Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Interesting Night.

For Lord Charles Bedford, Duke of Kent this had been a most splendid evening, he had much to be pleased about because this evening he had announced to all the Nobles and dignitaries here that his son John and the daughter of Lord Richard Hackett the Duke of Essex were betrothed. It was everyone knew the announcement of a new and powerful alliance in England.

                                                                     Duke of Kent

For the Duke of Kent it had the additional bonus because he knew thanks to not an inconsiderable amount of bribery and coercion of the Duke of Essex’s physician Dr Anthony Lambert that the Duke of Essex had only a matter of months to live.
It seemed to Lord Bedford that the added spice in arranging this proposed marriage was the Duke of Essex seemed desperate to make this particular  match for his daughter. The bonus for his son was of course she was quite a beautiful woman, if perhaps a little dull in conversation, but what man would sit around his estates listening to his wife prattle on when there was much more lively entertainment he could find in London.

Obviously Essex was all too well aware that his daughter was not strong enough to resist the pressures that would bear down on her following his death, particularly from the pack of wolves known as the Council of Nobles. Clearly Lord Essex would be aware there was a desperate need to secure his lands for her that forced him to look around for a suitable husband. A man that was capable of resisting the Nobles and his son with his own backing was just the man, besides once they were married her lands would become his sons lands, and thus indirectly under his own influence.

                                                               Duke of Essex

Both Duke of Kent and Essex along with their immediate families sat at the head of the table in the grand hall, for all intent and purposes they were to be one grand family now, but the perception belied the history between the families. Though they had never openly fought each other they had been constant competitors for power and influence, occasionally joining together to beat away a third party but then drifting back to the status quo of competing against each other.
This alliance would put an end to that and on the death of Essex Lord Lambert would become the most powerful man in England.

Charles Bedford had only one purpose in life that was the accumulation of power. It was the same goal his father had installed in him; the accumulation of wealth meant the accumulation of power. Tonight was evident of his achievements thus far; here in this room was every leading family in England and ambassadors from all the major European courts.
They all came because his status demanded it, no less than if he was King of England, and to the Duke of Kent that was the ultimate goal in his quest for power.  Outside his immediate family circle no one suspected that the Duke dreamed and plotted his pathway to eventually becoming the new King of England.
He like his father before him, who had quietly worked behind the scenes to remove obstacles that would or could hinder his rise to the throne, it had been his father’s dream, but too little time and too many ambitious nobles had thwarted his father. For the Duke of Kent with this new alliance the time was fast approaching when Duke of Kent, would become King of England finally.

Of course it had not been easy, but it was easy to manipulate ambitious and greedy lords of the council, it was simply a matter of knowing which button to tweak with each noble.
He had used his influence to encourage certain lords or knights to oppose others, all the while he would arrive as the peacemaker or mediator. He had on several occasions he resorted to murder and blackmail to remove certain individuals that could one day present themselves as opposition.

This proposed marriage was simply the next step towards the ultimate goal; however it was a very big step. It only became possible because he had bothered to watch and spy on all his fellow Lords. It was through these efforts and as a result of paying Doctor Lambert the Duke of Essex’s personal physician an exorbitant amount of money that he was kept informed off the health of the one person he considered would be a definite obstacle.
There had been a time when he considered having Essex removed but ever since he had heard rumours that Essex’s health was poorly, he had decided to let nature take its course. He sat, watched and listened until a few months ago; the doctor had told him that his Lord the Duke of Essex had only a year at the most to live.
His informants constantly kept him informed of Essex’s attempts to find a husband for his daughter, but all to no avail, mainly because every Lord and Knight in England knew that one day their son as Essex’s son in law would have to reckon with the Duke of Kent; and not one of them felt strong enough to take that step.
Eventually as he knew he would the Duke of Essex made approaches to him regarding a marriage between their two great families.
There was a great deal of contractual negotiations, mainly in relation to Essex’s lands and his business dealings. The Duke of Kent had felt benevolent enough to not push too hard a deal, mainly due to the fact that after Essex was dead he could use his influence and power to change any contract he signed now.
However that was until Essex had driven a real spike into the negotiations, Essex had appointed a manager of his business Estates, a man who would administer the Essex family businesses for the benefit of his daughter. With all the negotiating over the marriage contract soon it seemed all of England knew that this marriage was a political settlement only.
The contract was to be  counter signed by 3 Lords and 3 knights to guarantee that it would never be changed. The first instinct for the Duke of Kent had been to walk away from the deal, but then he realised he was playing the long game anyway, it still meant his son would inherit the lands and its revenue if not the business connections.
In time he could eliminate the obstacle presented by 6 lords and Knights who guaranteed the marriage contract, he could easily eliminate the estate manager when the time was right; after all the man was a Jew and was even worse a German Jew.
However all those concerns were to be dealt with in time, for now the Duke of Essex was still alive and as such was now to be an ally and friend.

