The pain was excruciating. It was like something was beating at his insides in a constant rhythm preventing him from gaining peace. He envied Eleonore, she had not had to suffer through this. Instead, she had fallen ill and then two days later she had passed away quietly. But it seemed that God would not grant him such mercy.
No, God intended to punish his most devout servant with the hammers of hell. He cleared his throat and coughed.
“Sire?” A voice called.
Leopold blinked, his chamberlain was there before him now. Leopold nodded. That meant his son, Josef, the boy who would succeed him was here.
“Your Imperial Majesty.” His son said, kneeling where Leopold could see him. The boy was tall, without the jaw that insulted their family. He was handsome too, and smart.
“You will face a challenge when I am gone.” Leopold said he saw no point in wasting time.
“Bavaria may try for something.” Leopold continued, he did not believe he would make it until his son turned eighteen. The boy was already King of the Romans, but one never knew what might happen when there was a minority, even if for a few months.
“Keep an eye on him, and if necessary take your nephew to Vienna, to keep the man in line.” That boy, Leopold’s grandson, was the key to everything. He suspected that he would be the one considered for Spain. After all, that fool, William had made it clear during the negotiations that ended the last war, that he would not support Karl for the throne of Spain.
“Yes, Sire.” Josef said softly.
“Make sure to keep good counsel, you need not keep my ministers with you, but make sure that those you do choose are wise and are not given to fancy.” Leopold admonished, that was crucial, an Emperor needed to have good men about him.
“Yes, Sire.” his son said.
“Continue the alliance with Savoy, we must detach them from Versailles.” Work had begun on a marriage between Karl and the Duke’s daughter, Leopold wanted to see that through, but he knew he would not last.
Josef said nothing to that, but Leopold continued on regardless. “And make sure that you make an appropriate marriage yourself. Not to a French Princess, but elsewhere.” Where he did not know. Eleonore had had an idea, but that had died with her.
Leopold nodded, he felt the tiredness creeping over him now, the pain was easing, but there was one last thing he needed to say. “To be a good Emperor, listen to counsel, but never let them direct you. Remember that you are the Emperor, always remember that, and you will be fine.”
His son bowed his head.
Leopold touched his hand, he had not been the most affectionate of fathers, but he was proud of his son. He wanted to convey that with words, but the pain was too much. Instead, he simply held his son’s hand and exhaled, counting down the moments until he could meet his maker.
James moved from side to side. He knew he shouldn’t, that Mama wouldn’t approve, but he was excited. He had turned eight yesterday, and there had been a big celebration in the Palace, and now, now he was going to meet his new Governor.
Papa had said that now that he was eight, he was on the way to becoming a man, and as such, the Countess of Erroll shouldn’t be his governess anymore. And whilst he was sad that that was the case, he was also excited, because a new governor meant he could learn new things. Like how to fight! His cousin Walnut already knew how to fight, with a wooden sword and it seemed so perfect. James wanted to be able to do that.
“His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness.” The guard said.
“Show him in.” Mama commanded. Papa was away, he had set off for The Hague this morning.
The door opened and the Duke walked in, he was a tall man and yet when he stopped before them and bowed, James saw that he was smaller than Mama. That made him smile.
“Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness.” The Duke said.
“Lord Devonshire.” Mama said.
James wanted to say something but he remained quiet, he had been told how to deal with this, and he wanted to make Mama proud.
“We have summoned you here today to present you with the opportunity of assisting us in shaping the next generation.” Mama said, her voice sounded quite formal.
“Our son and heir is reaching the age where he needs the guidance of a firm hand to assist him in learning what he must. It is our belief that you, Lord Devonshire, are the man for this role.”
Devonshire didn’t say anything, at first James wondered if his tongue had gotten lost, that was something that sometimes happened when people had to speak to Mama and Papa, but especially Mama.
But then, Devonshire spoke. “It would be my honour, Your Majesty.”
Mama nodded. “Good, His Royal Highness will tell you what he has learned so far.” Mama looked at him, and James smiled before speaking.
In as clear a voice as he could, to show that he was not a baby, he spoke. “I have learned French, Latin and some German. I am learning about the history of the Crown and I wish to learn how to fight.” He added that last part quickly, and saw Mama frown.
The Duke didn’t smile, but his words seemed to suggest that he found what James had said acceptable. “That is quite something, Your Royal Highness. I am sure that we shall continue to make good progress.”
Mama spoke then. “Good, you shall begin your governorship from tomorrow. For now, we wish you to speak with the Countess of Erroll to get a more informed view.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” Devonshire said, bowing.
“You may go.” Mama said, Devonshire bowed again then departed.
Once Devonshire had gone, Mama turned to him and raised an eyebrow.
