A Royal Achievement
The winnowing of anti-royalist captains and senior officers continued. It was done subtly and each was not in a position to resist… or even to complain. In principle at least they all got an acceptable posting, most even got a small promotion. The good postings were intended to create friends as much as remove enemies… a dockyard command here, the command of a convoy to the Caribbean there.
Nobody could claim to have been disadvantaged, but all of the doubtful ones were now in commands where they were unable to influence or thwart the outcome of the great matter of the return of the king.
The remaining old-Army captains were beginning to feel isolated, a situation that could have made them dangerous. It got to the point where a group of the remaining old-school army-appointed captains came to see Lawson.
If they were seeking to protect their futures they might more obviously have come to see their General-in-Command… but no, it was still the leader of his opposition, the leader of the Army faction, Lawson, that they wanted to see. Perhaps what they really needed was to be issued with bring-em-nears to help them see their future.
The party would not include the Naseby’s new captain. He was a new appointee, given his command by Lord Montagu over Vice Admiral Lawson’s protests. The process of cleaning out the remaining anti-Royalists was coming along nicely… and that was why the captains were gathering.
They needed somewhere large enough to hold their meeting so, guessing their mood, Lord Montagu kindly offered the use of his stateroom. No-one thought to tell David and Jeremy.
The two boys were actually in their sleeping quarters behind the panelling when the meeting convened. They didn’t know about the meeting… and the meeting didn’t know about them.
It had been too windy for the climb to the crows-nest, and Saucy had been more than usually attentive when the boys sought a mid-morning snack. The result was a degree of excitement that made David need the release that would only come from time alone with his best friend.
“But… first, I need a cuddle,” Jeremy said to David.
“That sounds nice!” David replied. “Maybe we should have accepted Saucy’s invitation to help him with stock-taking… I’m sure he would have looked after us.”
He said it with a grin, knowing that Jeremy had not yet permitted the cook more than a brief stroking of his bottom. Every time poor Saucy had tried to move further round Jeremy’s trousers, the boy had moved out of his embrace and scampered giggling up to the deck.
David was just a little worried that Jeremy’s lack of interest was causing the poor man’s actions to become increasingly obvious. He tried to ensure that he was with his friend when he visited the galley.
He was not that much less frustrated than Saucy. The fact was that Jeremy had no actual need of release. His body didn’t yet feel those fierce drives that would have caused him to welcome his friend’s advances. All that he really needed at the moment was an affectionate cuddle. If that could only happen if it ended in release for David, then that was perfectly alright with him, and anyway it was fun, and it did feel good. But, if his interest was caught by a passing ship, or the gunner offered to show him a new gun-mount, then he would grin cheekily and run off.
David and Saucy had tried to interest him in their idea of fun, but he simply wasn’t yet ready for them.
The previous night he had lain awake after he and David had cuddled.
He had said “no need” when David had offered to finish him after David had achieved his own end. David hadn’t objected, he was terribly sleepy and was happy to sling his hammock and go to sleep.
Jeremy had lain awake in his hammock, thinking of his mother and father. His mother’s face was beginning to fade in his memory, and occasionally he would become upset by his need to be able to remember. When he finally went to sleep he dreamed of climbing trees with his father. In reality his father had already been wounded and had been quite unable to climb trees, so it was a dream of what he wished had happened.
The dream changed, as dreams do, into one that replaced his father with Ned the stable boy. Ned was two or three years older than Jeremy, and Jeremy had hero-worshiped him. Ned had been in the habit of patting Jeremy’s back and occasionally bottom. Until the dream it had never struck Jeremy that Ned might have been after what Saucy now wanted. This dream however took Jeremy and the older boy high up into the oak tree, where quite improbably they found a crows nest where Jeremy proudly showed the stable-boy how he could avoid the lubber hole.
In his dream he allowed Ned to hug him, and didn’t pull away when Ned’s hand moved to enfold his cods. He enjoyed the feeling as his diminutive boyhood grew in the rough hand of the stable-boy and in his dream it grew to fill Ned’s hand. Ned was now manipulating him, his two finger grip needing to be replaced with his whole fist as Jeremy’s dream caused him to grow to more mature proportions.
Eventually, the Ned of his dream was inexplicably replaced by David… who finished the task. Jeremy orgasmed in his dream with the intensity that only a boy’s dream can achieve. The shock woke him, and the startled youngster found himself chilled by the air of a spring night. He pulled his blankets about him and drifted off to sleep again.
By morning the enjoyment of the orgasm was gone and what remained was the memory of his mother and father… relaxing pleasure had been replaced with sadness again, and the need for a cuddle.