The Duke of Kent sat back sipping his wine, his son John and his fiancee were circulating around the tables, at the moment they were talking to the Duke of Berkshire Robert Castlemaine. He watched Castlemaine shaking John’s hand, and then taking the hand of Margret and gently pressing it to his lips.
Castlemaines land covered Berkshire and Middlesex and as such London and more importantly the ports of London.
Most of the Dukes income came from his businesses and estates in North America, but a lot of his wealth also came from custom fees originating from the Port of London.
Castlemaine was also quite a peculiarity in that whilst he was a Lord and Peer of England he advocated republicanism for England, this often meant he did not sit easily in the power structures within the Council of the nobles.
That little snippet, along with the strategic assets of his lands made the Duke of Berkshire his next victim; already he had plans which were underway to undermine the influence and power of the Duke of Berkshire.
The Duke of Kent had two goals to achieve before he made his declaration for the monarchy, first he had to have Essex’s land and of course his business connections and secondly he needed London in his grasp and that meant removing the Duke of Berkshire.

Until he achieved those two goals the Duke of Kent remained the affable Peer of England, a man only concerned for the realm and its people, a man anyone could approach to seek help or favour, for a price of course.

The Duke was just about to lean over to speak to his wife, when a shadow cast itself over his table, turning quickly he saw Sir Steven Ferguson, the Duke of Romney standing alongside him.
He quickly stood,
“Ahhh Sir Steven a pleasure I am sure.”
Sir Steven offered his hand to the Duke,
“My Lord I have only come to offer you and your lady my congratulations on a superb match, a wonderful couple.”
The Duke realised a game was about to be played,
“Indeed Sir Steven my wife and I are most pleased at the match.”
“Indeed and so you should be my lord.”

                                                              Sir Steven
There was a brief awkward moment as the two men made eye contact and realising that Sir Steven wanted a quiet word, the Duke leaned down and whispered to his wife,
“If you will excuse me my dear, I find I need to stretch my legs, this damn knee is playing up again.”
Lady Bedford was far too busy talking to the woman next to her to worry about the wheeling and dealings of her husband, or even his knee.
“Of course my dear, you take care though.” With that she continued her talking with someone far more interesting than that horrible creature Sir Steven.

The Duke slowly stood, “Sir Steven I wonder if you would do me the honour of walking with me for a few minutes. It’s my damn knee don’t you know. The blasted gout is getting worse and I have to keep walking, can’t sit too long dammit it.”

Sir Steven took the cue “Of course my Lord I would be only too pleased to accompany you, and besides I have several matters I would seek your advice on.”

They quietly walked over to the entrance of one of the balconies; the Duke pausing only to take a glass of wine from a tray offered by a waiter, they then walked out to a balcony. The evening was fresh but not cold, the early signs that winter was passing and already spring was taking effect.

Glancing around Duke Steven ensured they were alone; he then turned to face the Duke.
“My Lord I have some disturbing news that has come to hand that I feel may greatly concern you.”

“Indeed Sir Steven and what news would that be.”

