A Royal Achievement
Timothy didn’t actually say anything… He threw his arms round his Admiral and kissed him… actually, he kissed David’s father.
Then realising what he had done, he jumped down again, stood to attention…
“Sorry Sir. Very wrong of me Sir! Your answer Sir…” He burst into tears. “Oh Sir, that would be wonderful!”
“Well, of course that all depends on you two, you’ll need to discuss it. He hasn’t asked you yet, and you need to seriously think about what you will say if he does.”
Lord Montagu stood up. He looked seriously at Timothy, but there was the hint of a gentle smile.
“I would like you to sit quietly and think about the possibility. It really is a decision that would alter your life, and his. Don’t rush at it.”
Timothy said with a rush… “Oh I don’t need…”
Montagu put a finger to his lips…
“Think about it. While I go on deck.”
Timothy nodded. “Very well Sir, I don’t need to, but I will if it’s an order.”
His Admiral, or was it his friend’s father, smiled and left him alone. He ensured that David continued to leave Timothy in peace, and went to the quarterdeck to find John Jenkins.
“Jenkins. If you are still of a mind… there’s a young lad in my stateroom who needs you… Go along man, take as long as you need. David is there to stand guard for you.”
John was as startled by events as Timothy had been, but fortunately was less inclined to kisses.
He departed at a brisk limp. He struggled a bit on the companionway, it needed more careful attention than he was currently able to offer.
At the stateroom, David tried to stop him… “Admiral’s orders!” They both said.
David stepped aside.
“Good luck then!” David said. He really did have a very quick mind.
John found a white-faced boy… He was too excited to be happy, too happy to be confident. This couldn’t possibly be true, he had probably misunderstood… but he had…
John was too excited and nervous to beat about the bush…
“Timmy, I need a son and you need a Dad!”
“Yes Sir… indeed Sir!”
“Oh Sir, I couldn’t replace your boy…”
“Not to replace him… to be him, My Son! My very own son.”
He became the second man to be kissed instead of answered in the stateroom that day.
Then Timothy stood up, and said very seriously and solemnly…
“Yes Marine Jenkins, I would be very happy to be your son. It would be a great honour... Your first son was a hero, I couldn’t replace him, so… Please would you be my father?”
“Yes indeed, and I shall take much better care of you than I did my first one.” He brightened. “You know that I am to be His Lordship’s estate manager? At Hinchingbrooke.”
“That’s perfect then. I shall still see David sometimes… and Jeremy.” He grinned.
He was still a child at heart, and a child can love more than one person at a time.
Nearly a year later, it was winter, the fleet was being prepared for the new year and everyone who matters to us was at Hinchingbrooke House, which, if you didn’t know is about as far from the sea as its possible to get.
The King was coming to Hinchingbrooke… There was to be a grand dinner.
So many county-dignitaries had been invited that there wasn’t really room for everyone at table. Lord Montagu had a quiet word with Jeremy and Timothy to explain that it wasn’t going to be possible to seat them, but that they could act as pages if they wished. Jeremy said politely that he didn’t mind missing the meal. Timothy nodded in agreement. Lord Montagu didn’t believe either of them.
David appeared at his father’s study later that day. He rather sportingly suggested that as there were some young people among the King’s party it might be a good idea if a second table were laid in the Long Gallery for all the young people. That way Jeremy and Timothy could be properly included in the festivities… as aristocrats rather than high-class waiters. He suggested that he and Jeremy could act as hosts, in lieu of their elders. There was a very young Duke who could be nominated as their principal guest.
“So long as it’s treated with equal dignity and is complete with waiters and all the courses, it should be just as grand and much more fun for the youngsters.”
The young officer was clearly no longer counting himself as a youngster.
His father smiled quietly to himself. Three years, a cannon and a prison had wrought tremendous and favourable changes in the boy. He was immensely proud of the young man who stood in front of him.
Of course, not being at the main table with the King wouldn’t be quite the same. The King was a hole in the plan that need to be plugged.
Perhaps, David suggested, they could all greet the King before-hand and then at his command parade off to the Long Gallery. There they could make merry, and in all probability become undignified… in private.
It could even be made to appear to have been the King’s initiative. Perhaps he could say that it had been his idea to give the boys a more relaxed and less stuffy evening.
That would also make sure that Jeremy wouldn’t feel guilty at taking him away from the King’s party. Lord Montagu’s fatherly pride knew no bounds… This boy was indeed something else… his son.
