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Explaining the Arrival of the Stork to York (Saturday Morning 9/17)

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Saturday Morning

It was not too early in the morning when the Earl of Langdon arrived at the private quarters of the Duke of York.  In his meeting with the King on the previous afternoon, the monarch suggested flattering and apologizing the Duke of York over the Sedley affair.  As such, that is what he intended to do, and promptly.  Charles was feeling an urgent need to clear the plate of all his mistakes.  He had apologized to Catriona to little avail.  He had offered Thomas and Susan Herbert a proper suit instead of clandestine meetings.  He had sought redemption from the King.  Now, he sought forgiveness of the Duke of York.  By Sunday afternoon, the young officer hoped to have his ship free of the rocky shoals of his lady problems, and sailing in the right direction.

It was an easy enough matter to get past the Life Guard sentries at the entrance.  He entered the outer chambers of York's suite and requested a few minutes of the prince's time.

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The Duke of York had not yet finished dressing to leave his apartments at Windsor, and he had just finished breaking fast when one of his ushers arrived to say that Lord Langdon wished to see him.


Heaving a sigh, he looked at John Churchill and Sir George and said, "I wonder who is trying to kill us all now," in the most bored of fashions.


Then he remembered. 


Charles had mentioned it to him. 


Or rather...ordered him to play nicely or risk a sojourn to Scotland for being incorrigible and making his court less enjoyable.


That did not mean he needed to make it easy for Langdon to ask for his forgiveness, just that in the end he needed to do so. Not that he wanted to. No, he was offended. There had been a time where such military men had all respected him universally. Now they saw him as unessential. As unessential as Parliament had made him with these Test Acts.


"Well, I do hope he makes this good," York said, instead, garnering a chuckle from Sir George. Poor John Churchill bore a look as if he was surely going to have a master in a bad mood after this. Poor lad.


"Let him in, let him in," the prince said to the usher. "You two stay. Nobody ever said it had to be private. After all, what he did to me was surely not private. All of court knows."


He stook up from his place sitting and looked expectantly at the door.

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  • Francis Kirke changed the title to Explaining the Arrival of the Stork to York (Saturday Morning 9/17)

Happy that he was admitted without being compelled to sit outside for an hour, Langdon took heart.  As he entered the presence of the trio, Charles bowed to the Duke of York and greeted the other two.  "Highness, Sir George, Captain Churchill, good morning."

"Highness, I am happy to report that there is no further warning from the Duchess of Savoy.  Her son, as you know, was just wanting to establish good relations with you."  Looking at the two soldiers beside the prince, he added "Your Highness, I came to speak about a private matter and would ask that you hear my words privately."  The Earl was hoping that York would do as his brother did in dismissing his gentlemen. 

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James was not his brother. His sense of royal blood was stiff and rigid, as his father's hand been, and yet he did not see the dilemma in such a stance. 


"If you wish my time, Lord Langdon, it will have to be whilst I finish dressing for the day and that requires my attendants. I have an appointment for which to ready." The tilt of his chin had some form of meaning, because Churchill came forward with his waistcoat. "If you await a prince being alone, you shall wait and be an old man ere long." He paused as the waistcoat found his arms. "The households do take oaths for that very reason." 


Not that York gave one fig if Sir George or Churchill repeated whatever ridiculousness Langdon needed to say about his affair Miss Sedley. Let Langdon be embarrassed. It was nothing to embarrassing a prince in front of the entire court! 


At least that was how James saw it, and he was known as dour for a reason.


He eyed the young man expectantly.

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This was further evidence to the young officer that York was not as understanding as his brother.  Yet, York had suffered greater harm from Langdon's actions, so it was perhaps more understandable.  Still, the two royal brothers were dissimilar in temperament, with York being the more dour of the two.

Langdon had not been expecting the response, so he was quiet for a minute as he collected his thoughts.  He could not withdraw and it was clear that York would insist that his men be in attendance even if a later date was chosen.  The Earl's affair with Sedley was hardly a secret and both Legge and Churchill likely had discussed their suppositions with the Prince.

It was time to truncate the longer explanation, and go with the shorter version.  He cleared his throat and began, as he calmed his voice and adopted the air of the penitent.

"I understand and obey Highness.  I am honored and privileged that you would permit me an audience at all."  He had decided that flattery was an advisable opening.  "In the interest of your valuable time, I shall strive to keep this brief."

"I have come to apologize for a wrong I have done you.  I foolishly agreed to help Miss Sedley make you jealous so you would take her back.  I have a weakness for the requests of ladies.  In the beginning, my attentions to her were innocent enough, intended to spark jealousy.  Later, it grew more serious when she told me that she had been cast out forever and was pregnant.  In my attempt to cheer her, I was foolish in trying to replace your affection.  I was foolish in thinking that I could ever be worthy of healing a portion of her hurt.  She would have left me in a minute had you invited her back.  I was also foolish in being blind to the slight I might be giving you.  I wrongly thought her abandoned and that you would have no further care in the matter.  In this, I did not think of the appearances until much later."

"I have been advised by a great man that I may have been played the fool as well by the lady, as I gained nothing but the risk of your displeasure by aiding her in such a way.  It has caused me to acknowledge that the Duchess of Savoy has on occasion similarly used me in her personal games."

"Highness, I should have sought the advice of a senior gentleman in this matter at the outset.  More importantly, I should have asked your leave to carry on with Miss Sedley.  I did not and it haunts me to this day.  I have no intention of resuming intimate relations with the lady, preferring instead more proper relations with another."

"Your Highness, I beseech you to forgive, or grant some measure of mercy for, my folly.  I would ask to perform a service of some kind for you in recognition of the harm I have inflicted."  He had considered adding the part about youths being susceptible to folly, as the King acknowledged, but it did not seem a path to take in front of a dour prince.  The better tact seemed to be to stand there like a man and own up to the mistake as a man rather than a youth.   

