kingston’s rapid rise and favor from the King but he overlooked one glaring error in his hypothesis. That error would be that the premise would cast dispersions on Elizabeth Legge.

So, when Buckingham had finished his spirited defense harangue at the insinuation Mountjoy sat up with furled brow. Buckingham could tell he landed a telling blow.

Mountjoy took a few moments to ponder through the allegations. He still believed that there was something amiss concerning Francis’ paternity but he was not so stubborn to accept new facts. He thought to himself ‘Hmmm. So this is what it feels like to be wrong.’  His peevishness gone he now was rather subdued.

“I believe some of my former remarks were impolitic. It was true that I was under the supposition that Lord Kingston was likely your natural son but I, to my shame and regret, failed to perceive that in doing so I was casting dispersions upon Lady Elizabeth. I apologize for any affront I may have insinuated.”  He was man enough to look into Buckingham’s eyes when he said that. It would be uncharitable for Buckingham to point out that Blount’s apology was predicated more on the Lady’s scruples than his own.

“I continue to assert that, although there is less about this than I imagined there is more to this than you allow. I came to you claiming a modicum of kinship for I believe the bounds of kinship allow a frank discussion of sensitive subjects. It is not a subject upon which I boast but I remind Your Grace of my great grandfather Charles Earl of Devon and the issues with his sons Mountjoy Earl of Newport, who was a great friend to your father I could add, and Sir St John Blount my grandfather and the issue with their questionable legitimacy yet no one dared to call them Bastards. I believe among others the Villiers and Legge families were supportive of the Blounts on that occasion. Shall I do less?”


[OOC: There was a somewhat similar situation between Charles Blount (CB’s G-Gpa) and Penelope Devereux. They had several children together but at the time she was still Lady Rich]

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"Yet to answer your question, my lord?" Buckingham replied, with faux confused surprise. He was a consummate actor and enjoyed being 'on the stage.' "I confuse at why an exceedingly intelligent man such as yourself need even ask. A man's parentage is not a difficult matter for him to understand, nor anyone else. It is there as plain as day."


As to why he would show so much attention to this particular second cousin, he huffed and began to expound in detail with a clip in his tone of astonished frankness. "I have explained that to you already. I tire of this game. Most of my cousins have titles, many more than one. My relations boasts a handful of duchesses, double earls aplenty, and a host of other peers - pray tell, which one requires this level of assistance and attention and would allow me to give it with humility and credit me?


"The ones that do not have titles do not for a reason: they are useless or have already squandered what they had, and I do not need hangers-on dependent upon me and unable to rise to the level of deserving what I can provide with the lauding I deserve. I had one who wrote the King that by not beheading me, he was deprived of 500 pounds a year, and asked His Majesty for compensation for his decision*! Can you imagine? That is my worth to them! Shall I expend thousands upon one of them in a year?


"The Legge's do not have their own title for only one reason: the Colonel begged leave to refuse the King the Earldom of Dartmouth** when it was offered, not feeling worthy of it, or Sir George would be Lord Dartmouth. My cousin Elizabeth was married into a situation necessitated by the war, beneath her, as was my own in many respects. Such is the harm done by the Republicans.


"Francis had already earned his own baronetcy, a considerable feat, for a boy who had comparatively nothing, had never been to court, no father who could be of any use to him, and had no direct patron. He was not penniless. He did not need for me to pay for him. If the pamphleteers do not see his worth, if people of the court do not and believe that drivel, then they are simply ignorant and foolish.


"But I will make certain that you understand  my reasons, Mountjoy, so that you can detail with your probity and oration to all those naysayers, why I am happily Francis' benefactor and why he had been given what he has been given.


"It is to him that the honors are given, yes, but it is His Majesty's love for me to provide them. It is the closeness our two families have enjoyed, of which so many are jealous.


"Old men reach a point where they look to the next generation, take warmth of the generation to follow them. His Majesty now has his, legitimately. You wound me to remind me that I do not and to have to deign talk aloud of such matters to say that I cannot, as clearly evidenced by my lack of issue in comparison to the King. This, too, should be self-evident. 


