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The Upstart & The Lord Chamberlain | Friday 16th early afternoon

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Francis was not  looking forward to this meeting. Not one bit. When the summons had come, he had groaned without inhibition. Lord Arlington always had this manner in Francis' mind where he treated him the age he looked not as a man who was nearly thirty. He only imagined that would be worse now in the face of all the slander, gossip, and broadsheets. 


He used to nitpick before. Now he had actual ammunition. 


Before leaving, he had listened to advice from Buckingham, and tried to remember this was a temporary thing that would pass. The blood of someone else would be in the water, and he would become yesterday's news. But for now he knew he'd probably be listening to a recounting of what was said with a tone of amazing condescension. 


Wetting his lips and taking a breath, preparing to be at his best, Francis knocked at the door. Then he straightened the cuffs of his pale lavender and silver brocade justacorps and waited. 

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A clerk admitted Kingston into the office of the Chamberlain.  Unlike in Whitehall, Arlington's office was quite small at Windsor.  The size could not accommodate much furniture, nor the size of Arlington's ego.  A strong fire burned in the hearth to heat the room and Arlington's chair was situated close-by.  A guest chair was opposite.

"Ah Kingston, good of you to come."  He waved the younger man to the vacant seat.  "Would you like some wine?  I also have some hazelnuts in a bowl there."  He pointed to a very small desk up against the wall.  "Come have a seat," he beckoned.  "Do you know why I summoned you?"

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Francis bowed and then returned the greeting. "Good afternoon, my lord." As if he truly had a choice about coming. He could only imagine if he'd conveniently lost the invitation.


"No, thank you," he replied, eager to get this started and therefore over. 


He sat down prettily, not like a sack of potatoes, as Buckingham always reminded him. Up popped a blond brow when Arlington asked if he was aware of why he had been summoned. It was something one might ask a youth who had done something naughty.


"I can imagine, my lord, that it likely has something to do with the broadsheets and gossip."

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Arlington knew all about the broadsheets and he was allowed only to smile inwardly.  Externally was a face of stern judgment.  "Yes, you have the right of it.  Had these pamphlets been one or two, there would be little concern.  However, there is a flood of negativity meaning there is a mob of sorts out for your literary blood.  It has become so pronounced that I think it has risen to the level of concern to the Crown."

Pulling out a piece of folded paper from his jacket, he made Francis wait while his spectacles were in place and the paper unfolded.  It was painfully slow.  "Let us see my notes."  He took another moment to make Francis wait.

"There are attacks on your father.  He was not a well-liked man.  There are attacks on your legitmacy.  The people think you look more like a Villiers than a Kirke."  He rattled the paper annoyingly.  "They say you have not married because you are a homosexual and that you are corrupting His Majesty to be likewise, and like ... Buckingham.  Of course, it seems that you are a spy for either the Dutch, the French or both.  Apparently you spent your time in an Ottoman prison, promising to become a Janissary to escape prison, and then you broke your vow by deserting the Ottoman army.  Quite colorful Lord Kingston.  Quite colorful.  There is more but hardly necessary."  He paused to fold the paper slowly and replace it in his coat pocket and remove his spectacles.

"The truth of these tales is irrelevant as you and your master know.  It is perception that matters.  A servant brings shame to his master by staining his master's reputation.  How do you plan to combat these vicious tales?  Are you thinking of taking time away from court perhaps, until the outrage passes?  You harm the King by your closeness to him and your rapid rise gives fuel to outrageous speculation."  

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Francis tried to keep his face from betraying much. In business, one had to have a good face for negotiations, and that was one thing that translated well enough to court life. 


His eyebrow did pop up again when Arlington said it was a concern to the Crown. That a new earl being slandered was a concern to the Crown seemed hyperbolic to Francis, but he did not wish to seem unbothered by such concern, for he was bothered by that notion.


His greatship the Lord Chamberlain then took his sweet time getting out a parchment and putting on spectacles...as if the entire thing were, indeed, a spectacle. Francis had great experience with being lectured for bad behavior as a boy, and he did not enjoy the experience much more after nearly three decades of life. At the very least this allowing him to stew and pronouncement of misdeeds could not end in a spirited birching. Of that he could take heart. So he sat there in that pretty way Buckingham insisted of him, evidence of his great blood and nobility, as if sitting were an art, and waited placidly. 


As if this did not bother him.


