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A Day of Awkward Attendance | Audience Room | Afternoon Saturday


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The Queen's state apartments in many ways mirrored that of the King, opening up to the side of St. George's Hall through the main entrance of the palace. There was a guard room a presence room, an audience room, a drawing room, all before ever reaching the truly private apartment of the Queen.

Verrio delivered another masterwork upon the ceilings. Britannia was presented with tribute of the four continents, while on the next Lady Britannia was seated under a canopy while Envy and Sedition were chased away with the sword of justice. In the audience room Britannia in a chariot drawn by a swan being pulled towards the temple of virtue.

 

His Majesty had made a habit of spending some time in the afternoon with his Queen, and that habit had continued on with even more regularity after the birth of the royal heir.

 

Whilst the King spent his private time with his lady wife on the interior of her apartments, Francis was left to entertain himself in the Audience Room just on the other side of the Presence Chamber. At least he was not a spectacle for any courtiers milling about hoping to see the Queen; the Audience Room was a bit more private.

 

Such a thing never would have made him feel awkward in the past but after the slanders against him, he felt like he stuck out in the domain of the Queen's Ladies and Maids of Honor. He held some apprehension that like Lord Arlington, Lady Mountjoy was going to have some choice words for him in protection of her flock of ladies. He was also nervous of seeing or talking to Dorothea, because he did not know how he was going to cope with his plethora of awkward feelings, both because of what was being said about him and because he realized he had some form of an affection for her that went beyond his usual. 

 

He was equally worried of crossing paths of Lord Mountjoy while waiting for His Majesty, because despite their time with swords sparring the day prior, Francis concerned that Mountjoy would take the opportunity of the location to talk about his slanders. 

 

It was just exceedingly awkward, so instead of looking around for someone to talk to, he pretended to look out the window, folding his hands behind his back and standing as prettily as he could.

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As he did in Whitehall he had, relying upon the Queen’s indulgence, taken the liberty of having a small desk set up in a corner of the Queen’s Audience Chamber. This allowed him to perform some of his other duties and still be in attendance to Her Majesty. More importantly, and this was probably the Queen’s intent, it allowed him to be in closer proximity to Ursula. Her Majesty was a stickler of protocol but she did not seem to object if her Mistress of the Robes and Master of Horse went off and spent a little time together every now and again.

Mountjoy entered the chamber followed by a short non-descript mousy looking man with dark hair and glasses carrying a sheaf of papers and holding out examples for his master’s opinion. “That goes to the Assizes in Banbury. These can be submitted to The Kings Bench. These audits will not do, return them to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall stating in no uncertain terms that they are unacceptable.” He replied as each sheaf was shown to him. “And this My Lord?” the man, who was obviously a secretary or clark, inquired of the last file. “What is it?” Mountjoy said. “It is…” came the reluctant reply, “… the Warrant of Sequestration for the Danby properties.”

This caused Mountjoy to stop and pay more attention as he reached out and scanned the documents. He flipped thru several pages and frowned. “Has the family submitted petitions?” He said gruffly. “Yes, My Lord.’ Was the meek reply. Sighing Blount shoved the papers back to his secretary concluding “I shall have to speak with His Majesty before we can proceed.” He was not relishing bringing up such inconvenient topics to His Majesty much preferring to offer him solutions rather than problems.

Charles then noticed Francis staring out a window and moved next to him to gaze out as well. “My, my Lord Kingston, I do not believe I have ever seen a gentleman stare so prettily out a window before.” Oliver, who had followed his master breathlessly squeaked “You are correct My Lord. I have never seen such a magnificent sight before.” And stood there looking up at the new Lord with a silly smile on his face and colour rushing into his cheeks. Turning towards the unexpected and uncharacteristic expression he looked slightly annoyed and said dryly “Thank you, Oliver, that will be all for now. You may start on the correspondence.”  Oliver bowed and disengaged turning back once to gaze prettily upon Kingston.

“I apologize My Lord. I fear I have been working Oliver a bit too hard and he is not himself. Please excuse his impertinence. I also extend my apology if I am intruding upon your solitude but as you are here it can only be assumed that His Majesty is within calling upon Her Majesty.”   

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Francis had not been paying much mind to what business was going on around him, knowing that it did not concern him, so he was a bit surprised when Lord Mountjoy came up next to him. He chuckled and dipped his head in greeting.

 

Then the man's clerk, or whatever, made the oddest comment of his magnificence. Francis blinked. Even being a humble sort of gentleman and a new peer, he was unused to such addressed. He frowned a bit. 

 

"Quite odd to say such a thing," was Francis' reply, but he nodded in acceptance of the apology. "And no, you aren't intruding, my lord. His Majesty is indeed within."