"In further illumination, let me ask you something since you speak of how things add up. Does Francis behave as if he was born illegitimately? As if he was robbed of being the heir to a duke because his parents were not married? Does he strike you as reaching for his due? Do you think he approaches me as if I bear the fault for his unfair plight? Does he speak to one and all of his great worth, of his feats? Hold those above him with contempt and jealousy? Flaunt himself? Keep others from gaining notice in the fear that his light won't shine so fucking bright or he might be forgotten? I'Faith, I offered to gift him Helmsley, and he said that he wished not for anything that was mine or to take anything of mine from me as a gift, but was content that if I wished to expend that income on him that I could do as I would! Do you think a vain man like me would by some luck of the draw or bequeathment from God, end up with a humble bastard child? I assure you, I have yet to meet one illegitimate child with humility - look at Monmouth! He could not help himself but to attack His Majesty's brother to push his own cause despite the King warning him time after time.


"No, my lord, I think it clear as the sun that boy is quite legitimate and exceedingly grateful for the Duke of Buckingham. He waits upon my whims, asks me for nothing, and it either content or embarrassed of what I give him. As to His Majesty, when the King asked Francis what he might do for him, the cub said he wished to ensure that his mother would be taken care of if anything happened to him, rather than be dependent upon her brother, and not be punished by the memory of Charles Kirke any longer. You know how gallant His Majesty is in regard to the plight of any lady. Anything else has been entirely my doing, not his."


He took a great breath and then downed his cognac, pouring himself another and taking a great sip of it too.


"If you wish to offer your support in face of the slander against Kingston and myself, I am pleased to accept it graciously. You are an influential personage, especially with the most proper of courtiers, and I would like to continue to call you a friend and treat you with the kinship to myself and Francis you claim to bear. However this," he made a circle with his finger between them, to indicate the content of their conversation, "this, my lord, is both beneath you to think and not well-thought, and you are warned: you surpass yourself. As a young man, I oft surpassed myself. I will therefore respond to it with understanding and in the spirit of support with which is was intended."


(OOC - *true facts. When Bucky was accused of telling the King's fortune, which is treason, the King pardoned him when he realized that the note in question was, indeed, not in Bucky's hand but his sister's, which CR could discern the moment he looked at it. Some northern relation bitched to the King about the pardon for losing him money! CR, of course, showed it to Bucky!

** also true historically, and it's even referenced on George Legge's letters patent when he was eventually given Dartmouth, that it could also go linearly through his brother William and his heirs due to the service of their father.)

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In Mountjoy’s profession as a Barrister it was common to press on subjects that the recipient would rather not answer or would wish to obfuscate the answer. In these situations how the subject chose to respond and what exactly was said and left unsaid could be as significant as a direct reply. It was not lost on him that Buckingham quite unhesitatingly acknowledged the peripheral facts yet avoided the central one. What Buckingham said was perfectly true, elegantly put but, but to Charles’s mind, not the whole truth.

When Buckingham declared he felt wounded by the reminder that he himself lacked issue for his titles the comment hit close to home and not in the manner intended for it might be only a matter of time before Mountjoy would be subject to that same wound. Perhaps in recompence for intruding into the Duke’s family matters he provided a glimpse of his own. “I may feel more on that score than you may imagine. And unlike Your Grace, I do not have an extended family to care for or to rely upon. The harm done by the Republicans was widely spread.”   

They were cutting around the stone of the peach, as his mother would say,

Perhaps if he added more words, he might induce Buckingham to blurt out some unguarded statement. “Your Grace, I hope, will not think me belaboring the point, to yet again draw attention to the fact that, although Your Grace has responded quite elegantly to my original question, you have, if I may be so audacious to indicate, not in fact been so communicative as to reply directly to the question of Kingston’s knowledge of his parentage.”

He then thought that Buckingham was not the sort that would be swayed by such oration and if he refined his question, he might induce a bit more trust in Buckingham. A man in Buckingham’s position would needs be wary of supposed ‘helpful’ offers so perhaps explaining the why would ease his waryness.

“I fully concede that Kingston does not act as an illegitimate offspring would tend to do and that I would not associate any similarities, aside from their attention to the ringlets of their wigs, between he and Monmouth whatsoever. I do not gainsay or dispute your most insightful portrayal of his character for it is that exact character that had induced me to act in this unaccustomed manner. That he would forgo personal enrichment in favor of his mother does not surprise me at all. He does not, as you say, strike me as reaching for his due. Quite the contrary Sir. If anything, I perceive him as eschewing his due.”

