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Royal Gift or Grift?

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The Rooms of Baptist May

The Keeper of the Privy Purse was a keeper of many things, including royal secrets.  He was a man the King trusted to handle delicate matters and raise funds for the privy purse that would support the king's merry ways.  There were many past, present and future mistresses that needed royal support.  There were quiet bribes to collect and royal largesse to fund.  May had proven himself invaluable in that regard.

In recent days, more guests called upon him.  Word was leaking that the King intended to name loyal courtiers to open and new offices, as well as upgrade titles.  These times were typically limited to the King's birthday in May, but the arrival and baptism of a Prince of Wales was cause for celebration across the land and royal gifts coming and going.

"Lord Oxford, what an honor.  Can I offer you some mulled wine?"  May kept mulled wine for business.  The harder fare was for later.

"No thank you May," the old Earl replied.  He took the seat he was offered beside the glowing fireplace in May's anteroom.

"How can I be of assistance?" May asked with feigned ignorance.  People only visited him because they wanted something from the King.

"My aide, John Burgoyne, you know him?"  May nodded.  He had a remarkable memory for courtiers, including those he had yet to meet.  "I would like to see him find a good match.  It is time he starts a family."

"Surely," May replied happily.  "A good husband and father surely."  He was eternally upbeat and ready with praise.  It facilitated business.

"The Prince of Wales needs a new household," Oxford mentioned matter of factly.  "Burgoyne would be a good Master of Horse or secretary.  He is very organized as an aide, more than any I have had in the past.  He is extremely loyal to His Majesty.  Ideally, it would be appropriate to raise him from baronet to baron, so that he might serve our good King better, and find a suitable wife.  I know you would be shocked to learn that court matrons want some title for their daughters, and not just a baronet."  He was being sarcastic and was met with Bab's smile and nod.  "A man's character seems to be meaningless these days.  John's character is such that were he raised to baron, he would promise to vote as a true royalist in Parliament."

"I'm sure he would," May played along.  "How is it you think I might assist?  These are delicate matters and it is near impossible to raise a man into the peerage."

"Then maybe he could be raised in the Scottish or Irish peerage first," Oxford suggested.  Scottish barons were not even lords.  Oxford was a veteran of many wars, and palace politics.  "I came to see you May because I heard that His Majesty is looking to fund his charitable enterprises in the realm.  As an earl and a man most loyal, supporting the Crown's charities financially would be a worthy cause.  My problem is that I am not certain of the financial support I should donate.  Too much or too little might be seen as unworthy for a benevolent King.  As a king is charitable to his gentlemen and lords, so too should they reciprocate."

May leaned back in his chair pleased to find someone not so crass as to offer an outright bribe.  "I understand completely milord Oxford.  The King intends a grand charitable endeavor this year for the realm and he will need all of the financial support that can be mustered from those loyal such as yourself.  Let me consult his Majesty on the extent of his plans this season.  The Christening is near at hand."

"Indeed it is," Oxford agreed.  "I should have come sooner."

"Better late than never," May replied.  "One concern ... a mere rumor on the winds.  I am sure that it is untrue about Burgoyne.  I heard that he had spread unkind words about Lord Kingston.  Not that unkind words are uncommon here.  I know that you and Lord Buckingham have exchanged unkind words in the past, which is fine; but, Lord Kingston has become close to his Majesty.  He is one of his Gentlemen now and he thinks kindly of him.  His Majesty may hesitate to reward Burgoyne if this is true," May expressed quietly.

"I am sure that is untrue," Oxford replied with practiced ease. "I shall speak to him and make sure he utters no unkind word about Lord Kingston if that would please His Majesty.  I hope, May, that my enmity towards Buckingham will not color the King's favor towards my aide.  In fact, it would be wise to counterbalance just a farthing of royal favor towards the Duke who acts as if his royal favor is infinite.  The rest of the court looks on hopefully that such is not the case."

"I need not tell you, m'lord, that His Grace and His Majesty act like brothers, though at times quarrelsome brothers.  Lords offend Buckingham at their peril.  You are an exception, and to be respected for your bravery in doing so."

"I hope you are not telling me that a good man will be denied his due over something so minor to a King of the Three Kingdoms.  He should be glad that someone tries to check his unbridled vanity."

"Maybe so milord Oxford.  It is not for me to know.  I will inform His Majesty of your desire to assist His charitable enterprises and put forward your petition."

"I have not asked for anything of the King for years ... unlike others," Oxford reminded the Privy Purse.  "Indeed," came the reply.

"I thank you for your time May," Oxford stated as he rose to his feet.  He was not feeling very charitable at the moment.  "The proof shall be in the pudding."

May rose as well, confident that messages had been delivered.  "Thank you for your visit."

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