James hurriedly spoke. “I wanted to get him to say it in front of you, Mama, so neither of us would get in trouble!”
Mama smiled then, she took his hand in hers and said. “That is quite fine, sweetling. I know you meant no harm.”
Louis nodded, and de Croissy spoke. “We have had a positive response so far for negotiations with Vienna, Sire.”
“Go on.” Louis commanded, these negotiations were critical. He did not have a daughter of his own, therefore his cousin, Elisabeth would serve as the French candidate.
“The Austrians are happy to accept the dowry that Your Most Christian Majesty proposed, they are also happy for the wedding to occur next April. All they ask is that Her Royal Highness learn the language of her husband to be.” de Croissy said.
Louis nodded, that shouldn’t be too hard, given the girl was smart. Her father, Uncle Philippe, would be happy as well, the man had always been ambitious. “Good. So that marriage is effectively consolidated.”
That was important, they needed to make sure that everything remained within working order. Another war was not something that they could afford, and it was not something Louis wanted.
“What about the other marriage?” There had been another offer for a marriage with Vienna, the Emperor’s sister had been offered for the Dauphin, a marriage that would further cement ties.
There was a brief pause, then de Croissy spoke. “There are some issues there in regards to the dowry, Sire. Vienna is offering something that is lower than Your Most Christian Majesty’s expectations, and there are also some other issues around it.”
“Such as?” Louis asked.
“The Emperor wishes for his brother to marry the Duke of Savoy’s eldest daughter.” de Croissy said.
Louis exhaled, the marriage between Vienna and Savoy was not ideal, but if he were being honest with himself, he would prefer the double marriage to Vienna to go through more than anything else. The peace was important. “Propose a figure between the two that have been proposed and see what he says. Savoy is not important.”
“Yes, Sire.” de Croissy said.
Satisfied that that had been resolved, Louis then turned to another matter of grave importance. “What of negotiations with Munich and the Hague?”
“The Elector is satisfied with the terms that have been proposed, Sire. He says he wishes for his son to have as smooth an ascension to the throne of Spain as possible, and if that means handing over Naples and Sicily then he is happy. However, King William has less goodwill about the proposal for the Spanish Netherlands.” de Croissy said.
“What little is left of it.” Louis remarked.
“I do think we could apply some pressure on him though, Sire. Especially as my sources report that his ministers in London are ignorant of what exactly he is doing in The Hague.” de Croissy said.
Intrigued, Louis said. “Raise a whispering campaign, get our friends in London to stir their populace and move it from there.”
“Exactly, Sire.” de Croissy replied.
Louis considered this, the cost would be something, but if it forced William of Orange to come to the table and accept what was on offer? That would be worth it.
“Your Royal Highness.” The Duke of Devonshire said, his voice deep, his expression solemn. “Welcome.” There was a brief pause as James took his seat, there were only two of them in the room, the others would join after this meeting, that was what Mama had said. Why, James did not know.
“Before we begin formally, I would like to start with a simple topic.” Devonshire said. “What do you know of Henry III?”
James blinked, Henry III? The Countess of Erroll had told him a story about Henry III and the man’s wife Eleanor of Provence, but whether such a thing was appropriate to say before his tutor, James did not know. So, instead, he said. “Very little.”
Devonshire nodded. “Do you know when he was born and how long he reigned for?”
“He was born in the year 1207, and reigned for 56 years.” James said. That much he had gleaned from speaking to Walnut, who knew more about these things.
“Good, and do you know what the big event of his reign was?” Devonshire asked.
James opened his mouth to answer then hesitated. There were a few big events of the man’s reign, from what Walnut had told him, but from the way Devonshire had spoken, it seemed as if there was just one big event that would be the focus of this discussion. “The Barons Revolt?” He asked.
Devonshire nodded. “Indeed, and do you know why the Barons revolt occurred?”
James shook his head, that much he did not know.
“Then that is where we shall begin.” Devonshire said. There was a brief pause, then the man continued. “King Henry was a pious King, a man who gave generously to the Church and to the Poor. However, in his councils he relied on the advice of men who did not have his best interests at heart. That they were from a strange land did not help, for they looked out for interests that were not England’s, and they convinced the King that his interests were not aligned with England’s interests.”
James frowned, how could such a King allow something like that to happen?
“As time went by, frustrations grew, and the conditions became such that a revolt had to happen, otherwise something else would give. And so, during the 1260s, as the King entered his twilight, a revolt broke out led by Simon de Montfort.” Devonshire said.
Intrigued, James leant forward.
Devonshire continued. “De Montfort had some early success and called what is now believed to be the first Parliament, but that Parliament lacked legitimacy for it had not been called under the King’s grace. And as such the tensions continued. Those who had once supported de Montfort changed sides and the King gradually grew in strength.”
