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In Search of Royal Recommendation, Afternoon Friday 16th

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Langdon found himself in a bind.  Catriona's reaction had shaken him and he needed to do something about it.  Unlike most peers at court, the Earl had no patron.  The Duke of Ablemarle was his superior in rank but he did not seem especially wise in the ways of court.  Colonel Trentmont was like a father to him, but he was a soldier rather than a courtier.  The Duke of York might resent him over the Sedley affair, and there were no other dukes who were close to him.  Perhaps it was an advantage to be free of obligations to any of the Privy Council, but there were times that a young man needed savvy advice.

Thomas Herbert told him that the King offered to help him with his marriage.  Might the King help him?  There was a danger in asking royal advice because, if one did not take it, one would be in an even worse situation.  Yet, Charles was a bit desperate.  What if Cat went to see him before he had a chance to explain?  What if Pembroke wrote him?

His rank in the Guard gave him ready access to the King's apartments and he decided to use it, nodding to his troopers as he passed.  Moving into the King's outer chambers, Langdon looked for the gentleman on duty and asked if he might have a few minutes to speak with the King.

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Lord Langdon did not find one of the King's Gentlemen in the outer chamber, but rather there were two ushers in their twenties and a page of around sixteen who quickly hid their dice. 


The most senior of the ushers rose and offered Lord Langdon a bow. "I will see if His Majesty will receive you, my lord."


The young man was gone for some limits, leaving Lord Langdon to stew in his own juices.


When the door opened once more, the usher held it open for him and announced, "Lord Langdon, Your Majesty." 


But the King was not alone. He was rarely completely alone. Lord Ranelagh was attending and with him was Lord Denbigh. The were one on each side of the mantle like ornaments and grew silent as Charles entered the more intimate parlour. It was not uncommon for some matters to be brought to the King by the Life Guard, so His Majesty had no inclination that Lord Langdon wished to see him about a private matter. As such, he did not readily dismiss his friends from the room. 


The King looked to the side from his position seated in a comfortable chair with his feet up and then raised a brow, "Egads, Langdon, you look rather pale. Do not bring your King bad news, the mood of the room shall not abide!" 

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Each second seemed like a minute as he waited.  As the Earl stood there, he made sure to brush off any lint he found, already second-guessing his decision to come.

Once admitted, the solder strode in to the room and bowed before the King, dismayed to not find him alone.  "Thank you for seeing me Your Majesty.  I bear no bad news or tidings.  Rather I had hoped to ask you for guidance on a private, personal matter," he explained in as crisp a manner as he could under the circumstances.  "I had hoped to find you at leisure where I might speak to you alone about a personal dilemma; but, I can come back at a later time of your choosing if this is not a good time to see me alone.  I thank you for considering my request and I am at your service."  Part of him hoped for a dismissal.  Surely this was folly.  Who would ask the King of England about ladies?

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Alone was a mystical state for a King. At least, he thought so personally. He oft wished for the freedom of being alone, but the best to be hoped for was an illusion of it. 


A private, personal matter caught his attention immediately. It was not oft such words were uttered to him, and when they were it was usually to ask for something of monumental greatness, but the demeanor did not match such a request. In truth, the youth looked about to flee altogether.


He was not a King one usually fled from. He had learned from his father's unhappy ending that it was far better to be loved and liked as a King...and to do no harm as much as one could. Still, Charles was far more perceptive than he betrayed to others. 




Well, now he utterly had to know! Had the boy been challenged to a duel and did not know how to reply whilst not angering his king? Was it perhaps about Catherine Sedley and dipping his wick where his brother had also dipped his own? Maybe about Mistress Wellesley, for everything to do with her was closely watched. Or his younger brother had perhaps not given up on Princess Dorothea - which if he hadn't scared the poor girl might almost be comically amusing in its idiocy. 


Having a grand number of spies, Charles could think of many things which might cause Lightening Langdon a dilemma.


At any rate, it was more amusing than Ranelagh and Denbigh. He gave them a barely perceptible tilt of his head toward the door. Both bowed and vacated, but not before Ranelagh handed Langdon his rather full glass of brandy with a cheeky smile. 


The action made the King chuckle. He gave his permission for Langdon to drink it if he wished, with a, "You might require that fortification." He paused. "Now, what is this dilemma of such importance?"

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Although not a man that drank with any gusto, Charles accepted the glass of brandy with a nod of thanks and took a sip at the royal suggestion.  A soldier was taught to never show fear, but this was a different kind of battle he faced.

"It is about ladies and marriage Your Majesty.  While Colonel Trentmont has been like a father to me, I do not require the advice of a soldier.  I would benefit from the advice of the person everyone respects in all matters of court and wisdom.  I was speaking with Captain Herbert yesterday and he revealed that you had offered him advice about marriage and he made it sound like you were generous with your advice to other young gentlemen privileged enough to serve you directly.