That was why, at mid-morning when they went to Saucy to persuade him to provide a pie, they let poor old Saucy have just enough bottom patting to encourage him for next time, but not enough to make him importunate. Instead they went in search of some place where they could cuddle and kiss, and eat pie, without rude remarks… somewhere like their sleeping quarters, behind the panelling.
Almost no-one knew they might be there. Samuel and Montagu had agreed with the boys that it was where they should secrete themselves if there was ever any trouble on board. Samuel had found David’s sleeping space on the first afternoon, when his natural curiosity sent him exploring. He was still unsure that all was going to go smoothly with the great matter of the King. For that reason, he hadn’t enlightened Lawson on where the boys slept… or where they might hide in case of trouble. Lawson was an aloof man who was unlikely to wonder where boys found to sleep. His mind was on loftier matters.
That was how an unsuspecting Lawson came to sit down at the large table in Montagu’s state-room, to discuss his captains’ worries. He intended to reassure them that he was working hard to protect their interests. He would tell them that he was relying on them to support his efforts to block the King’s return.
Instead, to his extreme annoyance, he found their spokesman gave him no chance to speak, but launched into telling him that there was a general feeling amongst his supporters that his opposition to the Royalist cause was jeopardising their careers.
The other captains nodded in agreement.
The boys were dozing in their hammocks, recovering from a mutually enjoyable afternoon that had required quite a bit of recovery. They were woken by a roar of outraged anger from Lawson. It wasn’t Montagu shouting, that was obvious and quietly they crept to see who it was.
Through gaps in the panelling they could see that it was Lawson, and he was absolutely purple with rage. He was used to relying on the Naval tradition of absolute loyalty and acceptance of his authority.
His captains on the other hand, appreciated that authority and power in the fleet now rested in the hands of Montagu, even if Lawson did not… or rather, had not. He did now.
They sat quietly, waiting for Lawson to calm down.
“What do you mean… ‘jeopardising your appointments’ ? I’m damn-well responsible for your appointments!”
“With respect… Sir. Our appointments now appear to be in the hands of Lord Montagu. Those he doesn’t trust are being sent ashore. The more we are seen to side with yourself, the more likely you are to lose us to a dockyard appointment.”
“Damn you Sir, You mean to fall into line with the damned Royalists… can I not depend on you Sir?” Lawson was shouting again.
“Of course you can depend on us! But if you want that to serve a useful purpose you need to avoid getting us sent ashore. For that matter, we would not wish to see you lost to some Barbary-coast mission either.”
The boys were beginning to recognise some of the voices. Jeremy, a born note-taker like his uncle, found a stub of pencil and some paper and began writing.
“Well, which of you think it’s a waste of time opposing the King’s return?”
There was a murmur from around the table.
“So, no-one would oppose an order to bring him back from Holland?”
Another murmur of agreement.
“Just you?” He named the captain of one of the third-rate ships.
Jeremy was busy taking notes, and another man’s fate was sealed.
When the conversation slowed to a general grumble, Jeremy made a move.
“Let’s get back on deck and see who was who when they come out.” He whispered to David.
They crept absolutely silently, in bare feet, down onto the orlop-deck. There they ran to the far end where they came up in the forecastle. From the forecastle they strolled out onto the maindeck, where they watched as Lawson’s meeting broke up.
The captains started shouting down at their men waiting alongside, ordering them to come to the ladder to take them off. Because they called for their boat by their ship’s name, Jeremy was able to identify many of the voices that he had heard earlier.
He sat on a coil of rope apparently sketching the rigging, but in reality he was adding to the comments he had heard through the wall. He now had a more or less complete account of the meeting… It was time to brief his uncle!
Half an hour later he was saying “Uncle, we need somewhere quiet. Could we use His Lordship’s stateroom?”
“Certainly… We shouldn’t be overheard there.”
“Not so long as we check that there’s no-one behind the panelling.” said his nephew.
“You mean… you were? Oh, my goodness!”
“What were you thinking of? It could have become really nasty if they had found you spying on them!”
“Well, yes Uncle, I suppose it could… but really what could they have done? Thrown us in the sea? Only murder would have made any difference and they were in no mood to do anything drastic on Vice-Admiral Lawson’s behalf… particularly to the son of their Admiral!”
Samuel nodded. His nephew was of course correct, but nevertheless it was a piece of espionage that should best be kept quiet. If only because the opportunity might arise again.
“So, what did you hear?”
“Vice-Admiral Lawson was hoping that they would agree to help him block the return of the King, simply by refusing to convey him across the Channel from Holland.”
“And… were they? Willing I mean?”