“What happened then?” James asked, he liked this story, the story of a King who had been wronged and had come back to win.
“What happened next is that the King won, and defeated his enemies, but there were compromises that needed to be made.” Devonshire said.
“Compromises?” James asked, sounding the word out. “Why?”
“Everything in life requires compromises, Your Royal Highness.” Devonshire answered.
“But he was the King!” James exclaimed. “Kings do not need to make compromises with rebellious subjects!”
Devonshire did not say anything to that immediately, instead he shifted, but then he said. “The reasons for why are what I want you to read up on. There are several books in the Royal Collection that will provide answers. I want you to provide your answers next week, Your Royal Highness.”
James nodded, he was eager to see what reasons had been given and whether he could find a gap in their reasoning.
William opened the letter that had come from London and read it intently.
I send word of the investigation being led by Morton.
It seems that the man has concluded his investigation and is ready to present his findings.
I know that you wished to be present for when he did so, and therefore have asked him to delay presentation until the end of the month, when I know you will be home.
In regards to our son, he has had his first week of sessions with Devonshire, and all seems to be going well.
Devonshire says that our son is an inquisitive child with a flair for knowledge, which is good.
How go things on your side?
Your loving wife
William put the letter down and exhaled. It was good that this business with Morton, Dalrymple and Scotland would soon come to a close. If he were being honest with himself, he could not understand why the Scots were making such a fuss over something that had occurred four years ago.
The so-called victims had failed to swear the oath by the deadline-a rather generous deadline- and had suffered consequences therein. That they were now trying to make something out of it was what annoyed him.
If it had just been him on the throne, he would have ignored them. But Mary had insisted and so he had allowed this whole thing to go ahead.
Hopefully now the report would put everything to bed once and for all.
The news about their son was good. It was important that the heir to the throne appear smart and inquisitive. They did not want a situation like what had occurred in France.
The thought on France turned his attention to the negotiations that had been ongoing.
He looked at Portland and asked. “What news?
Portland looked haggard, clearly the years were not being kind to him.
“The French are insisting that the Spanish Netherlands become theirs, King Louis states that they have always been French. The Elector of Bavaria is willing to agree to the term.” Portland said.
“Absolutely not.” William said firmly. “We cannot have France right at the Republic’s door.” He still remembered 1672, and the nightmares that had evoked.
“Then we are at an impasse, Sire.” Portland said.
A thought came to William then. “Not necessarily.” There was a chance to put someone William knew and that he knew the Emperor liked. “We can suggest the titular Duke of Lorraine gain the Spanish Netherlands.”
“A sensible suggestion, Sire.” Portland said. “Lorraine has the benefit of being related to the Emperor and as well as the future King of Spain, and also has connections to France. He also has the skills needed to defend the Spanish Netherlands should things get heated.”
“Exactly.” William said. “Make the suggestion when you see the French again, and let us see what they say.” If King Louis had any sense, he would agree to this, and then they could put it all to bed.
Carlos watched the court. He watched and he saw what was happening and he wanted to scream. Of course, wanting to scream and actually screaming were two completely different things. He was not sure that he could scream even if he wanted to. His body had given up on him, his tongue would loll uselessly out of his mouth and nothing would emerge from his mouth other than some guttural noise that would embarrass him.
Carlos glanced to his right and saw his wife, Maria Anna. She was his caretaker more than anything else now, and a woman he feared. She could be quite terrifying when she wanted to be. And she was trying to scare him into naming her nephew, Archduke Karl as his heir. Something that he did not want to do. The Austrians were family, yes, but they had never shown the vaguest hint of wanting to assist in anything.
No, all they did was demand things and then act surprised when they didn’t get what they wanted. He would much rather have his great-nephew Josef to be his heir, even if the boy was unwell. The boy had the best claim if one excluded Maria Theresa and her children, which Carlos always had.
Still, he was powerless to really shape anything. No doubt his wife and ministers would present an option and force him to sign, and damn what he wanted. That was his life. His wants, his cares, his desires were disregarded. All because everyone thought him a fool. A moronic bewitched fool.
But he was not.
He knew exactly what happened, he knew who wanted what, who craved what and who was sleeping with who. But because of his inability to properly speak he could not voice any of this. And so, everyone thought he was a fool.
His wife looked at him then and inside, he recoiled. She was looking at him as though he was a piece of meat. His fate was in her hands.
Hands that had once torn him to bloody pieces when he’d refused to acknowledge something she’d said. Hands that had twisted his own when he’d turned from her. Hands that….he didn’t want to think on this anymore.
His wife was moving toward him. Oh, she had that look in her eyes. The look that said she knew exactly what he was thinking.