As I have no patron at court and my family is not so well-known amongst the other great lords, I thought, Majesty, that I might seek your counsel, valuing it above all others.  Should I continue?" he asked with a waver in his voice.  "Or, if you are too busy to worry with this trifle ...."

He received the royal nod to continue and it allowed the young officer to clear his throat.  He ordered himself to be calm and respectful.

"My story starts yesterday when I approached Captain Herbert to apologize about a vile whisper that I was doing something inappropriate with his sister.  It appears that someone sent a note to Lord Pembroke rather than to anyone else of a more even temper, like Captain Herbert or his lady mother who I have yet to meet.  In essence, he told me that I was a man with a libertine reputation and my very limited interaction with his sister would harm her reputation."  His strategy was to start with the innocent things before progressing.

"Majesty, I do not view myself as a libertine.  You may recall I accompanied you on Lord Kingston's yacht with the women of easy virtue.  I did not participate, but stood guard.  Nor do I engage with whores.  However, I enjoy the company of libertine ladies.  I arrived at court three years ago with no experience of even kissing a lady.  I have had the folly of my youth, you might say, in the few years I have been at court."  The King might be embarrassed with the young man's innocence upon becoming an officer of the guard and an earl.  Charles was certainly embarrassed to admit it.

"I have not hidden my affair with Miss Sedley.  I waited until she was set aside by your royal brother.  She is an unmarried lady, but one that agreed not to seek marriage and to merely enjoy time together.  Her pregnancy has prompted her father to seek marriage, which I have declined.  Miss Sedley understands."  He did not want to spend too much time on Catherine.  "It may even be that my brother wishes to wed her, but that is not why I am here."

"I am here because the incident with Thomas Herbert has caused me to think I should desist with my short-term affairs with other young ladies of libertine ways and desirous of forbidden intimacy than marriage.  I had thought to remain unmarried and continue my carefree ways for the next few years, but I was sobered by what Herbert told me and I began to think I should straighten my ways and marry."  So far so good.  His voice had not cracked yet but he took another sip.

"I have had brief affairs that I am not proud of and while the ladies all remain willing, I am thinking of turning a new chapter in my life from being a ladies man to something a bit more proper," he explained.  "Rather than fathering bastards, I should get about producing heirs.  I like Lady Susan and I might ask her family for permission to court.  There are a few other desirable matches for someone like me.  His Grace the Duke of Newcastle has a couple of daughters of marriageable age.  Majesty, I should stop speaking now and ask for your royal counsel as to what you would recommend."

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Charles settled in with his own drink to hear this tale. Now this was entertaining. He was almost flattered that the youth would ask him about a matter kings just did not hear about. Most would find it beneath his notice, and it was...if he was a self-important sort of king. The mundane, though, was not mundane for him. It was what was unusual.


Ladies and marriages, from a lad barely of age. The matter of such importance! What fun! At least barely of age comparatively. All young men were barely of age to him.


"Captain Herbert, you say?" Charles hmmed and blinked, with a satisfied little smile. He truly doubted Herbert would recommend the state. That boy preferred to not hear about his duties and obligations with regard to marriage and wanted no royal help from his master. Herbert had the ability to claim that privilege of refusal. 


He rolled his hand to signify to continue. How could he not hear everything now?!?


The prelude of NOT engaging with whores, Charles quickly identified as the problem at hand.


"That was what they were for, Langdon. For you as well. I found it quite silly of you to be honest." There were jokes that the lad must have a small cock, or some other such unfortunate state, for men did not take objection with fucking around each other. He did not comment on that. The lad had enough of a dilemma that to think the Swiving Tour's participants had postulated about the state of Langdon's breeches and perhaps he was too much lightening quick in more than one regard!


Honestly, the jokes had gone on for ages and still came about.


"Folly of your youth! Egads, boy, you are still in it!" Charles was able to keep his laugh to a dull roar. 


From there, things only devolved to include some modicum of seriousness, though he still held an amused air, if one was knowledgeable enough of him to see it.


"Yes, the tale has been related from Sedley." A pause. "And from my brother. Extensively from my brother. Long before Sedley and this second child." Then he eyed the boy and said, "You know what it means to lie to your king, Charles? Is it certain you waited for my brother to cast her aside completely. If we are to have this conversation, you must give your honesty." He managed not to titter but to level his brown eyes seriously on Langdon.


"And that Miss Sedley understands does not mean that her father will understand. It is one thing for a lady who has never wed to take up with a prince or a king, but it is another for her to take up with a peer and lose her marriageability. This you understand, do you not? Why should her father pay for her living in perpetuity because of your cock? Might you name an earl with a public mistress, where the lady is also a marriageable member of my court? Being with common whores or fucking a lot is not all that makes one a rake or a libertine." 