He let a little of the frustration he was feeling seep into his words. He huffed and continued in a calmer resigned tone.

“Just as I will keep this conversation between the two of us there have been other conversations that I equally am not at liberty to divulge to others. My aim is not to uncover scandalous details about the Villiers or Legge families. As for the Kirke family, aside from our young gentleman and his mother, I have little knowledge and scant regard. The impetus for my original question and the reason it was directed to you, directly and in private, and not to Lord Kingston was that I did not wish to risk creating more confusion or causing additional discomfort for him or his family.”

Mountjoy was struggling as he obviously did not know the entire situation and was proceeding only upon suppositions. He also was limited by his self-imposed obligation to confidentiality. He desired to help but did not want to make it worse for Francis and did not want to ruin any relationship he had with Buckingham.

To Buckingham’s warning he replied. “You have no need to warn, you have but to ask and I will comply. I have come here to offer succor not to demean myself although I do concede that your criticism of the thoroughness of my hypothesis had merit and is, if I may say, not commensurate with my habitual assiduousness. I am not relishing this conversation. I decided to take upon myself this task for no other reason than I felt a kinship, not of family but of experience for I know a bit about being thrust into an unfamiliar position where much is expected of you.”   

He then attempted to lighten the mood. “On you comparison of us surpassing ourselves I will take that as a compliment but…” He gave the Duke a knowing smile. “Considering the stories of your youth, I must naturally concede eminence of place to Your Grace.”

He smiled. “I have found that the skills of a lawyer and a politician are often complimentary. I have taken some satisfaction in my abilities and modest success in those areas but am not so narcissistic as to be unable to appreciate the skills and abilities of others.” He raised his glass to Buckingham and took a swig.

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"Good God, Mountjoy!" Buckingham was known as quite the blasphemer. Unlike the King who preferred swears dedicated to biblical stories about fish. "Your favoring of direct language is beleaguering to a man who prefers a poetic way of speaking. It would be impossible for a man not to know, as I said, so yes Kingston is well-aware." He rolled his eyes dramatically.


Snickering some, Buckingham said, "That is Kingston's real hair." It was, he admitted, fine enough to be a wig. His own hair had been equally golden and natural once upon a time. "Eschewing his due? Do expound." Buckingham raised a brow. "It is helpful to my mentoring to know he deports himself when I am not around." 


The Duke did much to keep an eye on Francis. Not out of mistrust but out of the fact that the cub was new to all of this, and he couldn't teach if he didn't know. "Although, I must say, in the face of these broadsheets, I should rather he be known for eschewing his due and evidencing humility than to give credence to this accusation of being a grubby upstart!"


He huffed. "Can the landed cousin of a duke be called an upstart? That these slanderers think my family bloodlines not worthy of His Majesty's attention is astounding. How many can trace their families back not just to nobility in France and the conquest but far before?"


Nevermind that his father had been slandered as an undeserving upstart as well. For decades now heaps of his extended family had provided valuable service to the royal family. The undeserving upstart moniker did not hold water when one could easily hold company with the nobility.  Three-quarters of these nobles had been peasants raising sheep when his forebears had been living in castles.

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“When speaking in private, when objectives are aligned and frankness will not be construed as an insult or disrespect, I ofttimes find it conducive, if not in fact advisable to the general understanding of the conversation, to be, if I may be so succinct, plain-spoken, even at the risk of the recipient misinterpreting the intention even to the extent of describing it beleaguering.” He replied to the Dukes annoyance at his directness.


It was becoming clear that either he was mistaken (unlikely) or that Buckingham would not, or could not, reveal the true circumstances of Francis’ birth (more probable). The fact that Buckingham confirmed directly that Francis himself knew his parentage was puzzling but at least he now knew for certain that Francis was not being deceived.


When asked to elaborate on his comment that Francis was eschewing his due it was his turn to obfuscate. He turned in his chair. “It is a general perception that I acquired after musing upon the poems of Ephelia.” He crossed his legs. Anonymous pamphlets attacking one’s character is vexing enough but to labor under the disadvantage of familial guilt is quite another thing. I do not impinge the honor of Lady Legge” choosing not to use her married name. “But you know well that it is the paternal line that provides the pillar of honor for a family and you must admit, as it stands, the honor flowing from his acknowledged father, Charles Kirke, leaves something to be desired. If I may be so understated to refer to his character so. Reluctance to expand that association could be understandable for a gentleman whose character is so different from his acknowledged father. I would wish that there was something that could be done to alleviate that situation.” He let that statement hang in the air before he continued.