Lord Bedford was wary of Sir Steven, he knew him to be an ambitious low life, who owes his knighthood through the efforts of his father. His father Captain Stevens was what is now euphemistically called a Corsair, but by any other name or meaning he was a pirate and by accounts he was a ruthless one at that. He had the good fortune to take and plunder a Spanish treasure ship as well as several Spanish coastal holdings in South America.
His father left England with a letter of Marquee and returned an extremely wealthy man within 12 months of arriving home Sir Stevens father had gained or purchased a knighthood and County Romney, which his son even more ambitious than the father had the nerve to rename the Duchy of Romney.

Sir Steven was to Lord Bedford what was known as a “Client Knight”, he was one of many knights that sold their votes on the council for patronage and favour from a Peer. Lord Bedford had several such Clients which extended his influence in the council considerably.

“Now Sir Steven how may I be of assistance to you?”

“Well my lord it appears we may be of some assistance to each other”.

“Well I am always in favour of arrangements that bring satisfaction to all parties, you have me intrigued so please do go on.”

“Sir there is some scurrilous rumours circulating around the city that you are building a power base so strong that to some it appears you may be intending to have yourself crowned King of England, that in fact this proposed marriage is one such move. Now my lord I am not one to listen to gossip and rumours, but I am left wondering that if this particular rumour were true the last thing you need is to have a large obstacle put in your way. I have discovered one such obstacle and it is considerable.  Naturally if the gossip is not correct, then what I have to say will still be I am sure of interest to you, but my Lord I find myself in the embarrassing position of by doing you a favour I need one for myself.”

“I see, well Sir Steven I am sure you know this city is run by rumour and gossip, so naturally when the good people of London see one man doing well they all will always accuse him of having some ulterior motive. I am reminded of your own good father who fought for this country at great personal risk, and despite his success the people of London soon forgot his achievements in battle and remember him only as the gossip makers would have it, a pirate.”

Sir Steven hated being reminded of his father’s past, especially by people like Lord Bedford whose ancestors plundered the royal properties for their own gain and immense wealth.

“Indeed my lord you are quite correct, people with small minds and lazy souls always envy the more successful”.

“Indeed, now for me to gauge how I may help you, I need to hear what information you are offering, hopefully information I don’t already know.”

“I am sure you have heard the rumours that the Archbishop may have discovered a previous Royal line, but little substance was given to the rumour because of his unfortunate death prevented him revealing the details.
Now it so happens that a letter from one of the Archbishops investigators to the Archbishop himself has fallen into my hands, he drew a letter from his inside jacket pocket and handed to Lord Bedford.

The letter was brief but indicated that the Investigator had indeed discovered a previously unknown Royal line that stems from Charles I, he wrote that he has irrefutable evidence that Charles I had a bastard boy, the lad was sent from England to Europe, but it didn’t say much more. He finished the letter confirming beyond doubt that having followed the lineage of that boy from Charles I sent away right through to the current member of the Royal line which was a young boy. He would explain more and show the archbishop the evidence when he arrived home. It was simply signed Paul.

Sir Steven inwardly smiled as he saw Lord Bedford’s face paled.

“Good God, if this is true we could be facing another civil war, and how on earth did the letter get into your hands Sir Steven.”

“Well my Lord for now I would prefer not to disclose the details but I can assure you it was indeed taken from the Archbishops office.”

“Hmmm I see, before or after he was murdered”

“My Lord please let us not lose sight of what is being suggested here, but there is more.”

“Well by all means Sir Steven go on”.

“I am sure you know Sir Edward Anders of Lyndhurst County.”

“Indeed I do, a very industrious family if what I hear is true” replied Lord Bedford.

“Well I prefer to call them treasonous rather than industrious my Lord.”

“Indeed Sir Steven treason you say, now that is a considerable accusation”.

“Yes my Lord you are quite correct but I am sure you will understand when I tell you the rest.”