He cleared his throat, "As to Lady Susan...a lady of such family is not to be trifled with unless marriage is on your mind. Her Majesty assures the good standing and protection of her ladies as they strive to make strong matches, and their families trust they shan't be dishonored. Her Majesty says even her King must stay away, and the King obeys. There are many at court with whom to have your flirtations. Merry widows, actresses, and even whores. One must take care of one's associations with a lady like Susan Herbert."


As to Langdon's future, he said, "Herbert is a romantic, and he protects his sister, and he protects you from Pembroke and daresay from his mother. We do not call her Cat because it is short for Catherine. Her claws could divest you of that part you find so dear just as easily as Pembroke could attack you as he did Dorset, but that is neither here nor there. If you wish to marry, Lady Susan is an excellent match. I am exceedingly fond of Tom and Cat, and there have been many boys bred in that family." He chuckled not realizing the pun of Tomcat stuck in there unintentionally. "They are close relations of the Duke of Buckingham, and he has kept an eye on them since the late earl's passing. There are many fine matches to be made at court if that is what you wish." The King then said, "There are plenty of ways to sow one's wild oats at court without angering fathers and brothers if that is what you wish to do. The suggestion then is you gain an appetite for whores and sample an actress or widow or five."

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Things were not going to plan.  The young soldier found himself under fire from an opponent he could not overcome.  When one is staring death in the face, a proper English soldier should relax and carry on.

The King ridiculed him for the cruise, which caused him to wince internally.  Perhaps it showed externally.  "Majesty, I could not imagine my father telling me that an officer of the Guard should drop his breaches in front of his King.  It seemed not only improper but a dereliction of my duty to protect you.  What if those damnable Dutch had tried to kill you on that cruise and the only weapon I had at the ready was inside a whore?"  That did not come out the way intended but, as he thought on it, it almost sounded humorous, so he tried to smile.

As for Sedley, Charles confirmed "I cannot and will not lie to my King.  Your Majesty, Miss Sedley was a friend of mine.  She came to me in tears that your royal brother had set her aside for Mrs. O'Rourke.  Ironically, I am also a friend of Mrs. O'Roarke, we having arrived at court together in '75.  She asked me to help make the Duke of York become jealous.  That is why I openly danced and spent considerable time in her company.  Frankly, Your Majesty it has only been this year that she has stopped mooning over your brother and trying to win him back, though she should have known that her hopes were in vain.  Mrs. O'Roarke can be quite charming.  I think it fair to say that, if your royal brother would have her back, I would not see her again."  He tried to laugh but it sounded more like a snicker.  "I suggested that her child be named James in your brother's honor because ... well I suppose he could have had me arrested, beaten, or verbally abused for my actions with his former mistress, but he has been gracious to me in never asking me about it."  It was true that Charles feared the eventual summons to York's quarters that never came.  "I am prepared to have no further intimate relations with Miss Sedley again."

Then came the valid points about the difference between ladies and whores.  "I understand and will adjust accordingly.  I was told as a boy in the Navy that half the whores had the pox and I have avoided them ever since."  Charles hated having to sound so naive about everything.

"Majesty, I fear I have made a hash of things based on my lack of understanding, stupidity, and an overheated desire for ladies that wished to share intimacy with me.  What has seemed to make sense in the past has withered under your royal scrutiny.  While you might hear from another father or brother, and I pray you do not, I hope I am in time to find redemption in your eyes, for your eyes are the most important to me.  I sense that I am at a crossroads to change my direction if I wish for a good match with a prominent family."  There was also the fact of his unhappy brief marriage to the old French whore, but the court seemed not to care.  Perhaps it was because he never brought Jeanne to court, hiding her away.

"If I had your blessing, the best match would be open to me.  Other than Lord Pembroke, the Herberts have a fine reputation.  Lady Susan's mother, the dowager Countess, is well-connected to the Villiers family I am told.  The only rival is that one of Newcastle's daughters would make me a brother-in-law to one duke, my senior officer, and a son-in-law to another duke.  That is my only pause, though Lady Frances and I are not friends, and she seems to have trouble keeping a betrothal.  I think it wise to court only one lady.  Perhaps I am missing a better match?  I would have your advice and what I should do to earn your support."  He had said quite enough and now it was time to listen. 

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He much preferred young men who could enjoy being young men! This one was so serious one would not think he could get into so very much trouble with his cock!


"You were told there were no uniforms or guards allowed on the ship," Charles said. "It should have deprived you of the notion that you were there in such a capacity. You were allowed for fun, to enjoy yourself." He let out a soft snort, trying not to make the boy feel too bad. "I do not require a nursemaid, Langdon. It was a ship full of experienced men of military service especially Navy men. You truly think a one of them could not have abandoned their pleasures if there was but a hint of danger? And you were aware that the banks were patrolled? Did you think one of the mermaids sent from Madame Hortense was a spy?" He chuckled.