Notes. He took a long, surreptitious breath through his nose. 


The onslaught began, and Francis was quite astounded. It was ridiculous. As in absolutely ridiculous.


They thought he was a sodomite! He would have thought it more likely they'd accuse him of being a woman in disguise considering he was femininely pretty, unfortunately. He could not help but blink at that. Francis was certain nobody could think anyone could turn this king into a lover of Ganymedes. That they said it of Buckingham was just because they said it of Buckingham's father. 


A Jani-what??? He did not even know what that was, but the context provided him the answer. Apparently that was what the Ottomans called their indentured warriors. Rather like press-ganging for the Navy, only probably more prestigious. If Francis knew one thing about the Turks it was that they, while supposed Heathens, treated their servants far better than most of the continent. The worst they did was tattoo them on the arm. The Turk he traded with would have probably found this a hilarious accusation. Francis truly did not.


He exhaled. It had an annoyance in it. He couldn't help it. He rubbed his lips together and stayed silent as Lord Arlington continued, though he wished to break that plastered nose.


"More...my lord..." God's Blood. It was probably a good thing Buckingham had tried to keep the actual broadsheets and pamphlets away from him. Now he wished to demand to see them all. 


Francis' blond brow went up again as Arlington declared that a servant brought shame to his master by staining his reputation. That stung. Immensely. He did also understand that it did not matter it was the King's gifts that instigated this; it still was harmful.


He blinked. He steadied himself. He took a few moments to think of the advice that he had been given already. By personages greater than Arlington who actually gave a fig about his welfare. Then he said, "They are ridiculous slanders, my lord. I plan to give them no credence. That is to say, I plan to do nothing at all to combat them. I plan to do as I have always done, with the honor in which I have always done it. 


"As you say, my lord, I am a servant, and I cannot choose myself to leave court because I am made uncomfortable by lies and jealousy, gossip and nasty looks. I have endured exile, I have served in two wars, in the service of the crown and loyalty to it, and words do not scare me. I am no coward who hides behind words and paper, who dishonors the loyalty owed to His Majesty by questioning his royal actions or to whom he extends favor, and I will do my duty loyally and with humility regardless. I am not affronted because these things are not true, and if I acted affronted, it would only give them credence. 


"If His Majesty wishes me to leave court, I will obey. If His Majesty wishes me to distance myself, I will obey. If I am given leave to, I will tell my royal master I am concerned about the appearances and would happily do either of those things in his service, but it is not for me to decide, my lord." He stopped himself from saying, nor for you to decide, but that was clearly the message being sent.

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Arlington listened to Kingston and observed his demeanor.  The lad was not as outraged as much as anticipated.  The older Earl did not know whether that was good or bad.

"The most dangerous slanders are the ones with a kernel of truth.  You are now in your thirties, no longer a young lad.  Yet, you do not seem interested in marriage.  Not one lady courted in your entire life at Court.  Some note your feminine features. looks that Sodomites favor.  You have the Duke of Buckingham as your patron and yet not one match floated?  It is quite unlike His Grace.  I know him to be no lord that suffers the Italian Disease.  Far from it, he has demonstrated quite the opposite ever since he was a boy; but, the mob knows none of this.  They only know the father."

"You sailed to Constantinople they say, even as Poland was defeated by the Turks.  You were long gone.  I cannot say where the rest comes from.  Fertile minds perhaps."

"The legitimacy of your birth is likely questioned by your appearance, but I cannot imagine the mob knowing this.  This one likely derives from someone at court," he surmised in a tone that was intended to sound helpful.

"If you do not openly deny these charges, Lord Kingston, the mob may well believe you have accepted them.  If someone accuses you of a crime, it is no defense to ignore the charge.  The less you challenge, the greater the invitation for more.  I should think that you would know that by now."  He paused to rub his nose.

"A master who is fond of a servant never sends him away.  Some times a servant must save the master the shame of the servant and allow the gossip to subside.  It seems, young sir, that you have two paths -- fight or flight.  Instead, you seem to think ignoring a problem is the solution.  History suggests otherwise," he instructed.

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"I am twenty-nine, my lord," Francis replied evenly and respectfully. "Barely even two years on dry land and not even that at court. In order to get rid of the reputation left the Kirke name, I have not cavorted carelessly with every lady that would have me in public. I would not have been a good candidate for marriage for the same reason of that reputation. Would you lay not whoring about court at my feet as wrongdoing because someone thinks the face I was born with indicative of a Ganymede?"