“In Lyndhurst there is a town called Beaulieu, that town has in last few weeks just gained a new church minister, his name is Father Paul. Now I have done some checking and it seems this father Paul spends a lot of his time in the company of Lady Adair, Lady Adair has a son called Paul who has been missing from Lyndhurst for a number of years. Her son Paul had a reputation as a “hard man” he was a known thief and ran into trouble with the law more than once. I like many others just assumed he had simply been thrown into prison, but I now believe father Paul is lady Adair’s son.
It now appears this son is quite talented, I am told he speaks several languages including Latin, German, French and Spanish, hardly the mind of someone who has spent years in a prison
I am sure my Lord you have heard the same rumours I have, that the archbishop had a secret group of men who he sent out to investigate the applications of nobility, but I believe he was also working on another project. He was looking for a missing link to a Royal family, I believe this Paul found that link in Europe and has returned with him to England. Furthermore I believe the boy he refers to in the letter is now living in Lyndhurst County.”

“Pray tell me Sir Steven, why do you believe that?”

“Because my lord, General Sir Leopold Anders returned from Europe about the same time as father Paul reappeared in Lyndhurst, but even more interesting is that Sir Leopold has returned with a young German lady and her son. It is claimed that this young lady, who is by the way a lot younger than Sir Leopold is his mistress. Now I have not seen the boy, in fact my people asked questions and it appears no one has seen him apart from glimpses through the new high fences Sir Leopold has erected around his new estate which is called “New Park.”

Sir Steven paused for breath, Lord Bedford seemed entranced, and so Sir Steven continues.

“I believe the Paul in the Archbishops letter is the same Paul now Minister in Beaulieu recently returned from Europe and even more recently placed in Beaulieu by the Anders, further more I believe he found the missing Royal and for whatever reason has brought him back to England. I admit I don’t know how Sir Leopold became involved in this, but I do believe he very much is involved up to his neck”.
I suspect they are hiding this young Royal who if he is descended from Charles I and as such would possibly be a great-great grandson of the King, and certainly a solid link and possibly a solid claim to the throne.
I don’t think the Anders are fools my Lord, I believe they are building a powerbase of their own, both political and commercial, once they feel strong enough, that is with enough allies then they will make their move and place the boy on the throne under “their protection and guidance, perhaps a regency my lord.”

“So are you saying the boy that is the so called missing Royal is the same boy that lives with Sir Leopold?”

“I am speculating he is one and the same but I don’t have proof yet, but when considered with the other evidence it certainly goes beyond mere coincidence that all these events should occur in Lyndhurst not long after the Archbishop was murdered and that this letter came into my possession.”

“Now Sir Steven I have to confess what you say does indeed intrigue me, before we go any further I want to know what it is that you want?”

“My Lord I want Lyndhurst county, and if the Anders are proven to have committed treason then Lyndhurst would become vacant and I would like your promise it will be given to me, I want nothing more or less.”
“Treason you say, yes hiding a royal in England is grounds for treason under the law laid down by the ruling council, but we would need to prove they knew the boy is a royal and not merely Sir Leopold’s mistress’s son.
It would seem to me the only evidence that this Paul mentioned in his  letter is either with this Father Paul or with Sir Leopold, failing that we would need to have someone try to track the family lineage ourselves and that could take months, even years.
Simply proving Sir Leopold knows this boy is a royal would only prove he alone knew and no one else did, thus Sir Leopold would hang but Sir Edward would not but you could be sure he would become your enemy for life, and I don’t think I would want that man loose and my enemy.
Secondly I would have you tell me, did you have the Archbishop murdered?”

Sir Steven smiled,
“Now my Lord if I answer that in the affirmative that would place me at your mercy, and possibly you as an accomplice in knowing details of who murdered the Archbishop without reporting it. Perhaps my lord it is best if I say I know who did murder him and I can go on further to say that it had nothing to do with this boy King that particular discovery came about merely as a consequence of the deed.”

Lord Bedford paused for a moment, obviously deep in thought.
“Well Sir Steven what you have told me does indeed interest me a great deal, and I believe we may be able to do each other a service, but it will take time and we will need to discuss this in greater detail. But we do need to keep this close to our chests Sir Steven.
For now I need to discover more about this missing royal link and I need to find out if this boy in Lyndhurst is a royal or just a boy. But more than that if you are correct and the Anders family has been laying the ground work then I need to know who they are talking too.”

