Chapter 1: Manchester
Chapter 1: Manchester
It was cold, even though there was a fire blazing in the hearth. It shouldn’t be this cold. Nowhere should be this cold. London would most definitely not be this cold at this time of year, and yet, Brussels was not London, and so it was terrifyingly cold.
Charles Montagu, Earl of Manchester and Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, thought that he should be used to it by now, after all, he’d accompanied the King on his sojourns here since the war had started. Yet, he was not used to it, and he was not sure if he would ever become used to it.
He huffed out a breath and glanced at the man sat to his right. Sir William Ratcliffe was a tall man, with a mop of auburn hair and fiercely bright blue eyes. The man claimed descent from one of Richard III’s closest advisors, how true that descent was, Charles was not sure, but the man was loyal and a friend and that was what mattered.
They had both insisted that the Yeomen accompany the King to Brussels, or at least half of them accompanied the King. They were the oldest guard that the English monarch had, and it was their right. Whatever the 1st Regiment of Foot or Coldstream Guards might say, it was their right to protect the monarch and they would do it. Charles had inherited that tradition and that sense of honour from his predecessors.
The King had agreed, reluctantly, and that too only after a conversation with the Queen. The man preferred the Dutch Guards that he had known since his youth, clearly thinking that they were the most reliable. And yet Charles had made sure that the Yeomen were all loyal to the King and Queen. Anyone with any suspected loyalties to the old Catholic King had been removed.
There was a knock on the door which prompted Charles to glance at Sir William. Who could it be that wanted to talk to the King at this hour? Yes, Portland was in the King’s study, but Portland was always there.
Charles gestured to Sir William and the man got up and opened the door. He stepped to one side, allowing a page to step into the room. The page’s face was flushed and he was breathing heavily.
“What is it?” Charles demanded.
The page bowed and replied. “Two letters have arrived for His Majesty’s viewing, my lord.”
Charles didn’t look at Sir William. There was only one place that these letters could’ve come from. London. Charles knew that the King wanted any letter that the Queen sent to him, handed over immediately, regardless of the day or time. Therefore he held out his hand and the page walked to him and handed over the letters.
“Dismissed.” Charles barked. The page bowed once more before walking out.
Charles glanced at Sir William, the man had taken his seat again. Charles nodded, then turned and walked to the door that led to the King’s study. He knocked thrice to let the King know that it was he who wanted to see him.
“Enter!” Came the command.
Charles waited, and the door was opened, revealing a member of the Yeomen of the Guard. Charles nodded to the man and stepped passed him. He entered the study properly and found the King sat at his table, papers scattered everywhere. Portland, the sly little snake, was sat opposite the King, lounging in his chair.
Charles bowed. “Two letters have arrived, Sire.”
“Hand them over.” The King commanded.
Charles did as he was commanded, he straightened and walked over to the table, he placed them on the solid surface, bowed then stepped away. As Captain of the Yeomen, he could not leave the room until specifically dismissed by the King. His subordinates in the Guard stood in the corners of the room, ever alert.
He watched as the King opened one letter and read through it, something shifted in his face. It was as if some great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Indeed, it seemed as if he was torn between wanting to smile and wanting to cry. That was unnerving.
The King finished reading that letter and placed it to one side, and then opened the second letter.
This time there was no uncertainty in his emotion. The King closed his eyes and took two deep breaths. It was as if he was trying to calm himself. As though he had been exposed to some great horror and was trying to learn how to process it.
When he had calmed down, he put that second letter on the table and looked up.
Nobody said anything for a moment, Charles wanted to ask what the King had read, but he knew that doing so was in poor form and so he waited. Portland also seemed uncertain of how to proceed, which was in of itself notable. Usually, Portland was always in tune with what the King wanted and needed.
The King broke the silence.
He looked from Charles to Portland and back. “Word from Saint Germain. It seems that my father in law has suffered some sort of stroke, he passed away in the early hours two weeks ago.”
Charles nodded, taking the news in, the death of the old King was good, it meant that the real threat of another invasion had been greatly reduced.
“King Louis has not yet declared for the man’s child.” The King continued.
That was also good news, though Charles could not help but ask. “What of the fleet that the French had gathered, Sire?” They had known about that fleet for a few months now and about the invasion plans that the French had as well.
“No word on that matter, but it does seem as though Louis intends to use that fleet for another purpose.” The King said.
Charles nodded, accepting what the King said. If there was a chance in circumstance, they could always adapt to it.
“The second letter came from the Queen.” The King said.
That prompted Charles to straighten, well, more the tone in which the King had mentioned the Queen.
“Our nephew, the Duke of Gloucester has died.” The King said softly.
Charles blinked, that news was…it was not good. The Duke of Gloucester had carried the hopes of the Kingdom on his small shoulders, especially as the King and Queen as of yet had no children. With him dead, all depended on Princess Anne having more children, which given how things had progressed for her recently, was not positive.
“I am so sorry for your loss, Your Majesty.” Portland said then, which prompted Charles to speak.
“I too am very sorry for your loss, Your Majesty.”
The King nodded. “Thank you, now, unless there was anything else, you may go, Charles.”
“Sire.” Charles replied. He bowed once, then walked away, facing the King. Once the door was open and he was back with Sir William, he sat down and exhaled.
Things were going to get a lot more interesting, was that a good thing?