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"Jealous?" James said, flatly. "As if I would ever be jealous of an earl." He harumphed. "No. All she accomplished was making me think the first child was not even mine but yours." That had been the straw he would not forgive. He was not his brother. He wouldn't acknowledge a child that he was not absolutely certain was his. 


He had allowed Heather her liaisons because he had known about them before hand, because he prolific desire for sex had amused him, and he had given his blessing. Even she had not been with others within the time before falling pregnant. 


"And why would you agree to do me such a disservice, I wonder? To make the then heir to the throne jealous? What did you think you would gain if she and you were successful? Certainly not my thanks." Even to James that did not sound like an intelligent plan. "Have you such little respect for the royal family even though you are in our service?" He huffed. "You profess blindness to the misdeed of it all."


James had promised to forgive the lad, on his brother's orders, because he respected the order of things, but he had not promised to make it easy. It was his honor that had been slighted.


He huffed again at the request for forgiveness and the offer of a service.

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"You could never be jealous of me, Your Highness.  My few accomplishments are like a speck of dust compared to your own.  My blood is nothing compared to yours," he replied in a way to gain more credit for flattery.  The King had encouraged him to flatter York.  Langdon was good at flattering ladies, so it was an attempt to magnify such abilities towards.

"I was doing a favor for the lady.  Ladies appear to believe that if they are cast aside, that their former paramour would desire them again if they saw someone else, even a minor person, show interest in them.  I believe it raises their spirits when they are heartbroken and gives them hope, even if it be false hope," Charles tried to explain.

"I did not think I was doing you a disservice Highness because I likened her to a piece of furniture or painting that no longer pleased you being discarded as rubbish.  Since she was discarded as unwanted property, I viewed, wrongly, that she was free to be acquired by another.  And, I wrongly thought that you cared for her no more.  Had I received a warning otherwise, I surely would have ceased my attentions immediately."  It had been odd that none of York's men came to visit him during the affair to warn him off.  As such, he felt more comfortable that she was no longer belonging to the prince.

"As for reward, Highness, as a naive gentleman at the service of most any lady, I expected nothing but gratitude from her for a restoration to favor.   I suppose, I harbored the thought that, even if you had no further desire for her, you might appreciate someone looking after her, as she was at war with her father at the time and had nowhere else to go."

"It appears as clear folly now; but, at the time, I foolishly thought I was doing a service to you both, in a sense."    Charles still wondered why, if York was so troubled by the relationship, he had not reached out to the earl.  "Her daughter is yours.  The mother swears it so and the girl does not look like me."  That was probably fair to say about any toddler of the other gender.  "She appears to have better blood than my own."

Accused of little respect for the royal family, Charles spoke up in his defense.  "You are right to accuse me of folly, foolishness, blindness, and poor judgement; but, I beseech you to never think I have little respect for your great person and that of the royal family.  My whole life has been one of service to the Crown, from a boy in the Royal Navy, to the soldier that stands before you today.  I would gladly lay down my life in your defense and in the defense of any member of the royal family, as would the two gentlemen that attend you today.  My service is as nothing compared to your own, but I ask you to weigh it."

He looked to Legge and Churchill, wondering if the rumors were true of the latter. They said that he fathered a child from Castlemaine  while she was still the King's mistress.  Surely, Churchill would feel empathy, if not his master.

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"If a lady were pregnant by another man, it is not wise to take up with her so soon, lest it be thought you had taken up with her long before," York said, scathingly. He still believed the first child was not his but Langdon's. Nobody could convince him otherwise. Surely even a young man could not be so utterly stupid and foolish to take up with her at that point if they had not been intimate before. 


"A prince need not give warnings. You take such actions at your own peril."


Sir George was fixing a sash on his master whilst they spoke. Then he began on the cravat.


He harumphed as Langdon protested that the daughter was his own blood. That she appeared to be of better blood than the earl. Flattery. Even James could see it.


"If that is so, than take greater care over your private actions, Langdon," York said as he protested to have great loyalty and respect for the royal family. "Making a man jealous does not convey respect, let alone to a prince."


Churchill said nothing and made no move that he even heard the exchange. When one was serving a royal, it was best to be a fixture and nothing more. He was not meant to be part of the conversation or exchange, merely a necessary servant to the Duke's purposes. However, it was highly likely he did sympathize some, but then again His Majesty was different from his brother in many ways. 


"You have my forgiveness, but it shall not be delivered a second time for another slight. You are warned," the Duke said, giving Langdon a once over look. "Your offer of a service will be kept in mind. As of yet, there is none."


There, he had done as he had been bid by Charles. 

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It would be natural for any man to want to continue to defend his actions.  The Prince seemed to come to unfair conclusions, even though Charles knew that appearances did not favor his point of view.

The Prince warned his that he took actions adverse to him at his peril.  The same was likely true for an attempt to argue further.  Without ironclad evidence, there would be no way to sway his view.  Everyone at court knew that a courtier had but one or two rounds to make a point and then it was time to yield to a royal.

"I understand Highness," he yielded with head bowed momentarily.

It was then that York uttered aloud that he was forgiven.  Charles had not been expecting that word to be offered.  Perhaps a warning to not do anymore more, but not an utterance that was as solemn as a church pronouncement to a man like Langdon.  Would it be too much to ask for it in writing?  Yes.

"Thank you Your Highness for words of forgiveness.  I shall not jeopardize them in the future."  There was still the matter what to name the child, but this hardly seemed the right time.  In fact, no time seemed like the right time given that York disavowed both children.  Catherine would be upset of course.  It was time to withdraw.

"With your leave, Highness, I will withdraw and wish you a good day."

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