Sir Steven moved around the balcony, occasionally glancing over the side as if to reassure himself no one was hanging on to the balcony edge listening to their conversation.
“Well I can be of service to you there as well my Lord.”

“Good grief, you are becoming a wealth of knowledge, pray tell me what you know, and Sir Steven you can be assured I do honour my debts.”

“Indeed my lord and I am most pleased to hear that. Well my lord it appears when Sir Leopold returned from Europe with his mistress, he also returned with some friends he met there. Now the friend is a money changer and he has developed a considerable stake in Lyndhurst County, he also is a silk merchant and is developing markets both in Lyndhurst and here in London. By all accounts he has only been here a few months and already has established quite a clientele.
In fact I believe he is now the estate manager of your future daughter-in law if the rumours circulating are true.”

Lord Bedford went white, so much so that he became visibly shaken; Sir Steven rushed to grasp him by his elbow to help steady him.
“Good god my Lord are you alright, should we go back inside?”

“No dammit I am alright, don’t tell me that this man is a Jew called Rothschild?”
“Indeed he is my lord, he is the Anders family financier and I believe he is also now involved with my Lord Essex’s family finances as well, I hear he is very well connected in Europe, apparently he comes from quite an extensive family all of whom are involved in finance in one respect or another.”

It was then that Lord Bedford realised he may have made the most grievous mistake of his life, by tying his family’s future to that of Essex’s he was in fact making his own position vulnerable. If Essex and the Anders have an understanding then it could go far beyond a business arrangement, all of a sudden his dreams and schemes to have a King Bedford on the throne of  England seemed  to have become very complicated.
The one advantage he had was at this stage neither the Anders nor Essex would be aware that he knew of their plans; if indeed they did have plans. It then occurred to him that he now believed Sir Stevens’s story, as bizarre as it sounded in the beginning now it had a ring of truth about it. If so he had to find a way to manipulate events so the council of nobles came to realise there were treasonous plans being made within it.
He had to work this to his advantage, if he planned this right not only could he have the Anders accused of treason, but he may also have Essex condemned in the same way, and even if he wasn’t, being associated with a traitor would do more harm to the Essex family fortunes than he could ever hope to achieve on his own.
But first he had to distance himself from Essex, and now of course that was even more complicated because he had stupidly just allied himself to the Essex family, the one thing was certain, this marriage could not possibly go on.
Damn Sir Steven, why couldn’t he have come with this information sooner, and even more worrying is how none of his informants never picked up on any of this.

First things first, he had new plans to make.

Lord Bedford looked at Sir Steven, he offered his hand and as Sir Steven took the hand Lord Bedford said

“Thank you Sir Steven, you have done me a great service and it will not go unrewarded, we will need to talk some more about this but for now all you know must remain a secret until I discover just how far this rot has spread.”

Sir Steven bowed and together they returned to the great hall.

As the Duke of Kent crossed the floor approaching the table, the Duke of Essex noticed Lord Bedford coming in from a balcony followed by Sir Steven, a frown crossed Essex’s forehead but then he noticed Lord Bedford looking intently at him.
Essex raised his glass in salute along with a large smile.

Lord Bedford smiled back, and reaching his seat once more he sat heavily down.

His wife, leaned over and touched his hand,
“Isn’t this a most marvelous evening my Dear”
The Duke looked at her, “Shut up woman you have no idea of anything.”

He sat there looking at the lords, knights, ladies and all the creatures that made up London’s high society. He felt angry, not at those bastards on the floor but at himself. He had been so full of his own ambitions and plans he had not seen that he himself was being manipulated, now he was not sure who he could trust; he wasn’t even sure who weren’t secretly laughing at him knowing he had just been made a fool off.
Was Stevens part of a bigger plot to entrap him, or if what he said was true and Essex and the Anders were allying who else in the council were with them; the biggest puzzle of all was if Essex was in the plot why would he allow his only daughter to marry into the family he plotted against.

The more he pondered on this the darker his mood became, the one thing was certain now, the Duke of Kent had an enemy in Sir Anders and the Duke of Essex, but he had to quickly shore up his own allies and try to find out who was supporting whom.

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