Lord Arlington seemed to have thought about all of this a great deal which was vexing. It seemed the man wished to hear his defense of himself, and Francis was loathed to have to give it.


"His Grace's advice to me on marriage once His Majesty showed me interest was that a gentleman on the rise did best to wait, and as you have so sagely pointed out His Grace is the one with such powers over me to float a match. Gentlemen do not have a deadline as ladies do and it would be ungrateful and improper not to bow to His Grace in that matter." 


In fact, many gentlemen waited if they did not have fathers to force them into marriage with betrothals to strengthen alliances. Francis did not think his situation so strange.


"I have been many places other than to the land of the Turks. I also went to the Far East for spice in my younger years. I suppose I am also an apprentice Samurai? I actually would like one of those swords."


He snorted with amusement as his looks were pointed out. "Most all Villiers cousins look related to one another. Most all of us are blond, blue eyed, lithe, and tall, even the ladies. What am I to say of it? I look greatly like my lady mother and her younger brother, Sir George. That should be a blessing, not a smear on my birth."


So the Lord Chamberlain wished him to openly deny them? He denied them by not allowing them to bully him into leaving court. Francis could not help but wonder why the man gave him the opposite advice from the Duke of Cumberland and his uncle. 


"My lord, I appreciate your sage wisdom. I do not think a gentleman need stoop to answer the call of base pamphleteers. It sounds more like you wish to hear me explain them and deny them. And I believe HIs Majesty quite capable of sending people away when he wishes to; he has sent His Grace my cousin to the Tower plenty and has exiled both he and Rochester from court before. That said, I shan't be leaving."

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"I lay nothing at your feet Lord Kingston," the older man insisted in a less than sincere manner.  "I merely try to note those kernels of truth that may give rise to these vicious rumors.  Perhaps we will hear something of your time in the orient as well, " he added with a wry grin.

"Do not misunderstand me, young sir, I appreciate the secrecy in which you may indulge your vices.  It generally serves you well to cause no incident that could reflect poorly on yourself or your masters."  He again scratched the annoying plaster on his nose.  "It is ironic, is it not, that secrecy could cause instead a void in which scurrilous rumors could breed and fester."

"Perhaps you are too good at being private."  He sat forward a bit and added "perhaps the best is neither black or white.  Perhaps a light shade of gray is more believable."  By that he was thinking that a bit of renown for carousing and womanizing would be a good thing, as would a refusal of the Turkish tale.

"Is His Grace the Duke of Buckingham of a like mind about your silence?  The splatters of tar could fall upon his house as well.  He has never been a lord who could abide silence when he could rise to the occasion to refute and reclaim."

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It was fortuitous that Francis was nearly thirty and that he'd had the Villiers vanity birched out of him as a child, because the more Arlington fingered his plastered nose, the more Francis wished to knock it right off his face. This 'young sir' business rubbed him the wrong way, as it oft did when Arlington employed it's use ubiquitously as if he were thirteen and a Page of the Backstairs. He did, however, know how to behave himself by this age.


"Too good at being private, my lord?" Francis said, instead in an steady, respectful voice. "Forgive me, but it seems you are giving me advise which would do more harm than good. To avoid being cast in with the...*gentle crowd...you would have me act in a way that confirms that Kirke reputation I have worked so hard to avoid? Believe me, I wish I did not have to be so very careful, but those are not the cards which I have been dealt. Not many have been given the inheritance of reputation of a man who His Majesty threw from court for his behavior and character; you above all people know how difficult it is to get permanently thrown out by our very tolerant king. I will not cast a different problem at my royal master's feet to avoid being called Gentle Francis." He let out a quite, amused exhale. "Frankly, my lord, that accusation is so absurd that most courtiers would laugh at it and my many friends will heartily say I enjoy women. It is no threat to me or His Majesty, but being in any way less respectful of a lady and her virtues most certainly would be."


And his mother would smack him in the face with a plate again, to give him a scar to match the one on his cheekbone.


"His Grace's advice to me is a personal matter, and he is experienced in weathering slanders. I am certain you have suffered a slander or two as well, my lord, with your renown and long service to His Majesty. I am not so great a personage to concern about, and they will find another target soon enough, run short of coin, or run the risk that the trail of coin to publish will be easily followed to the perpetrators, for they are not the common people but clearly other courtiers. I am not foolish or uneducated in the ways of the world, my lord. It is not the common people who care about 'upstarts,' it is the nobility."