Seeming to change the subject he went on. “Since we are conversing privately and that anything that is discussed will be kept between us, I will confide that when you chided me for bringing up the unpleasant fact that you are without an heir…” he gestured apologetically for bring up the subject again.  “I felt, indeed I feel, your situation keenly. Although I do have a wonderful daughter, I do not have a son to carry on my name and titles. You may scoff and say that I am young still and it is only a matter of time before I produce an heir.” He paused for a moment as he swallowed. It was clear that he was not relishing this. “That may be so but that is not the case for the Margravina. The Doctors have made it clear that she will not be able to bear anymore children.” He looked Buckingham in the eyes and sternly interjected. “I do not wish for that information to become the subject of sordid gossip.” Making it clear that Mountjoy considered this an important revelation and the confidence he expressed in Buckingham by revealing such a secrete. He continued.


“As fate would have it there is no close relative that could be considered as my heir apparent so, if I am to save the Barony, I will have to uncover and press an unconventional claim from one of my remaining kinsfolk. Aside from any regard I have for Lord Kingston, I thought that if I could be of some assistance if you were in a similar situation, you would look favorably upon my situation.”


 Perhaps to a man like Buckingham, showing that he was doing this out of a modicum of self interest would prove that he could be trusted.               

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  • 2 weeks later...

Buckingham had some growing annoyance with Mountjoy. The rather newly made marquess was accusing him of not answering questions clearly, but the marquess was equally refusing to answer his own. Buckingham did not enjoy repeating himself. His vanity was pricked some by the paucity of deference which he thought his due. 


"So by eschewing his due, you refer to his lack of desire to further the memory of a man who his lady mother fled from with him when he was just a babe? One who my master, the King threw from court? You can imagine the acts that might have caused both events, and they are far more horrible than even what is said about the man from those who remember him at court."


"Forgive me, Mountjoy, but for a man such a you that exposition does not match the specificity of 'eschewing his due.' That, my lord, is the mark of a gentleman who does not wish his successes to be ascribed to the bloodlines of a wastrel that had nothing to do with him for most of his life," Buckingham replied, with a harsh huff of agitation. "What do you feel is Kingston's due that he is avoiding, for clearly it is far above that of Charles Kirke by your own words? As I said, that is why I chose him, because he is worthy of being associated with me and his Villiers blood, but I wish to know why you think that. What, specifically, about Kingston makes you feel such a way. What of his actions and deportment? Are you complimenting me on my tutelage of the cub? Does he have some sort of esprit de noblesse beyond teaching?" He wished to know precisely what Mountjoy was saying about Francis.


Indeed, it was infuriating for him to think that his younger brother's child, who was so very much like him, was associated with Kirke. He could very well understand how Francis felt about it. Would it be strange for any gentleman with such a 'father' to say such a thing or act such a way? He was quite certain there were plenty of gentlemen who had been brought up more in association with their mother's family than their father's. 


Lady Ranelagh had done the same thing as Lady Kingston had in running back to her own father (and brothers) for protection and mentorship for her son. It was not unheard of. 


"His Majesty has alleviated that situation by showing Kingston the preference that he has shown, and you see what the result is of that attention. The nobles of court would complain of it and pay to slander him in broadsheets that translate to rampant court gossip."


He listened with sympathy as Mountjoy expounded upon his own plight. 


"I am saddened to hear such a thing, but you are correct that I will say that you are a young man and clearly capable of fathering children. A gentleman can have children well into old age. Not that I would wish misfortune for your lady wife, and you are intelligent to make plans to ensure the survival of your line through a cousin or some such, but God may yet provide opportunity for you one day. I am certain that you know in reference to an heir and letters patent, it is the College of Arms that sees to such affairs of proof of descent according to what is specified in letters patent or in writ as the original baronies were granted. The House of Lords does not have jurisdiction over the College. The Lords can only sanction a peer for misuse of a title or honors and formally accept what the College decrees once arms have been granted. Your legal expertise would give you good grounds to make a case to the College if such was necessary. There are many ways of providing legal proof of descent according to the Church and law, as I am sure you remember from your assistance of Lady O'Roarke."