If one of them had attempted to kill, Charles would have at least died happy and at his favored sport. Or punctured them with Kingston's cocky trident! 

Oh how it put a smile on his face! 


Lord Langdon's antics, however, while amusing in the youthful indiscretion, were also so ill-informed. The boy should have been assigned someone to help him navigate the finer points of fucking.


"So you maintain there is no possibility that the lady's first child is yours? It is believed my brother permanently put her aside on the suspicion of just that." Charles snickered as Langdon said his brother had been gracious, "My dear Charles, it is beneath a prince to ask another man such a thing, for it is beneath a prince to have his mistress stolen away." Naming the child after his brother was also somewhat obscene, but he did not have the heart to say it. "He must, of course, act like he does not care, for he has not the ability to have you sent to Tangiers." This made him laugh. Poor Jamie. 


Sending a rival away was the prerogative of kings, not princes; Charles had used it frequently enough himself.


"Cheap whores in ports, Langdon. Cheap whores in ports. And those are stories partially meant to keep young sailors about their duties rather than dipping their wicks." He shook his head. These were conversations he rarely got to have. Generally by the time a young man was in his household, he was something of an expert in fucking. It seemed to not be the same among the Life Guard. "My court would be dying of pox and the Italian disease if all the courtly whores and actresses were pox-ridden. Do not lay with anyone with sores, my boy. It is quite a simple matter. The madams that serve courtiers make sure that their girls are clean or their houses fall with one case of pox in one lord. It is bad business!"


Poor Rochester was not allowed to fuck at Madame Hortense's. Unfortunate fellow!


"Oh? And which other families might I hear from?" he shook a finger amusedly. "You have been busy Lightening Langdon!"


As to wisdom, His Majesty said, "It would be wise to sow your oats with widows and actresses for some time if that option is left to you. It seems you may have been toying with ladies whose families could demand you marry. But I suggest otherwise, that when you marry you actually enjoy the girl. Fathers-in-law do not keep you warm at night and give advice only that benefits them, brother-in-law too. Life is not all about rank. And Albemarle is an abject fool, not a man like his father. You should not take a dunce into account but your own happiness."


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This felt like a bad dream or nightmare.  If only.   

There was the lecture about how wrong he was on the cruise.  Prompted to further defense, the young officer bit his tongue instead.  Just listen.  He nodded to the King.  The same was true as the King enlightened him about the difference between cheap whores and whores that catered to the gentry.  He found himself blushing.  Charles felt silly, living in a state of fear of pox from commoners.  Still, he had no plans to visit a brothel, unless it came at the King's invitation.

The part about Catherine Sedley was far more tricky.  In this moment of great stress he tried to remember the timing of her first pregnancy.  He needed to protect Catherine and not lie to the King.  Maybe, being unsure would aid him.  "When I first started spending time with her, she may have still been with your royal brother, despite her tears.  Things progressed later ... she told me she was pregnant ... and alone ... I do not recall the timing precisely, but she was not yet showing at the time."  He looked at the floor as he was trying to remember.  "I did not have reason to doubt her."  All of that was true, but that did not rule it out completely, he supposed.   He was withering under the royal gaze.  "I did not take her from His Highness, for all she wanted was for me to find a way to get her back in his good graces.  She would not have asked this unless their relationship was at an end."  He needed to stop.  Every word he uttered likely made things worse.  He stood upright at attention again and grew silent.

The King asked after other families that might come before him, but it seemed more playful than inquisition.  He just offered an uneasy smile.  It would only be Cat.  He was still optimistic that Fiona could convince her sister to spare him.  Davina's brother knew nothing.

"Widows and actresses," he repeated with a nod.  "I have been with widows."  His mind searched through his many affairs.  Darlene was most recent.  She was a widow.  Back at New Market he had a one night dalliance with the Duchess of Cleveland and Lady Hawthorne.  Cleveland was another former royal mistress.  There was the Duchess of Savoy.  She was a widow and they carried on a full season and he visited her in Savoy.  It was likely that the King knew about that.  After all, he brought home a wife from Savoy.  There was that drunken night with Monmouth's wife, but no one would know about that.  It was good that the King could not read his mind or he might be in the Tower or Tangiers.

More interesting was the King's reference to Newcastle and Ablemarle.  The King called the latter a dunce.  Charles looked surprised.  Why would the King appoint a dunce to lead the Life Guard?  Trentmont was the better soldier.  He wanted to ask, but this was not the time.  "Right, no more advice from His Grace the Duke of Ablemarle."  Maybe that would make it sound like the Duke had given him love advice, as opposed to other advice, and thereby give him a bit of cover for his own stupidity, even if it were a mere fig leaf.