His Lordship was delighted with the suggestion, and for the next few days kept saying so to David. The latter was nervous that the other two would catch on, and persuaded his father to contact St James’s at once.
His father was happy to do so. Assuming that the King’s Chamberlain accepted that the second meal hosted by the son of the household was satisfactory as regards protocol it solved more problems than were immediately apparent. There were at least three county gentlemen who he wanted indebted to him and there had been no available seats at table. Now with three of the Royal party banished to the Long Gallery it allowed him to invite the county as well.
The Chamberlain agreed, the King made his suggestion on cue. The scene was set.
The King and his party arrived a few hours late, but then, it is said that lateness is the courtesy of kings. He was greeted by Lord Montagu and Samuel, the latter standing at His Lordship’s shoulder, but a pace behind as was appropriate.
The boys watched the proceedings from the upper gallery of the Main Hall. Timothy was with them. His father, Hinchingbrook’s land-agent, once a Marine, was of the opinion that there was less risk of social catastrophe if he placed him in David’s care than there was if he was allowed to cook up mischief on his own.
You could say this for David… when given responsibility he took it seriously. So he could be relied on to ensure decorum… but only if asked.
Timothy was of course delighted to be included in the Gallery dining arrangements.
As the one originally rescued by David, and who had then played a central role in rescuing him in his turn… how could he have been left out? But, he was too modest to see it in those terms. He saw his position in life as a land-agent’s son, who had the good fortune to be a close friend of a Lord’s son. He recognised his good fortune, and had the good sense to know its limits.
He was however, determined to make the most of everyone’s heroism, to entertain the table. His Lordship was in fact depending on Timothy to boast on behalf of his friends.
Lord Montagu calculated that if the boys of the Royal party were not already fully aware of his son’s unique capacity for crisis and mayhem, then the open admiration shown by Timothy would fill that gap for them.
Jeremy who was acquiring his uncle’s skills at politics and intrigue, watched all these machinations with quiet amusement. He hoped it all worked out well. He greatly admired David and also knew that from his position of exalted admiration, David could be relied on to pay due praise for Jeremy’s own heroism. Timothy of course would provide wide-eyed eye-witness hero-worship… of both.
As plans go it was coming together nicely.
Jeremy was very glad that he had planted the idea of a separate meal in David’s mind, even if that wasn’t how David remembered it.
Saucy of course was ashore, installed as cook, and was responsible for the cooking for the formal dinner. He smiled quietly when Jeremy said how pleased he was that his plan was coming together. As Saucy remembered it… he had suggested it to Jeremy.
He was a happy man. He planned to invite them all down to his kitchen afterwards, for supper. You oughtn’t to attempt to seduce prince’s of the blood-royal, but you could certainly, and with impunity admire the cut of their expensively tailored breeches and hose.
Perhaps, he thought, with enough small beer and well-spiked trifle, he might get the party merry enough for David to get his hands on some Royal jewels. It’s great to be in a position to be naughty, provided you can see your limits.
It was before the grand dinner that the King, as planned, was graciously pleased to speak to the boys. In the process he was to be taken by surprise, a surprise that he did his best to mask with regal urbanity.
Lord Montagu opened the proceedings by ushering the three boys forward to greet His Majesty.
“Your Majesty, may I bring these boys to your attention. You may recall that two of them are the first of your King’s Letter Boys… an excellent innovation that has greatly improved the lot of young officers in your Navy.”
At Lord Montagu’s words, David and Jeremy stepped forward and bowed, a long-legged bow, complete with a sweep of the arm. It was tremendously dignified, and they had been practising in front of the mirror and each other for days.
“Ah yes, David and Jeremy as I recall. I hear that you have been having adventures. Getting yourself sold into slavery just so that you have a nice after-dinner anecdote… perhaps a little outrageous, don’t you think?”
“Yes, indeed Sire, quite unnecessary, and a good man was killed and another badly injured in retrieving me.” He didn’t say rescued, he almost never said rescued. It sounded much too much like a German folk story, Rapunzel he wasn’t. It was Timothy who had Rapunzel’s long blond hair.
The King turned his attention to Jeremy…
“Young Pepys, I heard that our fencing master deserves a lot of the credit for the success of the rescue.”
“He taught me well Your Majesty.”
“Indeed he did. Was it two or three pirates that you duelled with?”
“Four of them fell, I believe Sire. The years of practise came in useful, even if our fencing master was a hard task master.”
“Yes, that’s my recollection of when he taught me.”