Arlington had been slandered numerous times as a Papist and all sorts of things, so it was rather like the pot calling the kettle black. Only Arlington had a far greater place in the world than Francis and did not come from any better beginnings.


(OOC - the polite, period euphemism for liking men ala Gentle George Etherege *snort*)

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Kingston continued to push back and Arlington was not the type of person to concede easily. "Heavens, I am not suggesting that you do something improper.  It would not hurt to show interest in ladies or women generally, for example."  He found himself rubbing his nose again.  Might he know that others would find it annoying?  "Your father was socially unacceptable.  Anything you do will reflect favorably upon yourself."

"No one at court has been slandered more than myself,  not even Clarendon," he began as he sat back in his chair.  "I know you will find this hard to believe Lord Kingston, but I am not a well-loved person." he paused to see if Francis would snicker.  "I take comfort in His Majesty's regard instead."  He paused again to allow that boast to settle.

"I have fought back against slander when it was especially harmful to myself.  I used the floor of Lords.  I used friends and allies to correct the lies.  It worked in time," he asserted. "These rumors seem more than inconsequential to your reputation.  You may choose to turn the other cheek."

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Francis had to wonder if Arlington lived under a rock, for he was no stranger to the company of ladies. In general, ladies were exceedingly fond of him. Perhaps it was having been raised by women and having soft features, but ladies surely did not avoid him but behaved quite the opposite. 


He raised a blond brow at the elder earl. "My exploits in Spain are reknown and would calm any words about not liking women. My interests are in ladies, my lord. I do not think I have shown otherwise. I surely do not flirt or fawn over gentlemen. As I said, the accusation is absurd. And I shan't expose any young ladies to slander by keeping my company in these circumstances just to save myself some pamphlets. That would be unkind and bad behaviour. You will find, my lord, that I evidence neither and nor have I ever toward a woman. Let them write of me and me alone. I assure you, cannon fire and wooden shrapnel are far more frightening than the quill or printing press."


Francis did not snicker at the words. He honestly did not care what reputation Arlington had, though it was fun to make fun of the man in private. Buckingham had the luxury of saying as he would, but he was a duke and Francis was not. 


"As you should, my lord," he said, instead. "We are all servants of His Majesty."


The conversation was somewhat tedious though he understood the necessity.


"I would not waste the time of the House of Lords to discuss where I have sailed, not where my cock chooses to put in to port, my lord. That would be ludicrous. I will do my duty as I always have and that is all."

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The pallor of his complexion was consistent with Arlington living under a rock.  "Not everyone is familiar with your escapades in Spain I suspect," the older man replied succinctly.  "Are you saying you did something infamous with women there?"  As the former Northern Secretary, the man may well know, but it did not stop him from asking.

Kingston had thought things through and answered with chivalric responses that were impossible to challenge. The Chamberlain's game was being thwarted move by move.  Buckingham must have prepared him.

"I would beg to differ Lord Kingston," Arlington began.  "The quill is sometimes sharper than the blade."  He then rubbed his nose.  "But far be it for me to suggest action where you are comfortable with inaction.  Let us see if inaction puts an end to this pamphleteering."  He knew it would not.

"Are you well otherwise Lord Kingston?"  He had been outmaneuvered this round.  I bit of faux concern was called for before they parted.

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Francis could not help but snort, "Infamous is a strong word, my lord. I do not think I have ever done anything infamous. I am no defiler of virgins and never have been." He shook his head in the negative. "Every youth has indiscretions and hopefully leaves them in his youth; such is expected of a man. That was some long time ago, just after my naval service in the war. I was not even yet of age."


He was clearly not going to detail the event. Francis was not so very foolish. 


"Creating a discourse with them will hardly stop them from publishing either, my lord. It is like to only add fuel to the fire."


Both brows popped up with Arlington asked if he was otherwise well. Was he next going to be asked if he'd caught some illness of the cock from all his lowly womanizing? One could avoid the pox with just a little sense in what sort of women one lay with.


"Very well, my lord," he replied, with a polite nod. Were they to have a normal conversation now? "Some country air was very refreshing on the constitution. I do hope you found your own recess restful and are well?" He internally rolled his eyes although he kept a pleasant look plastered on his face. "And all of your family." He had children, did he not?