"I feel stupid and ashamed Your Majesty.  I should have learned this without wasting your valuable time.  Fortunately, I ceased all activities with all ladies before coming to Windsor."  That was true. "I will ask permission to court Lady Susan Herbert from her lady mother after church on Sunday.  I have already asked Captain Herbert to arrange the meeting."

"One remaining bit of wisdom I would ask.  I feel as though I have wronged your royal brother.  It devastates me to realize this and I would ask your advice as to what I should do to attempt to make amends,.  Tell me what I should do Majesty.  I am feeling like a complete fool at the moment."

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Charles was reminded of one time he had been incredibly angered by some earl. Chesterfield? Carlisle? He couldn't even remember. Donning his best sovereignly demeanor, he had give the man the what-for. One of the strongest times he had ever put someone in their place,  because he was heavily not fond of such things. It was a necessity to maintain ones royal appearance and power, that place above normal men and their sense of entitled nobility, but he had never been one to enjoy it. 


Such was why he tended to get all royal business done by the afternoon, directly after his early morning walk, because being a king acting like a king was not very enjoyable to him. 


After he had censured some earl whose title he couldn't recall, there had been an event where the man had to be present. George had whispered in his ear, *"I am not certain who is the more discountenanced, you or him, and it should most surely be him..." That was the degree he disliked such affairs. He felt worse afterward than the wrong-doer. 


Poor Langdon looked like that man now, which was utterly silly as he had hardly done a thing plenty of young men had not done before him. Especially those without some elder relative to guide them.


"Oh Langdon, so very serious! You look as if you are about to crack your spine you are so rigid. Do have a drink," he pushed the stool out from under his feet, pointed, and said "And sit."


"You asked for my advise. I gave it, both as your king and as a man with far more experience in such matters. I don't give a wit if James is upset over his mistress. It's beneath my care to worry about his cock and his princely vanity. That does not mean you do not need to realize it." He leaned forward as Charles sat. "Does it sound like a smart idea to you to help make a prince jealous? If it ever helped Miss Sedley, do you think it would have ever helped you? The woman might like you but she also used you."


He shook his head in amusement about Albemarle, fully believing that man could give some poor advice in women. "One need only observe the way he looks at women and the way they respond to his ogling to understand he is a poor source of success. Ladies like his duchy, not him. Newcastle allows Ogle to follow in that silly path, and he might end up an equally silly fellow. You are not a silly fellow, so do not listen to them, or women who would use you. Do Newcastle a service and save his heir from his son-in-law with your newfound knowledge."


Offering a pat to Langdon's shoulder he added, "You are a young man. You should be enjoying it. Many men have not had that luxury of an enjoyable childhood or youth, myself included. Most everyone between twenty-eight and forty-something either experienced hardship or allowed themselves to assuage the Republicans to stay here. I prefer to see happiness in my court, not this endless seriousness in one of your age. You have titles, property, some coin, a good position - use it and be happy. Marry if you wish, make merry if you wish. Do either option intelligently. It shan't help you not to realize what pieces you need fix, but you are young and those things will happen, so fix them and then take advantage of your position. Happiness is a greater currency than anything court can offer."


Then he leaned back and asked, "Do you want to marry Lady Susan?"


As to the Duke of York, "That is easy. Appeal to his vanity and ask for his forgiveness, offer him your service if there is anything he would ask of you. Women make fools of all of us at one time or another. Every man, including my brother, understands that."


Of course, Charles would tell his stodgy brother that he'd best accept, but Langdon need not know that.


(OOC - yup, that story really happened IRL)

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The young officer let out a long sigh. He had not realized that he was holding his breath.  At the King's invitation, Charles visibly relaxed.  He moved at once to comply to fill a cup partially with wine and to sit upon the stool at the King's feet.  "Thank you Majesty.  I was very worried that I would displease you and be sent to muck the Royal Mews for the next month, or such."  It was his feeble attempt at humor to try and lighten the overly-serious mood.  "I thank you for your advice and indulgence."  Truer words were never spoken.

The king opened his eyes to many things.  Perhaps Catherine Sedley was just using him.  He found himself nodding though he felt her attraction to him to be genuine.  "I had not thought of it that way," he admitted as it was made evident that she benefitted at his expense.  "The Duchess of Savoy used me two years past to marry some broken French lady who had something she wanted.  As a gentleman, I have tried to be a servant to ladies, even where it was to my peril.  Perhaps that has been another area of my naivete."  In the royal presence it was as if the proverbial scales were falling from his eyes.