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Mountjoy noticed the slight frown and his eyes darted over to Oliver. He was an indulgent master to those that served him well but what just happened was unacceptable. His own reputation was affected by the actions of his servants and the fact that Kingston was perturbed was a blemish on his own courtesy.

“It will not happen again.” He said simply in solemn formality and bowed his head to the Earl.  When Francis accepted his apology, the formality drained and he again spoke in the banter expected of courtiers but Francis could readily tell that someone would receive a talking to.

“I have not been informed of anything that would necessitate us having a rematch of our card game, not that I found the time unpleasant, quite the opposite, but I would not wish a repetition of the underlying motivation. But I have tried to spend more of my time in the company of the Queen, strictly as a matter of caution you understand. I must confess that when the Queen was in confinement, I found such duty a tad tedious but now that Her Majesty is delivered, I am looking forward to more activity. I suppose with the King being such an active man, your stints of service are more varied.”

Mountjoy appeared to be in the same sprits he usually was and, aside from the incident with his servant, seemed to address him as he always had. “I enjoyed our little battle yesterday and have even thought of ordering some buttons for my court swords so I may practice with the weapons I may actually need to use. You have impressed upon me the need for technical finesse as well as tactical prowess so I have vowed to practice with more than hunting swords and spears. Now all I need is to find an Italian on the run from a jealous husband or a German with a scar to train with. I have my majordomo Herr Lurch who was a sergeant in the Prussian Guards but he outdoes you in both height and reach so is not a fair representation of the men one is likely to face.”

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Francis allowed the awkwardness to pass. Lord Mountjoy was so proper in his deportment, he could hardly hold a bizarre moment with a servant against him. There was no reason for it to influence their acquaintance.

 

"Why, Lord Mountjoy, are you asking me if I would like to play cards again without the necessity of Her Majesty's life being in danger?" he asked, with a sly grin. He was not sure how welcome his presence would be here even though His Majesty took no heed or issue of the broadsheets and slanders. He rather hoped it had not ruined the Queen's good opinion of him.

 

"His Majesty does indeed partake of a great many activities and audiences, so there are few moments of quiet," he replied. "But there are reliably always his morning walks for which my long legs make me a favoured accompaniment." A tenor chuckle escaped him through barely-parted lips.

 

"Well, I am happy to have inspired your desire for improving your swordsmanship. I am sure Lady Mountjoy would enjoy watching you in your exertions. Ladies do seem to relish in their men at sport. Perhaps the next time we should make it a point to do so on the ground where we might better be observed?"

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“I would not mind at all another game of cards. I am fond of a companionable parlor game yet I find many of our class unable to find enthusiasm unless vast sums are wagered. I have done well in improving my lot and can readily afford to risk such sums but for me that tends to lessen the enjoyment of what should be a pleasant amusement. Perhaps it stems from the time before the return of the King when I or my family did not have such resources. Or, it could be that, to me, the interest in the game stems from the people involved not the sums wagered. I have gotten the impression that your own views may be similar.

He joined Francis in a chuckle about the Kings walks. “I used to regularly join His Majesty on his morning walks. It must have been before your time.” He mused. “I had just received Bran, my Irish wolfhound. As a puppy he was smaller than His Majesty’s spaniels and they would roll around and scamper after each other. When I returned from abroad and joined the King Bran was fully grown and towered over his former playmates. I was genuinely concerned that Bran might harm one of the King’s dogs, and that would not be something that His majesty would find easy to forgive, but they got along well. Wolfhounds are amazingly fierce in the hunt or when protecting their loved ones but are otherwise very gentle and forgiving.”

He cocked his head to the side when Kingston mentioned inviting his Ladywife to one of their sparing bouts. “If such were the case, I would insist that, upon your honor, you bring an ample supply of pocket-handkerchiefs and flannels so that you would have no necessity to use your shirt to wipe your brow. The observance alone of two rather athletic gentlemen, lightly clad and perhaps in a sweat, runs the risk of unbalancing a woman’s ladylike humors and sending her into fits of… well… I can scarcely contemplate the nature of such paroxysms to which they might succumb.”  He then thought it prudent to add. “I of course do not intimate any such propensity upon the Margravina.” Kingston might be free with the Ladies, and boys and Ottoman eunuchs if the broadsheets were to be believed, but Blount would thank him very much if he were to keep his bare abdomen away from his wife.  