The King’s graciousness had no end…
“I also heard that you had a second with you, while duelling with pirates… Is he here tonight?”
Jeremy turned and catching a suddenly desperately shy Timothy by the arm, dragged him out of the crowd.
“Here Sir!”… Timothy was still trying to escape, overcome with nerves. “May I present Timothy Kingsman. He was the one who knew where David would be imprisoned and it was he who led that part of the rescue. He stood with me to look after the Marine who fell, the man who is now his foster-father, Lord Montagu’s agent, John Jenkins esquire. Young-Kingsman here, is a good and trusted friend Sire.”
Timothy was engrossed in examining the King’s shoes. If he wasn’t careful, he would miss his big moment entirely.
“Kingsman eh? A good name! Look up boy… Don’t be shy… Look me in the eye! I would have you see my approval.”
Timothy looked up at the King, what he actually saw was the King’s jaw drop.
The King quickly recovered.
“I hear you are an orphan… But, you are being well looked after?”
“Oh Yes Sire. Indeed I am…”
The King looked sad…
“I too was orphaned at about your age. It’s not a happy business. You have my sympathy.”
Then he smiled, and curiosity got the better of him.
“You are fostered here. Is that because you had no relatives to take you in?”
“None that are known of. Sire. My father was lucky to obtain a benefice in the West Country after…” He remembered in time that his father had sworn him to secrecy.
“I understand your father supported my father?”
“I believe so Sire. Although I was too young at the time to remember more than the night we took to horses and ran. When we stopped running he insisted that I swear to never speak of what I remembered… of before we ran.”
“Not even to your King?”
“I gave my word before God. Sir!”
“In that case I shall not embarrass you by asking.”
“Thank you Sire. That makes it easy to not tell you.” Timothy said with an engaging grin.
The King moved on, as Kings do.
When he next found himself alone with Lord Montagu, he said, “My Lord Montagu, I shall organise a private lunch, just the two of us. I have a very private matter to discuss with you. Come to the Privy Chamber at St James Palace if you would. If my Chamberlain tries to suggest Hampton Court or Whitehall tell him I am most particular that it be St James’s, and the sooner the better.”
Lord Montagu was completely bemused, but managed to assure the King that it would be exactly as he required… as soon as it could be arranged.
That was how Lord Montagu turned up at the Palace of St James in London, the oldest of the Kings palaces… except for the Tower of London. Although built to protect kings and princes the Tower had imprisoned so many of them that it no longer seemed a suitable place for anything other than to hold vigil in the chapel, before the most solemn and ceremonial of occasions.
He was admitted with almost exaggerated courtesy and taken directly to Lord Manchester, currently Lord Chamberlain. That in itself was unusual. There was no passing from official to official. It was almost as if as few people as possible were to have contact with him today.
He began to feel uneasy.
The secrecy of his visit was becoming clear, as was the privacy in which the meeting was to take place. It was quite unnerving. Conspiring with your King could easily turn into conspiring against Parliament. That could still prove fatal.
When he finally reached the Lord Chamberlain, Montagu found that he too apparently had no idea what was actually going on, and said so.
It appeared that at this point only the King knew what was bringing them together.
Montagu was shown to the King’s private apartments.
The King was waiting for him and greeted him warmly as an old friend. Montagu had after all, together with General Monck, been responsible for the King’s return to power… and had been richly rewarded for it.
Now, the King took him graciously by the elbow and ushered him into the Royal bedchamber, the Kings Private Chamber, the most discreet place in the palace, a place for only the most favoured visitors. It was the only place where the King could be alone with his thoughts… and of late he had been thinking both dark and happy thoughts… He had even cried.
He sat Lord Montagu down at a small table on which a simple lunch was arranged.
“Cold cuts… I thought that a hot meal might get cold while we talk. A hot fruit pie is to follow though. We must finish warmed through. Now, have you fathomed why I needed to see you?”
“No indeed Sire. Your visit to Hinchingbrooke went well I believe. But… there was something about your discussion of Kings Letter Boys that seemed to set your teeth on edge. I can assure you that punishments in your Navy are now a matter that is much more strictly controlled.” Montagu was hoping that the King had forgotten whose discipline he had considered over-done. “Was that what you wanted to discuss? Samuel Pepys has the matter of the training of boy-officers in your Navy under constant review, I assure you.”
“It was indeed while talking to the boys that I decided we should have this discussion, but there is nothing amiss. The arrangements that you and Mr Pepys have made for their care both at home and at sea seem most satisfactory. You are nearly right, it is about a boy, but not quite right… and that too is a matter of some satisfaction to me.”