The King spoke of the pursuit of happiness.  In a sense, that is what he had been doing, just doing it in a dangerous fashion.  Did he want to marry?  Or did he want to be merry? It was a good question.  "Here too I am unsure.  Notwithstanding what you say, Majesty, whores hold little appeal to me.  They belong to many men and wash in between.  It is as if you chose to wear another man's undergarments after a wash." It conjured a bad image.  "I have preferred ladies or widows because they show genuine affection without need to move to their next ... customer."  Once out of his mouth, he realized that was likely naive too.   "If I was to stay unmarried for a time, I would stay with a widow or two I would think.  An actress maybe," he posited as he drank his wine.  He still preferred ladies, but that was likely to end poorly.

"If I was to marry, Lady Susan would likely be my best match.  I admire her and she seems to admire me.  We would enjoy each other's company.  She serves the Queen and I serve you and the Queen.  We are both apt to travel with the royal court in our duties, so we might be a perfect fit in that regard.  She is smart, well-read, and everything one would want in a wife.  Her family enjoys your favor. She is likely the most eligible lady at court.  If I wait, Majesty, she would be snapped up by any number of earls looking for a match.  Then I am left with one of the many Cavendish daughters, all of whom are very eligible, but do not hold a candle to Lady Susan otherwise.  Nor do Ormonde's daughters hold appeal."  The Duke had been rude to Charles and he would not forget it.  "I realize that I am aiming high, but why not?" he supposed.

"The only fly in the ointment," he prattled on, "Is that Pembroke seems ... unstable, as I heard his grandfather was.  One wonder's whether Lady Susan carries that blood for our children.  I fear Pembroke would attempt to provoke me in any negotiation and otherwise make things difficult."  He paused as he considered whether to mention Darlene.  "As for other ladies, there is a court beauty, a widow, who is of a dangerous and adventurous persuasion that holds my fancy.  She has stopped speaking to me over this whole Sedley affair.  I had thought at one time of marrying her and she once wished to marry me, but that would not be the smart move.  It would be more in line with Captain Herbert's thinking perhaps."

Stopping himself, he looked up at the King and chuckled. "By now you are likely regretting inviting me to share my romantic dilemmas.  But I do truly wish for your advice for you are the only one I have told."  He finished the cup of wine.  "What do you suggest?"

"I will attempt to salvage Lord Ogle as you suggest, Majesty, but I have no hold over him.  He and Ablemarle are close.  As for His Highness, the Duke of York, I will do as you recommend.  I will ask to see him promptly.

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"Then keep a mistress if you prefer," the King said. There were always illusions with ladies. One never truly knew what they were about. 


The same could be said of a man, to be sure. 


Did he find Langdon's statement that widows and such did not move on to the next man naïve? In a way. Again, it came down to the illusion one preferred. Whores did not come with obligations and high-end ones could be had by the nobility with ease. A common woman like an actress made a good mistress for many reasons, obligations owe being one of them; they could not be as demanding as a well-placed widow. If one wished affection or the appearance of it, actresses could provide that as easily as a widow. Perhaps more convincingly too.


"Good matches are lucrative, highly desired things," the King agreed. "Lady Susan sounds to suit you very well. It is not everyday that a man comes by such fortune in a potential match. Marriage is a long business, a lifelong one. You should seek to spend it with someone you like, not all are afforded the ability to marry whom they wish or to know if they even tolerate the person beforehand."


Of course Pembroke would be mentioned. The cherubic demon. 


"Pembroke. The name is a thorn in my side," the King said. "You should not penalize the lady for her brother. You would play just as much a role in the blood of your own child as your wife shall. Besides, Tom is nothing like that. The Dowager countess isn't either. There are bad nuts in all families, that does not make the whole family go rancid the sooner. Besides, Pembroke has been removed from court, it is unlikely you will need to deal much with him. You speak to the lady's mother. If she is amenable, I will make certain Pembroke does not pose a problem." 


There was not much the King would refuse Cat. She was a testament to how long his affections endured and how long they could do so quietly. He was certain some suspected about Captain Herbert, because of his dark hair and height, but he had always made certain Cat was protected and hidden. It would have been simpler if the lad had been born a blond like other of his children.

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Charles was appreciative of the advice.  If he was to be merry, who would be his mistress?  Davina was out.  Fiona was now off limits. Darlene would refuse.  Catherine was impossible.  Maureen was married.  That seemed to leave shopping for an actress.  In such a case, the best ones would be taken and Charles did not even attend the plays, so he was in no position to know or appreciate any woman of the stage.  He supposed someone could help him find a suitable woman, but that was a road to an unhappy end.  No, it was time to marry.  It had to be Susan or Darlene.  He had upset the latter, and she had upset him.  He suspected the china was broken and unlikely to be repaired.  So, it was Susan.

The King spoke of the Herbert fortune.  That was enough to perk up his interest.  He did not really know how wealthy they were.  Surely it would be great.  There were other ladies that likely had sizeable dowries, but why look beyond Susan?  If you had a swan in hand, why shop for other water fowl?  He nodded when the King opined that one should marry someone he liked.  Naively, he could not imagine ever having a fight with her whereas an argument with Darlene might involve harsh words and flying crockery.  He was surprised the King had not asked about Darlene as the other lady.  In that, he had been lucky.