It was that paperwork of transfer of the legal right to hold the arms that had to be presented for a peer to then be accepted into the House of Lords as a peer. It was not the House of Lords who verified and accepted it. He had, of course, also provided his aide to that same lady in that same affair. 


"Whatever help I may be to you, I am happy to be. You will find there are few with the knowledge of Parliamentary history and precedent than I, for the martyred King made that my primary tutelage as a small boy, so that I might always protect his son our King, and I studied it straight through my youth before I was sent to safety in Italy." For exhaustive hours...daily. The late King had been a demanding sort of man and as a child, Buckingham had wanted little more than to please him.


"You may also ask His Majesty to regrant your titles in new Letters Patent, that is often done to prevent the loss of an old noble line. You will lose the precedence of the title and it will, in effect, be a new creation, but Norfolk knows all about that after the frequency of which his lands and titles were all attainted, revoked, and regranted."

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The two gentlemen were dancing around certain facts and as a result certain misperceptions were made. “I believe I chose my words poorly causing Your Grace to misinterpret my meaning. The due that I refer to Lord Kingston eschewing, in my supposition, does not emanate from Charles Kirke. I am in complete agreement with your Grace as to the character of the senior Kirke even though I am confident that you have more cause for disapprobation than I. Likewise I would also contend that my own opinion of Kirke the younger does not differ substantially from yours… although again I defer to your superior knowledge. What I hypothesize, in private only, is that Francis is due more than to be saddled by the Kirke legacy. My maternal Uncle was a rouge of dubious character for all his lofty titles so I believe I have some small insight into how that can effect a young man maturing into the man he is to be.”

He took a swig of cognac thus emptying his glass and gestured to Buckingham for permission to refill his glass. If granted he would take the time to marshal his thoughts for this dance had gone on long enough.

“I do not consider myself to be a foolish man, although perhaps it was foolish of me to come here. I do not consider myself a discourteous man, yet my accusations could be taken as disrespectful. I did not come here to threaten or expose. I came here to you who has a professed interest, as I felt that a gentleman of a disposition such as Francis has been placed into an unenviable situation for, despite the augmentations of titles and favor, it is to all true gentlemen that the reputation of lineage and paternity is of greater significance. I had resolved to offer any assistance I may to alleviate such a situation so I naturally approached you first.”

“I believe there is no material remedy for the true son of Charles Kirke. In such an instance I can only apologize to your Grace for overstepping my bounds, being foolish and discourteous and offer my commiserations for a man who is burdened by such paternity. I beg your Grace to understand that my motives, rightly or wrongly, had no intentions other than that which is respectable. Whether my involvement has been unwarranted, unneeded, unwelcomed, unfound or unwanted I shall not press and leave the issue, if there is indeed any issue to be left, with you.”

In regards to his own situation, Buckingham was sympathetic but perhaps just like Mountjoy scraped some raw nerves the Dukes summation certainly touched his. With a mirthless laugh he confided “Like a Surgeon you probe directly into the painful lump. I have had to, in the recess of my mind, contemplate just that which you say. If something were to happen to the woman I love, I would then be free to continue my line. It is a terrible thought to have to contemplate and I would not wish such a necessity on my worst enemy.” He sounded quite wretched. He emptied his glass and poured himself another without asking and took another generous swig before regaining his composure and setting the glass down. The Duke might notice that Mountjoy would not touch his drink again.

Back to his more normal self he went on. “I, either fortunately or unfortunately, also have some knowledge of dealings with the Garter King of Arms for sanction of the proper lineage of a Writ as well as the necessity of a Writ of Summons from the House of Lords.” He went into lawyer mode as it provided a distraction to his unpleasant feelings. Take William Knollys the first Earl of Banbury, his wife was 40 years his junior and when he was in his eighties, after close to twenty years of marriage with no issue, his wife produced two sons. Obviously, questions were raised regarding their paternity and in 1641, I believe, and the Coutts ruled that the eldest son was the rightful second Earl but the Parliament refused to acknowledge the ruling or issue a Summons to Parliament and the new Earl or his descendants never sat in the House of Lords. This was, of course, during the Convention Parliament so who can fathom the reasoning of those republicans.”