He was looking as conspiratorial as it’s proper for a king to be. Montagu decided to give up and wait for the King to reveal whatever secret he was holding close to his chest.
Actually, the secret wasn’t close to the King’s chest it was much closer to Montagu, and was hidden under a very expensive silk scarf. It hadn’t always been a secret.
“I want to show you a painting. It’s kept here in my private chamber because it means a great deal to me. It shows myself, my brothers and many of our boyhood friends. My sainted father had it made when we were very young. He wanted to be able to remember us as children, amongst the friends he associated with us. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to need it as a reminder.”
He looked sad and pensive for a moment, and then continued.
“Now I have it here in my chamber. I look at it occasionally but mostly I keep it covered. It can easily make me sad, so many of the boys in it are now dead. They died young. As your boys have discovered, death is easily found… Did Pepys’ boy really kill four pirates?”
“Yes Sire.” He paused and then decided that His Majesty should hear the rest.
“Killing so many, so young, has calmed his natural exuberance, but he was luckier than David. My son only killed one… but it was one of his own men. That has affected him badly.”
“His own? I think not! Explain sir!”
“When he was captured, the pirates raked the deck of the ketch with grape. They missed David but one of his men was terribly wounded… His face shot away and one shoulder gone, a terrible mess and in great agony.”
The King looked suitably sad. “And your son? He had him looked after?”
“The pirate said that they had no surgeon in their port and that they would leave the wounded for my own surgeon to treat when we arrived in search of the missing ship.”
“Had he any reason to believe that would be soon?”
“No Sire.” A brief pause while Lord Montagu cleared his throat. “David begged him to do something for the wounded man. The pirate could only pick up his cutlass.”
The King said, “A messy way to die!”
Montagu realised the King’s mind was wandered to a scaffold in Whitehall. A headsman and a pirate with a cutlass had a great deal in common… it was indeed a messy way to die. He moved hurriedly on.
“Yes Sire, that was why… David offered his parole and asked the pirate for the loan of the rapier that he had surrendered… He ran his man through the heart. Death was instant and merciful. I’m told by the bosun that David cried all the way to shore. Then he pulled himself together, to be seen on the quayside as an officer of your Navy Sire… and my son!”
“He had the courage and determination to kill his own man. That’s cold courage indeed. I congratulate you sir, you have raised a fine young man.”
“I fear the credit goes to him Sire. I have been too busy with the Navy and matters of your government. He has had to bring himself up, and he has done a better job of it than I ever could have.”
“Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, you have a fine son, and I am pleased that his rescue was successful.”
“Thank you Sire. I must admit there were times that I didn’t expect to see him again, let alone in one piece.”
“Indeed. Now… to my painting.”
“Yes Sire, but what can be so striking in a painting that deserves a lunch as discreet as this?”
The King took the hint and urged Montagu to join him in eating. That of course further delayed the answer to the question.
When they had made some inroads into the cold-cuts and some very fine toasted bread. The King stood and led Montagu across to the painting. Like a showman or magician, he took a corner and whipped the silk away.
“There you are… A future king and his boyhood friends… look carefully at the boys, who do you see?”
Lord Montagu stood closer to the painting and looked at each boy in turn. At the right hand side an older boy stood holding the reins of a pony…
“Good God! That’s…”
The King smiled. “Timothy Kingsman? No, I don’t think so… but I do think that it’s his father.”
Montagu paused for thought. “That explains it… I had an instinctive attraction to the boy, I knew he reminded me of someone…”
“Someone who died at Naseby? Whose body was never found?” The King asked.
“Yes, never found! Never turned up in Holland, no rumour of him hiding with Catholics in Ireland or Scotland… The Duke who simply vanished.”
“Timothy must have come along later… He is what? Twelve?”
“Yes Sire. They must have been in hiding for some years before he appeared. Then as he grew I suppose they needed to run again. He is so like his father when young… too many county families could have made the connection.”
“And, now he is safely hidden on your estate, as foster-son of your land-agent.”
“Indeed he is Sire. While two old black crows sit on his estates!”
“Yes, that’s what has been taxing me.” The King mused. “If we bring his existence to light, those two black crows will want to be his guardians. If only to control the estate until his majority. By which time they will have turned him into an image of themselves. Unfortunately, I cannot immediately think of a good reason for denying them custody of the boy. Even a King’s powers have limits these days.”