The King confirmed that Pembroke was banished from court.  That was a relief.  It might mean that he would not need to keep looking over his shoulder for his own personal blond villain.  "Thank you Your Majesty."  He seemed correct that the odds of insanity in his own son should be low.

"I will attempt to persuade the Dowager Countess that I am worthy of her daughter on Sunday.  Wish me luck."  In reality he was hoping that a kind word might be shared with Cat Herbert by the King.  There was also a need for speed in that Cat McGregor might intervene and blow up everything by pushing his marriage to Fiona instead.  It was ironic that his marital fate hung in the balance of two very different Cats.  It seemed that both had sharp claws.

"You have been very generous with your time Majesty.  There are likely other questions I might ask; but, rather, I would simply ask for whatever advice you might otherwise share on this subject, or any other.  I never wish to ever displease you or the Crown.  You have but to suggest or command."  His drink was empty but he was late enough into the audience that he dared not refill it.  He was at the pleasure of the King to stay or be dismissed at any moment.



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Charles had not been talking about fortune in riches, rather good fortune, for a wife one could enjoy or even tolerate was fortune for any man. Had he any idea the young man was thinking about physical riches, he might have chuckled. One could not have everything in a match. A good wife was more important to a nobleman than riches; a good wife helped you gain riches of your own.


"Good luck, then." He chuckled lightly. "It will take a bit more than luck. You must convince her that you will give her daughter a place worthy of her family...and that this other business - at least in public - will never make a mockery out of her as your wife." And how did he know Cat's feelings on that matter, well, because she had been his secret as she did not want to be made a mockery either.


Charles smiled and shook his head, wondering why the youth was yet so very serious. Displeasing the crown, la da da. Displeasing him. All this displeasure. Surely Langdon knew how difficult it was to actually displease him. 


In fact, it was more likely all the excessive seriousness was going to make him both weary and wary. 


Instead, he changed the subject. "Now, on to a different matter. Tell me, of my courtiers, who have you seen conversing with whom, and what is the gossip that permeates the court?" With changes in the royal family, there were changes in court alliances and who was speaking together was a good indication of what shifts were being made, what marriages were being contemplated, who was being lauded and disparaged, and all such things that were good for a king to know.

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The young officer assumed the Herberts to be very wealthy, for that is what was said of them.  In his future life experience he would learn that all appearances were deceiving, not just those that one could see with the naked eye.  They were said to have many estates and coin enough to fund a private zoo.  Only the Tower of London could match that, at least in the Earl's experience.  Finally, he assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the King's well wishes were an adequate substitute for royal support for the marriage.

Since the King seemed well-disposed to the match, as was Susan Herbert, Charles had greater hope that it could survive interference by Catriona.  Davina was the only one who could doom him, as he thought on it.  He had never looked at her in that light before.  Now that he had been more properly educated, he realized that he had done her a great wrong, even though it had been with her encouragement.  He had felt guilt in the past, but now it weighed especially heavy on his honor.  He would make it up to her, he told himself, even though it was dangerous for him to do so.  At any rate, he still cared for her.

As for his seriousness, he was a soldier all of his life.  He had not been trained to be a wit or a scholar.  His tutors had taught him the necessities of classical education and some conversational skills in French.  He had not gone to university.  He had learned about honor and duty from sailors and soldiers.  One displeased one's superior officer at one's peril.  One did not displease one's King.  In Langdon's mind, this was even more critical to a peer.  In his world view, those who marched with the King only when convenient were fools and likely traitors.  In such a world of black and white, it might be understandable that seriousness would take root.  This temperament was softened by the King's merry nature and kindness to those around him.   This is what allowed the young Life Guard officer to relax somewhat in the King's company.

The subject turned to gossip, which was another weakness of the officer.  Charles knew the happenings in the palace through the eyes of the Life Guard, as opposed to that of a courtier going from one social event to another.  The question was too broad to answer easily.

"Majesty, you will be happy to know that the ordinary whispers about dangers and plots against the realm seem to be replaced completely by a spirit of goodwill.  The realm is at peace and prosperity.  There is a Protestant heir to the throne.  The normal arguments amid drinks have vanished in favor of salutes to you.  Enemies have come to peace with one another and courtiers now bicker about who has greater wit or royal favor."  Charles was glad to relay these tidings after so many dark seasons at court.  Trying to add levity, the Major went on to say "of course, I am your Life Guard officer  I wear my uniform with pride and I daresay that few would dare an unkind word about you or your royal family in my presence."  He chuckled.  "I have arrested people for less," he jested.  "As such, I am not your most reliable ears in the palace or Windsor.  Now, if I dressed in ordinary courtier attire," he continued to joke, "no one would recognize me and I might overhear them slander me, thinking that they were speaking safely." 