He looked at Francis who had chuckled in courtly fashion but still did not seem to be as buoyant as he normally was. “Is there something on your mind? You appear to have been abnormally engaged by the view from this window. Are you doubting your fencing prowess as I gave you such a run for your money the other day?” He asked hoping it was not women problems. He was not good at women problems

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"I am happy to not get carried away by wagers, my lord," Francis replied. "I spent many hours and days on ships where simple wagers are the order of the hour or playing for tokens and other such things, for such men do not have the luxury of effusive coin. I find enjoyment in the game and players."

 

Francis chuckled at the image. "I myself have a very large poodle* named Scotty and was recently gifted one of the offspring of His Majesty's favourite bitch, but I rather think the King picked it because it's so happy to see it's master and visitors that it pees all over. It drives His Grace my cousin absolutely out of his mind. His Majesty named it..." he could not help but titter..."Giorgio!" He tried to hold his laughter in but sputtered some. "Scotty and Giorgio play, but Scotty is on my yacht here most of the time, Windsor is too small."

 

Fully controlled from his amusement, he took a breath and let it out slowly.

 

WHen Mountjoy spoke of the conditions for their sparring in public where the ladies could see, Francis was unsure if he was making a joke or utterly serious. He put a hand to his heart and said, "I shall only use a kerchief, a linen, or my sleeve, my lord, if your lady wife is present, I promise. Though Lady Mountjoy could not have eyes for any but you. There is an enviable match between you. I do not know if I could ever deserve a lady of any similarity, but I have nothing but respect for you both." 

 

He was, however, not above a proper flashing of his stomach or chest at his exertions when other ladies were watching. It was not a strange thing for a man to be shirtless around ladies if doing sporting activities which required it. That was simply acceptable flirting. Like a lady giving an ever so brief flash of the ankle. 

 

Mention was made of his reverie out the window. His smile became more sedate. He had, in the enjoyment of conversation, forgotten the predicament for a moment. "Many things, my lord, but chief among them that I now feel...uncomfortable...here after the gossip and broadsheets. I do not wish to cause any young lady harm to her reputation by seeming friendly with me, but I have grown to enjoy my time here whilst His Majesty is with the Queen and I am attending him, or when he wishes me here for other matters, those of safety without frightening the ladies." 

 

(OOC - in our era poodles were hunting and war dogs. Prince Rupert's poodle "Boy" was hailed as the first British war dog)

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They were very much of a same mind when it came to games and wagering. It would appear that they would be well suited to playing together without the expectation of gambling heavily.

“I believe I have made Giorgio’s acquaintance.” He admitted. “I had occasion to call upon His Grace at the very time he was inopportuned by some piss upon his carpet. His Grace was scolding a comely seraph of a young man, no doubt a relation of yours, holding a dog regarding the stain. I assumed the culprit was the dog and not the young man.”

He was a bit disheartened when Francis made the self-disparaging comment about not being deserving of a good woman for he saw more in the comment than the expected genteel exaggeration used at court. He moved closed to Francis and lowered his voice as if imparting a secret. “You may not realize it old Boy but you are a handsome fellow. Why even I have commented upon the shapeliness of your calves with approbation. You are respectful of your station and are as erudite and educated as well as is reasonable for any man from Cambridge. It is not inconceivable for a man such as yourself to achieve any match to which he may aspire.” He looked at Francis less seriously and added. “I believe you would also have the practical wisdom to limit those aspirations to unmarried women.”

Ah, now there was the rub. It was the obvious reason really. “I see.” He said with some reflection. “I have not been in your situation so there is no advice that I may provide without sounding like a preacher or sanctimonious but I will do so nevertheless.” He smiled. “You have risen far and fast. Much of that success has been the result of your own efforts but you must also accept that some of it was due to your relationship to Buckingham. You are now paying for that success by being the lever that foes wish to use to attack Buckingham. It may not be fair but it is the way it is and there is no use railing against it just as there is no use railing against the wind.” He thought to use a sailing example.

“In sailing a ship there are two things that they heave when the wind and the waves become too formidable.” He paused to verify that Francis understood he was trying to explain heaving to. “You are that ship and now is the time to stand firm. Ride out the storm and then cut your jib and continue on.” He wasn’t exactly what cutting a jib was but it sounded good. “If the acquisitions are false act like they are false. If the acquisitions are true, pound the table and act like they are false. The masses are easily riled but just as easily lose interest.”

He hoped his vast knowledge of the sea was enough to sway a mariner like Kingston but now he could offer more personal advise. “In regards to dealing with a woman that you have serious regard for and they reciprocate those feeling just as seriously, I can say from personal experience that trying to shield one that you love from all harm often proves more harmful to that person that if they knew. It is better to confide and discuss all your troubles and face them together. I have heard many of the rumors hurled against you and I say that any woman, or man that would credit such accusations are not worthy of your love… or such other emotions that are fit between men.” He hastily added considering the scope of the allegations.