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Nothing useful was forthcoming from Kingston.  The lord had been so young that everything was likely forgivable.  "I understand," he nodded, to acknowledge he would be learning nothing more.

As Kingston professed an unwillingness to engage with the pamphleteers, Arlington gave a somber nod.  "So be it."  Perhaps the younger earl would reconsider at the next round of libel.

"My lady wife is well, thank you for asking," the Chamberlain replied affably.  "My daughter Isabella is married to His Majesty's son Henry, as you know,  She will be twelve next year and we are all still looking forward to a subsequent ceremony at that time.  She is turning into a real beauty, just as her mother," the older man announced proudly.  "She is my only child and my pride," the man added.  The girl had been married at the age of five to the King's son Henry Fitzroy.

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Francis contained his hilarity at the fact that the man's daughter was 'married' to the King's son...his son who happened to be Francis' cousin as well since the Duchess of Cleveland was also clearly a Villiers cousin. They were nearly related themselves, most especially since the girl married into the man's family and not the reverse.


Instead,  he said good-naturedly, "Marrying into His Majesty's family and my cousin's family simultaneously is surely an impeccable feat. They will make quite the handsome couple, for all of the Duchess' children by the King are exceedingly good-looking. Such a match will make certain she is content and safe long after you are gone, my lord." 


Francis could make conversation with anyone. Such was the skill of business. One had to be likeable to strike deals with the upper echelon of society, and most of his business had been in Italy, and the Italian nobility was far snootier than any English peer he had ever met. Save Buckingham, because no one - deservedly - had a better conceit of himself than Buckingham. Before he had titles, Francis had good looks, affability, courage, and brains. Lord Arlington would not find him easy prey. 


"And there will never be any scarcity of relations or connections." He smiled in his most genuine fashion. 

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"Yes, I am pleased to have cared for her future.  It puts my mind at ease."  In this case he spoke the truth.

"You Villiers seem to grow a bountiful garden of beauties," he admitted.  "My wife's beauty plus the blood of a Villiers is likely to produce an exceptional beauty."  It was idle speculation as Kingston was likely correct that Arlington was unlikely to live long enough to see his grandchildren reach maturity.

There seemed little reason for their interview to continue at this point.  There would be no further headway this day.  "Well I shall not keep you further from your duties to His Majesty.  If things become of greater concern, I will send you a note and we can continue to analyze the problems at hand."  There was nothing about Kingston's attire that he could criticize in that moment.  Henry assumed that Kingston might spend more time brushing his hair as a few strands waved loose, but there was no real basis for criticism, yet.

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Francis stopped himself from making a comment about if the child turned out blond with blue eyes let them hope there was no question of their parentage...


It seemed, then, that he would be dismissed, and he could not wait to escape the room and pricking conversation. Unfortunately, there was a promise of future notes and discussions if more broadsheets brought more slander. He exhaled. There might have been annoyance in it. 


"As you wish, my lord," he replied. "Enjoy your afternoon."


He stood and bowed prettily before taking his leave. Once out in the hallways once more, he rolled his eyes and let out a huff. His entire body felt bathed in annoyance and dissatisfaction. It was as if Charles Fucking Kirke's reputation was buried in his back like wooden shrapnel once again. He tried to push the feelings out of his mind that all this business about his father should have been taken care of eons ago when it would have been easier. Now, well, it was significantly harder. 


At one time, he might have sought for his mother to calm him down, but his emotions and rational intellect were battling him over his mother. She had not trusted the Duke when he was a baby. He understood why. He also understood that it was wrong, and unfair, to Buckingham. She had tried to do what was right and safe for Francis, not knowing what could happen, and now he was a human pincushion for all of court's daggers. He could not blame her, he was not angry with her, per se, but he had very conflicting feelings. 



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  • 3 weeks later...

The door closed behind Kingston and the Chamberlain waited for the footsteps to recede before approaching the window.  He was disappointed with what he had learned from Buckingham's boy.

"The Turkish rumor was rather extreme," he chuckled to himself, but he viewed himself wise enough to gamble that the wilder the accusation, the more the mob loved it.  Being a bastard was of no concern to the mob.  That slander was for the court.  No, the mob was like a pack of hounds that was disoriented.  They needed a horn loud enough to get their attention.

With purposeful steps, Arlington approached his writing desk.  It was unlocked as there was work to be done.


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