“Far from it! They had come with their own purpose. They’d actually come to tell Lawson that his efforts to thwart Lord Montagu were risking their posts. Captains and lieutenants were losing commands that it had taken them years and money to obtain. They were of the view that too many captains and lieutenants had already been replaced for being seen to support him. They told him it should all have stopped long ago!”
“Gracious me! Spoken to like that! So what did Lawson say to that?”
“He shouted a lot, and then asked for a show of hands of those willing to join him in blocking the King’s return. They all refused, except… ” A man’s fate sealed by the witness of an eleven year old boy!
“So… What was the final outcome?”
“Of that I can’t be totally sure… But Vice-Admiral Lawson was shouting and there was a lot of grumbling about the lack of support, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. That was when David and I decided that the noise made it a good moment to escape through the orlop. From the waist of the maindeck we thought that we might be able to list them as they called for their boats.”
“So, barring an accident to his Lordship and me… we can rely on all but one of them to not oppose us?”
“Yes, I think so… but… do please be careful Uncle… I really don’t want to be orphaned for a third time!” He said it with a smile, but it had been a difficult afternoon and the smile was a trifle strained.
“I shall be sure to tell the King of what you did for him this afternoon… It took a lot of courage… and initiative. Your father would be so proud of you!”
“Thank you, Uncle… Here are my notes, I hope you can read them. It was a bit cramped by the guns… I had only my knee to rest my paper on.”
Samuel took the paper and scanned down the tightly cramped but perfectly legible notes. He was impressed…
“In the circumstances… what you’ve achieved… I couldn’t have done better.”
“Well Uncle, you certainly couldn’t have fitted into the space available.” Jeremy said with a broad grin, sticking his stomach out in parody of his uncle’s ample girth.
Samuel pretended to attempt to box his ears… “Now run along and find David… off to Saucy with you, and the best pie he has… Tell Saucy I said so… He’s a good man, for all his faults.”
The following Sunday, when it was quiet after the church service, his Lordship sat down with Samuel and they went through the list of captains due to form the fleet, to ensure that they had removed all the opposition. Later in the day Samuel organised the captaincy of the Bear for Captain Wilgness, another reliable Royalist. That netted him another thirty shillings, a sovereign and a half for a letter. His work as Secretary was making his fortune… and he hadn’t even met the King yet!
Within days, discreet word came that General Monck had decided that he would support the return of the King, but on his terms. If it wasn’t done his way and on his terms then he would block it until it was.
Monck didn’t need to worry about Parliament. The Convention Parliament had already decided that so long as the terms that the King offered were reasonable then it was better to be ruled by one man than suffer the random chaos that resulted from rule by many… not to mention the unacceptability of rule by a Protector who was King in all but name, and the foolishness of him nominating his incompetent nonentity of a son as his heir!
A proper king would have limits to his power, re-asserting Magna Carta would see to that. Added to which, the next king would be bound by the terms Parliament had set in agreeing to his return.
News had also come from London that the City too would now accept a king.
The Skinners Company when holding a dinner for General Monck took the opportunity to take down the Parliament Arms that had been displayed on the wall of their Livery Hall. They pointedly replaced it with the Royal Coat of Arms.
A year ago they would have been charged with treason!
What England needed, and wanted, was a king… and there was one waiting in Holland.
Lunch-time… Jeremy and David were eating at the foot of the table in the stateroom, while their elders discussed General Monck in subdued tones at the other end. A quiet tap at the door and Saucy stuck his head in…
“Mister David sir…”
David left his meal, which was fortunately cold cuts, and followed Saucy out to the deck.
“There’s a Mister Cook come from London. He’s got a packet for his Lordship. Please come and accept it from him, he wont give it to me. He’s warming himself at the fire in my galley.”
At that time of day the ship was quiet with most men in their messes eating. The hatch to Saucy’s galley being closed and the companionway empty and private Saucy took the opportunity to quietly hug the boy.
David paused. He enjoyed the attention, and while Saucy could be a bit rough at times, he was not unkindly so… just clumsy, David liked the way Saucy treated him… respectful but desiring. It felt nice to be desired, even if only by a cook. He wished Jeremy felt desire for him… maybe soon. He hoped so.
Saucy took the opportunity of David’s pause to take him in his arms and cuddle him properly. It really was nice, David didn’t get much affection from his father these days. A cuddle from Saucy was certainly affection, although David couldn’t let it go too far or too often.
The son of the Admiral could hardly allow anyone to see him canoodling with a cook!
He enjoyed the warmth of the older man’s embrace for a few minutes, but as soon as he detected mounting excitement where it shouldn’t be, he drew away and rather formally said…
“Now, Saucy…. Mr Cook and his package… my cold-cuts are getting colder by the minute!”