He waited for a few moments to allow Francis to digest his words and hopefully glean a little comfort or insight from them. He then could not help himself from adding in a hopeful tone.

“But tell me, just between the two of us… the one about being a Janissary to the Ottoman Porte is true, isn’t it? It would be fascinating to know what the inside of a harem looks like.”

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Francis snickered. "Yes, Tom is house trained, but it was hard to accomplish after he spent his life on a ship with me from his tenth birthday onward," he joked. "He is my cousin on my grandfather's side, but His Grace is gracious enough to tolerate him just for the opportunity to toy with a wide-eyed ginger."

 

To say he was not wholly prepared for Lord Mountjoy to move closer to him and whisper encouragement upon his future marriage prospects was an understatement.

 

He blinked. Handsome fellow? Blink. He did not feel he was particularly handsome in a traditional sense. He was well-aware he had a youthful, nearly feminine visage, but he was not...manly. He had dancer's legs, but he was not a skilled dancer.

 

"I suppose we shall see, one day, if that is true or not, my lord. A lady would be made foolish to marry me in the current climate, and I'm certain no father or brother would consider such a match."  He smiled and said, "I do know much of everything I experience is due to my cousin, the Duke, but I do not think it is the masses that have any interest in me. The masses only care because of what a likely small group puts out to threaten His Grace." He added, "But I shall stay the course."

 

Francis listened carefully to Mountjoy's further advise and then tried to hold onto a sigh, but it slipped out in a low whisper.

 

"I...I don't know what to say, Lord Mountjoy...It isn't my place to involve anyone, and nor would it be right to stir such feelings of attachment for me given the circumstances. Whether any hold such for me...well...I could not say. There isn't a together..."

 

He took a breath, thoughts swirling behind a mostly calm countenance. "I do not think any who know me or are close to me believe such things, though, no." Unfortunately, that did not truly matter. It was public opinion that mattered, that created danger and scandal. Which speaking of public thought, he said, "I do not favor the, erm, Greco-Roman style of love-making."

 

His hand flew to cover his mouth as he snickered indelicately. "I nearly wish that it was, for it would be a compliment, my naysayers too silly to realize it. I am thinking of going to the masque dressed as one." He chuckled, wondering how that would make those brazen has beens Arlington and Oxford feel. "I do trade with the Ottomans, well, with just one. They do not generally trade with Christians, but I helped a Shahzade whose ship was in trouble, so it is true that he owes me a debt, but it is not the reverse. They enjoy our tobacco."

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“Oh come now, what kind of Villiers are you?” He asked as Francis yet again belittled his prospects. “Unless you are out to deceive a Lady and take advantage of her for your own aggrandizement, which you obviously are not, would you not think enough of a woman you would wish to marry to decide herself whether she would be made foolish? Pardon me if I am inappropriately brusque but you seem bent on belittling the preferment you have received. I grant that you have benefitted from the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham but was it not your own actions that earned you your knighthood and was it not the King who saw fit to raise you to the peerage? Do you suggest that the King is in the habit of raising up unworthy gentlemen? You say given the circumstances it is not your place to involve anyone or stir attachments. I say to you if not your place, then whose is it? If you do not take your place then the Mob will, and that, I suspect, is why you have been targeted.”

He huffed for Francis was clearly troubled by the accusations and their consequences. “Forgive me if I appear as an old man dispensing unwanted advice. I dislike those who pander to the Mob to gain political advantage rather than honestly confronting their opponents and besting them with debate and superior opinions. I assure you the advice was honestly and kindly given with no intention of making light of your predicament.”

He could not help but smile at Francis’s attempt to clarify his dispositions. Almost chuckling he said. “There is much I admire much about the Greeks and Romans who came before us but not the particular custom you allude to and mention was not in any way an attempt at attribution… even given your alma mater.” He stopped and held up his hand in a gesture connotating that he was aware that what he said was a cheap shot. “Given the slanders against you that comment was unwarranted but really can I be blamed for taking advantage of such an obvious opportunity.” He went on. “Be that as it may. I endeavored to emphasize Philia and not simply Eros. I trust the difference was taught at Cambridge? You see, I can not help myself.”  He laughed and threw up his hands.

“You have more allies than the Duke you know.”

 He then shook his head in profound disappointment. “Tis a pity.” He lamented. “The tales you could tell of a Janissary pirate would have enlivened many an otherwise dull evening, I am sure. I have read that the Janissaries are compelled to convert to Islam which requires the acolyte to be circumcised. If you wish to repudiate the allegation once and for all you could introduce a exhibition, as a private member, in the Lords.”   

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