“Indeed Sire. If they have control of his education… some Jesuit school in Rome will have him, hoping to turn him into a Cardinal… ready for England one day. It doesn’t bear thinking of…” He paused for thought. “As things stand, he has a good home and a good man as his father. The Navy and I have his education in hand. If we announce his right to his title, he will lose all that.”
“Or,” said the King… “we could remain silent you and I. We could leave him with his foster-father until his majority. Then we recognise him, throw the black crows off his estates and re-instate him as the rightful Duke.
“That certainly appeals to me Sire!”
The King looked serious. “It is a plan that carries problems for the boy, of course.”
“It does Sire?”
“Yes indeed. His foster-father has plans too I imagine?”
“Indeed Sire. Timothy will one day take over as my land-agent… Ah, I see what you mean!”
“Yes, he is raising a Duke, but at the same time he is not raising him as a Duke. A land-agent is not exactly a suitable career. It isn’t even suitable training, for a future Duke.”
“Jenkins was a Marine, perhaps he could be persuaded to allow the boy to become a Kings-Letter-Boy. Service at sea on my flagship with his friends would expose him to a more genteel life. Dinner at the Admiral’s table, that sort of thing. One day he could take over from your brother as Lord High Admiral”
The King considered that. “Yes Lord High Admiral, after being hidden in full sight. I like that, it could work well. But what of his foster-father. He has lost one son I believe. Can he afford to risk the loss of another? Will he dig his heels in, do you think?”
Clearly the King could see a whole range of problems that their plan was going to cause. Then his face cleared… “Montagu, I do believe that we are simply over-complicating matters… Do you trust your man? Absolutely trust him?”
“Yes, Sire!” It was said without a moment’s hesitation.
“Then I believe we should bring him into the secret. He will then know his lad’s good fortune, and that he is not destined to be a land-agent. The boy can train for a career at sea… Perhaps, as you say, Lord High Admiral after my brother. Your man can train another land-agent. That would allow him to accompany Timothy… and yourself to sea. He could act as your agent aboard ship, your contact with your estates at home.”
“Yes Sire, all that could work well. Perhaps Jenkins can quietly rise in civil rank too… seen to be favoured by his King… After all, Cromwell indirectly killed Jenkin’s son.”
He paused to allow the King to reflect.
“But what of the boy, Timothy… won’t all this look strange to him? As an orphan, won’t his prospects seem… disproportionate? At the very least he’ll be confused.”
“He is what, twelve years old now? For now he will be happy to be at sea again and with his friends. The Pepys boy too is an orphan and is being similarly treated. At home he will be happy to climb trees and watch his father administer the estate. But by sixteen, that is when he will start to question. Perhaps that is when we shall need to answer his questions. Like his father we can swear him to secrecy.”
So that is what they did.
It was at another, very similar meeting, that the King swore a stunned ex-Marine to secrecy. In a most un-king like manner, Charles Stuart sat quietly while ex-Marine Jenkins came to terms with the thought that he was fostering one of the most senior peers in the land. The man finally pulled himself together.
“If I understand Sir… I am to treat Timothy simply as a very lucky boy, an orphan who has attracted the patronage of a powerful man?”
“Correct! You will have the task of being his father and raising him to be a fine man… And, on the day before or after his sixteenth birthday we shall hold another meeting here, and swear him to secrecy until his twenty-first birthday. At that point there will be a great celebration and he will come into his inheritance… and you sir will become the father of a Duke!”
“Sire… Shall I pinch the poor man? I fear he believes this is a dream!”
“No dream, Montagu. No dream could be this improbable!” The King said with a warm smile. “No dream would have a Marine end his days as Sir John Jenkins, father of a Duke… even dreams have limits. Now… we need to discuss a blacksmith… without him we wouldn’t have our young Duke in the first place!”
‘Stranger and stranger. Is there no end to this story?’ Lord Montagu mused.
There are many good histories and novels that recount the days of sail. However this story is set a century earlier than the days of Nelson, Forrester and Ramage. Other than dates and names very little is recorded of that period.
I was lucky to find the role of Samuel Pepys in the Restoration Fleet and his diary provided a great deal of detail. The real find however was the Journal of Edward Barlow. He really existed and really fell into the hold. Remarkable early cranial surgery did indeed save his life for posterity. For whatever reason he kept a compulsively detailed record of his life. That record tells history virtually everything that is known of the day to day life of sailors in the seventeenth century.
I have attempted to keep history undisturbed by inaccuracy. All I have consciously done is to insert three boys, a cook and a surgeon or two.