“Indeed they are young-Sir… You remember now… come back down to Saucy after luncheon is done… I’ll have some afters for you… some hot afters.” He said it with a meaningful grin.
David considered it a moment, and said…
“If I’m free to come I shall. His Lordship may need a page to run errands but I’ll tell Jeremy to stand by for that.”
“Indeed sir, I’ll have something waiting for you… ” He grinned. “I’ll make sure you enjoy something nice for afters”
David said “If you have a mouthful for me, I’ll be here.”
Then with a grin, the bargain made, he gestured for Saucy to open the door to Mister Cook and his parcel of papers.
The papers were duly delivered to his Lordship. They caused him to sit in quiet discussion with Samuel much of the afternoon.
That night he told Samuel to discreetly write out two commissions. One was for Capt. Robert Blake to become Captain of the Worcester, replacing Capt. Dekings. Dekings was an anabaptist, and the religious views of anabaptists were on the far fringes of acceptibility. Worse, Dekings had been preaching a great deal of discontent against the present proceedings in the matter of the King. This had come to Monck’s attention… He had limited patience for tedious subordinates, there were so many younger officers hoping for preferment… why put up with captains who were troublesome?
To succeed in his fleet, captains needed to be on the right side when the music stopped.
The change would get rid of the troublesome Dekings. But it would leave a vacancy on Blake’s ship, so the other commision was for a Capt. Coppin to come into the Newbury to replace Blake. Coppin was another who could be trusted.
General Monck’s letter had under-lined the growing urgency, the need to increase their efforts to smooth the way for the King.
Meanwhile David was enjoying afters with Saucy.
Riding at anchor at the Downs life took on a quiet routine. There were no sails to raise or reef, no anchors to haul up.
Edward Barlow was back on board and Toby arranged for Jeremy to watch his wounded head being dressed. It was still a bit of a mess, but under the surgeon’s gentle and skillful hands it seemed a little better each time.
There was a tension in the air between the surgeon and Toby. Jeremy couldn’t make out what caused it, and Toby wasn’t able to enlighten him.
“It all started after a run ashore at Tangiers.” Toby said. “I had a great time, my messmates showed me how to have a good time. Maybe Surgeon had been hoping to do that himself, but he’d gone off on his own.”
“Anyway, we fell out over it, and we’ve never really got on since. It doesn’t really matter while we’re working, he takes surgery very seriously. So we get on all right while he’s treating a sailor, or he’s teaching me. It’s afterwards, that’s when he seems to think it makes sense to shout at me one minute and then want to play like we used to the next.”
“You don’t fancy playing?” Jeremy asked.
“After the women of Tangiers? No, I don’t want to play. The other loblollies are happy to, so I don’t know why he wont just leave me alone.” Toby was genuinely regretful, not resentful, just sad.
“I still need him as a teacher… He really is the best surgeon in the fleet, and I have such a lot to learn. I’m lucky to have him as my pupil-master. I just wish I could get him to see that. I want… no, I need him to forgive me… Whatever it is I’ve done to upset him. Please, tell him for me. He may listen to you.”
It was a long speech, but at the end Jeremy saw the surgeon’s skills in a new light. He just wished that the surgeon didn’t keep casting the most weirdly lecherous leers in his direction. It really did make him feel uncomfortable.
The news from London was reassuring, Lord Montagu and Samuel had clearly chosen the right side to back, and everyone was edging slowly towards the obvious decision.
It wasn’t as if they had much choice.
The King was coming back.
Meanwhile, the ships rode at anchor, life was sweet. Jeremy’s Uncle Samuel was in a good mood. Lord Montagu was too busy sending and receiving messages for him to have time to find work for his pages, or even time for his son.
The boys explored the ship, distracted the petty officers with questions and did the things that boys with idle hands have always done. In their case, they kept fit, climbing the ratlines to the privacy of the crows-nest.
David was growing fast, his voice now crackled when he shouted. He was, he told Jeremy often… nearly a man. He began to have a man’s needs.
Jeremy didn’t yet have the needs that were driving David, but between him, Saucy and Ezra, the three of them seemed able to keep up with David, so everyone was happy.
Samuel was happy too. He spent his days on paperwork, but unlike Lord Montagu he had the self-discipline, or perhaps indiscipline, to break off work every few hours to wander the ship, learning as he went.
The gunner taught gunnery to the Secretary to the Navy Board, even allowing him to fire a gun after he had watched the gun crew swab it out and reload it. He explained parabolic trajectories, and how to allow for the wind. He showed Samuel how there was a moment as the ship rolled when it was stationary at the top of a wave, just long enough for an accurate shot to be taken. It was a unique head of the Navy’s administration who wanted to actually learn gunnery and understand ships. The Navy’s future was in a safe pair of hands.