“My great uncle Mountjoy, who married your cousin Ann Boteler, was denied the inheritance of my great grandfather’s Earldom of Devon but James I created him Earl of Newport, I suspect Mountjoy, Lord Mountjoy was too much for him, but his sons died childless so that Earldom was lost as well. The barony has a special remainder so it passed to his younger brother and down to me. It seems that we Lords Mountjoy can accede to higher titles but cannot keep them. Still… continuation of the bloodline is what really matters. I believe we are both in agreement upon this.”

“I do envy the King his heir for more reasons than most.”  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Buckingham was not sure what it was that Mountjoy wished. The duke was - rightly - very suspicious. It had little to do with his esteem of the marquess, who by all accounts seemed an earnest sort of gentleman. He had, after all, aided Heather in her plight as had the Buckingham. At this juncture he could not very well trust anything about Francis to any others than to those in which it had already been trusted. That went no where beyond Francis' immediately family and some of the royal family. 


He would not forget that Mountjoy had spoken, at great risk, in favor of Francis, but he was not going to acknowledge the veracity of it.


"You are correct that there is no remedy of paternity for the son of such a gruesome man. That is Kingston's burden to bear. He is pleased enough to have a title to use instead of that name, but it does little to remedy how he is seen by those who do not know him. The slanders bear that to fruit. We Villiers tend to feel things deeply, just as much as we can be deadly and protective; Francis is no different. If you wish to aide his plight, try to find the source of these broadsheets and slanders. At this point that is all that is to be done to separate him from that reputation but to be his friend if that is what you wish, my lord. You are not of dissimilar age despite Kingston's looks."


The story with Lady Mountjoy was unfortunate. Buckingham sympathized. Life brought with it trials and tribulations for all. Your choices in dealing with them were your own path. He was not going to tell someone to kill their wife. He had, after all, not killed his own, and he had no feelings for her other than the friendship of long association. She had saved him from the Tower during the fortune-telling incident. She had a keen mind. She was, however, wholly unattractive physically and for a vain man - who was also quite handsome - that was something of a problem. He could have married someone far, far greater had it not been for exile.


"We have now had a long discussion on how life can be cruel, Mountjoy. I sympathize with your circumstances. You sympathize with Kingston's circumstances and mine of not being capable of fathering a child. We are in agreement of the importance of bloodlines, and both of us can envy His Majesty his legitimate heir." 


He cleared his glass once more and than said, "If there is nothing else, I thank you for your goodwill toward Kingston. He is a worthy recipient of it; I would that more would realize that and laugh at this gossip and scurrilous bits of parchment."


(OOC - in our era, the Writ of Summons came from the King, not from the Lord Chancellor. The House of Lords could complain if the sovereign refused to issue a summons for a peer and could require that he do so, but they could not issue the summons themselves *see Charles I attempting to deny the Earl of Bristol his Writ. I'm sure Cromwellian times did things all manner of fucked up though.)

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Mountjoy could see that Buckingham had gone as far as he was going to in addressing this matter. The fact that the Duke did not insult and throw him out was telling for those that recognized such things. The Duke did however, adroitly and politely made it clear that their conversation had reached a conclusion.

“I am glad that, despite the uncomfortableness of the subject matter, we have, like gentlemen of breeding ought, been able to reach a sympathetic conclusion. If the purveyors of the slanderous broadsheets are found I can assure you they will face the law but I suspect that if they were to be found you would have other options than the law.”

Mountjoy did not clear his glass but stood anyway in preparation of departing. “I thank Your Grace for receiving me despite my untimely intrusion. I apologize for taking so much of your valuable time and will detain you no further knowing that there is a puppy in desperate need of your attention.”

He bowed to the Duke and before he made his way out he stated. “I shall refrain from offering your Grace a pup from my wolfhound out of respect for the state of your carpets.”


[OOC: The Banbury case is interesting as it did happen during the protectorate things were done without precedent. I believe it came down to a pissing match between the Courts trying to stick their noses in and the Lords trying to keep their privileges. The titular 4th Earl got away with murder because of it as when he was arrested the Lords said he was not entitled to be tried by them as a peer but the Courts released him saying he was the Earl of Banbury and not Charles Knollys a commoner.]   

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