"Having said that, Majesty, I have kept private what I saw when I happened upon the Dutch assassin.  Nevertheless, courtiers somehow know there was some sort of attempt on your life, coming from the United Provinces.  There seem to be whispers about that, but I have heard nothing useful."

Not wanting to end on a serious note, Langdon concluded with "there is much anticipation of events here at Windsor.  I have heard of a hunt, a possible masque, a carnival in the town, and I am hoping for a horse race."  He had his name to live up to as Lightning Langdon after all.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Charles chuckled as the young Life Guard offered him placating words of a lack of assassination plots, the peace of the realm, and happiness about his heir. He was truly looking for something juicier than that. It did not seem this young man was as skilled in knowing what a king might need to know of his court as Jack. 


"If they would not in your presence, then you should be stealthier. Listen when they do not know you are listening," he chided, with an amused chuckle and wag of finger. Then he added, "Yes, wear something of opulence and less of your uniform."


The King oft employed secret passages and look holes to do just that. Most of the time it was for amusement, but some of the time it was to see what was said in his absence.


"We let the information leak, to see where the ripples of discomfort might make someone betray themselves. Now that we have a rightful heir, it serves us better to have less hostilities toward the French from the mob. And they did pay us handsomely for being so sluggish to bring our ships to war, and then did so again officially in the dealings to end the conflict with the Dutch. It is no matter." Langdon had already been told to listen for anything which might indicate who was involved with the Dutch, but there had been little headway on all fronts. 


"Yes, there will be a masque. It is a much-loved recreation and there has not been one in a few seasons." He smiled about the horse race. "We were to have a different manner of horse race last season - not on a track - which we did not get to hold, so maybe something can be arranged." He had announced such whenever Lord Brooke had gifted he and the Queen some fine horses. "Let them speculate on the season's events. It will give them something to talk and gossip about."


(OOC - we'll go one more round and then probably wrap.)

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Although the King spoke lightly of it, it was a message to Langdon that he needed to do a better job of eavesdropping.  It was not that he ignoring overhearing other courtiers, but he had viewed his role of a more martial nature.  Anyone could overhear conversations, even ladies and servants.  Now, however, Charles nodded with understanding and newfound purpose.  He needed to also be a spy for the King.  Thoughts that the King must have a vast spy network dissipated in his mind.  Would the King be asking if he did not need assistance?

"Yes, Majesty, I will be an extension of your ears," he replied eagerly.  As for clothing of opulence, he had none.  He never had the money for such trivial things, preferring the authority and female allure that his uniforms offered.  He started blushing, in front of the King!  It made him feel weak and he hated that.  "I have no such clothing Majesty and would not know the first thing about such, other than what I observe others wearing."  It sounded expensive and uncomfortable.  He preferred boots to courtly shoes, for example.  "I will consult a tailor."  He had not been to one in some time, nor did he know one in Windsor.  To add some levity to break the tension he added "I suppose I shall need new clothes for the Masque or I shall not supply much of a mystery as to my identity."  He chuckled hoping the King would join him.  He had some other clothing in London, but it was not impressive enough for a courtly affair.

There was talk of a race without a track, which piqued the horseman's interest.  "We shall all enjoy whatever may be planned."

There being no other matters to discuss, Langdon was prepared to receive leave to withdraw.

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His Majesty needed as many ears as he could get. There were many courtiers and things were said in changing manners in different places amongst different people. There was no such thing as enough eyes on courtiers. If he wished to get to the bottom of who was in league with Danby and the Dutch, he would need eyes and ears.


"Yes, for the masque if nothing else," the King said with a booming laugh. "It is high time to appear to be more than just a soldier, Langdon. You have multiple properties now which should provide income. You have income from your position. A little opulence goes a long way. The Herberts will not be so easily impressed by a uniform as have been the young ladies," he advised with further amusement.


"Now, if there is nothing else, Ranelagh and Denbigh need to help ready your King," he said, by way of dismissal. "Send them back in if they are not too deep in gambling in the anteroom." The King chuckled again. It was a household rule that there was no gambling on duty, but it was one that was holistically ignored, because Charles didn't care about gambling at all. It was something of a joke amongst his household that the only one who cared about half the rules of protocol in private was Arlington. His Majesty only cared much about public presentation. 





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"Thank you Your Majesty," Langdon replied with a bow and then moved to fetch the King's men as requested.  A masque would be a welcome thing.  Visiting a tailor, likely on Monday, would be a less welcome thing.  He would need to send Elam to London to fetch some clothes as well.  There was much to consider, first of which would be the need to apologize to the Duke of York.


~finis.  Merci.

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