When he felt a need to totally relax, and that wasn’t often, Samuel could sit in the sun on the quarterdeck with a glass of wine and dream of home and his wife. There was wine aplenty on the Naseby.
The flagship was close to shore, so a run ashore was both possible and a pleasing distraction. That enabled Jeremy to see his Uncle Samuel as drunk as could be. He was even really rather merry himself.
The evening ended with a mock battle around Deal Castle. It amused Jeremy to watch the mass of officers, gathered from across the fleet, as they tried to decide whether they wanted to be Cavalier-Roundheads or Parliamentary Roundheads. The politics of the day were now so muddled that drunken fisticuffs made as much sense as any other approach to solving the nation’s problems.
Dreaming of home could distract Samuel, but Jeremy had no such distraction. It was now two years since he had had a proper home. Daydreaming of his lost parents wasn’t going to cheer him up. So he wandered the ship instead.
Jeremy asked many of the same questions that his uncle had been asking. But, he was a pleasant young chap and the petty officers welcomed his attention. He was particularly interested in the surgeon’s work in the orlop, but that man’s lecherous leer still made him uncomfortable. Not enough to keep him away, but he made sure that he only visited when Toby was there.
The last night before life got serious again, and the real work began, there was what amounted to a party. The crew sang and there was dancing on the maindeck.
The Captain had issued an extra rum ration.
On the quarterdeck, the officers were also singing, but instead of sailors’ songs they were singing satirical political ballads, from printed song sheets that were now readily available in town. The songs mocked the politicians who were trying to sort the mess left by the Protectorate. Much of what they sang was of how the Navy would be needed to sort out the mess that the politicians had created.
Samuel was happy to partake of the fun and dubious politics. He told himself that he was testing the warmth of support and loyalty of the men.
Lord Montagu on the other hand was making himself scarce in his stateroom. He didn’t want to align with either side too openly, until the King-in-exile finally decided. That decision would place Montagu on one side or the other, and he was maintaining enough sea-room to be able to trim his sails and be on the winning tack, whichever that turned out to be.
Next day, Samuel was playing at nine-pins on the quarterdeck with Lord Montagu. The gambling was getting a trifle out of hand, Samuel was well down and was quite relieved when one of the pinnaces coming out of Deal harbour brought the despatch that they were waiting for, the despatch that changed everything…
Charles Stuart had finally delivered the document that declared his decision. It would become known as The Declaration of Breda.
He had made the concessions that would make him King, and the Convention Parliament had approved the terms he would agree to accept.
They had invited him to be their monarch… King Charles II.
That was the day, 3 May 1660, that Lord Montagu sent David running to find Samuel.
“Tell him to bring paper and ink… immediately!”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” David said in answer to Samuel’s questions. “But, a pinnace arrived from Deal… I’ve never seen him so excited.”
“Well, keep it to yourself. Find young Jeremy and keep quiet in your sleeping place. You’ll have an opportunity to see what happens… and you’ll be safe for a while if it all gets out of hand. I think I know what’s going on… My guess is that the King has made his decision… to trim or to fight. Now His Lordship needs me.”
It did indeed become clear. Sitting in their hiding place behind the panelling, the boys heard Montagu’s voice, he seemed excited.
“Come in, come in Samuel. Find yourself a good piece of paper. Parchment, or vellum if you have it… this is a historic moment! The King has declared his willingness to trim, and Parliament has accepted. Now we need to test the Navy!”
“You are going to test the Navy?” Pepys asked cautiously.
“We need to know that enough of the Captains are with us. If just a few stand against us I’ll lock them in the brig and send replacements to their ships!”
“Hopefully we’ve winnowed them to remove that risk. I don’t know of any that will stand against us.” Samuel sounded more confident than he really was.
“Well, we need to be certain, and while they are in my hands. What I need is for each man to sign that he supports the King’s return and is willing to go to Holland with us to bring the King safely back. We need them to agree to defend him with their lives if need be.”
“Do you wish to dictate it, or shall I simply draft it for you? Will yours be the first signature?”
“Yes, you write it, make it blunt and straightforward. I’ll sign as Admiral, then you as Secretary to the Navy Board, Lawson as Vice Admiral, assuming he doesn’t end up in the brig… and then down the fleet to the captain of the smallest pinnace!”
“DAVID!, JEREMY! I know you are there. Come in here, there’s work afoot!”
The boys scrambled to appear in the doorway.